This week, we’re back with another author interview. Please give a warm welcome to Jeff Cook and Katherine Perkins.
Intro: What’s your name, what do you write, where can readers find you on social media? And just for fun, if you could be any mythological being, what or who would you be?
We are Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins. We write speculative fiction. More information can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/dawnofsteamtrilogy and on Jeff’s personal Facebook, on twitter @jeffreycook74, and at the clockworkdragon.net and authorjeffreycook.com web sites.
Since the mythological question has a ‘who’ option…
Four-year-old Jeff would be very disappointed in him if he did not pick Thor, and he already has the height, shoulders, and hair-length for it.
Kate wants to be Ariadne. Sure, Theseus dumped her, but she still had her reputation for brains and, afterward, a happy marriage to the Party God
1. What got you interested in writing?
Jeff cut his storytelling teeth in preschool days with long choose-your-own-adventure talk-through sessions with his dad on very, very long car drives. He has wanted to be an author since he was six.
Kate legally-blind-level nearsightedness kept her nose literally in a book from an early age, since [reading] was safer than walking into a wall, and their general existence and production became an interest.
- When did you become SERIOUS about writing?
Jeff got laid off from a desk job that had, for the better part of a decade, not allowed much time for a creative outlet. He had a story idea from one of his wake-up-with-a-character moments, and a friend talked him into doing his first NaNoWriMo. He ended up with the rough cut of the entire Dawn of Steam series. Kate insists that we add that this is because he is insane and turned off the parts of his brain involved in basic use of commas and apostrophes and also the concept of sleep. She adds that non-lunatics do not write 300,000 words in 26 days.
Kate got increasingly serious about writing as Jeff increasingly illustrated his need for supervision.
- What made you decide to co-author?
There comes a time in some friendships where you reach a new level of special-pal status and someone says, ‘You want to look at my manuscript?” Between us, the editing process involved so many rewrites that eventually, we decided to just start writing books together from scratch.
- What inspired the first book you two wrote as a team?
Both our ‘first collaborations’ revolved around Jeff’s waking-up-with-a-character moments. In terms of Kate as a series editor, that was Dawn of Steam with two characters sprung fully form, one from some kind of Western and one from some kind of sci-fi (thus best to coexist in emergent steampunk).
Once we’d decided to co-write completely, Jeff woke up with, “Her name is Megan O’Reilly, and she’s a 16-year-old artist with ADHD, but she’s secretly half-sidhe. I have nothing else.” And we began the filling out of cast, hammering out of plot, etc.
- What’s the best part of co-authoring?
Voice-testing together and getting to see how we can improve each other’s ideas.
- What’s the hardest part?
Neither of us is as good at the marketing part as we’d like.
- You have 12 books out, what is the most recent one about?
Our most recent full collaboration is All’s Fair, the fourth and final installment of our YA contemporary fantasy the Fair Folk Chronicles.
- What are the characters like?
Pretty diverse. Megan, the protagonist, has had to balance managing her ADHD correctly—not always easy even in normal life—with Faerie Princessing, and the last book of the series throws even more of a wrench into that balance. Her BFF Lani is Hawaiian, and Lani’s own fae heritage is from the menehune, who are legendary engineers and builders. Cassia is a satyress who is also a punk rock saxophonist. Ashling is a disabled pixie with a tendency for tall tales. Her service crow, the Count, is more terse. There’s a 14th-century knight named Justin with a strongly practical bent and a brownie named Kerr who complicates pronoun issues while providing surprise baked goods.
- Who should pick up your book(s) (or your most recent book) and why?
The Fair Folk series is labeled YA, which is a pretty loose term. The ‘official’ average target age is 14, but we’ve had enthusiastic readers ranging from about 11 (with an 8-year-old outlier or two) to 40-somethings. It’s a quickly flowing read that still has some substance to it, and our background research in mythology, history, art, and music will appeal especially to readers who like a few Easter eggs and don’t mind being sent Googling.
- Favorite quote(s) from your own work? (Up to three).
From A Fair Fight (third in the Fair Folk Chronicles)
“Even if I pull rank and princess my way into getting you your own Trebuchet?”
Lani grinned. “Okay, so the trebuchet was kind of neat. Princess isn’t a verb, though.”
“It is when I do it.”
And from All’s Fair:
“Well, the short version that makes it sound banal: he murdered Light and Beauty and left the blood on Poetry’s hands.”
“…that makes it sound banal to you?”
- Traditional or Self-publishing? Why?
Jeff has put out a YA novel with Fire and Ice Press, but for the most part, we find self-publishing more efficient.
- If you could only write in one genre for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Speculative fiction. If you need something more specific, probably contemporary/’urban’ fantasy. We have a flair.
- Name one book that affected the way you write?
Jeff: Shogun, by James Clavell
Kate: Memory, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Us: The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.
- Three authors you recommend and why?
Jeff: Terry Pratchett, Mary Shelley, and William Shakespeare, for, respectively, the thoughtful humor, the richness, and the engaging classic themes.
Kate: Terry Pratchett (we dedicated a book to him for a reason), JRR Tolkien, and Frances Hodgson Burnett, for, respectively, the sensibility, the sense of adventure, and the childhood coping mechanisms.
- If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
We should wish everyone good health, including mental health.
- What do you believe is your main purpose/motivation as a writer?
Sharing our passion for stories an engaging readers with the endless possibilities of books.
- What’s your favorite writing-related memory?
Jeff’s late dog Khaya stayed at his feet and guarded him from distractions during the initial writing of his first series.
Kate reflects a lot on realizing that in the Fair Folk books, even some of the characters that get in Megan’s way are the hero of their own story.
- What’s a favorite moment you’ve had with a fan/someone who’s read your work?
There’s a lot of them, but Jeff has to go with the high school student who asked to give him a hug for writing Kerr because they had “never seen someone like me in a book before.”
Kate needs it stated that hug is half hers, but would go with the 8-year-old whose two favorite authors are Terry Pratchett and Katherine Perkins.
- One fun fact most people don’t know about you?
Jeff’s other cane is Mjolnir.
Kate has finally found the perfect hairdresser in Abbeville, Louisiana, despite now living in Ontario, Ohio.
- If you could go back to co-authoring your first book armed with the knowledge you have now, what would you do differently and why?
Kate: Oh, I would win so many fights this time. Especially if we went back to my editing suggestions on Dawn of Steam, for structuring and clarity.
Jeff: Kate would win so many fights, yes.
- One piece of advice you would give to new writers?
Value the input of your editors, beta readers, or other trusted associates.
- One piece of advice
To paraphrase Leslie Feinberg, the most important thing you can be is someone you can live with.
Don’t forget to say hi to Jeff and Katherine at facebook.com/dawnofsteamtrilogy and on Jeff’s personal Facebook, on twitter @jeffreycook74, and at the clockworkdragon.net and authorjeffreycook.com web sites.