Monday, June 11, 2018

Kat Shepherd Author Interview


Photo Content from Kat Shepherd

Kat Shepherd is a writer and educator who recently relocated from Los Angeles to Minnesota with her husband, two dogs, and a rotating series of foster dogs. She loves to create engaging stories for reluctant readers because she believes that reading should be a joyful experience for every child. Blending her passions for writing and education, Kat has worked with her husband to build communities of readers and writers by hosting weekend writer retreats at lodges and camps in the mountains of Southern California.

Their shared love of the outdoors takes Kat and her husband to a different national park each year for their anniversary, and they have been lucky enough to expand their travel to places like South Africa, Paris, and the Galapagos Islands. This only slightly interrupts her busy schedule of Trying To Do All The Things. In Kat has fostered and rehomed 23 dogs and counting, and she also sat on the board of a Los Angeles shelter intervention program. She also served as a volunteer docent at the LA Zoo, where she gave educational tours and serves as a personal chef for monkeys, but not at the same time. And just to keep things interesting, she also enjoys tennis, yoga, and ukulele, also not at the same time.

Kat is always excited to hear from readers, writers, educators, and other do-gooders. You can find her by clicking on the Contact Kat tab or through her agent, Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.


        
  


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling is vital because it’s such a huge part of how we process the world. Stories are how we connect with others, how we remember things, and how we construct meaning. If you want to move someone to do something: whether it’s to support a cause, buy a product, or join a community, one of the most effective ways to do that is through storytelling. Storytelling isn’t just something magical and romantic that artists do; it’s a practical skill that everyone can benefit from learning.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I was a voracious reader growing up, and I also spent a lot of time playing by myself. My family was kind of a big golfing family, which did not interest me at all, so when they went to the driving range I was left to my own devices. I would collect all the broken golf tees and turn them into characters that had all kinds of adventures. I wrote a lot of stories and poems as a kid, and I always kept a journal, but being a writer wasn’t something my family really viewed as a job you could actively try to do. They weren’t against it, but it wasn’t like a defined career path that could be pursued. Writing lingered at the back of my mind, but only as a hobby or a secret dream kind of thing. It was something I thought I would try to do later, later, always later. So the idea of truly pursuing writing wasn’t something I started to do until I was in my thirties and somebody came along and said, “You know, you could do that. You should do that.”

What is your happiest childhood memory?
When I was in about third grade my mom helped start this arts center in an abandoned high school. Her theater group was one of the first groups to use the space, and even though the place had been closed for years, nobody had bothered to clean it out. There were still piles of desks in the classrooms, old books and papers in the lockers, and it felt as though the students had just left. It was the closest thing to a haunted place I had ever been in, and I had complete run of the place. I roamed it to my heart’s content and it just lit my imagination on fire. I still have such yearning for that specific place and time because of joy it brought me. It gave me a lifelong passion for exploring, and for seeking out the stories that sleep inside forgotten spaces.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
For as long as I could write, I was always writing something: diaries, stories, poems, plays, comedy sketches. I completely quit writing after college, but I dipped my toe back in with blogging in 2007 or so. I published a few personal essays in an online magazine, but I didn’t write any fiction at all again until about 2010. My first completed fictional work was actually a screenplay I finished in 2011. I was 37 years old.

What was the most memorable toy you played with from when you were little?

I have always loved animals, so I loved my pets more than any toy in the world. I created an entire newspaper dedicated to my dog, Tina, and constantly dressed her up and took pictures of her in various themed costumes. I was a Tina superfan. But I did love to play with toys, too, especially stuffed animals and Barbies. I was really into creating fashion for my Barbies, and I also loved using them to act out all the Sweet Valley High books.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why?
Algebra was a huge favorite, and still is. I love the peaceful elegance of refining and distilling a problem down to its most basic essence. It is incredibly soothing, and I love everything about it. I have the quadratic formula tattooed on my arm; I think it is one of the most elegant and perfect things the human imagination has ever conceived. Doing any kind of complicated math problem is like solving a delicious mystery.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
I was lucky to have smart, dedicated teachers who taught me how to write. I don’t mean writing fiction, because we didn’t do much of that in school. I learned how to write in general: how to formulate a logical argument, support it with evidence, research and cite my sources. How to write differently for different audiences and different purposes. How to anticipate what my reader might be thinking. When I was in graduate school one of my professors asked, with true wonder in his voice, “Wow, where did you learn how to write like this?” I shrugged and said, “Public school.”

In your new book; BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES: THE SHADOW HAND, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES is a middle grade series about four best friends who have to confront a new supernatural threat with each new babysitting job. THE SHADOW HAND is the first book, and it follows the story of Rebecca Chin, a really practical, together kid who considers herself a pretty expert babysitter. She’s sitting for her favorite baby, Kyle, when there’s a freak storm and the power goes out. The baby seems completely fine, but the locked window in his bedroom is suddenly open, and there’s moss on the windowsill… in the shape of a hand. And that’s just Chapter One.

The creep factor escalates from there into a fun, fast-paced read full of scares and suspense, but the girls’ friendship is the true heart of the story. Think Goosebumps meets The Baby-Sitters Club.

What part of Rebecca did you enjoy writing the most?
I had decided early on that Rebecca was going to be a baker. A former student of mine was a lot like Rebecca: very organized and Type A. Baking was her creative outlet. So I was thrilled when I was researching a key part of the book, and discovered that Rebecca’s baking would end up having to play a pivotal role. It was so serendipitous that it might seem intentional, but it was just one of those wonderful moments where the fates aligned.

My husband and I were both really close to our grandmothers, and I loved getting to plant those memories into Rebecca. My husband’s Abuelita helped raise him, and I wanted Rebecca to have the same kind of connection. I miss both of those wonderful ladies, and it was so lovely to spend those moments with them again as I was writing.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Kyle?
It’s hard to answer that question without giving away too much of the book. Let’s just say that creating Kyle taught me how much I love writing horror!

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
This is probably not exactly how to answer this question, but as an educator I am passionate about title choice. I believe that every book has value, and I would never want any reader to feel that a book isn’t “for” them. If you’re interested in reading a book, then that means the book is right for you. When I was a teacher I told parents to let their kids read whatever they wanted. Readers are very good at self-selecting, so I don’t personally believe it’s up to some gatekeeper to do that job for them.

I was at Costco one day, and I saw a boy, maybe about ten years old, holding up a book and begging his father for it. The book was the latest Dork Diaries, by Rachel Renee Russell. I heard him pleading with his dad, “But see? This book has a boy and a girl on the cover, so that means that both boys and girls can read it.” His dad kept pushing him to books with only boys on the cover. But this kid had read every Dork Diaries, and he was dying to read the latest, and his dad would rather not buy him a book at all than buy him a book with a girl on the cover. And I was thinking, Dude, your kid wants to read! Why would you discourage that? So I ended up engaging the boy in conversation, totally ignoring the dad, but loudly saying how my nephews loved Dork Diaries and had read every book. Maybe that made his dad feel “safe” enough to buy his son a book with a girl on the cover? I don’t know, but the whole thing broke my heart in about ten different ways.

In general I just want to encourage readers (and parents) to give every book a chance. I thought I would hate Lord of the Rings, so didn’t read it until I was 36 years old, and now it’s probably my favorite book of all time.

(If that’s not the kind of answer you’re looking for, here is one that is also true and may fit the question better.)

There are lots of times in my life when I’ve felt helpless and overwhelmed by a problem, and I find myself waiting for someone else who is smarter and stronger and more qualified to come along and solve it, and then comes the sudden realization that maybe I’m actually that person. I don’t even know how many times I’ve said, “But I don’t know how to…” only to turn around and discover that I’m already doing the thing I insisted I didn’t know how to do. The books I write are about kids who have to become the heroes that they’ve been waiting for. I want all of my readers to see themselves as brave and powerful enough to fix the world’s problems, because they are. More heroes are rising up every day, which is good, because none of us can do it alone.

One of your stuffed animals' names as a kid?
When I was about six an older kid told me the Latin name for ‘cave bear’, which was Ursus spelaeus. I didn’t know that every animal had a Latin name, and I was really into this idea. I didn’t really know how to research it further or get the spelling right or anything, so my teddy bear was named Ersaspalius, which was my best approximation.

When was the last time you cried?
My husband and I foster senior dogs, and sometimes we have hospice fosters, which are dogs that are terminally ill and spend their final days with us. Our current hospice foster recently had a rough patch, and we thought it might be time to say goodbye. She’s been with us over a year, so we shed many tears as we contemplated that very difficult decision. Happily, our vet suggested trying a new medication before we decided, and the medication has been great. She is back to her joyful, spunky self, and we treat every extra day with her as a gift.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
My next deadline. I wish it were something more exciting than that, but every morning starts with a kind of gasp and mild panic about whether the next book will be done in time.

What is your greatest adventure?
I’ve had a lot of pretty great adventures. All of the best ones are with animals. I’ve been charged by an elephant, snuggled a purring cheetah, snorkeled with sharks, and camped with baboons. I have watched sea turtles hatch on the beach, and baby hippos nurse underwater. I have fed tigers and snow leopards from a bottle, and I fed apples to the oldest rhino in the world. There are several monkeys that I count as very dear friends. It’s a pretty good life.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
Books I read again and again as a kid were Harriet the Spy and A Little Princess. I think Harriet was one of the first truly flawed characters I had ever read, and I felt like reading that book was a way for me to embrace my own similar flaws. Reading Harriet made me feel seen and loved by a book. A Little Princess was a hugely satisfying read in a different way. Unlike Harriet, Sara Crewe was a totally aspirational character. She was way kinder and more optimistic than I ever could be. I was inspired by the way Sara cared for vulnerable people. I loved seeing her kindness and compassion rewarded, and it was so satisfying to see justice served at the end.

Where can readers find you?
Readers can follow find here:
Twitter: @bookatshepherd
Instagram @authorshep

I also have a lot of book events coming up, which readers can find on my Amazon author page, or on my two websites: katshepherd.com & babysittingnightmares.com

TEN REASONS TO READ BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES: THE SHADOW HAND
  • A wickedly awesome villain
  • Creeptastic scenes
  • Cliffhangers that keep you reading way past bedtime
  • The perfect mix of comedy and scares
  • Life and death stakes
  • Friendship
  • Pranks
  • Monsters
  • Riddles
  • A costume shop with a mysterious past

The Baby-Sitter’s Club meets Goosebumps as a diverse group of friends encounter supernatural problems on their babysitting gigs.
The typical babysitting job just got a whole lot scarier!

Rebecca Chin is understandably freaked out when something begins haunting her babysitting charge, Kyle. Ever since a powerful thunderstorm, strange handprints have appeared on the walls, shadows prowl his room, and the baby is not quite himself.

After investigating, Rebecca and her three best friends discover that a sinister, paranormal villain known as the Night Queen has taken Kyle and replaced him with one of her minions. To stop her, they embark on a chilling journey into the woods to outwit the Night Queen and her creepy creatures—or risk being trapped in her realm forever!

Quick thinking and strong friendship save the day in the first of this exciting new middle-grade series.

Praise for BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES: THE SHADOW HAND

"Fast-paced, action-packed, and just as fun as it is frightening, this series-starter is a sure winner. The cast of real, relatable characters and the thrillingly vivid prose only further ensure that readers―reluctant, eager, or somewhere in between―will be left looking forward to more of Shepherd's delightfully creepy tales." ―Jarrett Lerner, author of EngiNerds

“This spooky story of friendship and paranormal adventure will have young readers flipping pages well past their bedtime.”―Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, New York Times Bestselling author of Book Scavenger

You can purchase Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KAT SHAPHERD for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand by Kat Shepherd. 

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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4 comments:

  1. Exploring Bryce canyon national park.

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  2. My favorite adventure was a summer camping trip to Alaska.

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  3. "Favorite Adventure?" Exploring South America in search of lost pyramids!

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  4. As I've never had any adventures of my own, my favorite adventure would be the adventures of Bilbo Baggins.

    ReplyDelete