Q&A: Kate Moretti
Author Kate Moretti is living every writer’s dream. Her first book was independently published and became a New York Times bestseller–and scored her a book deal with a major publisher. Moretti talks about her surprising journey, the authors she loves and what’s next in her career.
You independently published your first novel, Thought I Knew You…and it hit the New York Times bestseller list! Can you tell us about that journey?
Thought I Knew You was published in 2012 by small press Red Adept Publishing (RAP). They focus mainly on e-book sales (although print on demand paperbacks are available), they have a quality editorial staff and professional graphics designers. Through a combination of my own push for the book, price point marketing, a Book Bub ad and a sale, the book hit #17 on the ebook list in May 2014. An agent at Trident Media Group noticed the book and contacted me to see if I was represented and would I be interested in literary representation. I said yes and a year and a half later, Mark Gottlieb sold my next book The Vanishing Year to Atria books. It all sounds very cut and dried but honestly, half the time I can’t believe it’s real. The past few years have had some really incredible highs and a few crushing lows (30ish rejections in a weekend!). I mostly can’t believe this is my life.
The Vanishing Year is your traditional publishing debut. What made you decide to go with a traditional publisher for this one?
Primarily, the opportunity presented itself. In conjunction, I was ready to expand my audience. I really loved small press – I still do! But growing readership in the indie world requires unrelenting vigilance. You must keep up with how readers find books: whether that be Goodreads, Instagram, Facebook, tumblr or a new thing (Litsy maybe?). This is true for everyone, regardless of publisher, but for a small press on a very small budget, all of this falls to the author. RAP definitely does more than a lot of other independent presses, they organize a blog tour, they have their own online reach. But the truth is, the entire publishing industry is set up for New York publishers: from bookstores to magazines to major media outlets. There is a huge chunk of the readership pie that is not accessible by indie press authors.
It sounds like we won’t quite be able to trust Zoe, your heroine in The Vanishing Year! Did she tell you all her secrets up front or were you as surprised as readers will be?
Oh I knew Zoe’s backstory pretty quickly. She’s not an unreliable narrator. She’s open and honest with herself and the reader regarding her past. She is not open and honest with anyone else, including her husband, her best friend, or her new reporter friend. She’s ashamed of her life, what she ran from, the things she did and how easily she seemed to slide into them.
You’ve worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 10 years as a scientist. How do you balance that job with your writing?
It’s hard! I worked for J&J full-time for 12 years. I’ve recently transitioned to part time. I keep a strict Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday schedule (by strict I mean I sometimes do J&J work any day of the week, but I try not to do anything else on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). I write Monday and Friday mornings and then I’m home when the kids get off the bus. I love having more family time, I love having actual writing time. Right now, the schedule is working for me.
Who are your top three must read authors?
Only three? For me, writing in the suspense genre, my must-reads vary. I’m tearing through Tana French right now, just so obsessed. I’ve read everything Gillian Flynn has written. I love Karin Slaughter, Harlan Coben, Lee Childs, Michael Connelly, J.T Ellison. I’m heavily into Megan Abbott (have read everything she’s written). I can’t narrow it down. I learn so much from all these huge, iconic writers. But honestly, some of the books coming out of debut and newbie authors lately blows my mind (Emma Cline’s The Girls comes to mind). It’s been a great summer of reading.
What can readers expect next from you?
The Vanishing Year was so much fun to write. It was faster-paced and very traditional in the suspense genre: a woman in peril, with dark secrets, someone is back to get her, but who? I was purposefully playing with a standard formula and had a blast. My next novel, The Blackbird Season, is more complicated. It’s character driven and it really pulls elements from my women’s fiction writing: a marriage in trouble, a suspected affair (did he or didn’t he), and then, later, a missing girl and a whodunit. With each book, I try to tackle something new. My only goal is to keep growing, and hope readers respond to that.
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