Monday, April 29, 2013

My TV Debut - Kathryn Knight

Last week was a pleasant (and sometimes stressful) whirlwind for me.  On Tuesday, my second novel Gull Harbor began its 5 Free Days as part of the Kindle Select Program.  The promotion before and during those days was intense (more on that in the future), and the excitement as I watched my title climb to #1 in Fantasy Romance (#4 in Paranormal) was surreal.

In the midst of this, I drove to another town on Friday for my first television interview.  I've done 2 radio interviews so far, and those were nerve-wracking enough.  This was a whole different experience.  Once I saw the set, with the lights and cameras, panic started to set in.  I kept reminding myself that as an aerobic instructor, I get up in front of a crowd of people every day.  But then the self-doubt would chime in, reminding me that I (usually) always know what I'm going to do during a class.  I had no idea what might come my way during an interview.

My first glimpse of the set

I did get a chance to discuss a few things beforehand with the interviewer, Madeline.  She was extremely well-prepared: she'd read my novel Silver Lake twice, printed out my editorial reviews, and visited my blog and Facebook page.  But of course we did not go over all the topics we would discuss during the 30 minute show, and Madeline stressed that she wanted it to be more conversational than just direct Q&A.  Once we were had our mics on and did a sound check, they did the count down and we were on the air.

The hardest part was the beginning: sitting quietly, looking at Madeline, while the intoductory music played.  I was told to look at Madeline during the interview, but the part of me trained to make eye contact with an audience took over a few times and looked toward the camera.  Unfortunately there were 2 cameras, so most of the time I suddenly saw myself on the viewing screen, looking at the wrong one! 

As a former librarian, Madeline had great questions for me.  There were none of the tired "who would play Rain and Jason in a movie?" inquiries.  And that's a good thing, because my characters are so well-defined in my imagination, I truly have trouble associating them with actors.  (But I did try on my Pinterest story board for Silver Lake if anyone is interested!)

The discussion covered things like the funny, sarcastic dialog between the reunited friends--I explained that I was lucky enough to have a similar group of friends from high school with whom I still maintain a close connection.  Madeline asked about Brandy's past and the events leading to her disappearance, and I got to discuss her character's backstory.  The aspects of the haunting came up as well, and my research into the paranormal. 

We talked straight for over 30 minutes, with no breaks.  Most of the time I answered the questions well (I think!), although I did invent a new word at one point ("fictitional" - that wonderful hybrid of fictional and fictitious).  A cup of water sat on the table, taunting me, but I was sure any attempt to take a sip would result in either a) shaky hands spilling it all over myself or b) some sort of awkward reach-and-sip that might go viral, similar to Senator Rubio's "Waterbottlegate" lunge.

I haven't seen the show yet - before it airs, it will go through editing.  And because the show is on a local access cable channel in another area, I won't even see it in my town.  But I'll be receiving a DVD in the mail, and then I'll have to decide if I'm brave enough to put it on youtube.  Assuming I can figure out how to do that, of course.

Now that I think of it, maybe I should have lunged for the water.  There are probably worse things than having a video go viral, and they say any publicity is good publicity.  Maybe "fictitional" will be enough!

Madeline and me, and some very bright lights

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

#Kindle #FREE days for Gull Harbor - Kathryn Knight

This is it--the 5 days Amazon makes Gull Harbor available for FREE as part of their Kindle Select Program.  Here's the link and blurb:

When Claire Linden’s job sends her to the sleepy town of Gull Harbor, she never expects to encounter her ex-boyfriend. As a medium, the prospect of tackling a haunted house is less daunting than seeing Max Baron again. Throughout their passionate college relationship, he promised to love her forever. Then, without explanation, he abandoned her on graduation day.

Max never intended to break Claire's heart—a cruel ultimatum forced him to disappear from her life. While he's shocked to find her in Gull Harbor, he isn't surprised by the bitter resentment she feels for him...or the fiery attraction that remains between them.

Claire is determined to rid her temporary home of its aggressive ghost, but Max soon realizes she's facing a danger beyond the paranormal. When Claire risks everything to help a desperate spirit, Max must race to save her—before another tragedy tears them apart forever.

Gull Harbor is a ghost story/romantic suspense set on the beautiful shores of Cape Cod.  While I created the town name, there are many actual landmarks and settings--some of my research pictures can be found on my Gull Harbor Pinterest board.  You can also get a look at inspiration for the characters:

If you don't have a Kindle, there are also free apps you can download for your laptop or other device.  These days, there are so many free books it makes sense to have the option!  Thanks so much for stopping by, I hope you'll download Gull Harbor and enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Was My First Romance Read a Pop-Up Book? Kathryn Knight

The other day, as I was tweaking my list of books to read on Goodreads, I started thinking about when I read my first romance novel.  I can remember sometimes raiding my mother's bookshelf as a "tween" when I'd finished everything from my weekly library pile.  A lot of the books were probably too mature to be a great choice for a middle school girl (I think I read Valley of the Dolls at 11 or 12), my mom was busy with two younger kids, and monitoring my reading material wasn't high on her priority list.  As I made my way through her bookshelf, I saw one author multiple times--Phyllis A. Whitney.

I think I started with The Golden Unicorn, and enjoyed it enough to tear through the rest at home before checking the others out from the library.  Whitney's wikipedia entry notes that while she was often referred to as a Gothic or mystery writer, she called her works "romantic novels of suspense".  I read them a long time ago, but I seem to remember a strong romantic theme. 

But then it occurred to me that one of my all-time YA favorite books, Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp, was a sweet romance.  In fact, I would call this book a huge inspiration for my writing, as it's that combination of ghost story/love story that I find addictive.  My father brought Jane-Emily home from the library when I was around 8 years old, and I read it over and over, then requested it regularly when I needed my Jane-Emily fix.  A few years back, I purchased my own copy (finally!) from ebay and read it to my kids.  The ghost of 12-year-old Emily still delivers chills even after all these years as she unleashes her wrath on 9-year-old Jane--but of course the romance piece was there as well between the hunky Doctor and Jane's young aunt Louisa.

So I decided Jane-Emily surely had to be the first.  Until I thought about the basic ingredients of a romance novel: a hero and heroine who meet and fall in love, a central conflict focusing on their romance, and a Happily Ever After (HEA).  I was shocked to realize my favorite preschool book--Cinderella--was a romance!  I had a number of books featuring fairy tale heroines, but Cinderella had a compelling feature: pop-up scenes.  I did an image search and this picture looks a lot like my old book--I can still remember running my fingers down the cardboard stairs of the castle as I pictured making my own entrance to the ball:

Cinderella may not have been a very active or strong character, but she elicited sympathy based on her circumstances.  She was rewarded for her inherent goodness and captured the heart of the handsome prince.  Sadly, my copy of the book is long gone, but it probably actually ended with the words "And they lived Happily Ever After."  

So there it is, my first romance book.  What, if any, difference did my affinity for this book make in my life?  Certainly, it helped foster a literary preference for romance--a preference that eventually resulted in publishing contracts for the 2 paranormal romance novels I crafted from my own imagination.  Cinderella's story definitely convinced me to hold out for my own personal Prince Charming, despite the many obstacles in our path.  And on our wedding day 17 years ago, well...I think my choice of dresses speaks for itself!        


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Friday Fitness Tips #2 - Kathryn Knight

The second installment of my sporadic posts about fitness is here!  Exercise is always on my mind, since almost every morning I am at the gym teaching classes or training gym members.  My absolute favorite class to teach is Step Aerobics--it's been around a long time (I personally have been teaching it for 22 years!) but at my gym, my step classes are still packed.  I work very hard to come up with new and challenging routines for my girls, and we have a great time.  But not all of my clients can do something as high-impact as my step class, so I like to keep some lower impact cardio activities in mind for the interval training clinics I teach.

There are the obvious choices for low impact cardio: walking, swimming, biking, etc.  But those activities are not the kind of things I can have people do in a class-type training session.  So here are a few less-obvious drills to get your heart rate up without putting a lot of stress on your joints.

1.  Jumping jacks on a stability ball--this is a great way to get some cardio without impact.  All you need is a large inflated ball (everyone should have one at home, they are only about $15 and they are great for many things).  A good way to test for the correct size is to sit on the ball and check that your knees are about even with your hips.  Then start bouncing!  You really need to get your arms involved: overhead like regular jumping jacks, or crossing in front, or even little circles from your shoulders in both directions.

2.  Modified squat-thrusts--also called "burpees".  A modified squat-thrust takes out the impact.  You bend down, put your hands on the floor, walk one leg out at a time to a plank, walk them back in toward your hands, and stand up.  To make it even more challenging, use hand weights that have straight sides (so they won't roll when on the floor).  They become "handles" when you are bringing your legs in and out, and then when you stand up, add an overhead press.

3.  Squat-kicks--Squats are one of those exercises that a lot of people do incorrectly.  You really have to sit back, dropping your butt to knee level, while keeping your chest up (no leaning forward).  The weight should always be back in the heels.  I tell my class to think about the move starting at the hips, then the knees follow.  It's not a knee bend/lean forward.  Once good form is mastered, you can increase the cardio by adding a front kick alternating legs each time you come up.  A variation for abductors would be a side-leg lift on the way up.

4.  Walking push-ups--In a plank position (on hands and balls of feet), walk forward a few paces until you're in good form, then perform a push-up (you can drop to knees to modify this).  Then walk back to your starting spot and do a push-up.  Keep going, forward and back!

5.  Sit-ups with leg extensions and twists--this requires strong abdominal muscles and is not a great choice for people with a bad back.  Lying down with feet on floor and knees bent, come to a full sit-up, extending the right leg out straight and holding arms out to the right at shoulder height.  Put your leg back down for stability, arms pulled in near chest, and twist side-to-side on the way back down.  You alternate legs each time.

Obviously anyone just starting an exercise program should consult a doctor (that's what you always hear anyway, so I'll say it too).  And a few of these require work to build up to the final goal.  But almost anyone can bounce on a ball, and just the instability of the ball helps strengthen the core and improve balance.  In fact, you can gain benefits simply from sitting on the ball instead of a chair when at the computer. 

I hope these ideas will help people avoid boredom in a workout routine.  I know fitness isn't as popular a topic as hot look-alike men (my Charlie Hunnam - Travis Fimmel post had an amazing number of hits - thank you!) but along with romance, exercise is my other passion.  Let me know if you have any additions to the list, I'm always looking for new things to try :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Redeemable Characters and TWD - Kathryn Knight

As a fan of all things paranormal, The Walking Dead has been a must-watch show for me since its inception.  Most television shows fail to keep my attention for the long term, but the combination of the interesting characters and the post-apocalyptic world in TWD has kept me watching.  In the final episodes of Season 3, we lost several main characters.  The recent character deaths of Merle and Andrea got me thinking about character redemption.  Neither of these characters were well-liked by viewers.  They both made horrible decisions and embodied many flaws.  Not surprisingly, I didn't feel much concern for either of their welfare for most of the show.  I was surprised when I actually cared about one of their deaths.  And it was the death of the "worse" character.

Actor Michael Rooker
plays Merle Dixon
Merle Dixon had a horrible childhood: his mother died in a fire, and his father subjected both Merle and his younger brother Daryl to neglect and severe abuse.  Merle tried to help raise Daryl when he wasn't spending time in juvie, but when the show opens, it's obvious the events of Merle's life have turned him into a hot-headed, cruel, and aggressive man.  He puts the group at risk, uses racial slurs, and gets into a physical altercation with another group member. 

When we see him again in Season 3, he's been taken in by the enemy band of survivors.  He does more horrible things, although now he's acting at the behest of the evil "Governor".  In his defense, however, it appears evident to me as a viewer that this group has "accepted" Merle and allowed him somewhat of a leadership role.  He's trying to be an important part of the Woodbury community, and he has no love for the original group that left him stranded and defenseless on a rooftop.

But when Daryl sticks by Merle when he's barred from re-joining the original group, Merle starts to go through a slight change.  Eventually he feels enough love for his little brother Daryl to try one more time to be accepted by the people Daryl has come to care about.  Merle begins making amends to the people he has hurt and strives to be useful.

In his final episode, Merle has been selected to deliver Michonne back to the Governor, to be presumably tortured and killed by him.  But at the last minute, he has a change of heart.  He sets his prisoner free and devises a plan to instead ambush the Governor's group.  Merle sacrifices himself, dying at the hands of the Governor, but saved Michonne and delivered a devastating blow to the Woodbury forces.  I was shocked at how sad I was at Merle's death--I felt he had been redeemed.

Andrea, on the other hand, had a happy family life by all accounts before the Zombie Apocalypse.  She does have to watch her sister die, and consequently must kill her when she reanimates as a zombie.  During Season 2, Andrea tries to become more of a soldier and zombie-killer.  But when she is separated from the group, it is the stranger Michonne who finds her, saves her, and protects her for 8 months.  Andrea repays this kindness by turning her back on Michonne the minute she's offered a warm bed in Woodbury and an opportunity to romance the Governor.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, Andrea continues to believe the Governor to be a sane and good person.

Laurie Holden as Andrea
From there on in, Andrea makes bad decision after bad decision.  She knows from personal experience that her original band of survivors was comprised of kind, fair, and honest people as a whole...but she instead believes the lies the Governor tells her.  Even once her eyes are finally opened, she never uses her newly-acquired survival skills to take action against the Governor, which allows him to continue to kill innocent people.  This scenario plays out several times, even after Andrea starts to understand how psychotic the Governor is.  And in the end, the Governor turns on Andrea and sets her death in motion. 

Andrea died bravely by her own hand, as she knew she would come back as a zombie if she didn't.  She spared her friends that at least.  But I wasn't remotely sad to see her die--I had stopped caring about her character long ago.

Of course there are a number of things at play other than the character arc in the script: the acting of both the character in question and the supporting cast, the viewer's preferences, etc.  But I'm impressed with how the writers were able to garner concern and admiration for Merle in his last episode, from me and the other fans of the show I chat with.  As I writer myself, I'm trying to analyze the moments I began to change my mind about him, as well as the moments I began to stop caring at all about Andrea.

Because romance novels have happy endings by definition, I don't kill off many characters.  But they are often in danger, and I want readers to care about their safety and pull for their survival.  Realistic characters need flaws, but readers and viewers want to see characters learn from mistakes and grow throughout the story.  Merle did this, and redeemed himself in the end, in my opinion.  Andrea repeated the same mistakes over and over again, learned nothing, and I was ultimately glad to see her go. 

A character's redemption is a powerful thing.  Viewers are passionate about Merle's brother's character Daryl, so much so I've heard people threaten to stop watching if anything should happen to him.  I admit I love him too, and he's featured in my related "Bad Boys with Good Hearts" blog post (my most popular post to date!).  Characters that inspire this kind of loyalty are exactly the type writers should strive to create.  I've had several readers ask me to continue Max and Claire's story in a sequel to Gull Harbor.  I'm so thrilled people enjoyed their romance and adventure, and perhaps someday I'll come back to them.  Right now, I have 2 WIPs that need my attention. 

On the other hand, I will have a free hour on Sunday nights for the next 6 months until The Walking Dead returns...