Katharyn Blair , author of The Beckoning Shadow, is one of those people you just know you would want to have as a best friend. And not just because she has a cat named after Maggie Rhee of the Walking Dead (my mother is gonna flip when she finds out about that)! Nope I mean because she is bubbly, creative and bursting at the seams with energy, open, honest and authentic. Katharyn is a mom, writer and wife that doesn’t know the word stop. And we are all the better for it. Between this interview, the Beckoning Shadow, and future projects she’s coming off the starting blocks like Usain Bolt!
Now I need to remind everyone of something REALLY IMPORTANT. Katharyn’s debut novel, The Beckoning Shadow comes out on July 2nd! Let me say that again JULY 2nd.THIS IS AN OUTLIER…. IT IS NOT JULY 9th but JULY 2nd via Kathrerine Tegen Books! NOW EVERYONE SAY IT WITH ME- JULY 2nd!
AND THIS IS IMPORTANT. WHY DO YOU ASK? YOU WANT TO GET THOSE PRE-ORDERS IN. Katharyn has put together one of the most unique, interesting and fitting pre-order contest swag games ever! I’m am so mad I can’t participate I could scream.
All you have to do is:
Pre-order THE BECKONING SHADOW from Once Upon a Time Bookstore, Vroman’s, Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon and submit your receipt (and address!) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everyone will receive a signed THE BECKONING SHADOW bookmark, and be entered to win gym bag full of fightin’ goodies like the one below (& a signed copy of the book)!
International OK. Ends 7/1 at 11:59 PST.
With that- get your gloves, your headgear and step in the ring, if you dare! See how many rounds you can go with Katharyn!
1) It is rare that an author is able to start writing full time right off the bat and make a career of it. There has been a lot of talk around the deromantization of the “starving artist”. What advice would you give to those that experience the more typical writers life?
Honestly? Publishing is awesome and weird and enigmatic and dream-filled and odd. For a long time, it looks like writing before and after work, which is what I did. I even wrote during my lunch breaks, because a) it was an hour of work time and b) it kept people from talking to me. Win-win.
But I have two different two-book deals with major publishing houses, and I still think it’s smart to always have a steady income. Art and business mix, and it’s amazing but also kind of a weird overlap. I will always keep a hustle on the side, because steady paychecks are… what’s the word? Essential. That’s what I was looking for. I highly recommend “Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad” by Austin Kleon. It’s my go-to. (Erin Bowman posted about it in her Insta-stories and I ordered it on Amazon thirty seconds later. Thank you, Erin! *waves*)
2) Like you, my mother mother suffered from such severe social anxiety it affected her schooling (she dropped out of high school). Also like you, she found the ability to overcome and go on to become a nurse. For those struggling with these type of debilitating mental illnesses that society still doesn’t understand or support, what advice would you provide others? Especially those lacking a support system.
Right. Buckle up, cause this one is a bit long.
My anxiety really kicked in when I was eleven. I always had it – but it was like a shadow that hung out around me and never showed its teeth. Then, I had a panic attack in Social Studies, and it basically swallowed me whole. I sat there, terrified, and when I asked to leave the room, the teacher was incredibly mean and embarrassed me in front of the whole class. It was a nightmare, and that moment changed my entire life. I feel like I was one person when I walked into that classroom and a completely different person when I left. I went from a relatively normal eleven year-old with friends to a recluse whose OCD made her wear a raincoat to school every day. This is in Southern California, so… it stood out. I lost all my friends. I couldn’t explain what was happening to myself… how was I supposed to explain it to other people? It devolved quickly, and soon I wasn’t going to school at all.
I’d try, of course. I’d wake up and listen to my mom and sisters in the kitchen and tell myself “Today is the day. Today is the day you wear normal clothes and go to school and act like a normal person.” It never lasted long. If I made it through the school doors, it was only a matter of minutes before I was in the girl’s bathroom, pulling out my small Nokia with the bright yellow case and calling my mom through sobs, begging her to come get me. My parents tried everything. My mom took me to therapy, and I got on some medication. But I had no coping skills, and – mostly? No hope. I couldn’t see me ever getting better. The self-harm started when I was fourteen, born of that hopelessness. For a long time, I looked at my life and saw the same day over and over, and it scared me.
But I am thirty, now. I have been in self-harm recovery for ten years. I still have anxiety. It didn’t really let up, but I got stronger: I used to black out when I had a panic attack, but now I can breathe through them. I still don’t like public transportation, but I managed to ride the train to LA for work for almost a full year. I got stronger just by surviving.
And I guess that’s what I’d say to someone who is struggling right now: stay alive, because there will be a moment when your head will break the surface of this. You’ll see things clearly, and the air will taste like hope. Take that hope with you when you go back under, and keep fighting. The surface will come again, and maybe for longer, next time. I won’t say it will ever go away – it might not. And it might never let up. But if you stay alive, you will get stronger. You might not know it until one day, when you’ll be able to be louder than the monster. It’ll pull one way, but you’ll go the other. One day, you’ll tell it to fuck itself and find… it has nothing else to say.
This too shall pass. My mom used to say that to me on my darkest days, and I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t see a future for myself. If you asked fifteen year-old me where I’d be when I was thirty, she never would have thought I’d be married with three kids. She’d never believe I have four books coming out. She’d laugh if I told her I hadn’t self-harmed in a decade.
My mom was right. Stay alive, because your stories has twists in it that you’ll never see coming. And they’re gonna be good.
3) I noticed that like me you are a fan of Leigh Bardugo.What draws you to her work and has she provided any advice to you along the way?
I saw Leigh Bardugo at the Festival of Books in 2014, and she just inspired the hell out of me, mostly because she’s one of those people who has had to fight to get where she is now. At the time, my husband and I were living in my parents’ kitchen (where we lived for almost a year) with a six month-old baby. We had run out of money and had nowhere else to go, so my parents graciously let us put our bed in the kitchen. We set up one of those cheap screens from IKEA and made a make-shift room. So I needed to hear from someone who clawed her way out of a situation like that. She had a dream and she chased it. She wrote a weird little book that captured our hearts, and she’s unapologetically herself. I stan that Goth Queen forever.
4) Beckoning Shadow came from a place of great loss. I also noticed that you often discuss your deep faith very often. How do the two connect both in your life and your work? Can we expect to see it continue to influence your future projects?
Absolutely. My dad is a minister, and I was raised in the church. My sisters and I spent our childhood going to almost every parishioner’s deathbed to sing “Amazing Grace”, and I’ve been to too many funerals to count. That kind of pain was just… normal.
My anxiety and my faith spent years wrestling for dominance in my life, especially in my teen years. I think anyone raised in a religion needs a point where they step away and make sure the faith is theirs, and not just a hand-me-down from their parents. For me, that transition was rough. I would say I was a borderline, reluctantly-converted atheist for a while. I haunted Catholic churches in the middle of the night (the one by my house was always open) and sit in the pews, trying to sort it all out. But I believe, sincerely, that if you look for God, He’ll find you. So I found my way home, and it’s been my armor and my refuge through heartbreak and loss.
THE BECKONING SHADOW was born from those moments of loss – those moments when you realize there is nothing you can do to change it. That person is dead. That relationship is over. That hurtful thing you just said? You can’t un-say it. There is nothing you can do. I’ve been through so many of those, that the question bloomed: but what if you could do something about it?
And to answer question about its influence in my work: hell yeah. Every human sees the world through a lens – so all art is created through it. My faith is my lens. to operate outside of it would be inauthentic.
5) What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Muahahahahaa: I can tell you that there will be another standalone coming soon – and that it will include post-apocalyptic pirates, a soul-stealing virus that’s passed through eye contact, and that the main character is the *sister* of the Chosen One.
There will also be two books coming from Penguin, but I can’t talk about those, yet 🙂
6) I am sure many think they know what it feels like to be an author with a debut novel coming out. Many of those feelings/thoughts are probably true. What don’t people know that you wish they did?
While it is exciting, it’s also INCREDIBLY nerve-wrecking. This thing you’ve been working on for years is now going to be out in the world. Also, how the HELL are you going to deal with your parents reading the kissing scene? *hides under a rock forever*
7) Is there anything about Beckoning Shadow (without spoiling anything, of course) that you think will surprise people?
I can say that I am not interested in writing preach-y books. So many people who know I’m a Christian and expect something “clean” (I hate that word when it’s used to describe art, by the way. An honest look at the world and humanity should never be construed as “dirty”.) are going to be disappointed. I love me some kissing scenes, and my lovely editor and I have a long-running joke that I always need to cut my use of “fuck” by at least a third before it can go out.
8) I used to blog about hockey and I had a tradition that always stumped players, but that they ultimately loved. I always promised myself I would continue the tradition if I got to a point where I interviewed authors. So:
Is there anything you’ve wanted to express or say that either you haven’t had a chance or the right question hasn’t been asked? Now is the time… the floor is yours my dear! Speak your mind…
Ha! I’m so glad you asked. I do have something to say:
DAENERYS TARGARYEN DESERVED BETTER.
Pssst… It is out on JULY 2nd- in case you forgot… pass it on.
What I do (Write novels and screenplays).
And what “John 1:15” means.
(Maybe not; it’s “a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.”)
I live in LA, drink way too much coffee, and write all day long — because I’m crazy blessed to do what I’ve been doing for fun since I was a kid hiding in my garage loft writing terrible, terrible vampire stories. Glitter enthusiast. Bethyl shipper. Pluviophile. Ask me about my Dean Winchester obsession.
I’m wife to Ross and mom to Aryn, Liam, and River Grace. Also, mom to Cricket (a dog, not an insect), and Maggie Rhee (cat, not the bad ass from The Walking Dead).
I’m represented by Brianne “The Shark” Johnson of Writers House, and Mary Pender of UTA