Interview with Katie McKnight,
Welcome, Katie McKnight, to The Happy Book Reviewer! I’m happy to talk to you today about your romantic suspense novel, Secrets Revealed. Even the title is mysterious!
Your main characters are right in the public eye: Melanie's on Broadway and Ryan's a Hollywood heartthrob. Their latest projects have wrapped and they're ready to enjoy an overdue holiday vacation. That is, until a secret from Melanie’s past brings the celebration to a horrifying halt, and they face a public scandal. As if that's not enough, someone is masterminding a plan for murder!
I love that this is a romance featuring a married couple! So many romances are about getting to the point of marriage, but the majority of our love lives are spent IN love and marriage. What made you decide to have them at this point in their relationship at the start of the book?
McKnight: I hoped to explore a different romantic angle in this book. The couple beat the odds of a long-distance relationship and are now married (the reader learns about the long-distance relationship in the back story). I wanted to move forward and explore the mindset of newlyweds placed in a desperate situation to see if their love would survive secrets, scandal, blackmail and the scariest problem of all -- dealing with their in-laws.
Their careers obviously have them right in the spotlight. Do you consider yourself an outgoing person who likes to imagine being in the spotlight? Or are you more shy, and the idea of paparazzi is terrifying to you?
McKnight: I am an outgoing person. When I graduated high school, I planned to become an actress. My parents had other ideas. They required education before acting. By the time I finished school, I met my husband and lost the desire. Writing replaced my passion to perform on stage. Since I often forget my camera, I would welcome the paparazzi. This way all family memories are captured on film.
Your background in acting must have come in handy when writing about Melanie. But then how did you research what life is like for a big-name Broadway actress?
McKnight: I live on Long Island and attend Broadway show once a year. When I get the opportunity, I question staff members about the life of a Broadway actor. I also read books written by Broadway performers describing the difficulties they face. While the sets are magnificent, backstage is often deplorable. According to research, asbestos in the historic buildings and germs are a huge concern to performers.
Okay, so you've been an actress, and you've also done your research on Broadway! Since it sounds like you enjoy the research, what then would you say was the most difficult thing about writing Secrets Revealed?
McKnight: A month after I completed the manuscript, my computer crashed and all files were destroyed. Lucky for me, I printed every page. I retyped the entire thing. Realized the suspenseful-romance novel lacked suspense, so I re-wrote a good part of the beginning. Then I spent a year editing. I have three sons, worked full-time and volunteered at my kids’ school. It took five years to complete this project. That is a long time (not fun).
What was the most fun part?
McKnight: I enjoyed sharing the story with my sister and mother and brainstorming with them. The book became a family project. My sister came up with the title, my brother-in-law and a friend suggested the tag lines. My youngest son took the picture used on my author bio page and my oldest son created a cover (which was not used). We bonded over this book (tons of fun).
It sounds like you have a wonderful community of supporters around you. My grandmother, also a writer, called these "the True Believers and Gentle Persuaders." It also sounds like Secrets Revealed is deeper than some of the superficial romance novels you find in the grocery store! Because I appreciate books that manage to be entertaining and deep, I love to ask this question: If a high school class were reading your book some day, what themes would the teacher be wanting them to pick up on in your book?
McKnight: Parents allowed their teenage daughters to read Secrets Revealed. They discussed the importance of respecting yourself and considering the consequences of your actions. I would add the importance of open communication with family. Our mistakes sometimes magnify in our own head. There are solutions to problems. We just need to trust our family and friends to help.
Wonderful! So, I know you've done some advanced courses in writing (though I'm not sure where you find the time to attend those, and write a novel, and raise three boys!). What was one of the most valuable lessons from those courses?
McKnight: Online classes are awesome. They allow you to take classes during the night and on weekends. The most valuable lesson I learned is the Paradigm of Story Structure (impressive, right?) Every story has three acts. Each act has milestones that authors must meet in order to complete a successful novel. Before taking this class my manuscripts would reach a certain point and hit a brick wall. This plot design forces me to put my thoughts on paper before I begin writing. While characters guide their own journey, the design forces them to remain on track and reach their happy ending. Sounds boring -- but in reality is fascinating. Once you learn the system (for lack of a better word) you notice that television shows and movies use the same design.
And was there something you could only learn "in the trenches" (writing, publishing, and marketing your book)?
McKnight: Writing active sentences vs. passive sentences. It is something you learn while writing. Professors drilled the idea of active vs. passive in my head. Writing on a regular basis finally taught me to spot and correct passive sentences.
I also learned to delete unnecessary words/phrases by participating in Drabble nights. Drabble is a written piece consisting of 100 words (not a word more or less). If you want a complete story in 100 words, you delete unnecessary words. It is a fantastic exercise. I reduced the number of words in Secrets Revealed by 25,000 after learning this exercise.
I've never heard about Drabble before! In case anyone else wants further info, here you go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drabble
Pretty much all writers are wild about reading. What book have you read that that you wish you had written?
McKnight: I wish I could have come up with the idea of Twilight. Some people love the books and others hate them. I would have enjoyed the characters camping out in my head for years. Stephanie Meyer had a way of pulling me into her story. I teased that she laced the pages with some sort of compelling drug -- probably given to her by the vampires.
Haha! Who knows? Maybe there was some vampire with the special ability to make people addicted to certain books. If so, may that vampire also cast a spell on Secrets Revealed! Do you think you'll revisit Melanie and Ryan in future books, or will answering that give away how this book ends?
McKnight: I wish I could continue Ryan and Melanie’s story. They’re my fictional family members. Melanie lived in Manhattan and frequented the same places as me. When I visit the “big” toy store in Times Square, my favorite Italian restaurant in the theatre district or a Broadway show, I can’t help but think, Melanie was here. Unfortunately, for me, I tied up their story on the last page of Secrets Revealed.
Even if you had to say goodbye to Ryan and Melanie, you must be working on something new! Can you give us a hint on what it is about?
McKnight: I just completed the first draft of my second novel. This story falls under the genre of women’s fiction. I saved the manuscript on my desktop computer, my laptop and a memory stick!
The story follows Tara Steffen and her husband, who is injured in an accident. While she sits vigil at his bedside, she meets people who paint a picture of a man very different from the one she married. She struggles to break free of her husband and his web of lies, but is dragged back into his life. Will she walk away from her current situation and build a better life for their daughter or honor her vows by caring for her severely injured husband?
I'll look forward to seeing that one in print! For now, thank you for popping over to The Happy Book Reviewer for this fun interview, and best of luck with Secrets Revealed!
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