Kathryn Meyer Griffith, author of 14 Novels and 7 Short Stories Chats About Why She Became a Writer
Meet Kathryn Meyer Griffith
I’ve been married to Russell for thirty-three years; have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and I live in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. We have two quirky cats, Sasha and Cleo, and the four of us live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though I’ve been an artist, and a folk singer in my youth with my brother Jim, writing has always been my greatest passion, my butterfly stage, and I’ll probably write stories until the day I die.
Emeraldfire's Bookmark: So, Kathryn, what started you off as an author?
I loved to read. The library books were free and plentiful. I’d sit on my bed, especially during the long summer days and evenings (after chores were done, of course) and read one amazing book after another. If I was lucky, with a chocolate snack or cherry Kool-Aid nearby. Those books, those words on the page, took me away to other places, times and worlds. It was magical. I got lost in people-on-a-spaceship-going–to-some-faraway-planet science fiction books. There was this one horse book when I was a kid that knocked me out, made me cry, and laugh with joy at the end it was so real to me and so full of pathos because I loved horses so much. It was called Smoky. Loved that book. Sigh. I never forgot how those wonderful books made me feel…so free. So adventurous. So rich. Like I could be or do anything someday. And when I grew up I wanted to create that magic myself for others. So…that’s why I began writing. And when I get depressed over my writing at times, I remember that.
I remember vividly one day at school (I must have been about 10 or so) when a big box of Weekly Reader books were delivered and we each got to pick one to read. The smell of those new books in that box as I looked at them, the excitement and awe of the other kids over the books and the reverence for those authors, and I thought: Wouldn’t it be something if someday a box of these books were mine…written by me? Oh, to be an author. People respect an author. It was the beginning.
Then there’s also a second part to the question: Why do I keep writing after 39 years? Because I can’t not write. I can’t stop. The stories take over my heart and mind and demand to come out. It’s sort of like birthing a baby (I have one real son and two grandchildren myself). You carry them for a while, a short or long time span, and then once they’re born (published) they go on to be their own individual entities that sometimes continue to amuse and amaze you. Or disappoint you. Whatever.
Emeraldfire's Bookmark: What is it like to be a published author?
Kathryn Meyer Griffith: It’s not like anything you would imagine. There’s excitement, the passion and feeling of being right with the world, as the story is being created and the words are tumbling out into the computer; there’s the exhaustion of writing hours and hours, the doubt that your words will mean anything to anyone and why am I doing this? that creeps in but that you have to chase away; there’s the pride in seeing the finished book, either e-book or print, and finally there’s the feeling of unexplainable happiness when someone says they read it and liked/loved it. The best response I love to hear is: I couldn’t put it down. The characters were all so real. I got carried away with it. Didn’t want to leave the world you’d created. Wow. That makes the sometimes low pay and grueling hard work all worthwhile. Because writing is hard work. The creating and promoting anyway. Hour and hour, day after day, year after year. It’s your life you’re using up. Precious time. You have to truly love it to give all that up…to strangers.
Emeraldfire's Bookmark: Is it still fun?
Kathryn Meyer Griffith: Fun? A strange way to put it. Sometimes, rarely, it’s fun. Mostly it’s hard work and lots of solitary time alone. Writers live so much of their life in their make believe worlds they get lonely. Lonely for the real world, real breathing people and adventures. I know I do. But the writing won’t leave me alone until I write down the words, tell the tale. The easiest way I can put it is when I’m writing or dealing with my writing I feel like I’m doing what I was born to do. Yes, I believe a writer is born to write – like an artist is born to paint and draw; a musician to write or play music. As an artist myself I know I’m not really happy, or fulfilled feeling, unless I’m writing, drawing or singing. Creating. Though the singing and the artwork have gone more by the wayside as I’ve become older…writing mostly takes all my free time now. Yes, writing does make me happy. Grin. Except the rare times someone hates one of my books…and that happens, too. I’ve finally learned that reading and loving a book or short story is subjective. Some people love my stories, get them, and others…don’t. And that’s okay. We’re all different people. That’s a lesson a writer must learn. One person’s criticism is not a blanket criticism of all your work or even that one work, it’s just one person’s opinion.
Emeraldfire's Bookmark: Is it lucrative?
Kathryn Meyer Griffith: That’s a loaded question and (though I don’t know why) most writers will not talk about how much they make or a book makes. Maybe (this is just my theory) it’s because most of us make so little it embarrasses us. There’s no way we could ever live on it. It’s icing on the cake. Trim on the woodwork. The mid-level writers anyway. The top (very rare) writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz and many other writers (especially some romance authors) make a very good living, but most writers don’t. Ever. Oh, in my heyday in the 1980’s and early 1990’s I made fairly good money with Leisure and Zebra paperbacks (and though at the time I didn’t think it was good, comparing it with now, well, it really was good) , because back then the distribution and print runs were so large. I got a smaller percent in royalties but there were more books out there selling for me. So far the e-books and PODs (Print on Demand) aren’t selling that well, but I get a much larger percentage. I’m hoping in the next year by having all my old 10 novels out again (rereleased between June 2010 and July 2012) and 2 new books I’ll see a gradual increase in income. It’s an experiment, sort of. Selling a small quantity each 3 months of 12 or more books might add up to a nice sum. Or so I’m hoping. I’m marketing (a whole new thing in the Internet world these days) a lot, seeking and getting great 4 and 5 star reviews, joining reader and writer loops, guest blogging, etc. It’s never ending. Thing is I don’t know how much it all helps. Eventually, I figure, I’ll find out. I’m an optimist always.
Emeraldfire's Bookmark: Do you still enjoy writing?
Kathryn Meyer Griffith: Sure. I love it. It’s like breathing, eating, dreaming. It’s become part of me. Second nature. It took me 39 years to say: I’m a writer. And really feel like I wasn’t being a pretentious so-and-so or outright lying. Took me all that time and 14 published books, 7 short stories (and more to come hopefully) for me to feel deserving of the title. Even without the money telling stories is what makes me feel…complete. Happy. Hey, look at me I’m a storyteller! Ha, ha, now I just have to figure out a way to make it more profitable, as well. Working on that. As one successful writer recently said to me: Just get the books out there…nothing else matters. (Presumably good books, I’d add.) The rest will come. Gosh, I sure hope he’s right. Cause I’m been working soooo hard.