Author, Student, Bellydancer!
1. Outside of writing, your husband, your family, and your pet dog, what would be the next great love in your life?
The next great love in my life is bellydance, specifically Egyptian cabaret. I’m a professional bellydancer; that’s my day job–or night-job really, since I usually perform in the evenings. I work at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Orlando, FL called Ali Baba House of Kabobs. I perform there every Friday and Saturday night. I’ve been studying Egyptian cabaret bellydance for five years now. What initially drew me to bellydance was the sparkly costumes lol. But once I started learning the dance, it became about more than that—though the sparkly costumes are definitely still a draw. What I love about bellydance is that it allows you to express feminine sensuality without being overtly sexual. It’s very empowering for women. It also makes you feel great physically, and of course, like any devoted bellydancer, part of the draw is my appreciation for learning about Middle Eastern cultures and music. Nothing gets me wanting to move more than the beat of a doumbek (a hand-drum usually heard in Middle Eastern and North African music). Dance frees the spirit. It helps me de-stress. Anyone who thinks bellydance is just shimmying and shaking is clearly uneducated in the dance form.
2. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I don’t think I’d enjoy any food if that’s the only thing I could ever eat lol, but if I had to choose anything based on how much I love it, I’d say pierogi. I’m Polish and I never get tired of eating pierogi.
3. Are you a plotter or a pantser, and what’s your secret to doing either successfully?
I suppose you would call me a plottser. When I first started writing, I was a pantser. I never planned anything. I always knew how the book would begin and end, but I had no clue what would happen in the middle until I was writing that specific moment. While it’s more natural for me to write this way, if I want the book to have any sort of plot arc, I HAVE to do some planning. The books that I wrote as a pantser I’ve had to heavily rewrite before they were prepared for submission (they didn’t really have a concrete plot), but the books I’ve plotted haven’t needed as much heavy editing. How this natural pantser stays content as a plotter: not getting too specific with the details. While I know what happens overall and the turning points of the story, I don’t get down and plan the nitty gritty like many plotters do. It’s kind of like beads spread out on a string—the beads are the things I know and the string is the pantser part—I know where I’m going because of those occasional beads, but getting there is still a surprise.
4. What conferences are you planning to attend in the next year?
This coming year I plan to be at RWA Nationals, the RT Convention, and Authors after Dark. I can’t wait!
5. Would you please share your call story? Both of them (landing your agent and getting that SOLD call).
I received “the call” from my agent, Nicole Resciniti, on August 13th, 2011. When I got the call from Nicole I’d actually been in the middle of chatting with her over email. I’d sent her my full manuscript on the night of August 12th (well, really, the 13th since I sent it at 2AM! Lol!). She’d requested based on a query. On Saturday afternoon, she emailed me asking if I’d intended for it to be a Harlequin category, and if not, if I was willing to increase the word count. I emailed her back saying I would definitely be willing to do so, and not even two minutes later I got a phone call from an unknown number. Since I’d been querying agents for so long with my first book without any offers and since I’d just begun querying the first book of the Execution Underground series (my third novel), I wasn’t really expecting to get a bite so soon. I don’t answer unknown numbers, so I actually didn’t pick up the call!!!
A minute later my voicemail buzzed and it was Nicole saying she wanted to offer representation. I screamed at the top of my lungs and immediately started jumping up and down and crying. It was a moment of total and complete euphoria. I’d worked so hard to get to that moment that I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I cried happy tears on my husband’s shoulder (at that point he was still my fiancé), then I called my mother, and then my best friend and personal editor, Britt Marczak, very quickly to tell them before I returned Nicole’s call. Every question I’d ever prepared to ask an agent was suddenly forgotten and all I did was listen to her gush about my novel while I intermittently cried thank you’s and said how excited I was. It took a few days to hear back from the other agents that had the manuscript at the time, but I ultimately decided to go with Nicole and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. In that very first phone conversation she said the Execution Underground series belonged at Harlequin, and she was right. She’s Super Agent!
The call from Nicole saying I’d gotten an offer for publication was a totally different experience. She called me in the morning and I actually woke up to her phone call lol. So with a groggy morning voice, I answered and she talked to me about my recent trip to Hawaii and Ireland (on my honeymoon) and then she just said “soooo, we have an offer.” I don’t think it really processed at first. I’m not certain I gave her quite the enthusiastic response she was looking for—both because I was groggy and just because it was unexpected. I’d only been on submission five months (four if you discount December, when the publishing industry completely shuts down and takes a break for a month), which is not long at all when it comes to publishing, so I really wasn’t expecting it. Once it sunk in, I was super excited for both the offer and the other responses.
At that point, we’d only received about three rejections, so we had quite a few other publishers to hear from. In total, we received four offers from different houses. The one from Harlequin’s HQN line came last, two weeks after the original offer. It was the one we were waiting for. Harlequin’s romance distribution is unrivaled both nationally and internationally, so we knew it’d be a great place for me to start out as a romance writer, especially working with Tara Parsons and Leslie Wainger from the HQN single-title line. They are both phenomenal editors and industry tycoons.
We knew they were taking the manuscript to acquisitions that day, but we didn’t know if it would receive an offer. HQN is a big line to end up at and with me being a debut author it was uncertain whether they’d want to invest in me. I was biting at the bit—I know I was driving Nicole crazy texting, calling, emailing her for updates and she’s a saint for putting up with my annoying tendencies. I’ve never been more anxious in my life. Nicole called me at about 5:30PM and right after I said hello, I believe her words were “We got it!” We were both crying, happy tears of course, and once we’d both calmed down she explained the details of the deal. I think it says a lot about her as an agent that she was just as emotional and excited as I was—she really cares for both her clients and their novels like their her own. When I finally hung up with Nicole, I called my husband and then my mother whilst sobbing. I was crying so hard my mom couldn’t understand me when she picked up the phone. She thought something horrible had happened like my husband getting in a car accident! I cried happy tears on and off for hours and for the next few days I could barely function I was just so overwhelmed. It took a LONG time for my brain to process it, and at moments, it still doesn’t feel real.
6. If you could design your perfect work station/writing area, what would it be/look like? Do you already have your perfect writing area?
I definitely don’t have a perfect writing area. My husband and I live in a one bedroom apartment about the size of some people’s living rooms, so there is NO privacy whatsoever. Until we move into our new rental home, the most wonderful thing I could ask for is just a plain ol’ office with a door that locks lol. Ideally, I’d love to have a recliner that functions like a rolling desk chair with a big desk where I could work.
7. Have you ever traveled outside of your current state? What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been (geographically)?
I was born and raised in Michigan. I currently live in Florida and I’ve traveled far and wide. I’ve been all over the U.S, as far out as Hawaii, and I’ve been all over the world. Some places I’ve been recently are Ireland, Ecuador, Mexico and Japan. Ireland is pretty, but a little too Americanized for my tastes. Ecuador is gorgeous, but also very sad because of the poverty. Japan is phenomenal. It’s my favorite by far. If I were to live in a foreign country, it’d probably there. In December, my husband and I are headed to the Bahamas for the first time.
8. How do you manage your writing time and your social media time?
Not very well lol. It’s a difficult balance. I try to get my social media stuff out of the way before I write. I schedule certain sites for certain days. On Mon, Wed and Fri I promote on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter. On Tues and Thurs I update my Goodreads and Shelfari accounts. Trying to do every one of those every day is near impossible while working on a manuscript, so I spread them out. Though it’s a hindrance, I can’t stress enough the importance of social media. Part of what convinced the HQN acquisitions board to invest in me was my social media platform. They knew I would be active in promoting the Execution Underground series.
9. Why did you decide to use two names for your two genres?
Nicole told me it was necessary. My paranormal romance, which I write under, Kait Ballenger, is extremely adult. There’s no shortage of strong sexuality, violence and adult language. While the Execution Underground series is not erotica, it’s definitely not intended for anyone under the age of eighteen. Since the other genre I write is YA urban-fantasy under my maiden name, Kaitlyn Schulz, it’s intended for a completely different audience. Though my YA novels have lots of crossover potential for an adult audience, they’re meant to appeal to teen readers. Imagine a young teen searching for my YA novels on a bookshelf and accidentally grabbing one of my romance novels. Not a great scenario; hence the two names. Writing YA novels was my first love, but I really found my voice in adult paranormal romance as well. My first YA novel, Demon Reincarnate, will be out on submission soon.
10. If you weren’t a published writer, what would you be and why?
A creative writing professor. That was/is my ‘fallback’ plan. When I graduated from my undergrad in May of 2011, I didn’t know whether I would manage to get published or not. My dream was to be a full time writer. I figured until I was published I could teach creative writing at a college level. I started working on my MFA at Spalding University this past fall. Since I’m already in the program now, it seemed silly to give up just because I received a three-book offer of publication. Very few writers make a living on writing alone, so once I finish my degree in November of 2013, I’ll be able to make a living off writing in more ways than one: writing, and teaching writing.
Kait Ballenger is a full-time paranormal romance author, wife, professional bellydancer, and graduate student living in Central Florida. The debut novel in her dark, sexy paranormal series, the Execution Underground, about an international network of supernatural hunters who fight to protect humanity alongside the powerful women they seduce, releases with Harlequin’s HQN line in 2013.
With a B.A in English from Stetson University, Kait is currently a student in Spalding University’s M.F.A in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, where she studies dual-genre in screenwriting. She writes dark paranormal romance with drool-worthy heroes and kickass heroines as Kait Ballenger, and sassy YA urban fantasy under her maiden name, Kaitlyn Schulz.
When Kait’s not preoccupied with paranormal creepy-crawlies, she can be found slaving over endless amounts of schoolwork or with her nose buried in a book. She lives in Florida with her husband, and doggie-daughter, Sookie (yes, like the heroine in Charlainne Harris’ books), near the love and care of her supportive family. Kait believes anything is possible with hard work and dedication. One day, she will be a bestseller and have people name their pets after her characters too.
Connect with Kait!
TWITTER https://twitter.com/#!/kait_ballenger or @kait_ballenger
PUBLISHER’S MARKETPLACE http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/KaitlynSchulz/