Interview With Caitlin Kittredge – Part 4

Welcome back for the conclusion of our interview with Caitlin Kittredge, author of The Iron Thorn, among other series.

Part 1 can be read here.

Part 2 can be read here.

Part 3 can be read here.


Airship Ambassador: Caitlin, as we wrap up today, let’s talk about “Attack of the Lazy Brain!” While sounding like a great ‘50’s sci fi movie, this form of writer’s block can really put a dent into a writer’s day. How do you best recover from Lazy Brain?

Caitlin Kittredge: I try to blog a couple of times a week, and I found that writing a good blog is a good way to recover from lazy brain because you’re writing and you’re putting words down and it’s easier to transition from writing your blog to writing your story once you’ve already kind of gotten started. Sitting and waiting to get started is just  a way to say, “Screw it. I’m going to go watch some tv or go clean my bathroom,” or some kind of other procrastination activity.  Yeah my house is so clean when I’m procrastinating about writing a book.  It’s unbelievable.

I have terribly lazy brain, almost all the time, so I really have to trick myself into getting started, and then once I’m started I’m like, “Oh, this isn’t so bad.  I don’t know why we’re even worried about this.”  But then the next morning it’s like, “Gee, maybe we should just go refresh Twitter for 20 minutes.  We don’t have to write today.”  And I’m thinking, “Yeah, we do actually.  Sorry.”  I also try listening to character or scene-specific music, referring back to the playlists, if I come up with a song that kind of gets me fired up, I’ll just play that, on repeat sometimes, until I’m like, “OK I think I can write now.”

Sometimes it’s just like, “Ok, this is my day job.  I’ve got to do this or I don’t have any money to pay my rent or keep the power on for the computer.” Sometimes it sucks and you just have to suck it up, and that can be really hard especially if it’s not your day job, like if you’re just doing this on the side and you already have a day job, and you’re tired and you know your cat puked on the floor and your kids want something.  It can be rough, so I recommend trying, especially if it’s not your day job yet, I recommend trying the trickery version before the “Ok, just sit down and write,” but there has to be a certain element of that if you ever want to do this professionally where it comes time to just suck it up and do it even if your brain is feeling lazy. I usually try to bribe it or trick it first because then I’m usually less recalcitrant to be writing. If I’m happy to be writing I tend to write much more and if I feel like it’s a homework assignment I tend to just do my minimum word count for the day and then be like, “Screw it.”

I don’t want to be like one of those people who’s like, “Oh, when I write it’s like I’m in this mystical other place, and my muse is singing and….”  It’s great if it’s like that for you, but it’s never been like that for me.  It’s always been kind of hard to actually sit down and write even though I love it more than anything when I’m doing it.  Convincing myself to start is sometimes the worst thing in the world.


AA: Criminology as an interest and forensic investigation course in college. Both sound pretty intriguing and intellectually attractive. How did those impact and influence your writing for Nocturne City?

CK: I was really lucky.  I took a forensic class as a science for non-science majors class.  It was Intro to forensic investigation and it was great.  It was a little bit of chemistry, a little bit of physics, a little bit of this and that.  And we covered all the major disciplines like DNA, and ballistics, and blood spatter over the course of two semesters.  We spent a couple weeks on each.  Our professor was this huge, huge stickler for scientific accuracy. She would make us watch TV shows and read crime novels, and we would have to point out everything that they did wrong.  Our final was actually to watch an episode of “C.S.I.,” and she said, “There are 18 mistakes in this episode. The more you find, the higher your grade will be.”


AA: Ha, what a test!  You watch tv and…

CK: Yeah.  But it’s harder than you might think because you get caught up in the story and then you’re wondering, “Oh, did I miss something” and there was no rewinding or anything.  We had to just sit there and take notes, and she had given us a sheet with numbers 1 through 18 and we had to write down sequentially what they were.  I got an 80. I only missed two.

I love historical fiction and historical stuff. I’m kind of into costuming and such.  I was already a big stickler for historical accuracy, so I could really glom onto that the scientific way. When the Nocturne City books came out, I thought, “Ok, I want to make sure I get all this stuff really right,” even though I had to fudge a little bit because a lot of it was paranormal crime scene investigation and doesn’t exactly work the same way if you’re dealing with fictional fantasy creatures.

Like you can’t autopsy a werewolf the same way you can a person.  And I made some really elementary anatomy mistakes in the book that people still send me angry e-mails about even though I’ve apologized for it about four times on my website and said, “I know, I can’t fix it unless there’s a reprint of the book.  So I’m sorry. Yes, I know I screwed up.  I’m sorry.  I can’t fix it yet.”  But I wish, things get by you, no matter how good a stickler you are and that was the one that got by me.  I like to think that I basically did an OK job.

Doing paranormal crime scene investigation was actually really fun because I would take what I learned in the class and from reading other stuff on my own and I’d be like “ok how do I apply that to this completely fictional and fantastical setting.”  That actually was really fun.

I only once got the question about how do you deal with the conservation of mass with your werewolves.  And oh, it was it was that guy–you know that guy that’s in the audience of every sci-fi panel.  It was that guy who stood up and asked me this question.  And gave me this smirk like, “Girls can’t do science.  Of course she won’t know.”

I just looked him in the eye and I said, “Magic. Next question.”  Because I had actually thought about it when I was writing the book and I was thinking this is a really thorny issue. I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with this in this science fictional manner, so I was saying, “Alright, conservation of mass is dealt with by…magic.”  <laughs>  And if he had actually read the books, he would see in the second or third one there is actually an explanation of how there’s basically a spell attached to a werewolf’s DNA that allows them to transform into this big, 400 pound critter and then back into a 150 pound human.  So there’s basically magic in blood and I had this whole page-long discussion about this between two of the werewolves, so I covered my ass. I explained it.  I was telling him “You just didn’t read my books.”


AA: That’s a good way to start the answer.  “Well if you had read the book…”

CK: Well, yeah “on page 222…”  I was saying, “Yeah, I can be that guy too.”  I have to say that gave me fodder forever to tell that story at book signings and stuff.  When I ask for questions, I usually preface it with that story and say “Just don’t ask me that question.”  Because I don’t know enough about physics to deal with this in a science fictional manner, and I admit that.  You know, I’m a writer; math is hard.  <laugh>


AA: But criminology’s easy?

CK: Yes, there isn’t much math in criminology, so we’re good there.  I actually had thought a long time for my day job that I would probably go into some kind of law enforcement, but then I sold my book and then I didn’t have to.  I quit my crappy office job and that was that.  Well it wasn’t a totally crappy job.  It was a pretty good job actually.  I had thought in college that I would honestly actually probably want to do that as a day job, As odd as it sounds to say this about being in law enforcement, I was thinking that is a job that I could make my job and I would still have plenty of mental space left over for writing because I’m really interested in both and I thought it would be something I could do.

It was cool to be able to write about cops and stuff.  I had fun because oh my God, cops and law enforcement offices, they are some of like the weirdest, most morbid people you will ever meet.  They love to talk to you about it and try to gross you out.  They’re great; they’re like some of the best characters and I loved writing all the normal cop characters in the books. I loved writing their dynamics.  Like that was my favorite part of every book.

One of my favorite characters in the Nocturne City books is this real asshole cop named David, and he’s like the worst you can possibly imagine; like he’s covered in donut crumbs and my editor said he actually reminded her of Will Arnet from “30 Rock”, he’s just a jerk like that.  And I’m thinking, “Yeah, he is a jerk.”  But I had so much fun writing him because he’s just like this total, typical, crazy cop guy and those people are so much fun to write.

I have a lot of fun writing the abnormal characters in my fantasy novel.  I don’t know why.  Luna’s this driven, super-serious straight ahead kind of lady, and he was only supposed to be a one off, just in the first book. I was going to move her to a different precinct, and he was going to go away and never be heard from again, but he showed up in the second book, and then he showed up in the third book, and he just kept kind of showing up.  I think it sounds super flakey when you say your characters take over, but it was totally one of those cases where he actually did take over. I needed a character in the scene to antagonize Luna a little bit and he just popped up and was like, “Hey.  Me.”  I mean, he’s so obnoxious, I couldn’t write him out.


AA: While your tales of the supernatural are fictional, you’d had a real encounter with something out of the ordinary. Would you share that with us?

CK: I can, Well, it’s not a ghost story, in the sense that I saw a ghost.  I keep referring back to Neil Gaiman. He also has a ghost story that is not really about anything really happening.  When he was younger, he saw a woman under a streetlight and when he looked back, she was gone.  He said, “That’s my ghost story because I’m absolutely convinced she was a ghost.”

I lived in this really kind of horrible, seedy apartment right after my freshman year in college.  Weird stuff would happen in there and my boyfriend at the time just said he got a creepy feeling whenever he was in our bedroom and I said well you’re crazy because we have no where else to sleep–it’s a one bedroom apartment–so kind of out of luck there. I just dismissed it.  He would have horrible nightmares when he stayed over and stuff, and I just kind of dismissed it because I thought he was a bit flakey and crazy, which is why he’s now my ex.

Until I was there by myself and I got up to get a glass of water at night and it was pitch-black.  We had one of those 70’s bathrooms where the toilet and the shower are in one room and then there’s a little alleyway with the mirror and sink. I was standing in the little alley which was maybe  three feet wide plus the vanity, and I was getting a glass of water and drying my hands off. I became absolutely convinced that something was standing behind me and that if I turned around I would see whatever it was and it would just like be the end.

I was absolutely convinced and it was pretty well-lit because the streetlight comes in the window but it got pitch-black dark while I was standing there. I thought “Where’s the light that should’ve been coming in from the bathroom? It just got black.” I had this thought I had to get back to my bedroom right now and if I look in the mirror, it’s all over because I’m going to see it and it’s gonna see me. So I turned off the tap, and edged slowly away from the mirror. I booked it down the hall to my bedroom and slammed the door.  I don’t know why I thought the bedroom would be any safer.

I thought about it the next day and was like, “Did I dream that?”  And then I was thinking, no, because my water glass was right there on the vanity.  I did get up and get a glass of water.  I moved out pretty soon after that, but I never really felt comfortable in there again.

So that was my experience:  there was a definite, malicious, inhuman presence that was there all of a sudden, and I’ve never felt anything that strongly again.  I’m definitely skeptic rather than a believer. My roommate, the one who won’t go into my basement, is very sensitive to places and stuff, and I told her “I wish you had come to that apartment because you would’ve freaked out because if I felt it, I’m pretty sure you would’ve just bled from the ears and ran screaming from the room.”

I don’t spook easily, and I’m not prone to stuff like that, so that’s why I tend to think it was probably real and not just me being half asleep.  I was definitely awake, and it got so dark and it was all wuhoooo. That apartment was really kind of creepy.  But I moved into a better apartment and everything was fine.  That’s my non-ghost story.


AA: And with a hot cup of tea for us, that’s a good note on which to end.

Thank you, Caitlin, for this very enjoyable conversation and for letting us get to know you better.

CK: Thank you, it’s been a lot of fun!


Iron Thorn is now available for your reading pleasure.

For more information, read more at Caitlin’s website.

Published in: on February 27, 2011 at 9:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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