Florida author K.T. McGivens tucks her real identity behind a pen name, but in this interview tells us all we really need to know. Inspired long ago by Nancy Drew, she has created a female sleuth who investigates crimes post-World War II; yet Katie Porter is very much a woman for the modern age.
Welcome, KT. You are the author of the Katie Porter mystery series. Can you tell us what inspired the series and how many books you have published?
There were several factors that inspired me but the main reason was that I wanted to do something that might empower women, especially young women. I am so tired of reading stories and watching TV programs that victimize us. Nearly everything we see nowadays have women being kidnapped, raped, tortured, killed . . . really? Enough already!
As a youngster I discovered the joy of reading through the Nancy Drew books. A few years ago, strictly by accident, I ran across a couple of volumes, re-read them and realized how wonderful they are. I began collecting them and own several very old editions and saw the benefits of loosely modeling my own mystery series after them.
So far, I have published 11 books. One is an anthology of my poetry and there are currently 10 books in the Katie Porter Mystery series. I am currently working on book 11 in the series.
Katie Porter continues a long and much-loved tradition of young, intelligent women detectives like Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Why do characters like Katie continue to attract us?
I think it’s because we can identify with them so easily. They appear “real” because they don’t possess any magical or supernatural powers that help them. These are women we have either met in our lives, have as friends, or would like to aspire to be. They are smart, courageous, humble, and tenacious. And they use these traits to help other people. That’s very empowering!
The first book in the Nancy Drew Mysteries series was published in 1930 and the last in 2003. That’s a 73-year run! And new readers continue to discover them as the collections are passed down through the generations. So, there is obviously something there that resonates.
Unlike the younger Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, who were meant for the pre-teen reader, I wanted a broader base of readership, so I made Katie Porter older and the mysteries more complex. This allows her to enjoy a wider array of experiences like a career, for instance, and a serious romantic relationship.
In 1947, at age 21, Katie Porter would have had more adult responsibility than her contemporaries today, but she is still young enough to be relatable to most readers. Surprisingly, although the books are appropriate for readers as young as 13, I have more people in their 40s and 50s, male and female, reading the series than in any other age group.
You have several reoccurring supporting characters in the books. Can you tell us a little about them?
I did make a conscious decision to include a reoccurring foundational “cast of characters” in the series that could provide me with different storylines for the mysteries.
However, it was also important to me to use them to dispel some of the innate prejudices and stereotypes we tend to place on people. For instance, I purposely wanted Katie to have two very close friends, one female and one male, so I created the character of E.M. Butler. He is lovable and loyal, and where Ruth White is often Katie’s conscience, E.M. brings out her sensitive playful side.
The very masculine Jim Fielding grows roses, is a gourmet cook, and wears his heart on his sleeve. The aloof, brash, tweed-wearing sportswriter, Midge Pennington, could be a lesbian, which Katie assumes with little thought or concern. But later in the series, we find that Midge is a widow who had been married to a man that she very much loved and is straight.
Which brings me back to E.M. Butler. He writes the social column for the newspaper and is an expert on fashion. The reader will not know for sure whether E.M. is gay, and the character will never say so because in 1947 such an admission could have gotten him killed. He is also the only man in the series that is a decorated war hero having received the Bronze Star for Valor.
The bottom line is that we are all human beings who should be treated equally with respect and kindness.
Your series takes place in 1947. Why did you pick that year?
The generation of that time period is known as “The Greatest Generation,” having lived through the great Depression and then World War II. I thought it would be great fun to place this smart, young, female mystery-solving journalist in their midst. I didn’t want to write about the war directly, but it did still have an impact on the daily lives of people for years afterward. Since it ended in 1945, two years later seemed just right. This helped give depth to my characters and influenced how they made decisions.
Those decisions are pondered by Katie at the end of each book when she writes in her journal. I want to give the reader something to think about. Often in life there are no right or wrong answers, as is the case in “The Secret at Sunset Hill.” I hope people will discuss these over the dinner table. Good versus evil, greed versus giving, kindness versus cruelty. Heavy stuff that is just beneath the surface of what I hope is a good mystery!
Do you plan to continue with the series?
Yes, absolutely! The adventures of Katie Porter and her pals have just begun!
Are there other authorial ideas springing to mind?
I am contemplating writing a novel that deals with growing older in today’s society. A serious topic that might be out of my ability to write, but we’ll see.
What is your publishing system?
I did a lot of research on this and made the decision to be an independent self-published author. And, for me, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) fits best. I say “self-published,” but I still need to meet KDP’s publishing standards, which can be somewhat overwhelming at times.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become an author?
I started out as a poet and in 1995 was traditionally published through a local publishing firm. I wrote six books of poetry which, unfortunately, are now all out of print. The firm went out of business, but not because of me! 😊
My poems also appeared in local newspapers, community newsletters, and anthologies, and I am the recipient of two statewide first place poetry awards. Anyone interested can find my anthology of this work on Amazon titled “Dimming the House Lights.”
Then, just two years ago in 2019, I decided to take the risk of writing a mystery series, something I had pondered doing for years but didn’t have the courage to try. Finally, after formulating my characters and their literary universe in my mind for several months, I sat down and wrote the first Katie Porter Mystery, “The Secret at Sunset Hill.” I had no idea whether I would finish it, nor did I have any expectations on how it would turn out, but the darn book nearly wrote itself! I have found a new love!
In real life, I am a former public school teacher (physical education) and taught Grades One through Nine before transferring to health care. Although hoping to retire soon, I still work full-time and, for the last six years, have managed a nine-acre art district in the panhandle of Florida.
I have two grown children, a son and a daughter. I am a music lover and amateur musician and play five instruments. I love to be outdoors in nature and love all kinds of animals, especially dogs. My ex-spouse is disabled and lives with me, so I am also a caregiver.
If you have any spare time, how do you spend it?
Unfortunately, I don’t have much. But whenever I can, I write, write, and write! Usually in the evening after I come home from work and over the weekends.
Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Write because you love it! Not for money, fame, or to impress others. That most likely will never happen. Write because you feel compelled to do so! Write because it’s in your heart!
I recommend not setting word goals or expectations although that’s fine if that’s what motivates you. I find just getting the story out, no matter how long it takes, is what’s important.
Edit and proofread your manuscript before making it public and get the help of others. You may be able to do the editing yourself, but you will not be able to completely proofread your own words and catch every mistake. Our brains don’t work that way. Go over it a few times and then get someone else to read it. You’ll be amazed at all the typos and misspellings you didn’t see!
Build your team. This is harder than you think and will probably disappoint you at first. You’ll find that your family and friends might not be as supportive as you thought. It may take some time but establish a small team of trusted people to proofread, suggest edits, and design a dynamite book cover for you. It took me quite some time to find just the right people for my Katie Porter Mystery series, but it was well worth it! The same three people have helped me with every one of the books and I honestly couldn’t publish without them.
Don’t let anyone rob you of your author’s voice! People will be tempted to tell you how to tell your story. Pay no attention. If they want to read a story like that, tell them to write it! I had a friend cut one of my manuscripts to pieces because he wanted me to write like Jane Austen. If I could write like Jane Austen, I would be rich and famous. Only you know the story that you want to write. You probably go over it in your head. You probably create scenes in your dreams. This is your story. Tell it in your own way!
Finally, ask successful writers like J.C. Paulson for advice! She’ll share what makes her books so wonderful and will offer encouragement and support as well!
Aww, that is so kind of you! Thank you so much, KT!
You can find KT McGivens books at (URL): amazon.com/author/ktmcgivens
And on social media at the links below:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCynN3LjXX4ofc0RoxZED_oA