Indie Interview: Katie Perttunen

Reposting my plea for authors interested in taking part in my Indie Interview series brought quite a bit of response as well as testing my organisational skills. Ten of you wonderful people got in touch, and despite the minor freak out I had when I woke up on Thursday morning and saw all those Contact forms, I’m grateful you came forward and let me share in your writing journey.

Today’s interview is with Katie Perttunen, the author of Kirra the Dragon, a children’s book about a dragon with a difference, and Bits, a memoir about Katie’s experiences dealing with being bipolar.

Bits by [Perttunen, Katie]

Hi, Katie. Welcome to Read A Lot.

Q: Had you always planned on becoming a published author?

My first published poem was in second grade, and I just kept at it. I studied writing (and women’s studies) as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and as a graduate student at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

I currently serve as Poetry Editor for Literary Orphans, so I am constantly surrounding myself with genius in hopes a bit will rub off on me like rubbing a genie’s lamp for magic! I also served as a journalist for two newspapers.

Q: What inspired you to write your children’s book Kiira the Dragon?

The story is about a dragon who can’t breathe fire, no matter how hard she tries, and it turns out she can breathe something so much better! The story’s main character is named after my younger daughter Kiira. At the time she was having a hard time with reading and reading comprehension, and I was volunteering at her school to help other students with similar issues.

I just wanted to write a story that kids could relate to and feel that maybe they aren’t great at one thing, but they are soooo great at so many other things!

Q: What made you choose the genre?

I wanted to write a story for children that was fun and magic.

Q: What is the book about?

A dragon has a hard time breathing fire. So Kiira, the main character, gets help at school, sees a doctor, and finally her parents give her a break and let her learn how to do other great things. One day she spontaneously discovers she can breathe something so much better than fire, that makes her very special and unique.

Q: What inspired you to write your memoir, Bits?

When I learned that I was bipolar I fought with the diagnosis at first. I read everything I could about it but I couldn’t find anything that struck a chord with me. I was also attending graduate school at the time.

Many of the ‘Bits’ or stories are taken from that time- but I waited to show it to publishers until I could find the silver lining and show that things can and do get better.

For me it took a lot of persuasion and some significant experimentation with medication regimes to get me to the point where I feel like myself again and dare I say it, happy!

Q: What made you choose the genre?

I read so many wonderful works of art in graduate school that I wanted to experiment with form and I wanted also to share some truths about my lived experiences, so that others in similar situations, or others who love those in similar situations, can get an idea of what bipolar is all about. At least one woman’s story.

Q: What is the book about?

Coming to terms with bipolar and divorce as a mother.

Q: Do you find it easier to write with a schedule or with no time restrictions?

I get up early in the morning every day to write and sometimes I even do that!

Q: Can you choose a favourite scene from your books?

I love to write dialogue, which is both a gift and a curse. The scenes with dialogue were really easy for me to write and fun to write. I love a line from a poem in Bits that haunts me even today, “Is a mother always a mother, or only in the act of mothering?”

Q: Was there ever a point while you were writing when you wanted to give up?

Definitely. I was told at least twice that I would be permanently disabled by the bipolar, and I went through bouts of severe bipolar depression. I actually shelved the manuscript for a long time before I picked it back up and showed it to my then-boyfriend, who convinced me to get back to work on it.

Q: What is the worst part of the writing process for you?

Self promotion

Q: Do you have a favourite piece of writing advice?

The worst first draft is the one that isn’t written.

Q: Where can people learn more about your books?

I am on Goodreads and also have a WordPress site.

Q: What have you learned since you started writing?

I’ve learned that my style is not for everybody, and that’s okay. I have also learned that it’s an incredible amount of work to promote your work.

Q: What’s next for you?

I have written a sequel for Kiira the Dragon called Kiira the Teacher. I have also written a story called Bailey Emily Flashlight Learns about Religions which is named after my elder daughter, and basically a conversation between mother and child about war and religions.

I am currently working on a novel about an unsolved murder involving the sex industry that is going to be a work of fiction, with a little bit of paranormal and some (my brand) feminism thrown in.



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