The Posterchildren: Origins, or TPC for short, is one of my personal favorites in my bookshelf collection. Written by Kitty Burroughs, the series features super-powered teens working their way through public hero boarding school. It’s available on Storenvy, Smashwords, and Gumroad for e-book purchase. Storenvy also has merch and hard copy books.
Kitty also releases Timely Tales, monthly short stories that delve further into the universe, including character history and minor chracters. These are available in e-book form, but we be collected into series of 6 in hard-copy form soon.
There is also a much anticipated sequel: Retcons.
Kitty works very hard to make sure minorities are included, featured, and natural in The Posterchildren. Our world is heavily sprinkled with variety, but media often struggles to represent that properly, if at all. Kitty is very humble and makes no assumption of authority, but she cares about demographics that are rarely included in literature and aims to give them a voice. From a personal bias, I think she is very successful, as Kitty’s work includes some of the best character development and world-building I have ever read. I follow her work regularly, getting the monthly updates straight to my email and helping sponsor her Patreon for the reasons above. Needless to say, I’m a fan.
Two weeks ago, my friend, Cassidy aka ambientmagic, and I had the thrilling opportunity to interview Kitty about her writing and her process. Thrilling. To the point where I may have squealed, danced, and screamed afterward. Since the transcript of this interview is very lengthy, I only included the answers to the questions I specifically asked Kitty, which were more from a creative writer standpoint. However, Cassidy posted the complete transcript on her media representation blog, Representation Matters. If any of her questions interest you, hop on over to her blog to read them. Or hop on over to her blog anyway to read more about the importance of representation in modern media.
The interview (or as I call it, “Best School Project Ever”) follows.
Okay, first question. What drove you to become a writer?
Writing, just in general, or as a vocation? (Both.) I started writing when I was in fourth grade, and I didn’t really see it as a serious thing, because this was before fanfiction had really evolved on the internet, and really before we had internet in our home. I was sixteen or seventeen before we had internet in our home, so I had no connection to fandom at that time, but I was still writing fanfiction for myself. In the fourth grade, Sailor Moon was my first fanfiction. I was just writing for myself, because I had these stories that would entertain me, and I have terrible short term memory, so it was a way of preserving the stories for me to go over later on. I started sharing my fanfiction when I got into my Harry Potter phase in sixth or seventh grade. That’s when I started reading fanfiction online and participating in fandom in that way. I got to the point where I never saw myself as doing anything but writing. I kept doing it, it made me happy, I get weird and irritable when I don’t write (laugh), so it was one of those things I always knew.
I didn’t see it as something I could make a career out of until I was sixteen and one of my short stories won an award for promising young writers. I got a small scholarship for it, and I got to attend a four-day writing conference for professional authors in Portland. That was the moment when I realized this was a serious thing that I could probably do for a career. If I could get into this business, it could possibly, maybe support me. That conference was definitely an opportunity. I got to talk with both editors and agents, I got to practice my pitch, and really see what that part of the industry looked like. My family wasn’t supportive, because it is so difficult to get into the industry, and how much luck and opportunity is involved. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I was like, okay. Maybe I can do this.
What inspired you to write The Posterchildren, specifically? (See Representation Matters blog.)
When you wrote TPC, did you consider going through a publisher, and what made you decide to self-publish? (See Representation Matters blog.)
Which is easier to publish, print or digital books? (See Representation Matters blog.)
You release new material regularly. How difficult is it to write to that deadline? And how do you hold yourself to that deadline?
It’s cute that you think I do. (laugh) I really try to keep things on a regular schedule, because if you don’t keep to some kind of deadline, you don’t do anything. You’ll keep pushing it further and further out, even if you’re not a procrastinator. It’s difficult for me to write to a deadline currently, because I just got a new job that takes up much more of my time than I expected. Since that has taken the reins, it’s not always easy to release content on schedule. The nice thing about TPC being a fairly small project is most readers realize that I am human, and it’s a one-person show here. I try to hold myself to it, but I also try not to beat myself up if bad things happen.
On that note, how do you balance writing with “the real world”? (See Representation Matters blog.)
Is there anything you would have done differently with your first book, Origins, that you can apply to the sequel, Retcons? (See Representation Matters blog.)
How do you research the religions, cultures, and sexualities that you put in your novels?
Well, I am white and a part of that majority, so I do my best to do as much research as possible. Most of my characters have had a very different background than mine, so their experiences are very different from mine. I try to read a lot of first person accounts, and search out voices from that minority, because it’s them I’m representing, and it’s their voice I want to prioritize. I talk to as many people as I can, and read as much material as possible.
Tell us why representation in your work is so important to you. (See Representation Matters blog.)
To switch topics, how did indiegogo and social media help you get your book out to the public?(See Representation Matters blog.)
What is your writing process like? Do you write chronologically, scene-by-scene…?
Well, I have ADD, and my writing process definitely reflects that. I have what I call my “slush pile” document, so whenever I think of something, I immediately write it down and dump it into that document. So everything, everything is in that document. When I want to find something in there, I Ctrl+F and hope I can remember some of the words I used that day. So my organization and writing process is just–a mess. (laugh) But it’s a semi-organized chaos that seems to work for me. I don’t write chronologically, but I do have bullet points and block out everything before I go into a story so I have an idea of the direction I’m headed and then let my ADD go in every direction, then piece it together at the end.
How many other people edit your works before they’re published? And how secretive are you about your plots before they’re released?
I only have one dedicated editor, who is my girlfriend, Arden, tumblr user mindgoggling who is awesome and has been with me on TPC from the beginning. She’s my sounding board, my editor, and also a resource because she’s Muslim, so that’s where I get a lot of details for Mal and his family. As far as secretiveness goes, I’m terrible. (laugh) It still hasn’t clicked for me that people want to hear about my original characters! I’m still a fanfiction writer at heart and I’m afraid I’m bothering people. I have a bad problem of telling people spoilers when I know they’re not going to tell the internet at large. There are some people I’ve spoiled by accident because I thought I’d already told them something. I use those people as a sound board to ask, does this sound dumb? Is it a good idea? Am I going too far over the line? Oops, I almost told a joke that was nothing but spoilers… Since this is my first interview, if you want to hear things, I’ll give you three free spoilers.
THE NEXT SEVERAL MINUTES OF THIS INTERVIEW HAVE BEEN REDACTED
Oh my God.
Oh my God.
Okay. One thing I struggle with is placing clues at the right point. How do you decide when to release bits of secrets?
It’s funny because there’s so many hints you’ll see now that you know REDACTED, because to me, a good twist is one that people get two sentences before it’s revealed, and it all comes together for the reader on their own before it gets confirmed, rather than blindsiding them. As a reader myself, it almost feels rude when something is just dropped on you out of nowhere. It’s really fun and enjoyable when you’re going through something and there’s this underlying mystery and you can feel yourself build it up and explore it. It seems more interactive to me. That’s what I enjoy doing, is leaving those Easter eggs for readers. You have to take into account the pacing as well. Some arcs continue into the third book, and others are only for one chapter.
What strategies do you use to world-build and explore your characters?
There’s nothing worse than all your characters being the same, so I try to make them as different from each other as possible. My goal always, is to make the character’s voice obvious with dialogue tags, but without using obvious clues like catchphrases. Every character is a person; they have words they tend to use and overuse, they have a background that influences their word choices, and that is one of the most important parts of character building to me. As for the world-building, people assumed that since the series is so diversity heavy it would take place in an idealized version of the world without the prejudices we have here. I try to keep in mind, what is different about this world from the world as it is today? How would the existence of these groups of people influence history? That’s where I start to get my structure, and how to put the existence of posthumans into the world itself in a semi-realistic way.
Okay, this is the last question on our list. What advice do you have for people who want to start writing?
Do it. Write. To me, everyone has about a million terrible words in them. Your first couple of stories are not going to be any good. They’re going to be terrible and that’s just the way it is. It’s like any other craft, any other skill; you have to keep working at it. It’s something you acquire over time with practice, by putting in the hours, and it’s not waiting for the moment of pure brilliance and inspiration to strike. You have to work on it every day, and stick to it.