“Get inside their head” is about getting to know the audience you’re writing for. Once a month, I interview one avid reader of a particular genre, asking questions every author wants to know, or should know about writing for their audience through the eyes of one ideal potential reader.
Today begins with fantasy fiction. And today’s interviewee is young blogger, author, and avid reader Kate Foley.
Kate I. Foley
Kate I. Foley is a 15-year-old homeschooler, author, and blogger of seven years, though she’s been writing pretty much all her life. She writes to survive and has frequent conversations with the characters in her head. She’s currently on the search for an agent, which is difficult, but exciting. She hopes to be a published YA author someday. Kate has co-authored the books Fauxpocalypse and The Audacity to Be a Writer. You can find her at her blog themagicviolinist.blogspot.com or on Twitter @Magic_Violinist.
Thanks again Kate for joining us on this feature interview about what readers are looking for in the fantasy genre. And thank you for being willing to let us poke around your brain a little!:
No problem, I’m so glad to be here!
How long have you been an avid reader of the fantasy genre?:
I’ve been reading fantasy since before I can remember.
What drew you to the fantasy genre?:
Harry Potter. I owe so much to those stories since they’re what started me writing novels in the first place. Everything else that followed has led me to another book, which led me to another book, from Percy Jackson to Fablehaven to Throne of Glass. Once I started I haven’t stopped.
What was the first fantasy novel you ever read?:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
How many fantasy novels have you read in total?:
Oh gosh, so many. I think it’s safe to say at least half of the books I read fit somewhere into the fantasy genre. In my lifetime, though, it’s impossible to count.
What are your top three favorite fantasy novels or series?:
- The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
- The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce
- The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
What about your #1 fave book stuck out to you the most?:
It’s hard to pin down any specific thing, because all of the Harry Potter story is so intricately woven together, but my favorite part of any book is the characters. And not only were the main characters in this story so fleshed out and complex, but the more “minor” characters all had lives of their own, too. And that’s what made the whole thing so “real,” even for a fantasy story. I could go on and on about it, but I’d say the characters for sure made it so amazing.
Which character(s) in this book really spoke to you?:
The same character I’m sure spoke to a lot of people, which is Hermione Granger. I fell in love with her right away and she’s remained my favorite ever since.
Why or how did she speak to you personally?:
When I was reading the book for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel like I was Hermione. I too was a huge reader, loved school, and even had the same untamable bushy brown hair. Some of the other stories I’d read made the smart girls the nerdy outcasts, which Hermione was to an extent, but she wasn’t just that. She had friends, she was accepted, but she didn’t rely on anyone else to make her “cool.” She herself was a hero, kind, witty, intelligent, and had a huge heart.
What, in your opinion, makes this character so memorable?:
It’s because she was real. While she was undoubtedly heroic and a genuinely good person, she, like anyone, had her flaws. She could be stubborn, a know-it-all, and downright annoying. But she was realistic, so she sticks out in your mind.
What do you think makes for a memorable character in general?:
A character has to have flaws to be realistic, and once you get that “I swear I know you in real life” feeling about a person, you’ll never forget them again.
Is there a character type you think gets over-played in the fantasy genre?:
As much as I adore this type of character, the young, kick butt heroine who’s trying to prove themselves in a man’s world can get stale if it’s not done properly. I have no problem reading a protagonist who’s like that, but there has to be some kind of unique spin on it, otherwise it’s just like all the other stories I’ve read before. Some books that have done this exceptionally well are Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas and Alanna by Tamora Pierce.
Lots of really great points you bring up, Kate. But how about when you’re shopping around for a new book…
Where do you typically go to find a new fantasy novel to read?:
All over the place, but mostly I get recommendations from my blogging friends. They’re always up for introducing me to new books and series, and I’m constantly adding more titles to my TBR list on Goodreads.
When you’re shopping around for a new fantasy novel, what are the top five things you look for in your next surefire read?:
- Have any of my friends recommended it to me?
- Is the premise something I haven’t read before?
- Have I seen any good reviews for it?
- Is it a series? (As far as series go, fantasy ones are my favorites.)
- And most importantly, does it grab my attention? (Whether it be the plot, the title, the cover—and yes, sometimes I do buy books just based off of that—it has to interest me in some way.)
Are you more likely to read a book that your friends have suggested? Or do you like to go out on a limb and try a completely new book?:
Oh, I absolutely read books my friends suggest, probably the majority of the time. But sometimes it is nice to go in blind. I’ve found quite a few gems that way, such as the Ellie Sweet books by Stephanie Morrill and All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill.
What would instantly turn you away from reading a book?:
A straight up insta-love or obvious love triangle plot where the (sometimes forced) romance is the only thing driving the story. I tend to get bored by those, and find them extremely unrealistic.
What sort of book covers stand out to you when you’re book shopping? Any examples to share with us?:
Minimalist covers! I’ve always been drawn to something simple, like a plain background with a single object or cartoon in the middle, rather than the flashy. Some of my favorite covers are Eleanor & Parkby Rainbow Rowell and all of the Lunar Chronicles books by Marissa Meyer.
Are there types of covers that make you cringe?:
The typical guy-and-girl cover has never been something that stands out to me. My eyes constantly slide over those for something more interesting, just because I feel like those kinds are so overdone. I can’t ever tell them apart. And also anything that’s too crowded or complicated definitely makes me cringe. If I can’t tell what’s on the cover, I have a hard time paying attention to much else.
Fair enough! Now for some personal taste questions:
Do you like fantasy novels with a little romance or more action/ adventure? Or do you like both? Or do you like neither?:
Both is always good, though I’d say with fantasy in particular I’d tend more to the action/adventure side. But I’m always up for a good love story that intertwines with the magic and epic battles. The Mortal Instruments does a fantastic job of this, I think.
With fantasy, do you prefer more whimsical and intriguing settings? Or do you prefer settings that are similar to the world we live in?:
Ooh, that’s a tricky one. My first instinct would be to say high fantasy, because that’s what I read most of, but recently I’ve been on an urban fantasy kick. There are pros and cons to both, for sure. I’m not sure I have a strong preference.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to reading a new story or book?:
Info dumps. Not only are they long and boring, but they’re confusing and hardly anything sticks. It’s completely pointless and distracts me from the rest of the story.
Has there ever been a book that you just totally hated? If so, what was the final straw for you when reading that book?:
Although it might not be the most popular opinion, I absolutely loathed The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I can appreciate why it’s a classic and why it’s important to read it (and I did manage to push through the whole thing), but I couldn’t stand it. To keep it short and simple, Holden bugged me, big time. I found him to be lazy, whiny, and indifferent about everything in life. There was nothing redeeming about him, and I couldn’t relate to him at all. The only part I liked was the end, because I was finally done reading it!
Thank you Kate, you’ve been really patient with my many questions! But I have just two more questions for you that should greatly help my fellow writers out there:
What, to you, is the formula for a great fantasy novel?:
I don’t believe in a single formula for any creative project. If there were a simple answer to this question, we’d all be rich and famous artists. But the truth is, there’s no one way. If something works, it works, if not, you try again. You just have to keep at it and write the story you want to read. That’s when magic starts to happen.
And do you have any tips or pointers for my fellow writers looking to make the next great American fantasy novel?:
Write, write, and keep on writing. Read everything you can get your hands on. Edit. Don’t let fear stop you. Reach out to your favorite authors and mentors for help and advice. Find a critique partner. Make friends and form connections. Don’t ever lose sight of why you started writing in the first place. Hold on to that dream.
Thanks so much Kate! Your insights have greatly helped us writers get a peek into the mind of our audience. Thank you so much for your time!
Thank you for having me! I loved being here.
Want to follow Kate on her writing journey? Or perhaps get more advice from this talented young author? Then check out Kate on her blog page below and look up her books for more information!
Signed copies of Fauxpocalypse can be purchased at Aaron’s Books which delivers anywhere in the US, or ordered online at Amazon (delivered anywhere in the US):
And The Audacity to Be a Writer (Kindle only) can be purchased on Amazon:
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