A fellow 2022 debut author, Kate’s first book Light in the Dark was a fun, suspenseful and sexy read. She’s also entertaining with her regular Meme Monday posts as well as reels she posts about her coffee drinking habits and her books.
When I first connected with Kate, I was just so excited to meet another debut author that I had to stop myself from flipping out in her DMs. But I’m sure if you did that, she wouldn’t mind, because Kate seems like a totally chill and fun person to be friends with.
She might have started out writing thrillers and poetry, but Kate is now firmly in the romance genre with the second book in her Moon Harbor series that just released. Have you picked up your copy of Light Me Up yet? Do it now! And then scroll down to get to know Kate McWilliams a little better!
What inspired you to write—was it another author or books you read as you grew up?
I’ve just always been a writer, even before I could really spell. As a kid, I was quiet and expressed myself through writing stories. I was the youngest child in my family (by many years) so I spent a lot of time alone. Writing became my hobby, my self-expression, my way to connect to the world and make sense of it.
That being said, the books I read throughout my life absolutely inspired me. I would read a book like Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird, or Native Son, and connect so deeply with the characters, even if they were nothing like me. It was a sign of great writing that pulls you in. So I would look at that and think, “wow, what a gift to be able to do that.”
As I got older and started reading romance, Nora Roberts became a big source of inspiration. I loved the dual perspectives, the mystery and suspense involved, the yearning of the characters. Reading her work is what led to my love of romance novels and what ultimately led me to write them.
Why did you choose romance as the genre to write in?
I started writing literary fiction and psychological thrillers, none of which have been finished. And then I moved to poetry, where I found a bit of a home, and published books of poems. But I always read romance more than anything else. It was my “fun” reading. It took me way too long to realize I could have fun writing too! I think my journey played out how it needed to, but I’m so glad to be at the point of writing what I truly want to write (and read).
Why did you choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
I’ve always been the type to root for the underdogs. Traditional publishing is marked by a lot of gatekeeping. And don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to see authors getting deals and the expansion of a more diversified industry. But you’re still at the whim of whomever’s desk your manuscript ends up on.
The community support of indie authors is unlike any other work experience I’ve had. There is a real sense (from most people) of being part of a team. We’re colleagues, in a way. Writing is such a solitary act but having a community of other writers around you going through the same things, is so helpful and inspiring. I love being a part of it. And, like so many others, I love the control it gives me. I love being in charge of my brand. I genuinely enjoy the business side of it, which is understandably not for everyone!
What’s the best and worst part about being an indie author?
The best part is readers connecting with my story. Or just anyone reading my story in the first place! It’s the culmination of so many years of wishes and dreams. The worst part is trying to navigate how to keep track of it all. The creative stuff vs the business stuff vs the marketing stuff. I’m still trying to create processes that work for me, but that’s part of the fun. It’s a learning curve.
Do you write full time or is this something you do on the side? And would you want to write full time?
Writing is not my main source of income, but I put in full time hours for it. I probably put more hours per week into my writing business than my day job, if I’m honest. It’s a lot of hustle right now. Hopefully in the future I can cut back to only writing full time. That’s the goal!
Other than writing, what is something you enjoy and are really good at?
I love cooking! I think all the cooking shows I’ve watched throughout the years have paid off because I think I’m pretty good at it.
If not romance/subgenres of romance, what genre would you like to write in?
I touched on it a bit, but I would really enjoy branching out into psychological thrillers. And mysteries! A good murder mystery is one of my favorite types of storytelling.
What are some of your all time favourite books—ones that you recommend to people or can reread multiple times?
What are your top 5 tips or pieces of advice for aspiring authors?
- Just keep writing. The more you write, the better you’ll get.
- First drafts aren’t meant to be brilliant. Don’t compare something you wrote five minutes ago to something that has been edited and fine-tuned.
- Don’t stop exploring and noticing things. The ‘noticing’ is what makes for great storytelling.
- Surround yourself with people who genuinely want you to succeed, and be that way for others too.
- Listen carefully to advice but ultimately, choose to do what is best for you and your work.
Can you tell me a little bit about your debut?
Light in the Dark is a second chance romance with elements of mystery and suspense. Alex is looking to put down roots and cultivate a home. She finds a second chance with her teenage love, Sam. The small town setting and found-family element is what really made this story sing for me. I put myself into Alex’s shoes and gave her what I would have wanted, not without a little fight for it first.
Of the books you’ve written, do you have a favourite character?
It’s so hard to choose! But I think it would be Sara, who is the first person Alex meets in Light in the Dark. She gets her own story, Light Me Up, which is out in June and I can’t wait for readers to learn more about her. She’s just so fearless and strong and wise, but there is a lot of vulnerability under the surface. She’s so layered.
What inspired your published stories? How and when did you come up with these stories and plots?
LITD started with the character Sam, although he was nothing like how he ended up. I just got this vision of this man in Maine, keeping away from everyone and needing a woman to bring the light back into his life. He was grouchy and traumatized. As the story unfolded, the character changed to be what was needed. I realized it was Alex who was pulling inspiration from me, so I went with it. And as the first draft came along, the whole town and series sort of developed before my eyes. It was all for the best! But I think I will keep that original inspiration for another book!
How much of yourself do you put into these characters?
Sometimes I will consciously put in little mannerisms or experiences that are mine. And sometimes I’m sure things sneak in that aren’t conscious! I think our human experience makes for great storytelling. What we’ve done, seen, felt. It can all be used, but doesn’t necessarily reflect us.
When you write these stories, what are you hoping your readers will feel?
The real hope is that they’ll feel something, anything, whatever it may be. I’d like to hope they feel the emotions the characters are feeling, even a little bit. One of the reasons I love romance is the heartwarming feeling you get from reading about love. I’d like to make readers feel that. To touch someone in a way that makes them sit up and take notice.
What is a story/stories that you really want to tell?
I have so many ideas on the back burner right now, but a big one I’ve been thinking about is a dark fantasy romance retelling of Robin Hood. He’s always been one of my favorite characters and I would love to see what I can do with it.
What’s next on the bookshelf for you? Anything you can tell us about a future project?
Light Me Up (Moon Harbor Book Two), Sara and Theo’s story is out June 14! And book three will be out in September. I’m also working on a new project that I’m really excited about that’s taking me to the dark side.
What are your most and least favourite tropes?
I love enemies to lovers, forbidden, brother’s best friend, forced proximity, grumpy/sunshine. Basically anything that has some good push and pull first. I don’t think I really dislike any trope, it just depends on how it’s used.
What are some tropes you want to write in the future?
I’m definitely excited to do a forced proximity and some more taboo things in the future as well (kidnapping RH, anyone?)
What are some topics (sensitive and otherwise) that you think should exist more in romance?
I would just like to see more diversity in characters—ethnicity, race, body type, (dis)ability. And something I will try to include in all my stories is mental health representation. Some of it is more pronounced than others, but it’s something so many people deal with nowadays. It’s important to me to normalize it: dealing with it, seeking help, living with it, asking for help when you can’t manage it on your own. Seeing things like this in the art we consume is one way to keep the conversation flowing.
What is your favourite thing about the romance genre?
The hope. The happily ever afters. I love that no matter what hardships you come across, what pain you endure, there is always a happy ending waiting for you.
THIS OR THAT
- Ebooks or audiobooks
- Historical romance or romantic suspense
- Single or Dual POV
- Standalones or series
- Music or silence while writing
- Plotter, pantser or plantser
- Tea or coffee
- Cold or warm weather
- Morning person or night owl
- Illustrated cover or photo cover