Kirsten Mortensen has been writing fiction ever since she picked up her first crayon. And no, her illustrated picture book "Mic and Mac the Bunnies" will never be a best seller, but it hinted at two of her future lifelong loves: writing and animals.
Today, Mortensen's plots are a bit more involved than the adventures of Mic and Mac. And her novels also span a number of categories including comedy ("Can Job" and the novella "BJs on the Roof"), light literary romance ("Loose Dogs" and "When Libby Met the Fairies"), and, with her latest title, romantic suspense ("Dark Chemistry").
Her non-fiction books include "Dog of Your Dreams: How to Pick a Companion Dog Who Will Fit Into Your Home and Your Life" (a Kindle book), "Outwitting Dogs" (co-written with professional dog trainer Terry Ryan; Lyons Press), and "101 Dog Training Tips" (Lyons Press). Do you find the time to read?
Absolutely. I read topical material on a daily basis, during the daylight hours: blog posts, news pieces both online and in print, and magazine articles on culture, pop culture, media, and politics. Evenings, I read books. I almost always read from either an ebook or a print book for an hour or so before bedtime. It’s not a huge amount of time, but I manage to finish a fair number of books every year.
Last book you purchased? Tell us about it.
It’s a non-fiction book titled Dreamways of the Iroquois by Robert Moss. Moss was born in Australia, and has always had intense, vivid dreams (as I do). Then, in one dream, he “met” a native American woman who began speaking to him in a language he didn’t understand. He did some research afterward and learned it was an archaic form of Mohawk (one of the tribes of the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois]). The book is about what this dream woman taught Moss, and relates many other extraordinary experiences he’s had as he works to teach people how to use their dreams to connect with spirit and find healing.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel?
By far, it’s building a world and holding it in your head—as an intact, coherent world—for as long as it takes to complete the novel. The effort this requires is extraordinary. And you can’t mess it up. You can’t have a character’s eyes be blue in one spot and then brown in another, to cite a simple example. You have to somehow imagine a character with blue eyes, and those blue eyes have to remain real to you from the day you first start to write until the day you put your novel into the hands of your readers. And eye color is only one element: it has to be everything, from the layout of buildings and streets, to characters’ speech patterns and histories and quirks and motivations.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
I think I have. People tell me my writing has something of a noir feel. That’s not something I set out to do, but I greatly admired Hemingway when I was a teenager, and I’ve retained an admiration for what I guess you’d call “stripped down” writing. Hemingway intentionally left things out: he communicated as much by what he left out as what he said. I like that as a reader, because I enjoy the process of discovery. It’s like real life.
Do you ever play a game, say in a restaurant, where you try to figure out peoples’ stories? I love to do this. I was in a restaurant the other day, and I watched a family: an older couple, a middle-aged couple, and two kids. And I don’t think the middle-aged couple was married. The kids were her kids, but I’m not sure he was their father. He might have been her brother. He might have been her boyfriend. And of course it’s all speculation on my part. But there were little clues. So if these people were characters in a novel I wrote, I wouldn’t come right out and tell you the middle-aged couple wasn’t married. But I might find a way to let you know there was no wedding ring on the woman’s finger. Or that she asked the man, twice, if he wanted to sit next to her—something that suggested that they didn’t have established habits about who would sit where. I’d drop clues, and let you slowly figure out that the man was a boyfriend, not a husband. Like with life.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
My insight into the human heart. Like a lot of writers, I’m a great “reader” of people. Sometimes, it feels like I can meet someone, and in a very short time know an awful lot about them. I have a great deal of agility when it comes to using words, and that’s a strength as well, but knowing people and being able to tell my characters stories is what I think means the most for me as a writer.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
Absolutely, and it’s always been a central part of my life. I’ve kept journals my entire life—by the time I hit my early 20s, I started keeping them in 5-subject, college ruled spiral notebooks, and I now have a huge box of them (someday I will go through them for material for a memoir!) For many years, now, I’ve earned money by writing articles for corporate clients, and even within the constraints you have to deal with for those types of projects—you’re writing to satisfy the needs of marketing programs, not your Muse—I enjoy the challenge of articulating complex ideas simply and clearly. And when I’m writing for myself—my novels, short stories, and essays—it’s pure heaven.
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
That my novels were read and enjoyed by millions—and that I died peacefully, and surrounded by my family and loved ones. If my obit includes those comments, I’ll know that I lived the life I was born to live.
How did you develop your writing?
Like a lot of writers, I did it by reading a lot, and writing a lot. There’s really no substitute for practicing, even though when you first start working within a given form—whether it’s a novel, an essay, a press release or a non-fiction article—it’s sometimes really hard to know how awful you are. It’s a matter, I think, of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” I’ll illustrate with a story. Back in the early 2000s, I submitted a novel to an agent I’d met at a conference. She was my dream agent, and I was so excited she was interested in my book. To my deep disappointment, however, she rejected it with a note saying that she didn’t think my plotting was up to snuff. And—this makes me smile, today—I had NO idea what she was talking about. The story had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Stuff happened in it. My characters did things. Wasn’t that plot? Objects moving around in imaginary space—wasn’t that plot?
But once I’d recovered from my disappointment, I set my jaw and began teaching myself about plotting novels. I read books, I read articles, and today, one of the things you’ll see people praise about my novels is the plotting.
I was a lousy plotter. I didn’t know how to plot. But I didn’t know that I didn’t know how to plot. It took writing and showing my writing to people with experience in the industry for me to learn what I didn’t know, so that I could fix it.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
Not when it’s done. But I never show partially-finished work to anyone—not ever. And frankly, I think that’s some advice all writers should consider. There’s a period, when you’re writing, when it’s really important to keep the “judger” side of your brain cordoned off. When you’re drafting a piece, you don’t want to interrupt the process by wondering whether what you’re writing is “any good.” You just want to keep the words flowing. If you show your work to someone too soon, and he or she makes comments about it, the judger steps in, and that can torpedo the entire project. You end up second-guessing yourself and that’s simply not appropriate when you’re in the early draft stage.
Mind you, it’s always hard to expose your writing to others, in some respects, because all writing is personal. It’s your words, your thoughts. We’re all vulnerable when we share our writing with other people. But generally speaking, when I’ve finished working on a piece, I’m confident that readers—at least, most readers—will like it. So in that respect, I don’t find sharing my work difficult.
Do you plan to publish more books?
I sure do. I plan to keep writing and publishing until I drop dead. Right now, I’m working on my next project, which will be a paranormal series. I have two other novels that are partially written that I’ll finish at some point, and one day I’ll publish a memoir. I also have outlines of a half dozen non-fiction books in the works.
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
For me, there is an inward success and an outward success. Inward success means that I’ve written the best possible piece—no matter what it is, a novel, an essay, a non-fiction article—that I can possibly write. The more I learn about the craft of novel-writing, for example, the better I become as a novelist. When I finish a novel and feel that I’ve brought the best of what I know, as a writer, to that book, then to me I’ve succeeded at that piece of my career.
Outward success is measurable by the effect my writing has on others. When I get positive feedback and reviews by readers, for example, that definitely represents success to me.
Reach is another measure that’s important to me. I hope my novels get read by a lot of people. This has to do with how I view myself. I think of myself as a novelist—it’s my place in the world. Being read by large numbers of people is therefore important to me.
A woman's worst nightmare
Drugged by something...that makes her think she's fallen in love.All Haley Dubose has ever known is beaches and malls, clubs and cocktail dresses.
But now her father is dead.
And if she wants to inherit her father's fortune, she has to leave sunny Southern California
for a backwater little town near Syracuse, New York. She has to run RMB, the multimillion dollar
chemical company her father founded. And she has to run it well.
Keep RMB on track, and she'll be rich. Grow it, and she'll be even richer. But mess it up, and her inheritance will shrink away before she gets a chance to spend a dime.
Donavon Todde is her true love. But is it too late?He's RMB's head of sales – and the more Donavon sees of Haley, the more he's smitten.
Sure, she comes across at first as naïve and superficial. But Donavon knew Haley's father. He can see the man's better qualities stirring to life in her eyes. And Donavon senses something else: Haley's father left her a legacy more important than money. He left her the chance to discover her true self.
Donavon has demons of his own.
He's reeling from a heartbreak that's taking far too long to heal. But he's captivated by this blond Californian, and not only because of her beauty. It's chemistry. They're right for each other. But has Donavon waited too long to woo this woman of his dreams? Because to his horror, his beautiful Haley falls under another spell. Gerad's spell.
A web of evil.Gerad Picket was second-in-command at RMB when Haley's father was alive. And with Haley on the scene, he's in charge of her training. But there are things about RMB that Gerad doesn't want Haley to know.
And he must control her. Any way he can.
Romantic suspense for your KindleWill Haley realize that her feelings are not her TRUE feelings?
Does Donavon have the strength left to fight for the woman he loves?
Will the two of them uncover Gerad's plot to use RMB pheromones to enslave the world?
And even if they do – can they stop it?
Genre – Romantic suspense
Rating – PG-13
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