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Interview with Jon Katz: ‘Don’t quit. Writing is as much about determination as anything…’

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Jon Katz lives on Bedlam Farm in upstate New York with his wife, the artist Maria Wulf, his four dogs, Izzy, Lenore, Rose and Frieda, his donkeys Lulu and Fanny and his two barn cats, Mother and Minnie. He is an author, a children’s book writer, and a photographer. Rose In A Storm is his first novel in a decade. His first children’s book, Meet The Dogs Of Bedlam Farm will be published next spring.

You can visit Jon Katz’s site at www.bedlamfarm.com.

 Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Jon. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Rose In A Storm is my nineteenth book.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

Sign Off, a novel, took me five years to write and was published by Bantam Books.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

I couldn’t count. Probably a dozen major rejections and as many smaller ones.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

I didn’t see them as “blows” but as opportunities to come back and succeed. Criticism is not an attack, it’s an honest response to work, and it is much more helpful than praise, though not as much fun. I was determined to be a writer, and determination is, to me, as important as talent. If you want to be a writer, you will have to handle a lot of rejection. If you can’t, then you almost certainly can’t be a writer. You won’t survive it. Rejection is healthy. It makes us listen and grow. And learn.
I studied all of the rejections, absorbed them, licked my wounds and went back to work.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

Bantam Books was my publisher, and my agent chose them.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It made me want to write the next book, which I started working on the day I hear about the first one being accepted. That was my celebration, and a good one. I’m not into the drama of writing. It’s work, and you have to do it every day.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Some interviews and some book signings.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No. It happens the way it happens.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

Yes, I have been, and I grow every day. I have good editors who give me good and tough feedback and I always appreciate it. If I ever think I have made it as a writer and can’t better, I’ll be finished. I can’t list all the ways I’ve grown – there are too many. And I have a long ways to go.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I don’t think that’s answerable, really. Writing is, in most ways, a series of mistakes overcome, and there are continuous mistakes in every book, which good editors spot, challenge and help you fix.

Sane people get regular work that pays each week. Crazy people write, or become artists.

The mistakes are the book in so many ways. The idea that you can write a book without making any mistakes is unfathomable to me. The only way to write is to write. And keep writing. I wouldn’t want to speed it up. It happens the way it happens, alas.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

Getting published. I make my living as a writer, and that is tough thing to do. I write every day, as often as I can. I love doing it, and am nothing but grateful. I think loving what you do is perhaps one of the greatest achievements in life.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

Photography. Another way to tell stories, and I am now a professional photographer so I get to do both.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

No, I love writing and will always define myself that way.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

No idea. I hope I am writing. I expect to be writing e-books.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

I wish you luck and happiness. I hope you keep on writing in the face of many economic challenges, great competition, and a constantly changing market. Don’t quit. Writing is as much about determination as anything, and if you look out at the writers who are getting published, you will find that most of them are quite willful. Live your life, and do not let anyone tell you it’s impossible or too difficult.


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