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INTERVIEW: Kate O’Keeffe Plots Story with Tropes and Characters First

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview with Christina Boyd for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

CHRISTINA: I've been a fan of USA TODAY bestselling author Kate O'Keeffe since 2017. I follow her on social media too. Though her ChickLit and romcom stories are set all over the world, Kate lives in New Zealand.

When did you first think you had a book to write and how did you start? 

KATE: I've always written in one form or another. In fact, I found a story I wrote when I was a child all about a haunted mansion, which I spelt with a “t” for reasons that are lost to me now, as well as a play set sometime in Victorian England that I remember writing on an old typewriter, wearing one of my mother's ball gowns. I can't make this stuff up! Fast forward to my adult years, and I first began wanting to write a book when my son was little. I had been reading a lot of Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes, and my voice in my head told me to give it a shot. So, I read as much chicklit and romcoms as I could get my hands on, formulated my ideas, and while my son napped, I wrote. He wasn't a long napper, and it took me the best part of two years to produce my first book. But I loved writing it, and a new career was born.


CHRISTINA: I love that you started writing as a new mother.

How has the publishing industry changed since you started?

KATE: It’s a lot more saturated now than it was when I first started out, back in 2014. It’s great in that there are so many more books in my genre to be enjoyed, and so many more authors to meet and fall in love with, but it means that it’s a lot harder to get eyes on your books than it once was. I've also noticed that authors are much more tech savvy now, being right across all the socials, expertly marketing their books. I would say that's now a vital skill to succeed in the current marketplace.


CHRISTINA: So impressive that you have only been at this for ten years and have built quite a backlist already.

What comes first, plot, or characters?

KATE: Plot comes first for me, along with the story tropes, and then characters. My latest book, The Backup Princess, started with a young woman being told she is unexpectedly the heir to the throne of a small European country—a little like Mia in The Princess Diaries, but for grown-ups. She's a total fish out of water heroine in this new world, and as the plot solidified in my brain, I knew I wanted to send her on a journey in which she eventually comes to terms with her new world and, in fact, begins to thrive in it. Before I wrote a word, I knew she was going to make a total mess of things to start with, that she would come up against a handsome prince from a neighboring country about whom she would jump to (incorrect) assumptions (because of course he turns out to be the hero), and that there would be a conflict hanging over her head that needed to be resolved by the end of the book. That was my plot with my tropes, and then came working out the personalities and behaviors of both her and the prince to pull it all together and make it feel real.


CHRISTINA: I like that you have it all mapped out before you begin. Seems a logical way to write a book.

Is there one of your characters you most identify with and why? 

KATE: I wrote a book years ago called One Last First Date, the first book in my Flirting with Forever series, which is about a group of friends who agree to a dating pact to marry the next guy they date. Scary, right? These friends were sick of dating the wrong guys and wanted to find The One, like, now. Cassie is the first to take the plunge into this brave new dating world, and she is the heroine of the first book in the series, One Last First Date. I identify with her more than many of my other characters because, like Cassie, I have always been driven to succeed and sometimes am inflexible. (But don't tell my husband I admit to that). I remember being Cassie’s age—late 20s, thinking it's about time she got married, wondering where all the good guys are—and how I felt about it. Like her I had my career, a great group of friends, and the hope of finding The One. But where was he already? Couldn’t he just hurry and find me? Both of us ended up pursuing the wrong guy before finding the right guy, and I can happily report that both of us got our happily ever afters.


CHRISTINA: I loved One Last First Date--now even more knowing the backstory.

Best advice for new writers:

KATE: Sit down and write! Or stand. Or walk on a treadmill. Whatever works. My point is, do it. You have the ideas, you have the ability. Now write that book, polish the living daylights out of it, give it to someone who you trust to read, take their advice, and then polish some more. Above all, believe in what you’re doing. Having a career as a writer is such a gift, and it’s within your grasp.


CHRISTINA: Wonderful advice. Thank you.

So far, what is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?

KATE: I’m lucky to have had a few. I was part of a box set a few years ago that hit the USA Today bestseller list, which was amazing. I’ve had the numbers one, two, and three bestselling books at the same time on Amazon Australasia. I’ve won a few awards and been a finalist for a bunch, including one that I went to in LA and met some wonderful fellow romcom authors who I have remained friends with for many years. Connections with other writers is one of the best things about writing, in my opinion.

CHRISTINA: Again, you really have had such an impressive career given you only started in 2014. Amazing, really.

How did writing your first book change your writing process?

KATE: In so many ways! Firstly, I learned how to plot, how to write faster (my first book took me two years, and now a book takes me maximum three months from start to publishing), and how not to rework something to death and accept that it’s good enough. As of today, I’ve written twenty-six books and am currently writing numbers twenty-seven and twenty-eight due out later in 2024. I plot and plan, do character sketches, work out character flaws and wounds, know my meet cute and grand gestures… all of it before I write my first word.

CHRISTINA: Thank you for your time. I am so glad you were able to answer all these nosey questions while juggling real life and your book projects in the works. Best wishes on the coming release. I can't wait!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kate O'Keeffe is a USA TODAY bestselling and award-winning author who writes exactly what she loves to read: laugh-out-loud romantic comedies with swoon-worthy heroes and gorgeous feel-good happily ever afters.

She lives and loves in beautiful Hawke's Bay, New Zealand with her family.

When she's not penning her latest story, Kate can be found hiking up hills (slowly), traveling to different countries around the globe, and eating chocolate. A lot of it.

You can connect with Kate via FACEBOOK INSTAGRAM TIKTOK YOUTUBE READERS' GROUP NEWSLETTER (receive a free romcom when you sign up)

4 comentários

21 de mai.

Thanks so much for having me, Christina! It was fun 🤩


Congrats on such a prolific career thus far! As a very slow and undisciplined writer, I have great admiration for plotters and planners!

21 de mai.
Respondendo a

I know it says "Guest" but it's me, Kate (promise!). Christina M, even just doing a high level plan can help, in my opinion. Then you know where you're headed when you get stuck in that murky middle section and can drag yourself out. Also, my advice is to have a word count goal for every day you write. I don't write weekends, so I set daily goals for Monday through Friday and I track it on a spreadsheet. It keeps me honest - and driven to reach my goal of writing those magical words, "The end." Good luck!

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