Author’s Roundtable: Katie Mettner

How long have you been writing? Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

It started out as a love of reading, then learning to journal in school, and learning to let my imagination go places without resisting and then living life and having experiences I could draw from. I have always loved books, and I loved how words went together and how you could start off with a clean sheet of paper and as you wrote your pencil became duller and duller, but when you finished you had something that could make someone feel happy, sad, lonely or angry. My parents always had us at the library, reading and exploring. I loved holding a book in my hand and saying “Someday my name is going to be on one of these.” So I think I have always wanted to be writer and still do. I think being a writer isn’t something that is accomplished by being an author. Being a writer is a lifelong lesson.

What books or stories have you written? Published? Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

I have published “Sugar’s Dance” and just finished writing “Sugar’s Song.” I will be starting the third in the series, “Sugar’s Night” very soon. I also recently published my first children’s book, “Spaghetti Eddie.” It’s a story of a young boy who loves spaghetti. I wrote it many years ago, and my son’s third grade class recently helped me with the illustrations so I could take it to publication.
How did you get inspiration for the characters? Are the books based on personal experiences?

Absolutely. I took a character that was floating through my mind and made her my own, and I know for sure there is a lot of me in Sugar. In defining her, I was finally able to define myself. I think she is the kind of protagonist that reflects life’s struggles, joys, setbacks and moments of success. I tried to make her a character that everyone, man or woman, could relate to. She’s someone’s sister, friend or daughter. I also firmly believe that I can’t write about a place that I don’t know anything about. I’m not going to pull off writing a book about New York if I have never been there and experienced it. My husband grew up in Cloquet, Minn., which is a few minutes from Duluth. As we came up 53 the first time together and crested the hill, the lake spread out before us,  and it was just such an incredible view. We drove down into Superior and as we crossed the bridge, there were these huge ships heading out into the water, and I saw the scene for the book in my mind. I have spent so much time in the Twin Ports over the past 12 years, and it is just one of those places that draws you in. For me it has this magnetic pull; the lake, the ships, the old shops, the beaches, the people, the atmosphere. When it came time to write the big scene, the scene where Sugar remembers why she lives, I knew it had to be in Cloquet. It had to be in the place that really opened up my world. It’s the place where I found my “Agent Walsh,” the guy who accepts me for who I am and says, “I love you because of who you are, all of you, because of what you are and what you have gone through.” We actually spent a weekend at the hotel, and I walked around with my camera and my notebook and absorbed the atmosphere so that when I told the story, the reader felt like they were there, in the casino, in the ballroom, in the hotel room, in that place where she finds herself again.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

The only advice I have is to keep writing, keep listening, keep living and keep asking questions. There are so many authors out there that have amazing experiences and are so willing to share, teach and critique. Books are one of those things where there can never be enough because there will always be someone to read them.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited? What is the hardest part about finding a professional editor?

I was very lucky in the respect that my sister is an editor and for that, I’m SO grateful. A professional editor or other author can really help you with flow, missing words, grammar errors, etc. Often times as we write, we miss words that our brain will automatically add in, but someone else will catch it. I usually have two to three people read it besides my editor so that I’m confident it’s the best it can be.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

Being self published has helped in the respect that I didn’t have to go through rejection after rejection from publishers. “Sugar’s Dance,” “Sugar’s Song” and “Sugar’s Night” are all written in first person, and I had a specific way I wanted the story told. I know that first-person POV isn’t always received well, but I knew it needed to be that way. My biggest challenge was sharing her with the world. It was a personal thing that I had no intention of publishing when I first started writing the book, but with the encouragement of a very special lady I was able to say, “Okay, the story needs to be heard.”

How do you find enough time in the day to write?

It gets difficult some days. With three kids and a full-time job, I’m often writing early or late. My goal has always been as long as I write a little bit every day, make notes or come up with where I’m going with a scene, then I’ve been successful as a writer that day. Some days I can write for hours and some days only minutes, but in the end it always gets done.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

For me, it’s an outlet. It’s a way to take my own life experiences and make them into a story that others enjoy. Each page I write makes me a better writer, and I can share that with my children. I already have three very talented writers in my three kids, but again they started out with reading very early in life, and that is the most important basis for any writer. To write you have to read.

Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share? Was there a point in your life where writing helped you deal with something, a death or a problem relationship perhaps?

When I first started writing “Sugar’s Dance” I had just gone through the amputation of my left leg. I was not very mobile, and it was the middle of February, so for me it was an outlet and a place to escape to when the pain got bad or I felt cooped up and restless. Now that I’ve recovered and back involved with life I love knowing that at the end of the day it’s “Sugar time.” It’s that time of my day when I can open my Word document and see her there, and she’s waiting for me to finish telling her story. Then I’m in Sugar’s world, and the day’s events just disappear as I write.

Has writing made you a better person?

Writing has made me a better person in the respect that I have learned SO much from my readers. They have taught me so much about empathy, positivity and kindness.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

Of course! I love to read romantic suspense, romance, and oddly enough, heavy detective fiction! I can’t write it, but I love to read it. I’m not big into science fiction or horror. I’m a reader that likes what I’m reading to actually possibly happen. I do better with story lines that could very much be real.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers? What kinds of information do reviews offer authors like yourself? Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

Reviews are a great way to judge your work and find out what the reader sees and what they don’t. Find out what your strong points and weak points are. I have never received a bad review on “Sugar’s Dance.” I’m sure I will at some point. Every reader sees different things in stories, and you know what they say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Another author once told me “One-third of them will love you. One-third of them will hate, and the other one-third will be indifferent.” I think she was right on with statement! I’m going to write to the one-third that love me and not worry about the rest.

About Katie Mettner

Katie grew up in Eau Claire, Wisc., and moved to the Northwoods as a young adult where she now lives with her husband and three children. Her love affair with Lake Superior began when she met her husband, Dwayne, and he drove her across the bridge one snowy November day with her nose pressed up against the glass. It was in that moment the scene was set for her breakout novel!

As a young adult Katie enjoyed ballroom dancing and spent many hours on the dance floor, and like Sugar she didn’t let her physical limitations hold her back very long. She’s happy to report that she’s back on the dance floor again! Sugar’s life was changed by organ donation, and so was Katie’s when, in June 2009, she was given the honor of becoming a living kidney donor. She is proud to partner with the National Kidney Foundation to share her experience and spread the word about the importance of organ donation. Her stories are a reflection of her love for family intricately woven with life experience. When the gales of November blow early you can find Katie at the computer with a cup of joe, listening to Michael Bublé and working on Sugar’s next adventure….


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