New York Times Best Selling Author, Katherine Center, talks about her writing process, her favorite place to watch a sunrise, and her favorite local spots in Houston, Texas. She also shares words of wisdom for aspiring authors.
Lauren — Travel and Write Today: When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
Katherine Center: I first really caught the fever for it when I was in the sixth grade. I wound up writing fan fiction about Duran Duran that year with my two best friends, and as goofy as those ‘novels’ were, it was my first taste of the power of stories to change your life. It was a really profound experience—and I’ve spent pretty much the rest of my life obsessing over stories and trying to figure out how stories work, why the matter, and how they create that magic.
TWT: What is your writing process? Do you prefer a paper & pen or a laptop? Do you write with music on or do you prefer to write in silence?
KC: I don’t like music on because words—even in your own head—are their own kind of music. The rhythm of the syllables, the sounds of the vowels, the lengths of the sentences—they all make their own kind of symphony in your head, and I need to be able to hear it. I’m really auditory that way. Stories are always a voice talking in my head, and I’m just taking dictation. If the music has words, even worse! I’m singing along in my head, or listening to lyrics. So it’s a very quiet, solitary activity for me. But it never feels quiet or solitary. It feels likeI’m hanging out with and listening to the people in my head.
As for typing versus hand writing, it’s about 50/50. Typing is a more formal process—and it feels more like I’m writing the ‘real’ story when I type. It’s also faster. But I write tons of notes and scenes in notebooks and on the backs of envelopes. I also print out the manuscripts and write all over them. It’s a very messy, very circular process. But so fun.
TWT: Do you write in the morning, at night, or whenever you find the time? Where are your favorite spots to write?
KC: I’m not a routine person. I have to get obsessed with things. I have to fall in love with them. When I’m writing a story, that’s the only thing I want to do. If life didn’t get in the way, I could go for days doing nothing else. But of course, life does get in the way. When I really need to get a lot of work done, I go down to Galveston Island for four or five days at a stretch and write night and day. I can write vast numbers of good pages if I’m not interrupted and don’t have to break the flow. That’s the ideal situation for me. But I can write anywhere if I have to—in the carpool line, while making dinner, sitting in traffic.
TWT: What is your drink of choice when writing — coffee or tea? What are some of your favorite coffee shops, and what is your go-to order?
KC: Coffee! I’m a massive fan of coffee! I usually make it at home, myself—no sugar, but heavy cream. Mmmm.
TWT: I know you grow up in Houston — What are some of your favorite local spots to visit in the area?
KC: Houston’s such a great town! It’s funny—when you live in a place, now that I think about it, you mostly go to friends’ houses, and school and work. And restaurants!! Houston is a food paradise! It’s the most diverse city in the country, and the fourth largest, and there’s food from pretty much everywhere in the world, Korean food, and Ethiopian, and Vientamese, and El Salvadorian—and of course Tex-Mex. My kids and I decided to do some food exploring a couple of summers back and found a delightful Sushi restaurant where the food comes by on conveyor belts. We are championship eaters in Houston. It’s kind of our national sport.
TWT: What are some of your favorite books? (One of my favorite books is Things You Save in a Fire!):
KC: Oh, my gosh. So many! I think my all-time favorite book is probably Jane Austen’s Persuasion. But I also love all kinds of writers for all kinds of reasons. I especially love writers who can make you laugh and break your heart at the same time. In recent years, I’ve fallen in love with books by Liane Moriarty, Diana Biller, Beth O’Leary, Christina Lauren, JoJo Moyes, Helen Hoang, and so many more. I’m always finding new authors and getting excited about what they’re doing.
TWT: What is your favorite place to watch the sunrise/sunset?
KC: Galveston Island, for sure! I spend a lot of time there—by myself, writing—and I notice the world around me much more than when I’m at home in the city surrounded by people and to-do lists. It’s hard to beat a sunrise—or sunset—at the beach. But I really savor a sunrise in a special way when I’m in my bathrobe, sipping coffee, about to start a long, delicious day of writing. Or, the opposite—soaking up a sunset as I’m just coming off a blissful day of writing, and I’m pausing to make some dinner.
TWT: You need to include that entire scene in your next novel!
TWT: What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
KC: Write for love. Write the story that you, yourself would like to read. You have to follow your own compass with writing—it’s the only thing that can keep you steady in the stormy sea. Do it for fun, and be sure to enjoy the work, because there are no guarantees about what it will lead to. The only thing you have for sure is the process. Don’t beat yourself up too much. Learn the art of self-encouragement. And if it doesn’t bring you joy, go do something that does.
TWT: This is such great advice — I couldn’t agree more!
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