Writing Across Genres: Q&A With Kat Martin

by Wendy Lu
published in Reading

We are pleased to host New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin, focuses on romantic suspense in her novels. Her newest book AGAINST THE MARK–the ninth installment of the AGAINST series– releases today! Romance Reviews says of the AGAINST series, “Every book in this series is excellent with hot romance and murder.” You can find Martin’s novels at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

1) Before you started writing, you were a real estate broker. How did you make that transition from real estate to writing?

My husband had written a book but couldn’t seem to get it published. I was good at spelling and grammar, so I thought I would give him a little help with his finished novel. What started as a two-week project turned into several months. By the time I got to the end, I was hooked. I decided to try writing a book of my own. “Magnificent Passage” was my first, a historical western romance. I haven’t stopped since.

2) What’s your publishing story?

It took me a year and a half to complete that first novel. I took classes–first in Los Angeles, then in Fresno–given by published authors. I found an agent through a writers’ conference, but the book was turned down by every major publisher in New York. All but one.

That last editor who read it, loved it and the book was chosen as a lead title. I got lots of publicity, got flown to New York, got to have dinner with the president of Waldenbooks. I thought I was off and running. Then, unfortunately, the publisher closed down the line and I had to start all over again. That has happened to me many times over the years. I’ve had six agents and worked with almost every major publishing house in New York. The road to being an author is not easy.

3) What advice would you give individuals in other fields who want to focus on a writing career?

Writing part-time is really grueling and yet most people don’t have any other choice. I guess it just depends on how badly you want to succeed. I just kept going, no matter what. Not giving up is more than half the battle.

4) Can you tell us about your new book, AGAINST THE MARK?

AGAINST THE MARK is Tyler Brodie and Haley Warren’s story. Ty first appeared in AGAINST THE NIGHT, working as a private investigator with Johnnie Riggs. He also made an appearance in AGAINST THE EDGE with Ben Slocum.

In AGAINST THE MARK, Ty meets Haley Warren, a sexy blonde from Chicago who hires him to help her uncover the truth about her father’s death. Was the explosion that killed James Warren an accident? Or was it murder, as Haley’s stepmother believes? Trying to ignore the fierce attraction they feel for each other, Ty and Haley follow a trail of clues that leads them into the art world, where old master paintings sell for tens of millions of dollars–plenty of motive for murder.

As with most of my books, I can’t say exactly where the idea came from. I met Ty in AGAINST THE NIGHT and he was just so cute, I decided he needed a story of his own. I usually think about a novel a couple of books ahead, but the book doesn’t get completely formulated until I actually sit down at the computer and start writing it. I prefer to have as much of the plotting done as possible, but my time constraints–writing two books a year–make it harder and harder to do that.

There’s more humor in this story than I anticipated. For me, humor comes from the characters. Ty just had a great sense of humor and it came out in the pages.

5) What is crafting a multi-book series, such as the AGAINST series, like? 

I think the best part is how readers have responded to the series. What started as a trilogy with the Raines Brothers has turned into nine books so far, with one more already written and set to be published next June (AGAINST THE WILD). I’ve contracted for two more and am currently working on those.

In my case, starting with the concept for just three books was a big help. I don’t think I could have managed to come up with nine stories way back then. So maybe just start smaller and expand as the stories progress.

6) How do you bridge both romance and suspense in your novels? Any challenges to writing across genres?

I think bridging those two plot elements is what makes Romantic Suspense a hard genre to write. If you look at RT Magazine, you’ll see a smaller section dedicated to that genre. But I have always (55 books) written both a mystery or suspense plot and an equal portion of romance so it wasn’t that much of a shift for me. Even my historicals had a lot of plot, a mystery of some sort, and plenty of romance.

Getting publishers to let you write in more than one category is a major challenge. They want you to keep writing whatever it is you’re known for. I wrote the contemporaries on spec. I wasn’t contracted for them at first. I sold them after they were finished. In other words, I eased into it, kept my readers with me and hoped to carry them into the new stuff as well. Also, I think you have to know if it’s something you have the–talent? Skill? Whatever the word is–ability to write in a different area. That’s why I like the idea of doing it while you are also writing the books that earn you a living. If the novel works, you can change.

7) What’s new? Any exciting new projects coming up?

I’m sooo glad you asked! As I wrote AGAINST THE MARK and came to the end of my contract, it was time to decide, “What’s next?”  But as I wrote MARK, Ty’s cousin, Dylan Brodie, stopped in for a visit and to help him solve the case. He was one of the Brodie brothers from Alaska. And he was yummy. What could I do? I had to write his story. Which led me to Nick’s story, followed by Rafe’s story. So I’m writing three AGAINST books set in Alaska and really hope my readers will continue to follow the series. My best advice to new writers was and still is: Write what you love. And that is exactly what I’m doing.

KatMartin_authorphotoNew York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Before she started writing in 1985, Kat was a real estate broker. During that time she met her husband, L.J. Martin, author of thirty western, non-fiction, historical, and suspense novels. A resident of Missoula, Montana, Kat and her husband spend their winters in Ventura, California. She is a currently writing her next Romantic Suspense.

With 55 novels to her credit and more than 15 million copies of her books in print, Ms. Martin has been published in 21 foreign countries including France, Japan, Greece, Argentina, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, China, and Spain.

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