Author success story. Interview with Katherine D. Graham


Would you like to know more about the writing routine and secrets of the successful indie writer? We know you would! 

That’s why we’ve interviewed Katherine D. Graham, a USA Today bestselling dark fantasy author. She is famous for her series The Splitting Worlds, Duets of Dusk and Dawn, and Starfire Express.

Keep reading to learn how Katherine comes up with her captivating plot, develops impressive characters, and invents fantastic worlds.

What role do real-life experiences play in your writing? Do you draw from personal experiences often?

When I first started writing many years ago, I often took real-life experiences and adjusted them into adventurous, fantastical, alternate versions of reality in my writing. That said, though, I do not have any published books with those beginnings.

Today, certain aspects of real-life situations creep into the ‘what-if’ thought process I use when writing. Still, I can honestly say that 100% of my characters are entirely made up (none of the characters in my published books today are based on real people, so I mean it when I say any resemblance is truly coincidental).

As a dark fantasy author, people ask me from time to time how I can write dark content with so much darkness going on in the real world. As a dark fantasy reader, seeing how much worse the world can be if we let it (especially with inaction and silence) and seeing tales about a single human being in impossible odds makes an impact on the world and gives me hope in the darkest of days.

I don’t write about real-life experiences or situations, per se. But I write to inspire those who are in them, hopefully. And to make those who have not experienced them stand back and think about their place in their own story and the stories of others.

How do you approach character development and world-building in your stories?

This question brings together the strongest and weakest aspects of my writing. 

Character development comes to me very naturally. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in corners, behind punch bowls, or on the bench at the mall, just people-watching. I’d imagine their stories–did the super tense guy with the happy girl feel trapped in his relationship? Why was she with him to start with? What if he was a demon summoned to protect a reckless teenage girl who didn’t realize she was so much more than human? Thus, the stories of strangers have always come to me very quickly, building what-ifs on top of what-ifs.

On the other hand, world-building is where I struggle (I know, odd for an epic fantasy writer). The setting in which scenes take place in my head falls into the background so much that I take them for granted and thus never make it on the page. Through professional beta reads by fellow developmental editors and editing tools (like AutoCrit’s new Story Analyzer, which has an entire section devoted to world-building in each chapter), I pinpoint where I’ve fallen off the board in world-building and have to go back and expand. 

I ask myself, ‘Where are the characters?’ ‘Who else is with them?’ ‘What is going on in the background?’ ‘What does it smell like? Feel like? Sound like?’ and then build out from there. Small details may not seem important, but they make the difference between an immersive story and an unanchored, plot-driven tale.

Can you share any upcoming projects or works-in-progress that your readers can look forward to?

I have been working on a reader-anticipated series for a few years now, named Starfire Express. Even the name was voted for by my readers. I hope to finish the drafting and editing phases for both books in 2024 so that readers can finally dive into that universe. It is a Fae VS Dragon fairytale/mythological-inspired adventure fantasy that centers around a cross-dimensional train tour in whole new worlds.

I am also working on final revisions for Vanguard of Justice, the third volume of The Lords’ Gambit Series in 2024. Each book in that series follows an entirely separate timeline and main character within the same universe. Still, all are dark, mythological epic fantasies, and this one features pirates in a Sinbad-style retelling.

Are there any unusual or unexpected sources of inspiration contributing to your writing?

Many of the books I’ve published have been the result of vivid dreams or nightmares that I desperately wanted to see the ending of. What spurs these night-time adventures, I’m unsure, but I am thankful to have a plethora of potential worlds to write about as a result.

Do you have a favorite book cover design from your works or others in the same genre?

Oh! I love this question because I truly love so many covers coming out these days. 

One of my peers (J. M. Kearl) did custom artwork for her book Bow Before the Elf Queen that, if I’m being entirely honest, I bought just by looking at the book.

As for books of my own, one of my favorite covers is definitely for a work in progress called Within the Clockwork Vault, which is a steampunk portal fantasy.

I had been planning out this story about a steampunk world hidden within a clockwork vault for a bit, and when I saw this cover-up by Getpremades it was like it had been designed exactly for my book. It’s stunning, eye-catching, on-point with the genre, and I love it.

Author interview with Katherine D Graham

Are there any writing challenges or obstacles you’ve faced and overcome in your career?

Publishing in and of itself can be a challenge. I wish I’d respected that fact before attempting to self-publish two books the first time around several years ago now. I did not invest in professional editing or launch prep time (or even a cover for one of them), and it showed up in the results.

Getting a mentor to walk me through the self-publishing side of this industry (which is so different from the traditional side to which I was more accustomed) was the best investment I made in this journey. 

The pro, though, is that the humbling ‘flop’ beginning humbled me and taught me to be open-minded and teachable and to invest in connection with others. My fellow writers and readers are why I am now a USA Today Bestselling author. It was never about doing this journey alone, and I would not have learned that had I not tried and failed at attempting to go it alone, to begin with.

What advice would you give aspiring indie authors just starting their writing journey?

Slow down and be open-minded and well-researched going into the publishing side of this process (which should honestly start while you’re still writing the first draft). You only get one debut launch, which can make or break an author’s career. Sure, you can get back up from flopping like I did, but why put yourself in a situation that requires so much extra effort, time, and money when you could invest all those things upfront to do it right the first time?

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