AFB: Disregard the Prologue

Welcome to April’s Featured Blog, something I’ll be posting here on Lit and Scribbles most of the month to introduce all of you to perhaps some new future friends and get to know a little more about your blogging community.

Today we talk with Kate Sparkes, writer of the blog Disregard the Prologue and aspiring author. Her work in progress is called Bound, a YA Fantasy. Tell us who you are Kate:

KateSparkesKS: I’m a mom of two boys, wife of one mountie, stay-at-home mom and unpublished writer, a terrible housekeeper and a chronic daydreamer. I enjoy wearing mismatched-but-coordinated socks, I find puns more amusing than I like to admit, and I’m addicted to buying notebooks and pens.

Kate’s notebook collection.

J: When did you first start blogging and what is your blog about?

KS: I’ve been blogging off and on since 2005, but Disregard the Prologue has only been around since October 2012. It’s a departure from my previous blogs, which focused on parenting; this one is my place to talk about writing, plus a mix of pretty well anything else I feel like talking about, joking about, exploring or showing off. Not a recommended blogging strategy, but I’m having a lot of fun with it.

J: Which of your posts was the most fun to write?

KS: Probably any of the ones where I show off the Engrish toy packages I find at a cheap department store near my in-laws’ house. The pictures are fun, and I really enjoy writing the commentary.

From one of Kate’s Engrish posts.

J: What type of stories do you write?

KS: Usually Fantasy, both novels and short stories. I do like to challenge myself to write different things, but Fantasy is my true love, and the genre I hope to be published in.

J: Protagonist excluded, which of your characters is your favorite?

KS: I suppose that means both protagonists excluded, so I won’t cheat. I’ll say Kai; he’s a mer guy who feels like a bit of an outsider among his own people, but he doesn’t let it get in the way of who he is: a great friend, a hero, and yeah, a regulation hottie. Gotta have at least one of those…

J: Who are your favorite authors?

KS: I’ve probably gone to bed with Stephen King more nights than I have with my husband, so I’d put him at the top of the list. I’m a huge fan of J.K. Rowling’s work with Harry Potter and would like to read her newest novel. Robertson Davies is great, too, though it’s been a while.

J: What are the last three books you read, and would you recommend them?

KS: Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass—highly recommended. Showed me exactly how my current work could go from good to holy-crap-this-kicks-ass. In my humble opinion. 😉 Valiant by Holly Black—somewhat recommended. I really enjoyed it, but disliked most of the characters—figure that one out. If you like angry, angsty, troubled teenage girls, definitely go for it (I liked Tithe better, reading the last book in the trilogy soon.) Bossypants by Tina Fey. Recommended. No, highly recommended. The woman is hilarious.

J: Do you listen to music while you write?

KS: I listen to music when I plan and when I write; I listen to white noise when I’m reading over my work. For actual music, it just has to be a mix of songs that don’t irritate me enough to make me stop and change the song. If the songs match the mood of my characters, even better!

J: Aside from writing, what are your favorite things to do?

KS: I enjoy customizing (repainting and re-hairing, sometimes sculpting on) My Little Pony toys, but I don’t have much time for it these days. I also enjoy taking our dog, Jack, for long walks on nice days. Oh, and napping. Looooove napping!

J: If you could be granted one superpower, which would it be?

KS: I’d love to be able to change into an eagle like one of the characters in Bound—flight fascinates me, but so far I’ve been too scared to try it, what with me lacking wings and all.

J: Where’s the farthest away from home you’ve traveled?

KS: I think I went to Iceland when I was too young to remember anything at all about it; since then, the farthest I’ve been is Calgary, Alberta… but only to the airport for a stopover. Yay! I’d love to see New Zealand some day, and England. And Italy. And… well, I’d like to travel.

Kate needs a vacation. Wealthy philanthropists, please donate!
photo via Wiki

J: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known about writing earlier?

KS: I wish I’d known that first drafts are allowed to suck. I don’t know how many years I spent working on the first few chapters of novels and editing them, and then throwing them out because they weren’t good enough. Once I let go of that, let the first draft be as terrible as it wanted to be (which actually wasn’t that bad) and fixed it when I actually had something to work with, I was amazed by how fantastic and rewarding writing can be.

J: What advice would you give to new writers getting started on their first story?

KS: Let your imagination go wild! Use an outline if it helps (and for me, a short one does), but let things go where they want to. Explore tangents, let your characters have conversations that won’t end up in the story but that allow you to get to know them better. If things get boring or stuck, throw them into a car crash or the lion’s cage at the zoo, and see what happens. If the ending’s not what you expected, give it a chance before you wrestle things back into place. And have fun! If you’re not excited about writing it, what are the odds someone else will be excited about reading it?

THANKS, KATE!

I love that you customize My Little Ponys. And you know I love your posts about shopping at the store with the bad English dolls! But I’m sorry you haven’t been able to travel as much yet. Come on, wealthy philanthropists. Do it for the drunken floozies! The drunken floozies for cryin’ out loud!

All right people! Questions for Kate? Have you read any of the books she mentioned? Do you want a customized My Little Pony? Do you agree with her advice? Have you gone to bed with any authors more than your spouse? Let Kate know below.

And be sure to stop by Kate’s blog and check out what her WIP Bound is all about.

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40 thoughts on “AFB: Disregard the Prologue

  1. Great interview!!! Kate is a wonderful writer with tremendous talent. Her down to earth, “real” advice has kept me working on a novel that probably would never have been started if not for her. Her best advice so far??? “First drafts are allowed to suck”, and “if a character, or your plot won’t behave, just go with it and see where it takes your story”.
    She is a real world writer. She writes while living a busy life, and is a funny, intelligent, inspiration to anyone who wants to do the same!!!!!

  2. I have one of Kate’s Pony customs. She modelled it after my wedding cake topper. It’s gorgeous. And so fitting. Kate and I have known each other for almost 30 years. Reading her blog posts have inspired me to start my own novel, I’m part way through the terrible first draft. 🙂

  3. I once saw a My Little Pony modded into a giraffe! Since then I’ve been fascinated by it, though I never looked into the process (because the time, there is not enough of it).

    Aside from that, I’ve read TITHE as well. And all I’m going to say is, “Hmmmm, I see…”

    • Weird, right? I had the hardest time getting into it– in fact, I put it down for about a month before I got back to it. It was nothing like what I usually read, and less-than-nothing like what I write (that’s a thing, right?), but I ended up enjoying it. Never really liked the FMC in it, but Roiben was really interesting.

        • I haven’t liked any of Holly Black’s FMCs. The one in Valiant was worse– I lack appreciation for angsty girls who can’t be bothered about anything outside of their issues, at least not in books. But I liked one character in that one, too, in the same role (sort of) as Roiben. Other characters were repugnant, but interesting… Enough to keep me reading, obviously, but it confuses me.

          And you know, I hated Corny at first, but I did develop more positive feelings toward him later.

          Apparently Roiben is back in the third one, so I have to see what happens. 🙂

  4. It’s nice to get to know you a little better, Kate! I need to read Bossypants. It’s one of those books I’ve had on my list, but I haven’t managed to pick it up yet.

  5. I love My Little Ponies! My first one was white with a bright red-pink mane and tail and strawberry vines all over its tush. And it smelled like strawberries! I miss growing up in the 80s.

    If you loved Writing the Breakout Novel, check out Writing 21st Century Fiction (also by Don Maass). Phenomenal.

  6. I’m curious about the white noise while reviewing her work. Where did she come up with that focus point? I tend to use white noise to fall asleep, so I never considered it for anything else.

    Also, I couldn’t get to her blog through the link at the bottom. Is the link working?

    • I live in a noisy house. I need to be able to focus on the story in my head rather than what’s going on around me, but my thoughts are usually competing with the kids playing or someone else watching TV. Listening to music with lyrics is often just as distracting as people talking in my ear, so white noise is what works best at those times. It blocks out everything else without adding anything I feel like I need to pay attention to. 🙂

      I use the White Noise Ambience iPhone app. There’s a free version and a paid one; you can set it to switch up the noise every so often, make playlists, etc., and they have great noises. The cat purring is my favourite, but the fire crackling or water running ones are best (for me) for getting work done.

  7. You’re the second person to recommend “Bossypants” in the past week…must be a sign. I’m glad I found your blog and great interview! Oh, and if you figure out how to get those wealthy philanthropists to fund your travels, let me know… 😉

    • Yeah, Tina Fey is just hilarious. I kept getting weird looks from my husband while I was reading it because I kept giggling out loud, and my mom probably got sick of me reading out loud to her, but I couldn’t help it. I’m told the audiobook version (read by Tina Fey) is fantastic.

      I’m glad I found your blog, too. Always fun to meet new people!

  8. The fact that Kathleen finds time to write at all with two active boys, one still not in school and…well…extremely talkative is a miracle. The fact that she has finished a novel is awe inspiring. I have had the pure pleasure of having been taught by her the how to’s of customizing a Pony, and I loved it.
    This girl is seriously talented, and knows how to follow her dreams, and knows it’s never to late to do so!!!!
    Also…I’m her mom (Marmee), and so I may be a little prejudiced, but seriously…she teaches me about living every day…we are very “sympatico” that way, with our “scathingly brilliant ideas”.

  9. Great interview – I’m enticed to check out Kate’s blog. We share some similar appetites even though we write in different genres. I too have a weakness for notebooks/journals and pens. They overflow my desk, my nightstand, and my purse. And still when I enter an office supply store, guess which aisles I frequent?

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