Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Author Interview: K.A. Stewart, Urban Fantasy Author

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing K.A. Stewart, Urban Fantasy Author of A Devil in the Details (From the Jesse James Dawson Series). Read below for her insights on writing and publishing! If you have any comments or questions for her, leave your info in the comments and she’ll stop by later.

Before we get started with the interview, here’s a bit about A Devil in the Details:

Jesse James Dawson was an ordinary guy (well, an ordinary guy with a black belt in karate) – until the day he learned his brother had made a bargain with a demon. Jesse discovered there was only one way to save his brother: Put up his own soul as collateral and fight the demon to the death.

Jesse lives to free his brother and becomes part of a loose organization of champions who put their own souls on the line to help those who get in over their heads with demons. But now experienced champions are losing battles at a much higher rate than usual. Someone has changed the game. And if Jesse can’t figure out the new rules, his next battle may be his last.

Hi Kari! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, A Devil in the Details. What was your inspiration for this novel?

Jesse and his world were actually my hubby’s idea in the beginning. He’d been complaining about not being able to find the kind of UF books that he wanted to read, so I finally asked him, “Okay, what kind of hero DO you want to see?” Several hours later, Jesse was wandering around inside my head, telling me all kinds of neat stories.

Jesse is such an awesomely real character. When reading Devil, I found myself really liking him, both as a person and a hero. Plus, he’s sweet in an unconventional way, not to mention a total badass with some fun geeky hobbies. Authors often pull character traits from themselves or someone they know. How many of Jesse’s attributes were inspired by you or someone you know?

If you ask my friends, they’ll get into arguments over which Jesse traits are me, and which are my hubby. Seriously. Flat out brawls over the subject, I swear.

I will fully admit though, that Jesse’s zombie phobia is totally mine. Hate hate hate zombies. They freak me out in the worst possible way.

Most characters I come up with are at least a little bit like someone I know. Usually, a combination of several different people. The Dr. Bridget character, for example, is based around two of my friends, both of whom happen to be doctors.

People always come to me saying, “I know you based Character X on so-and-so” but it’s rarely ever true.

The setting(s) in the book also felt very real–What inspired your settings?

The first book is set in Kansas City, Jesse’s “home base” so to speak. It’s where I live at the moment, and the city itself is so huge and diverse that it offers a great range of possibilities. Pretty much any setting I need is available without too much stretching.

Most of the places I describe are based on real locations, though I’ve altered names and appearances to suit my own purposes. Any Kansas City native could probably figure out the real-life correlations if they put their minds to it.

In subsequent books, Jesse will be travelling quite a bit, so I hope that allows me to expand more, and imagine other places.

Devil is a fun, fast-paced story that goes in unexpected places. Are these the same types of books you’re also drawn to as a reader? What were your favorite books/authors?

Oh yeah. I think most writers write the things they love to read.

I’m pretty firmly entrenched in the fantasy/urban fantasy realm with my reading. I rarely stray out of my comfort genre, I fully admit.

Right now, my favorites include Stacia Kane’s Downside series, both of Jim Butcher’s series (Dresden Files and the Codex Alera), Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series, Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series, John Levitt’s Dog Days series.

I seem to have a series fetish.

And I’m always on the lookout for new stuff! There are amazing authors debuting every week, it seems, and I can hardly keep up with my reading wish list.

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t remember ever NOT wanting to be a writer. I know that I started reading fantasy at a very early age (I read The Hobbit in 1st grade), and I think that’s what set my feet on the path. I wrote my first “book”, a self-illustrated story about a family of rabbits surviving a flood, for a school project when I was about seven or eight.

I remember teaching myself to type on my mother’s old Brother typewriter, and hammering away at those keys for hours every night on this giant (truly horrible) epic fantasy/romance thing. I was…twelve? Maybe?

I always knew that I wanted to be published, but I also knew that my early stuff just wasn’t good enough. Didn’t stop me from writing it, of course, because sometimes those words just have to come out. But I didn’t seriously try to get published until Devil. Something just told me it was “the one”.

What was your favorite part of writing Devil?

All of it?

No, really, writing Devil was a joy right from the beginning, partly because I had it planned so well from the start. Devil was my first attempt at outlining a book before I wrote it, and now that I’ve done that, I’ve done it on every book written since and I don’t think I’ll ever do it another way again. It went so smoothly.

Most challenging?

The humor, I think. People don’t often have the same sense of humor I do, so I spent a lot of time checking with other people. “Is this really as funny as I think it is?”

Tell us about your journey to getting an agent.

I started querying Devil on the first of March, ’08. Over the next six months, I sent out 28 queries. I got rejections on about a third of those, no response on a third, and about a third asked to see more.

I actually sent a query to my now-agent toward the end of that period, in late August. He asked for the full within a couple days, which I sent. And because I was friends with another client of his, I knew he was going on vacation. So imagine my surprise when I got an email from him, FROM his vacation, saying how much he liked reading it and that he’d be in touch soon. There was a phone call, and on September 5, 2008, I signed with him.

And how about finding your publisher?

Well first, I did a couple rounds of revision for my agent. The first one was what I’ll call “medium” level, as in I added several major scenes, reworked one sub-plot completely, things like that. The second was more of a polish round, just tightening and tweaking.

We went out on sub late January/early February of ’09 (I think). I say “I think” because my agent didn’t keep me in the loop. It was a deliberate choice, because I’m a neurotic mess on my best days, so I figured it was easier for everyone involved if I just stayed out of it. On March 16th, he called to say we had an offer. So I think I was on sub for about 6 weeks.

In publishing time, that’s the equivalent of light speed. It actually went very fast.

What is the best part of the publishing process?

Oh, all of it! I love edit letters, ‘cause then I get to take what was a pretty good story to begin with and truly make it as awesome as I always knew it could be. Opening the email with my new cover art is like Christmas every time (and since they’ve both come shortly before my birthday, it’s extra awesome). I love how excited people are to read my little stories, and all the comments people make on Twitter and Facebook, anticipating the next one.

And the absolute best part of the process, from writing all the way through publishing, is all the friends I’ve made that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. In my experience, writers are one of the most generous, supportive groups around.

The worst?

The waiting. Oh gawd, the waiting. Things happen all at once, and then nothing for months. And then suddenly whoosh again!

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Very few people in the world get to do what they dream about, and I’m one of the lucky ones.

Can you give us a hint of what we can expect from book two in the series? And when is it coming out?

The second book in the series, A SHOT IN THE DARK, comes out on July 5, 2011, and the back cover reads like this:

Jesse James Dawson is a Champion, putting his life on the line for those foolish enough to bargain with demons and fighting to save their souls. But even a Champion needs some downtime, so Jesse takes his annual camping trip to Colorado for some male bonding over friendly games of paintball.

Unfortunately, the fun and war games are interrupted by a pack of creatures summoned up from the very depths of hell by an entity Jesse prayed he’d never see again. With the lives of his friends and a teenager’s soul on the line, Jesse’s only hope may like with an even more dangerous enemy – his personal demon, Axel.

Thanks Kari! Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!


  1. Great interview, ladies! I can't wait to read A Shot in the Dark!

  2. Wonderful interview, ladies! :)

  3. I really enjoyed the first book in this series, and I rarely read UF, but the humor really made it. I'm definitely looking forward to book 2, and I'm glad it's not too long before it's out!

  4. Yay, I'm so glad Axel gets an encore. I love that character.

    Kari, I've shared with you that I haven't read much fantasy, nor has my mom. We both so enjoyed your debut. Can't wait to read the sequel.

    Great interview, Jenn. You are a generous blogger to your writing buds.

  5. Awesome interview, ladies! And a HI-FIVE on the zombie thing--they totally creep me out, too!

  6. Thanks everyone, and thanks for sharing your story with us, Kari!