All The King’s Men is being written by an incredibly talented and diverse team of writers from around the world. The stories in the anthology are informed by their unique perspective on the world, and their own fascinating experiences.
We here at anthology HQ want to celebrate these writers and their experiences. We not only want to support their other creative endeavours, but we also want to give you some insight into them as people and as creators, and to give you a chance to follow these great writers beyond this anthology.
Today’s featured writer is Katrina Mae Leuzinger, a writer based in North Carolina.
Please, tell us about yourself.
I’m a 28 year-old professional freelance writer and married lady with one ridiculously adorable 1 1/2 year-old son. I’ve moved from one end of the United States to the other and finally settled on the coast of North Carolina, which means sometimes my “office” is the empty lifeguard stand at sunrise. My husband and I have an unhealthy obsession with various geeky pursuits including Renaissance Festivals, which is probably why we got married at one. There was sword fighting. I had a hoop skirt. It was epic.
How long have you been writing?
Up until a year and a half ago I was working in middle management in the hotel industry on a pretty solid path towards upper management. You know that dad in every family movie from the 90’s that is always on his cell phone and misses his kid’s baseball games, until the end of the movie where he reevaluates his life priorities and triumphantly chucks his ringing phone into a lake? That was me working in the hotel industry. I knew I couldn’t keep doing that and raise my son the way I wanted to, so I went on maternity leave and never came back.
I’ve been writing my whole life, but that was when I first took a crack at convincing people to give me money in exchange for my scribbles. It’s been rocky, financially speaking, but I’ve managed to build it into a fairly successful full time job, one that I can do from home and still take dance party breaks with my baby.
Who is your favourite writer, and why?
Too many! But my current obsession is Chuck Palahniuk, who you may know as the author of Fight Club. He has this stream-of-consciousness writing style that’s unlike anything I’ve read before, which I may have tried to emulate more than a little when I wrote my novel, The Tree of Knowledge.
What can you tell us about your writing process? Do you approach each project in the same way?
My process usually involves a lot of pacing and talking to myself. My neighbours probably think I’m an insane person. I like taking long walks when I get stuck- usually while pushing my son in his stroller. Thematically appropriate tunes are also essential. The protagonist of The Tree of Knowledge is 16, so I made all these playlists of angst-filled emo rock songs that were popular when I was 16. With this project for All the King’s Men my main character fancies herself a revolutionary, so it was all “We’re Not Gonna Take it” and “Cult of Personality” blasting from my speakers.
Your story in All The King’s Men is a comic entitled Wildfire. Can you please tell us about the story, where it came from, and what it means to you?
I was thinking a lot about the power of causes or movements. A movement may be started by one person, but it can quickly take on a life entirely it’s own, and perhaps veer off in directions that the person who inspired it did not want or anticipate. In Wildfire, that person is Calla, a young woman who is trying to take down the tubinj drug industry. It’s a good cause and Calla is a good person with only the best of intentions, but she’s frustrated by the lack of progress she’s made operating within the bounds of the law. When she goes outside of those bounds, and encourages her fervent followers to do the same, things quickly spiral out of her control. It’s an idea that I’ve sort of been kicking around ever since I read Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta. I liked the idea of how the line between terrorist and freedom fighter is mostly a matter of perspective, and I wanted to write something that explored those themes.
Late last year, you released a book called The Tree of Knowledge, a book with the intriguing tagline “What would the world look like if every law in the Bible were obeyed?” Can you tell us about this book, please? What inspired its creation?
I’m not sure what it’s like over there in Australia, but in the United States Islamaphobia has reached frightening levels of intensity. Ever since 9/11 hating Muslims (or anyone who looks vaguely like they could be Muslim) is practically a national pastime. The theory, which is mostly championed by white Christians, is that Islam is an inherently evil religion and they’ll point to one or two passages in the Qur’an which “prove” that theory. Now I don’t pretend to know much about Islam, but I do know a lot about Christianity, and there are plenty of passages you could point to in the Bible that are just as damning. Both are inherently peaceful religions, practiced by and large by peaceful people, but any religion based on a text written thousands of years ago taken to absolute literal extremes is going to be terrible. That became the sort of thesis of The Tree of Knowledge, which follows a modern teenage girl as she tries to live in a society where every word of the Bible is obeyed.
What was the most rewarding part of writing The Tree of Knowledge?
I love dystopias. And this one allowed me to delve into a lot of big ideas like institutionalized misogyny, homophobia, the importance of art and the erasure of cultures, and standing up to the forces of tyranny even when there are dire consequences. Writing it has also armed me with some solid ammunition when I talk to bigots now. I get to have these conversations like, “So you don’t think gay people should get married because the Bible calls it an abomination? That very interesting. Would you like to know what the Bible says about your tattoos?”
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while writing The Tree of Knowledge?
Well I read the entire Bible first, so there was that. I went through with a highlighter and made note of every law that’s mentioned. So if I’m being a bit snarky, I would say my biggest challenge was the back half of Exodus. The first half is really exciting stuff, but the back half is all- how many planks of silver in the tabernacle.
According to your Facebook page, you’ve got a lot on the go at the moment. In addition to All The King’s Men and writing for the North Beach Sun and the Milepost, you are juggling four major creative projects in various stages of development. What can you tell us about your approach to time and project management?
My time management is mostly…er…not so good. But I try really hard to overcome my own laziness. The biggest struggle for me is finding the balance between my journalism work, which tends to pay well and with some consistency, and writing novels, which are a tremendous amount of work that won’t necessarily earn me any money at all. Journalism can be fun, but creative writing is really where my passion is.
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, an online community that encourages writers to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November) is coming up. How many times have you participated in the past? What advice would you give to people checking it out for the first time?
I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice now. The first time I “won” and had 50,000 words written in 30 days. This past time was somewhat less successful, but I still had 20,000 words written at the end on the month. I find deadlines to be enormously motivating and NaNoWriMo is a great way to light a fire under your ass. I like to keep myself motivated by giving myself a little prize every 10,000 words or so. Beer, overpriced chocolates, gourmet cookies, and a bottle of champagne for the finish line.
Are you working on or planning anything else at the moment?
I’ve got a smattering of projects in the works, but my main focus is on the novel I started this past NaNoWriMo- A yet untitled story about an overworked hotel manager (I write what I know) whose life goes topsy turvy when fairies show up in her garden and start stealing her stuff. It started life as a fantasy/comedy, but seems to be veering of late towards supernatural romance/comedy because I can’t get my characters to stop flirting. I still have the bottle of champagne I bought for NaNoWriMo sitting on top of my desk, patiently awaiting the day I finish. I imagine it is going to be exceptionally delicious.
Where would you like to see yourself and your writing career in five or ten years’ time?
By then I’d like it if I was making enough money as a novelist to just do that, and have the luxury of focusing on the stories I really want to tell. Better yet, I’d love to make enough money that my husband could quit his job. Then, because I can work from anywhere, we could travel and enjoy the flexibility of not having to fuss with time off requests and such. We could go to ALL the Renaissance Festivals. Plus, I could have a house-husband. That sounds awesome.
We here at ATKM HQ think Katrina is a writer worth following.