I first encountered Kat Duncan when I signed up for Want Style? Get Grammar – 101 – 103 at Savvy Authors. Her organisational skills, instructional method, well-explained and easy-to-follow lessons, and constructive feedback for my homework impressed me so much that I signed on for two other workshops Kat would be teaching.
After Scenes and Sequels, Oh My wrapped up, I told Kat she was welcome to blog at my site whenever she wished. So here she is today, ready to talk about her new book Ransom’s Bond.
1. First off, why not tell everyone a little bit about you. Not the writer you or instructor you, but you, Kat Duncan.
There are many manifestations of Kat Duncan, but deep, deep down I’m an avid explorer of knowledge and a people champion. I enjoy helping people see through the muck and mire they’re stuck in and get a shot at succeeding with their goals. I value creativity, am a non-conformist and a die-hard do-it-yourselfer. When I turn my attention to a topic, I explore it thoroughly, turning over every convention, questioning and examining in a Socratic way until I understand. And then I seek out ways to share what I’ve learned with others. I have a variety of interests and friends who often fall into factions that can’t seem to understand one another except that they all have a common friend in me. I’m a naturally optimistic person and have trouble understanding human emotions of greed and anger. I believe that negative emotions like these are due to some underlying fear that, once confronted, can be overcome.
2. If you’re not writing or instructing, where can I find you? No, LOL, not physically, but where you like to be in your free time.
What’s free time and where can I get some? I don’t like having nothing to do, so I fill all my time with: work, family, more work, friends, overtime work, extended family, moonlighting, adopted family, etc. When I’m not working I enjoy working around the house (DIY home repair, edible landscaping) and spending time working on creative projects with my family. I have two grown daughters, as well as my mother who live with me and we are always plotting some new scheme to play with our creative Muses.
3. What drew you to romantic suspense?
My part-time writing partner. He’s an engineer and inventor and had just developed an interest in writing when I met him about four years ago at a writer’s meeting. His first manuscript was a women’s fiction that didn’t work because the main character was too intense and negative. He was so full of creative ideas that I couldn’t pass up the chance to co-write with him. We wrote some manuscripts together and then he moved on to other non-writing projects. I hope to get some of those manuscripts up and running one day.
4. Share your writing process through Ransom’s Bond. Did the characters come first? The plot? A small idea?
Ransom’s Bond is, I believe, an anomaly in fiction. I was having enormous difficulty finishing the draft for a medieval historical titled, Ransom’s Captive. I asked my part-time writing partner to read the manuscript and help me brainstorm my way out of the sagging middle of the plot. The medieval time period details overwhelmed him, so he did the one thing a supremely creative person would do: he re-cast the plot into modern terms and wrote a 2-page synopsis of the modern story. Thus, Ransom’s Bond was born. The characters retained their names and personalities, but of course the circumstances, plot details and events were changed. On a side note, the process of writing Ransom’s Bond had the desired effect and I was able to finish writing Ransom’s Captive, which is now in the revision stages. Perhaps one day the two stories will be available together in a unique anthology.
5. What elements do you think a romantic suspense should contain? And did these elements influence the creation of Ransom’s Bond?
Aside from the standard elements for a romance, a romantic suspense should have lots of peril and physical danger for the heroine along with many pages of suspense and action. If there is a villain, it’s helpful to get a glimpse into the villain’s POV. And yes, these elements did influence the creation of Ransom’s Bond. I usually like to frame out the events and then look for spots where I can add danger, conflict and tension to enhance the story. However, due to my part-time writing partner’s style, which can only be described as quirky, Ransom’s Bond is not your typical romantic suspense. It’s a short novella (less than 25,000 words) full of action and distinctive characters.
6. Can you share a few details about the hero and heroine? What do you love most about them? What makes you want to shake them? How did you go about creating them?
Despite the fact that Arliss and Mari were originally cast with kilts and kirtles, their personalities are recognizable in modern terms. Arliss is an emotionally detached loner who longs for true companionship and love. I love that he’s perceptive enough to figure out what people want most and give them a chance to get it and I want to shake him because he thinks only about the healthy fringe benefits he can get for himself in the process. Mari is independent and calculating in her pursuit of revenge to right a wrong. I love that she’s not afraid to take on some truly bad guys and want to shake her out of feeling as if no one could love her for who she is. I usually create characters such as these from a combination of personalities, experiences, attitudes and beliefs of people I know. Romance is a genre that allows you to play with so many aspects of human nature and believe in making it all work out.
7. How did you manage to write Ransom’s Bond since you have an extremely busy schedule?
To put it simply, I make the most of each day. I like to say I have two modes: on and off. I’m usually up and at ’em by very early and go non-stop for a good 16 hours. I need my 8 hours of sleep, or pretty close to it. I don’t waste time with TV (haven’t watched since 1984) and I try to balance physical activities with mental ones throughout the day. I’m very organized and good at judging how long it will take to do something, so I can shift tasks around other people’s schedules and still get everything done. I commute around to schools as a one-on-one tutor, advocate and teacher-trainer, listening to books on CD or brainstorming ideas while driving. As for writing I like to have several writing projects in process at once. That way if I’m not in the mood to draft I can revise, edit or do research
8. What do you enjoy most about writing?
Brainstorming, revising, editing and honing are my favourite things to do. I love playing with language. I speak German and some Spanish, am learning Gaelic and I work with students studying Latin, French and Italian. The cadence and rhythm of language is fascinating to me as are word origins and the etymology of words and phrases. Poems, metaphors, jokes, puns anything that plays with the verbal side of the brain is fun and interesting.
9. Hmm, I can’t say the word hate; way too strong of a word. So let me put it this way: What part of the writing process makes you want to hide under the covers?
The blank page makes me cringe. I love brainstorming in my head, but when I sit down in front of a blank page, my Muse cowers under the covers like a neurotic pre-schooler. This is one reason why I was so excited to work with a writing partner who loved blank pages and wasn’t afraid to start rough drafts. Alas, he has returned to his first love and is busy creating engineered production meters for the pharmaceutical industry.
10. Share how one self-publishes–for those who are in the dark, like me, for example. Is it the same as subbing to an agent/editor/publisher?
Self-publishing, which I prefer to call Independent Publishing or Indie Publishing, is not at all the same as subbing to an agent/editor/publisher. An agent or editor at a publishing house has a clear and distinct idea of what is acceptable and marketable, and if they don’t, then you should think twice about working with them. An Indie author simply has written a book he/she deems worthy of publication. This opens up a whole range of creative stories to the reading public. However, the down side to this is that many Indie authors are clueless about the quality and marketability of their books. So, readers may have to sort through to find what appeals to them.
The how-to of Indie-pubbing is fairly straightforward. You format your book in one or more of the many ebook formats and/or prepare it for print publication using available templates, and then make those formats available for distribution through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance Ebooks, etc. For me, the smoothest path seemed to be to format the ebook through Smashwords. Using this process you can format the book once according to guidelines, and Smashwords creates a variety of ebook formats from your original document. Similar formatting is available using templates from POD (print on demand) publishers such as CreateSpace.
Smashwords and/or CreateSpace then offer your formatted book for purchase through their distribution channels. The marketing and promotion of your book is left up to you. This last aspect is quite similar to working with an agent/publishing house. The only other aspect that can be tricky is cover art design. Luckily for me, my older daughter is a genius with digital artwork. She’s designed all my Indie-published covers. She even designed the dress that appears on the cover of Ransom’s Bond. Amazing!
11. Here are some totally random questions:
What’s your favourite movie genre?
I don’t generally watch movies or TV, so I don’t have a fav.
What book is currently in your e-reader?
Safe Harbor, by Judith Arnold. She’s a fellow New England Chapter romance writer, has been published since the 1980s and is a wonderful mentor and supporter of emerging writers. This ebook is one of several of her backlist. She recently regained rights to these books, produced new covers, and is Indie publishing her old titles with some updating and revision, so I wanted to see what her writing was like back a few decades ago.
Who’s your favourite musical group?
I’m a fan of Celtic trad (folk music), so most of my faves would be groups that are obscure to most people. My top favourite is your fellow Canadian, Loreena McKennitt. If you don’t know of her, I can recommend both her wonderful voice and her creative interpretations of Celtic favourites. Some blog readers might know of some of my other long-time favs such as The Chieftains or The Irish Rovers.
What song puts a smile on your face?
It’s a Small World never fails to put a smile on my face. The song debuted in the early sixties when I was a pre-schooler. It speaks to the connections amongst this diverse world of ours and especially to the children of this world who seem to be able to find ways to get along when the adults around them cannot.
12. Lastly, where can we find Ransom’s Bond?
Blurb: Arliss MacDonald is the newest con-man to arrive in the Edinburgh financial district. The inheritance he plans to steal from Marinel Bethune is locked in a land war between two powerful family corporations, the Campbells and the MacLeans. Before Mari will let Arliss steal her fortune, or her heart, she has a few old scores to settle. And Arliss is the perfect man for the job.
The rhythmic click of high heels echoed in the prison cell corridor. The steel door whined open and she stepped in. Long legs, slender waist. Crisp wool suit.
So this was Marinel Bethune. Not bad for a prosecutor from the Crown Office. Long and slow, she eyed him over. He stood up to better enjoy her stare and went tangent on the misty, moss-colored eyes.
Brian, you didn’t say your cousin was a luscious dux.
“He won’t give his name?” she asked the guard in a tone of tedious duty.
“Not a word, ma’am.”
“Brian wasn’t this good looking, but I haven’t seen him in years.” She stared him in the eyes until his jaw tensed, making her gaze fall to his mouth.
Focus Arliss, you’re here for a reason.
“Take off your shirt,” she ordered.
“And if I don’t?”
“Your loss.” She turned to leave.
He started with the buttons.
Stepping closer, she slid the loose shirt from his shoulders and pressed her hand against him. He didn’t resist. She turned his torso into the light. Her gaze darted down the contours of muscle.
“Brian had a scar,” she mused out loud, “right here.” She ran an electric finger across his chest. His shoulders tensed.
“How would you know?” he asked.
“I put it there.”
She thumbed a bullet scar on the front of his shoulder, the one from Kandahar, the one he’d been decorated for, then re-examined his eyes. Her head tilted and a sweep of black hair breezed over her shoulder, shimmering like the plumage of a rare bird. The faint scent of cinnamon made him want to just close his eyes and breathe her in.
“You are not Brian MacCrae,” she concluded.
“I wish I were, if he’s a bloke you would want…for anything. Spring me and I’ll buy you a plonk to celebrate.”
“Oh, you’re an Aussie,” she commented. “That’s why we couldn’t trace you.”
Her warm hand lay still against his skin, but her slim wrist pressed at him with stubborn determination. Instinct made him reach to hold her sleeve. She withdrew her hand, and her moist palm slid over his, giving his heart the jolt he’d been guarding against.
“You know him,” she stated, stepping away. “You were driving his car when you were stopped.”
“Card winnings, at an inn near Dumbarton.”
Her jaw clenched tight. Finally a crack on the stony expression. Brian must mean a lot to her and she was worried. The poor drunken bloke said he was the only family she had left.
“If it’s yours, why is the car title still in his name?”
“I guess we never caught up with all the paper work.”
“Was he – okay?”
He couldn’t maintain a swagger against the pleading look in her eyes. “Yeah. He looked fine. A bit overtired, but not strung out or anything.”
“Can you get a message to him?”
“Sorry. Wrong guy. All I have is his car.”
“Look,” she said, tempering her gaze. “The car hasn’t been reported as stolen. Give us your name. We give you a written warning for running the red light, and you walk free.”
He didn’t budge.
“What are you hiding?” Her oblique question was more to herself than to him.
“What are you hiding?” he returned.
With a huff she turned to leave the cell, but a new guy blocked the way. A big hulk of a man with a laughing, ruddy face, flitting, nervous eyes and a head bristling with dirty blond hair.
“Fancy meeting you here, Mari,” the man boomed. “I thought you might show up.”
“You’re out of luck, Corley. He isn’t Brian.”
The big man’s smile collapsed.
“Nice try. Your buddy Taggart won’t be pleased to discover you blew it again.” She patted the dejected man on his shoulder. “I’d buy you a glass to drown your sorrows, but you’ll need to stay sober long enough to come up with a credible set of lies.” She stepped past him, and into the corridor. Corley’s face reddened. He slammed the iron door back against its hinges and stormed after Mari.
From inside the cell he watched her go. “Quite the lady.”
“That she is,” the guard replied, stepping out and swinging the cell door shut. “She’s as cuddly as a coil of barbed wire.”