Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today: Katharina Gerlach was born in Germany in 1968. She and her three younger brothers grew up in the middle of a forest in the heart of the Luneburgian Heather. After romping through the forest with imagination as her guide, the tomboy learned to read and disappeared into magical adventures, past times or eerie fairytale woods.
She didn’t stop at reading. During her training as a landscape gardener, she wrote her first novel, a manuscript full of a beginner’s mistakes. Fortunately, she found books on Creative Writing, and soon her stories improved. For a while, reality interfered with her writing but after finishing a degree in forestry and a PhD in Science, she returned to her vocation. She likes to write Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Historical Novels for all age groups.
At present, she is writing at her next project in a small house near Hildesheim, Germany, where she lives with her husband, three children, and a dog.
Please visit Katharina’s website (www.katharinagerlach.com) or follow her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/KatharinaGerlach.Autorin). You can also sign up for her mailing list (eepurl.com/cc9nTT) to receive occasional mails about new releases and free stories.
Thanks so much, Katharina, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why?
Katharina Gerlach: I started publishing under my maiden name, Katharina Gerlach, to keep it separate from my married name for tax purposes. It made it a whole lot easier to prove which bills went with which name. I’m writing all kinds of Fantasy, some soft SciFi, and historical novels under this name and have published way more than 40 books (most but not all in English and German).
I’ve recently added a second pseydonym, Leonie Joy. The name was a gift from someone I wrote a YA dragon shifter trilogy with and who is not planning to publish under that name. I’m going to use Leonie Joy for all the books that are in one of the many Romance subgenres.
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
KG: For my fairytale retelling series (12 volumes, now also available as bundles of 3 with a bonus story each), I wrote, revised, polished, translated, and published one novella in two languages every three month, and it was sustainable until my life exploded.
I’ve written and revised novels in as little as a month, but most take longer. My life is quite complicated for reasons I’m not going into online, so I average around 4 books a year. That said, I took an 11 month hiatus recently because I moved and needed the time to settle in.
JSC: Tell me a little about The Fires in My Soul.
KG: The book is a collection of 100 short stories from novella length to flash, showcasing the width of my writing. Most stories included are phantastical in nature, but there are a handful set in the real world. My aim was to not only present how versatile my writing is but also how incredibly fascinating the world can be and how wonderful humans should be/can be/are. The theme connecting all these stories is tolerance.
JSC: What character would you like to explore more? Tell me about them.
KG: The Baba Yaga, who insists she’s NOT a fairy godmother, urgently needs her own book. I’ve already had an idea and we’re currently negotiating how and when to write it. After all, I’ve got some commitments in real life and in writing (see last question). However, she’s a bull-headed bargainer, so it’s not easy to find a compromise.
JSC: Let’s talk to your characters for a minute – what’s it like to work for such a demanding writer?
KG: She’s ridiculously determined to force me into a role I hate. I mean what’s it with helping and saving people. People are the biggest nuisance on Earth. Give me a hut with chicken feet any time, but humans …
Problem is though that sometimes, I just can’t look away. Have you ever been in a situation like that? Trust me. It makes you do things utterly contrary to your nature. And since the only other writer I knew who bothered to write my stories (and good ones too, kudos, Danyelle Leafty) is too ill to continue, Katharina is my only option. As she already said, we’re currently negotiating terms. And I know how to bargain … evil cackle
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
KG: I wanted to be a midwife (applied for training, learned more about it, and decided against it), a forester (studied forestry, got a PhD, and then was too expensive for any potential employers), or a full time writer (which I am now even though I can’t live from my writing yet). You see, I’m a terribly stubborn person. Fun fact: I find it easy to change my mind in most topics but not so much when it comes to my own wishes.
JSC: We know what you like to write, but what do you like to read in your free time, and why?
KG: I ready everything that interests me. From non-fiction to fiction, from biography via historical novels to contemporary stories, from Fantasy to SciFi. Of course there are some genres I don’t enjoy as much as others (like Epic Fantasy for example), but that doesn’t mean I won’t read it. And I have found gems in every genre I’ve tried. Proof is my library which currently sits slightly below 2K books (and yes, if it’s over 1K books, it’s called a library).
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
KG: Bookaroo – A holiday where everyone is given a free book of their choice and the time to read it, too. If they can retell the story in their own words at the end of the holiday, the free days won’t count toward their annual leave.
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
KG: 1. Access to a library (maybe a portal window where I can request any book I want or a wireless connection where I can download noting but books).
2. A fridge full of food that’ll never spoil and whenever I take something out, it’ll refill.
3. A very, very comfortable bed that’s sheltered from rains and storms and coldness.
JSC: How does the world end?
KG: Scientifically, that’s quite obvious. Some day, the sun will grow so big, it’ll swallow Earth. But I’m sure you’re referring to the end of humans.
Well, there are several ways to go: war (which currently is a strong possibility), overpopulation stress (it’s areal thing called Karoshi and Karoshimi, and is featured in several of the short stories in my book), or total isolation which leads to failed reproduction (I mean, even today people spend more time on their mobile than talking to people directly, so that’s a likely scenario), or ecological collapse.
In all these possibilities, there’ll be most likely survivors. To wipe out all of us annoyingly persistent creatures, Mother Nature might pull a really wild stunt like the explosion of two or three super-volcanoes or dragging down a meteor. I’m sure that’d do the trick. However, I’m quite sure that won’t be necessary. Humans will eventually destroy themselves in the most stupid way they can find.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
KG: I’m currently writing the first book in an Urban Fantasy (or Paranormal Romance, I’m not entirely sure yet) series with a layline-witch who inherits a bookshop in Hamburg, Germany. She’s falling for a woman who’s broken from her last relationship, courted by a man who doesn’t know he’s her enemy, and an enemy with really, really bad intentions.
Thank you for this delightful interview. It was a lot of fun, answering all your questions. I hope I could make you and your readers smile here and there, and if so, please check out my books.
And now for Katharina’s latest book: The Fires in My Soul:
Short stories give you a glimpse of fantastical worlds, hint at a future to come, or reminiscent times gone by. They force the author to create fascinating characters, real worlds, and deep emotions in the shortest room possible. This book will provide as much reading pleasure as an epic novel, but comes with a far greater variety. If you love short and to the point stories, get your collection of 100 short stories now.
Most stories are straight up fantasy like “A Twist in Katlani’s Plan” where a young woman plans to kill the king but finds a task far more worthy of her attention. Others are fairy tale retellings like “Ivan’s Horses” which is based on the Russian tale of the humpbacked horse. In this retelling, Ivan must defeat an evil tsar and befriend the Baba Yaga, possibly the grumpiest witch in all of Russia.
Of course there are also dark stories like “Witch Mountain at Full Moon” where a confused young woman must unravel the secrets of her past to right a wrong and stop a murder. And in the steampunk tale of “Tarek Ibn Imran and the Case of the Glowing Children”, a foreigner must get the German “Amt für Aetherangelegenheiten”, a bureau for helping people changed by a magical substance, to support him in his fight against human trafficking.
There are also some soft SciFi stories set in a world where Earth is so overpopulated that people die from the stress alone. Naturally many try to leave for other planets. Some, like the girl in “The Cat’s Way to Paradise”, find their own way to cope with life on Earth.
Other stories are historical or historical fantasy, crime stories with a dash of fantasy, or romantasy (fantasy & romance). A tiny number are set in the real world and tell about what it was like for a child to visit the GDR or how my grandma felt when a thunderstorm hit.
If you burn for short stories, get a copy of this book now.
Katharina is sharing an excerpt from one of her short stories – “A Twist on Katlani’s Plan”:
Katlani sharpened her dagger until it cut a hair that fell on the blade. Forcing herself to ignore the pain that came with using magic, she wove a spell and wrapped it around the blade to keep it this sharp until she had done what needed to be done.
“Naranii bless my plan,” she whispered, cut a strand of her black hair with the dagger, and threw it on the coals in the hearth as an oblation to her childhood goddess. It went up in flames and fanned her burning hatred. Although she no longer believed in Naranii’s justice, she was satisfied with the brief ceremony. She sheathed the dagger and laid it between the clean linens she had to deliver to the king’s castle. It had taken her three months of cleaning the royal tablecloths to gain the guards’ trust—three months without her beloved husband Beltar. He’d been arrested for treason and sorcery in her stead because she had taught Naranii’s acolytes, a bunch of giggling teenagers, basic fighting skills.
She hid her close-fitting black combat clothes under a colorful coat, picked up the basket of linens, and set out for the capital. The sun was already setting, painting the sky purple. The woods’ peace did nothing to alleviate her anger. It raged hot and painful through her veins for the length of her walk to the city.
She’d expected to find the cobblestone streets with their timber-frame houses empty and silent. Instead, she discovered people huddled into small groups, and murmuring in anger. Just a week ago, the whole town had celebrated, as best they could, the choosing of Naranii’s new High Priestess. Now whispered conversations, fists balled in the shadows, and defiant glares filled the streets, mirroring the rage inside of Katlani. Even the guards patrolling the streets, usually enough to frighten citizens until they hid in their houses, seemed to be aware of the change in mood. They no longer patrolled alone.
Katlani forced herself to keep up her fake smile as she walked through the streets toward the king’s castle. Everywhere little things weren’t as they should be—the smith was still at work sharpening scythes and sickles; people hid in corners whispering to each other or praying to Naranii, with angry glances at the patrolling soldiers. Whatever the king had done had set the city on edge.
“How much longer…” someone said to a small crowd in a dark side street.
“ …takes them younger every day.” Another one whispered to a group of people and pointed to the castle.
“May he feel Naranii’s wrath tonight!” One woman spoke loud enough to draw a guard’s attention, but instead of cowering when he looked at her, she glared at him and continued. “The poor child did nothing to deserve this.”
Katlani’s hands grew cold. Something nasty must have happened, something bad enough to agitate the masses. Had it been bad enough to jeopardize her plan? She walked faster, until a bend in the road brought her face to face with the castle’s gate. On the wall beside it hung the body of a girl she knew—Naranii’s newly chosen High Priestess. She was less than fifteen summers, dressed in a white nightshirt with her unbraided hair flapping in the wind, hiding the rope around her neck. Her sightless eyes were already gone, no doubt stolen away by the castle’s ravens. A knot of ice formed in Katlani’s stomach, encasing the burning anger. She had known that child, had taught her how to defend herself. Had the king really taken Naranii’s High Priestess into his bed last night, and murdered her? Now the city’s unrest made sense, and Katlani’s worry grew exponentially. How could she get to the king if he raised his security to cope with the city’s unspoken threat?
She walked on, toward the guards, but her gaze clung to the dead child. Jeventer manned the entrance, and she nodded and smiled as best she could. He must have noticed how fake her smile was, because he bent slightly forward and whispered.
“She took her own life before…” His voice trailed off.
“Thank you for telling me.” Katlani held out her basket. Her mind was still reeling, but she wasn’t half as nervous about her hidden knife as she’d feared.
“If only Naranii could do more than advise her acolytes.” Jeventer stared at her basket. All of last week he had let her in without searching the linens, so her heart beat faster at his stare. But he seemed lost in thought. “What good is a goddess who doesn’t do anything?”