Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Meet Texas Author Katy Huth Jones

Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes author Katy Huth Jones who writes in a variety of genres.

First, a bit about Katy:

Katy Huth Jones grew up in a family where creative juices overflowed and made puddles to splash in. A member of SCBWI, Katy has published nine books (so far) and over 100 short stories, poems, and articles in magazines, including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Cobblestone, Boy’s Quest, etc., and anthologies. When not writing, Katy plays piccolo and flute in The Symphony of the Hills. She lives with her husband Keith in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Their two sons, whom she homeschooled, have flown the nest and live creative lives of their own.

Why did you pick to write books for children/MG/YA?

Actually, I have written children's books and stories for all ages, from picture books and early readers, to MG and YA. I write for the child in me who never grew up.

What types of books do you like to read?

My favorite books are fantasy, whether for younger children (E. B. White's Charlotte's Web was my first favorite book), MG, or YA. I rarely read books for adults because they either take themselves too seriously (i.e., pretentious) or they have objectionable content. My second favorite genre is historical fiction.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

I was a music major in college but dropped out to get married, and then parenting and homeschooling became my priorities. But ten years ago I got a second chance at music performance and play piccolo and flute with a quality regional symphony. It's a real joy!

Tell us about Mercy's Prince and how the story came to be.

My YA fantasy Mercy's Prince, the first in a planned series of five books, can stand alone. I wrote the original draft over 25 years ago after seeing the movie Willow and being disgusted with the lead female character. She was supposed to be portrayed as "strong," but she was a conflicted mess—kicking the male character in the face in one scene and then kissing him in the next. My original version was written to prove that a strong female character doesn't have to resort to violence. But it didn't work because I'd forced an improbable plot upon some paper cutout characters.

I shelved it until early 2011, when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and I was helping my mother with his care for the rest of the year. To distract me from the grief of watching this larger-than-life man, my first love, slowly and painfully die over eleven months, I gave myself a writing assignment: Take out that old manuscript, throw away everything but the opening scene, and let the characters tell me THEIR story. I wasn't even thinking publication, but finally the story worked because the plot grew organically out of the characters I now knew and loved as if they were my own children. And the grief over my father was channeled into the grief the characters were suffering, so everything felt real. Once I'd written over 200,000 words, I realized this was one long epic story that would need five books to tell it. I'm currently in the middle of book 4.

Here's a peek at Mercy's Prince:

A heart of peace in a time of war

As second son of the King of Levathia, seventeen-year-old Valerian desires the quiet life of a scholarly monk. But when he fails to save his older brother in battle, Valerian must instead become crown prince. 

While a traitorous knight schemes against him, Valerian meets Mercy, a pacifist Healer with whom he can speak mind-to-mind like the great dragons. Their bond emboldens Valerian to seek out the legendary dragons and ask for their help against the monsters who killed his brother. 

Can Valerian survive the traitor's assassins long enough to find the dragons? And if he does, can he convince them to lay aside their hatred of humans and help him save the land from destruction? 

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

My first published novel, Leandra's Enchanted Flute, is a MG fantasy allegory of the cancer journey, which I first took in 2005 and then had a recurrence in 2015. The original publisher went out of business in 2013, so I reissued the book and its sequel in 2014, which was my first experience with self-publishing. Two of my older books are out of print, but my early reader, Stuck In The Muck, is part of a reading program with RR Books (Reading Reading Books), and my newest book is Treachery and Truth, a YA historical novelization of the life of Saint Wenceslas ("Good King Wenceslas" from the Christmas carol), published by Pauline Books & Media.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

My plan was to finish book 4 in the Mercy series by the end of March, and the last one by the end of the summer. I have completed a MG historical novel about a twelve-year-old daughter of a stagecoach station manager who befriends a Buffalo soldier and a young Apache in 1870 West Texas that I'm going to start letting my critique group tear apart, um, I mean read. After that I have a MG contemporary novel I'd like to finish about three thirteen-year-old girls who are all the oldest kids in their families, each one very different with varying degrees of problems that they have to work out together. The working title is The O.K. Club, but the girls learn cooperation through playing a trio together, so I may change it to a musical title.

What advice do you have for other authors?

The best advice I was given and can pass along is to read widely from the best books, not only in the genre(s) you want to write, but the classics, too. We all absorb patterns of language while reading, so you ought to read the best. While you're reading, write every single day, even if it's only vague notes or a very rough draft. The only way to learn to write well is to write a LOT of words. I wrote story after story and two complete novels (never published, thank goodness) before I ever sold my first short story (about 500,000 total words in seven years). That was back in the "olden days" (1980's and 1990's) and I collected over 600 rejection letters before that first acceptance. No, that's not a typo!

Anything else you want readers to know?

Something I realized last summer while in the fog of pain meds and "chemo brain" was that every one of my novels has a similar theme: Finding hope and faith and love in the midst of great darkness. I guess we writers really do "write what we know" because having survived incurable cancer twice, that's a pretty dark place, but there is so much light and love to be found!

Where can readers find you and your books?

My blog
Amazon page
Facebook author page

Mercy's Prince-Amazon
Book trailer for Mercy's Prince