Monday, August 3, 2015

Interview with YA mystery author K.C. Tansley

I’m kicking off a new month and new week with YA author K.C. Tansley. She’s here to chat about her new young adult murder mystery, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts. This is the first book in The Unbelievables series.

Feel free to leave comments for her below. She’ll be stopping in to answer any questions you may have.

K.C. Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them.

Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is the first book in her YA time-travel murder mystery series.

Welcome K.C. Please tell us about your current release.
The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is a YA time travel murder mystery. It is the first book in The Unbelievables series.

In The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, prep school junior Kat Preston accidentally time travels to 1886 Connecticut, where she must share a body with a rebellious Victorian lady, prevent a gruesome wedding night murder, disprove a deadly family curse, and find a way back to her own time.

What inspired you to write this book?
It was a concept my best friend, Anthony, and I dreamed up when we were in 7th grade. The 11-year-old me loved the idea of ghosts, curses, spells, castles, time travel, and a murder mystery.

I was a huge fan of soap operas like Dark Shadows and Santa Barbara and that’s where the romantic thread came in. Back then, I only thought about the story I wanted to tell and this was it. Anthony and I never got beyond the character sketches and general concept because the original idea had way too many characters. He still has a notebook somewhere filled with dozens of character sketches.

Decades later, when I was working on Wall Street and mourning the end of the Harry Potter series, I thought if I could write my own novel, then the characters would always be with me. That was when the 28-year-old me remembered the story the 11-year-old me was dying to tell. I emailed Anthony and he gave me the go ahead to work on it. And then the work truly began.

Excerpt from The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts:
     The two weeks leading up to finals were the perfect time to do research at Gilman Library—if you needed to be surrounded by people. Bustle and noise didn’t distract me anymore. I was much more likely to be disturbed by quiet. Or, at least, what the quiet conjured up. Old buildings like Gilman were the worst.
I made my way to the library’s elevator. My progress was slowed by the twenty pounds of research material that I carried. I slid my thumbs under the straps of my backpack, trying to relieve my aching shoulders, while I waited.
Professor Astor’s classes were unusual—even by McTernan standards—and his paper topics were insane. But he was a prestigious university professor willing to teach prep-school kids, so the school let him teach pretty much whatever he wanted. This semester was “The Lore and Lure of Historical Places,” which might sound innocent enough, but Astor had me investigating a notorious double murder that had happened in 1886.
The professor expected McTernan students to do as much as his students at Georgetown, but he helped anyone willing to do the work. For my latest assignment, he’d loaned me some incredible resources from his personal collection. I couldn’t wait to explore the books in my backpack, but investigating a grisly mystery and a family curse meant that I had to take some special precautions. Working alone in my dorm room was out of the question. I needed the frantic energy of my classmates preparing for finals.
Once the elevator arrived, it was a short ride to the fourth floor. The place was packed, just the way I liked it. I found a free chair at a table with three sophomores. They didn’t look happy about my intrusion, but I was a junior, so they had to deal.
I had a lot of work to do. If I was going to discover anything new about what happened at Castle Creighton, I had to start by reviewing what was already known. While I read, I needed to look for blank spots and anything that had been overlooked. Professor Astor’s willingness to believe that I might be capable of unraveling a 129-year-old mystery was one of the reasons he was my favorite teacher.
I slipped on my headphones, cranking up some Taylor Swift. I needed happy music to explore something this dark and scary. Then I pulled out my binder and reread my notes on Castle Creighton.
The castle sat in the middle of an island just a few miles from the village of Wright in Connecticut. It felt a world away from the hustle of Washington, D.C. I’d only seen a few photos of the place, but my first thought was desolate and creepy. Maybe it was the isolation of the island or the Medieval Gothic architecture of the castle, but the place seemed designed to provoke bad dreams. I couldn’t help envisioning what I could face there—an endless line of restless ghosts, waiting for someone like me.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now, I’m working on the sequel to The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts. It picks up a month after everything that happened in TGWIG. It’s so exciting to get to continue the adventures with Kat and Evan. We’re going to discover so much more about the Langley family in this book. And if I’m channeling Toria, there will be more time travel for Evan and Kat too.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It started out as a life long hobby. I wrote incredibly angsty poetry all through high school and college. Back then, it was just something I wanted to do. As I got older, it became something I snuck in time to do. Even after I wrote my first manuscript, I didn’t think I was a writer. I was just someone who wrote. I didn’t start using the title writer until I got more serious about it. When I was writing my novel with the intent to publish—that’s when I felt like I was a writer. So probably around 2009.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write full time, but I also teach part time to pay the bills. My days are mine. Two evenings a week, I teach. Those are half days of writing and promoting.

A typical day starts with me rolling out of bed and sliding into the chair at my desk. I spend an hour checking email and social media. I break for breakfast. Then I get down to writing. When I’m drafting, it’s 2000 words a day of writing. When I’m revising, it’s 50 pages of revising.

Around 1 p.m., I get in an hour workout. Then back to promo work like ad creation, social media, writing guest blogs, setting up events, etc.

Right now I’m creating workshops for school visits. Between developing the talks and creating the Powerpoints, that’s a few months of work.

My graphic designers all have day jobs, so I have to check email at night and respond to them about ad design, newsletter design, and website updates. My day usually starts at 9:30 am and ends at 1:00 am.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have to feel what my characters feel. So if my character is depressed, I have to summon up that emotion and go into it. Sometimes it’s exhausting to write because my characters go through so much. I have to be right there with them, feeling my way through it. They say to torture your characters, which means I torture myself right along with them.

With The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, I couldn’t time travel and see how it felt. So I had to approximate it. Think about what emotions it would trigger and summon them up. So shock, fear, and uncertainty were things I was constantly tapping into.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

This is a true story. When I was five and my cousin was six, my grandmother asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up.

My cousin was playing with a cash register and replied, “A grocery store check out lady.”

When my grandmother turned to me, I said. “Green.”

“No, Kourtney, what do you want to be?”

“I want to be green.” It was my favorite thing in the world.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My tagline is “Believing in the unbelievables” and I do. I’ve had some creepy ghost experiences.

When I lived on Wall Street, there were several nights in that haze between dreaming and fully awake where I saw ghosts at the end of my bed. People dressed in clothes from another era and exuding an eerie bluish light. It turns out there were some horrible fires that destroyed buildings down there. I think when people die tragically something of them remains.


Thanks, K.C.!


Carrie Rubin said...

Fun to learn some new things about you, Kourtney. And I love that you have a set writing schedule during the day. I should give that a try; I tend to work on things as they come to me. I usually get done what I need to get done, but having specific time slots for different tasks sounds more efficient. It's obviously working for you! Continued best of luck to you with your book launch. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Carrie! I find it really helps to block out time everyday. it's always good to try out other people's methods. That's how I stumbled onto what worked for me. :) Aw thank you! Hugs.