I was so excited when Katie Cotugno agreed to be this week’s Creative Lady. She’s the author of the awesome YA novel How to Love, and can I just say that I’m SO excited about her next book? You’ll read about it in a second, but seriously, it combines all my favorite things. Katie was nice enough to take the time to talk to me about her process, her inspirations, and the challenge/nightmare that is public speaking. You can find Katie on her website, her Tumblr, and on Twitter @katiecotugno.
What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.
I write contemporary YA fiction–specifically HOW TO LOVE, which is out now from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. It’s a character-driven romance that’s told in alternating before and after chapters about a couple falling in love twice, three years apart.
My next book, 99 DAYS, is about a girl who comes back to her hometown in the Adirondack mountains the summer before college to face the mess–and the two boys–she left behind. It’s kind of an homage to some of my favorite 80s movies–Dirty Dancing, Mystic Pizza. I’m having such a ball with it–I can’t wait to share.
What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?
I bake a lot of no-knead bread, honestly. I hate the kind you have to knead.
What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.
Rambly walks around my neighborhood. George Strait pandora. Cop shows about partners who are Partners.
In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.
Messy, realistic romance.
How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?
I’m the slowest writer ever, oh my God. I write a paragraph, I go look at Kilim rugs for sale on Craigslist, I write a little more, I get up and make a pb sandwich. I delete what I wrote the first time, I creep on some random stranger’s Pinterest board for their four-year-old’s birthday party decor and sometimes judge them a little. It is excruciating, I’m so slow. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?
HOW TO LOVE being an actual book in the world that people can buy.
What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?
A thing I think I wasn’t counting on when I sold HOW TO LOVE was that then I’d have to go out and actually talk about it. I’m terrible at public speaking, I hate it, and I also think that as ladies we’re kind of conditioned to not want to talk about the things we’ve accomplished. Having to get comfortable saying, hey, I made this and I want to tell you about it has absolutely been the toughest thing about this journey for me.
(Also hey, if you want to hear me talk about stuff I made, I’m out and about on the Story Crush winter tour March 1-5! Details are here.)
Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?
Shonda Rhimes. Barbara Kingsolver. Kathleen Kelly. Tassie Cameron. Nora Roberts. Every last member of the Fourteenery. Olivia Pope. My mom.
What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I tend to work in stuttery little pockets all day long, but I’m definitely not an up-all-nighter. I’m totally useless after like eleven or so. I melt down like a small child.
Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?
I watch a lot of TV, which I know is supposed to sap your creativity, but that’s not been my experience at all. I drink kind of a fair amount of beer. I recognize that I just described Homer Simpson.
What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?
I’ve heard such great things about Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and haven’t had time to get to it, so let’s all just read it together, okay? Okay good talk.
What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?
Don’t be afraid to ask for things. Don’t get discouraged by rejections. So much of this job is just pressing on a little at a time.
What’s your Creative Lady motto?
Shut up and write, Cotugno.