I hope you are all having a great day. Today's interview subject is fantasy writer, Katja Bart. So, let's meet her!
PB: Hi Katja! Welcome to pjbermanbooks.com. Tell us a bit about your background.
KB: Hi, thank you for having me!
I'm something of a jack-of-all-trades-master-to-none. I did three degrees in very different fields, worked in customer service and data, and have hobbies ranging from long-distance running to learning languages. But the constant for most of my life have been books - particularly urban fantasy. I ended up reading so much of it that I wanted to write my own.
PB: What made you decide to become an author?
KB: I don't think there was ever any one thing, to be honest. Reading a lot, I quickly started to play around with elements of different stories, imagining them going a different route, or with different characters in the same scenario. The more I did it, the more I wanted to explore, until one day I had written a full-length book.
Mind you, that book was terrible, badly written, self-illustrated, and was a blatant rip-off of the Parent Trap and Indiana Jones, (but with triplets!) but it was a book, and it made me think that I might be able to pull off the real thing one day.
PB: When did you first start writing?
KB: As soon as I could hold a pen for long periods of time without it cramping my hand. Actually no, that's a lie - before that I dictated stories to my older cousin to write down, much to her chagrin. Before THAT I acted the stories out loud, which caused my family some concern because I was constantly talking to myself.
PB: What was the first story that you can remember writing?
KB: I think it must have been a riff on the fairy tale of the beast wife, or something like that. There's a version of it in any folklore - a man spies on a magical creature, steals its coat, and it turns into a woman that he takes for a wife. Eventually she runs away and he goes on a quest to win her back. I think in my version she runs away and he never finds her, but I'll have to ask my grandmother about that.
PB: When you begin writing a new story, do you always know the ending?
KB: Not always. I like plotting things out and I have gotten better at it, especially using things like the Snowflake Method and Gwen Hayes' "Romancing the Beat" as a drafting method. Having said that, however, my characters sometimes surprise me. I might start a scene intending for it to go one way and then it'll go in the completely opposite one. Stuff like that can really impact the ending. The ending to Orpheus, for example, got rewritten like 15 times before I was satisfied with it.
PB: If you could meet any of your characters, who would you meet, and what would you say to them?
KB: Would it be cheating if I said the fanfiction characters I like writing? I've been super-into revisiting the animes from my childhood and I've basically spent my time in lockdown writing about the inner lives of tertiary characters. I want to tell all of them they deserved so much better!
From my books... I'm currently revisiting a dystopian fiction that I wrote in 2012. In it, Britain has left the European Union and World War III is being instigated by demons. I would love to get in the heads of my two main characters... and I would also like to apologise to them for all that I'm about to put them through.
PB: Tell us about your recent novel, Orpheus.
KB: In many ways, Orpheus is a story about moving on. Stephanie, the main character, fell for the wrong guy and ended up with a cursed voice on top of a broken heart, and she spends the whole of the novel trying to essentially get him back for all that he's done to her. At the same time, however, she starts to fall in love with another boy - Travis - who thinks the world of magic and fairies is swell because it might heal his father and free him to live his own life.
As it happens, neither revenge nor magic are a cure-all; indeed, both seem to make matters worse, as revenge drags Stephanie further into the dangerous world of fairies, and magic comes with a higher price than Travis is willing to pay. Both characters end the first book thoroughly disillusioned but, hopefully, able to finally make the sacrifices they've been putting off in order to live their lives.
PB: Where did the idea for Medusa’s Daughter come from?
KB: Well... boredom, I guess. I started reading a lot of poetry in late 2017, had a lot of time on my hands, then gave it a go. Then in early 2018, I took part in a creative art challenge by Ana Radchenko on Instagram, and decided that what I wanted to do was edit my poems into a short ebook. The winter of 2017 also turned out to be a fertile time for poetry writing because I was going through a massive move, and there was a lot of melodrama that had to get written down somewhere.
I am told by the 3 people who have read it that they enjoyed it, too. It's not a bad result.
PB: Of all your achievements, which are you most proud of?
KB: My PhD, probably, although writing it has been one of the most excruciating experiences I have ever had to undergo.
PB: What is your favourite book series to read and why?
KB: You mean I have to pick one? Ouch.
Probably Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad books. Every time I open one or the other I find something that enchants me all over again. I can re-read those until the cows come home.
PB: What are your long term ambitions with regards to writing?
KB: To keep enjoying it as much as possible. I'm extremely fortunate because my day job is something that I am genuinely passionate about, which means that I can come to my fiction writing with a light heart. That's not to say that writing is ever easy for me - some days, on some projects, it feels like literally pulling teeth. But so long as I can look forward to sitting down at my desk to write, I'll consider myself lucky.
PB: If you weren’t an author, what career would you be in?
KB: Mathematics. If only because I like puzzles so much.
PB: What’s the next target for you?
KB: Well, I am told, in no uncertain terms, that if I don't write a sequel to Orpheus, I will have some very unhappy readers.
PB: Tell us a random fact about yourself.
KB: I once participated in a jiu jitsu throwathon, where my teammates and I tried to do over 100 throws in one hour each. I think I got up to 108, and walked like a penguin the next day.
Thank you to Katja Bart for speaking to us today! If you'd like to check out her books, you can do so here:
Until next time, happy reading!