Tuesday, June 24, 2008

5 Questions for Kathryn Mackel

A novelist and accredited screenwriter, Kathryn Mackel has written across a wide range of ages and genres. Screenplays, children’s sports fiction, YA fantasy, adult “Christian Chillers”—this mom of two seems to have done it all, redefining the word “impossible.” (For more of her story, click here.)

So it was with delight I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her and her writing:

Chawna: What is one or two things you would like readers to know about you and your writing?

Kathy: Rather than considering myself a fiction writer, I consider myself more of a storyteller who works and works on my craft to support the privilege of being able to tell stories. What goes into my first (and second-third-eighth, etc.) draft is often not very palatable. Until I learned the craft of writing, my stories used to live in my head—and honestly, made me feel a bit sinful. It was a relief to learn that I was a writer, though admittedly still one with a lot to learn.

Vanished has a very intriguing premise. Would you tell me a little bit about how you developed the idea?

How I came up with the concept is described on Melissa Meeks’ blog. (Chawna: Check out her whole interview—there’s some great stuff in there.)

But what was important to me that the area under the mist include different demographics. A rich neighborhood within a mile of inner city might not happen in other parts of the country but in old New England cities, that’s not an impossibility. After settling on geographical distribution of “types” of characters, I had to think the heroes and villains I’d need to drive the action. I chose a nurse-practitioner instead of a doctor for two reasons—to avoid copying Lost, and to put a character in over her head. The same thing holds true for Jason Logan who, as a police sergeant, has to order around a Secret Service agent as well as a terrified and disparate groups of people. These are examples of what I planned ahead.

Logan’s custody battle was unplanned and came to me as I wrote the first few words of the book. What if it’s already the worst day of Logan ’s life—and the bomb hasn’t even blown? The same question is true of Kaya. Though her heart is breaking as she packs up the clinic, things go from very bad to unimaginable. This kind of story works well with elevated stakes, but others would suffer with this kind of pacing.

The first step in developing a story is deciding what do I want it to be, then submitting to what the story demands to be.


I know that when I finish a story, whether writing or reading, usually one thing (a character, a plot twist, a fascinating premise, etc.) becomes dominate in the memory. In your mind, what stands out about Vanished?

It’s hard to say too much because I don’t want to spoil any surprises or twists. I love to think about Ben Murdoch (Kaya’s 15-year-old son) and the various steps he takes to maturity. I am cheered each time he chooses to do the right thing, despite his fears and insecurities.
And, as I write this, I think I would do better to emulate my own character!

Likewise, one thing will probably stand out for the reader. What would you like readers to get from this story the most?

I broke my shoulder very badly at Dallas-Fort Worth airport last fall. Apart from the physical trauma, I was stunned by not being able to use my arm. Not one bit—it just hung there. This kind of partial incapacity was nothing I had ever imagined and certainly nothing I could have anticipated. Fortunately, there were helpful fellow travelers, wonderful paramedics, and—still in Dallas —a top-notch surgeon who all helped me get back on the road.

The response we’re seeing in Iowa (in regard to the terrible floods) is an unfortunate but apt illustration of what Vanished is about. We can’t plan for disaster, we sometimes can’t stand against it, but by working together and “loving” our neighbors in a crisis, we will get through.

That “love” can never been sufficient until it’s God’s love we are sharing.


Finally, what is one question you've never been asked but wished you had been, and what is the answer?

No one ever asks me why I’m such a big sports fan. I grew up a Red Sox fan in Connecticut , surrounded by Yankee fans. There’s so many spiritual metaphors to be found in sports. (And I’ll spare your readers by not getting into them. Suffice it to say, my Bible study class knows I’ll always come up with at least one every Sunday.)

I love sports for the celebration. I don’t mean the dancing in the end zone. What I enjoy is being able to shout for joy. We talked in my last Bible study class about the celebration in Nehemiah 12 and how the sound of rejoicing could be heard ‘far away.’ As responsible adults, we seldom get the opportunity to jump and yell and clap. (Keep in mind I’m a New Englander.)

I also love sports because it’s a privilege to watch the bodies God create move in excellent and extraordinary ways. I think that’s why I love instrumental music so much—for the physical grace it takes to play a piano or guitar or saxophone, melded to the talent that has been gifted to the musician.

When those gifts and talents are raised heavenward—such joy! And for those of us who don’t have those gifts—it’s still a joy to watch, and a duty to allow the Spirit to direct us to where we can bring joy.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

Just a quick word about Vanished. There was a mix-up in which the book went to print without Book 1 printed on the cover. Some readers who didn’t know it was a series were rightfully incensed. I do apologize and wish I had been able to change that. Book 2 (Darkening) is almost ready for release. It will not be with the same publisher and I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say where it will be released. (I hope I’ll be able to before this blog tour is over!) I do want readers to know that Book 2 answers a lot of questions, including the real identity of Luther (the terrorist). The book is named Darkening because it’s the first night after the bomb. With no power, communication, it is a very dark night indeed.

And yet, the fire burns on and God holds tight!

Thank you, Kathy, for taking the time to answer my questions, and I encourage everyone to take a minute to check out her website and her very fun blog, GodandDogWalking.

1 comment:

Tina said...

I always find it so fascinating to see behind the writing. It's one of the reasons I am such a big fan of author blogs. This was a great interview Chawna, great questions.