This week, I had the pleasure of chatting with Kate Forster, best-selling novelist (women’s fiction and young adult romance) and founder of The Ladybirds—Women Who Write Helping Other Women Who Write, a support network for female writers on Facebook, now over 1,500 members strong. Kate charmed me with her honesty, grounded approach and a genuine desire to see others succeed. Read on to hear her story and some valuable writing tips.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A lady detective/travel agent/model agent.
Tell us a bit about your life before writing.
I was a jazz singer and actor, then I ended up in advertising.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I was ill. While I was in recovery, my doctor suggested I do something creative. I had no artistic skills such as drawing or photography, so I wrote a story. It kept flowing. I sent it to some friends, who asked for more chapters. My doctor suggested I do something with it, so I sent the first chapters to an agent.
The agent asked to see the rest of the book, so I had to finish it in a hurry. After she read it, she asked for rewrites. The first three chapters of my first manuscript were a classic case of what I now call “the hallway of remembrance”—character backstory with no action. My agent pointed out that the story actually started in chapter four. It was a huge learning curve. But my book was published.
What have you published since then?
Eleven books and eight short stories.
Your latest book is currently on the bestseller list. What can you tell us about The Sisters?
The de Santoval sisters are heiresses to a glamorous fashion house, and the darlings of LA society.
Violetta is the hottest reality TV star of the moment, with a fierce press interest to rival Hollywood’s A-list.
Carlotta is an exclusive horse trainer, as wild as the stallions she breaks in.
Fine-arts consultant Grace is hiding a dark secret she must keep hidden at all costs.
Their mother, wealthy fashion maven Birdie De Santoval, lies unconscious following a mysterious accident. Blame soon falls on their powerful but ruthless tycoon father, the missing Leon De Santoval.
Beneath the ritzy façade of the de Santoval family lies a web of deceit and betrayal that hides a secret that threatens to destroy them all…
You also write young adult books. How did that come about?
A publisher was looking for a romance writer for a new series for teenage girls called Smitten. My agent suggested me, so I met the publisher and we workshopped some ideas. Off I went and wrote five books. These were then translated into Dutch and have been really popular with young girls. I love getting emails from readers who use these novels for book reports. Many of them say they had never finished a book until they read mine, which makes me so happy.
What are the highlights and lowlights of your writing career?
It’s hard to make decent money from writing, so I have a day job. I love creating characters and their world and doing research. I dislike the time it takes to get it from my head to the page. In the end, writing is arranging words to make them easy to understand and convey a picture of what is happening in a way that makes you want to read more.
What motivated you to start Ladybirds?
I had no regular contact with other writers as my only writer friend worked full time. So, I created a group to support other women who were writing or wanted to write—poetry, fiction, non-fiction, scripts, articles, anything really. This selfish endeavor to make new writing friends grew into a remarkable group of women. Some great contacts and career support have been made through Ladybirds. It’s all about writing and I have a rule that no questions are considered stupid. Ask anything about the writing process and one of the clever members will have an answer.
What advice do you have for new authors?
If you can’t take direction and make edits, you’re going to have trouble improving. An editor doesn’t suggest notes to hurt you, they see the story as a whole. Work with them and learn from them instead of pushing back. Sometimes I don’t agree with their changes, but 98% of the time, they’re right.
You have to sell your own books. It’s hard because so many writers are introverts, or conscientious objectors to social media. That’s fine, but your job is to find your readers. They might be at literary festivals, or on Instagram, or on Facebook, or on Twitter. They’re out there somewhere, just sleuth them out!
Lower your expectations. Don’t assume you’ll become the next JK Rowling or Sally Rooney. Don’t assume you’ll make enormous amounts of money. Don’t assume your work will be published without edits. Don’t assume you’ll be reviewed kindly. And never, ever, ever, read your reviews, and this times 1000 for responding to reviews. I’ve seen writers become unhinged and their careers derailed because they clapped back at a reviewer.
Most of all, write because you have a story to tell. Don’t try to write a bestseller, just write the story you want to read.
I have another three books to write for worldwide release over the next two years and I am working on a TV show. I have no expectations about the outcome of these projects, other than it’s fun to use words to make people feel something. It is a real lark. Creativity comes in all forms. There’s more than one way to tell a story. The trick is to find your mode of telling it.