A Visit with Kathryn Jordan

FlickersI’d always wanted to be a writer ever since I was a child. I must have been 8 years old when it finally dawned on me that actual people wrote books. They didn’t just magically appear in the library – some person wrote them! Why couldn’t I learn to do that? But it took me many years to realize that dream. My first novel, DAGGERSPELL, was published when I was 42.

What got me started was, oddly enough, a negative example.  I read a story published in a national magazine that was so bad that I thought, “I can do better than this!”  Of course, I couldn’t on the first try, but I kept at it and improved. The first novel I wrote was horrible. I’ve never shown it to anyone but my husband.  He was kind about it.  The second one was the first version of the book that became FLICKERS, the book that’s coming out now, 36 years after I started writing it!

Although that version never sold, it did get me my agent. I’ve been with the same agency since 1981, longer than some people stay married. At various times in the past years, I’d revise FLICKERS some more, and Elizabeth would try to sell it, but we never found a publisher for it.

In the meantime,  I wrote 29 other books under my married name, Katharine Kerr.  These all fall into the science fiction and fantasy genres, but they differ from most because they emphasize character as much as action.  I should point out something about the name Kathryn Jordan, come to think of it.  Jordan was my grandmother’s maiden name. I wanted a new name for FLICKERS, because I figured that people who liked my other genre work might not care for this book. And vice versa – someone who loved historicals and love stories might be disappointed by bloody civil wars in an imaginary medieval kingdom or space ship chases!

What I didn’t realize was there’s another author named Kathryn Jordan who’s published several category Romances. So I hope readers will be able to tell us apart!

Eventually, however, I revised FLICKERS one last time, and it finally found a home with the Lyrical line of Kensington Books.  I’m often asked if I have any advice for new writers.  Based on my experience with FLICKERS, I’d say, “Never give up! But be willing to postpone.”  It’s a lot of work to write a full-length book. It takes a full year’s time to write a 500 to 600 page novel properly.  When a lot of writers fail to sell their first book to a traditional publisher, they give up in disappointment – or else they refuse to write another and self-publish what they have without fixing its problems.

Out of all the self-published novels, only a very few have ever sold well.  This isn’t because of self-publishing itself, but because most of these novels just aren’t finished yet.  Some were never worth publishing in the first place, true, but of those I’ve sampled over the past couple of years, many have promise. They could be good with the right kind of work.  And what is that work? Revision.  Finding problems, the scenes that drag, the character that no one will ever believe, the ridiculous hole in the plot, and then ruthlessly cutting and rewriting until everything works.

Lay your  first book aside and write another.  Then return to that first project, and most likely you’ll see what it needs. Every book you write will teach you something. I have no patience with writers who refuse to revise.  No one can write a solid, well-crafted book in the first pass through.  It’s like that old joke, “How can I know what I mean until I hear myself say it?” Once you hear it, then you can work on saying it properly.

If you have some trustworthy friends who also write, you can set up a critique group and meet regularly to discuss your work.  Just make sure you do a little research about running a group so you can avoid some of the problems a badly-run group can create.

What am I working on now? Another Katharine Kerr book, a fantasy set in my imaginary world of Deverry.  It doesn’t havein love black bg a title yet, or I’d tell you.  The publisher disliked the title I had for it, and when it comes to marketing, publishers rule with an iron fist. But I hope to eventually return to the world of FLICKERS, to Southern California and the silent movies, as the film industry consolidates in Hollywood for the Roaring Twenties.


Set in the dynamic years leading up to the Roaring Twenties, Flickers turns its lens on California’s glamorous silent film era, as Victorian civilities are swept away by a bold new century . . .
Violet Winters is the daughter of one of California’s wealthy robber barons.  Jack Sutter is the gardener’s son.  In their youth, the two were inseparable. But in 1913 everything is changing, and despite their feelings for each other, adulthood has come between them. Their vastly different social positions leads Violet to marry the aloof but socially perfect Maury Rediston. Jack vows to win Violet back while carving out a new life for himself in the burgeoning motion picture industry.  Tip Rediston, Violet’s brother-in-law, also gets drawn into the bohemian world of the flickers. As handsome as he is troubled, Tip starts his climb to stardom despite his family’s disapproval.  But as social changes, political upheaval, and war change the world around them, Violet, Jack, and Tip learn that things are never as easy as they seem on the silver screen. . .


Nineteen-year-old Violet Winter’s wealthy family has quietly but firmly pressured her into marrying the respectable Maury Rediston, rather than the working-class boy she really loves, Jack Sutter.  Although Vi has always had doubts about her marriage, the doubts turn to near-panic when it’s too late for her to back out: during the ceremony itself.

On and on they marched, one slow step at a time, until at last Violet and her father reached the altar steps, where Father Strout, resplendent in white and gold, waited for her. Josiah kissed her cheek below the veil, then handed her over to Father Strout. The priest’s hand was cold and moist, as reassuring as holding a frog. When Josiah turned away, taking the page boy with him to their seats in the front pew, Violet wanted to cry aloud for him to come back.

The ceremony broke over her like an ocean wave. They had rehearsed it so often that her body went throught the motions perfectly, her mouth spoke the responses, her eyes saw every detail: the priest’s calm eyes, the white roses at the altar, the solemn line of bridesmaids and ushers. Yet all that she was truly aware of was her hand moving back and forth between Maury and Father Strout. At last her hand came to rest in Maury’s for the last time. The best man, Tip Rediston, stepped forward and held out the ring-box, where the thin gold band glittered on white velvet. Father Strout picked it out and held it up for the blessing. When Violet caught Tip’s eye, he winked at her. This touch of human feeling made her come to herself. As Maury slipped the ring on her finger, No, Violet thought, no, I shouldn’t be doing this.

“Repeat after me,” Father Strout said. “With this ring, I do thee wed.”

Maury smiled like a man closing a trap.

“With this ring,” he said. “I do thee wed.”

When they knelt for the Lord’s Prayer, Maury squeezed her hand so tightly that her fingers ached. The ceremony boomed on, a prayer at a time echoing through the hushed church. Violet hardly heard the blessing. When she rose, Maury smoothed back her veil and leant down to kiss her in front of God and man. His eyes were full of longing, so deep, so sexual, that she was frightened, her hands shaking on his chest. As he stepped away, Rosie came forward and handed her the bouquet; the bells began to peal; the congregation was rising and filing out. Maury took her hand and squeezed it again.

I’m married, Violet thought.  Jack, Jack, I’m sorry.


Kathryn Jordan lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two cats, and a vagrant skunk.  Although she spent her childhood in a Great Lakes industrial city, she became a confirmed Californian at age nine, when her family relocated to Santa Barbara, the “Santa Luisa” of the novel.  All it took was one winter without five feet of snow turning into black urban slush to convince her that the move had been worthwhile.  FLICKERS, her first historical novel, is a new departure for her career. Under the name of Katharine Kerr, she’s also the author of the Nola O’Grady series of light-hearted urban fantasy novels.

Website: www.deverry.com


Buy: http://www.amazon.com/Flickers-Kathryn-Jordan/dp/1601834993






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