Katrina Kwan is a Vancouver-based actress and author. After graduating from Acadia University with a BA in Political Science in 2017, she decided to pursue her love of writing and stumbled her way into the world of freelance ghostwriting. Over the course of six years, Kwan has produced roughly 150+ romance novels for her clients, published under various pseudonyms. She is very excited to be publishing stories under her own name. When she isn’t busy writing, you can sometimes spot her on TV! Her debut adult fantasy, The Last Dragon of the East, is expected Fall 2024 from Saga Press.
I had the opportunity to interview Katrina, which you can read below.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi there! My name’s Katrina Kwan and I’m a Vancouver-based author and actress. When I’m not busy writing, you can sometimes spot me in small parts on TV! (IMDb)
What can you tell us about your debut book, Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love? What inspired this story?
Knives, Seasoning, and A Dash of Love is my debut adult contemporary romcom set to release December 19th, 2023 from the indie publisher Lake Country Press. I’ve always been a fan of culinary-centric movies and TV shows (Ratatouille reigns supreme, and HBO’s The Bear is a close second). I wanted to try my hand at writing a romance with an haute cuisine backdrop.
Like the main characters of your book, Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love, have you ever had any personal experience with cooking, or was this something you had researched for the story? Are there any personal stories about food you would want to share?
I used to work as a server in college and a hostess in high school, so I worked in and around a kitchen setting for several years. I put a ton of effort into researching how a kitchen of this caliber functions by watching food documentaries and interviews with famous chefs. I really love this one particular series on YouTube, Paolo from Japan, who sometimes goes behind the scenes to film what goes on behind-the-scenes at local restaurants in and around Tokyo.
Can you give us any trivia (that hasn’t already been given) about the characters from Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love?
Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you might pick up on a couple of references here and there. It’s kind of an open secret—an if you know, you know sort of deal.
Since this is a book about food, I’m wondering what are some of your favorite things to eat?
I like to think that I’m very adventurous when it comes to food. A dream of mine is to one day travel the world and try dishes from every corner of the globe. Nothing’s off limits, and I’m not very squeamish when it comes to trying things that are a little out there. I once tried BBQ-flavored crickets once on a dare. (Very nice and crunchy!)
What drew you to writing, particularly romance? Were there any favorite writers or stories that sparked your own love and interest in storytelling?
I fell into writing romance as a result of my day job. I worked as a freelance ghostwriter for roughly six years, and all my clients happened to want romance novels written (there’s a very high demand for it, and equally high project turnover). I guess you could say I got a lot of practice in. When it came time to finally write my own stories, choosing romance was a comfortable genre for me.
I’m personally a huge fan of angsty romances. Stories that will take my heart and tear it in two. Tragic love stories that leave me crying at three in the morning are a special treat. I don’t like to think too hard about what that says about my psyche. Examples that come to mind are We’d Know by Then by Kirsten Bohling and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. They’re both authors who’ve broken my heart and I’m thankful for it.
In addition to Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love, you have another book coming out, The Last Dragon of the East. Could you tell about the inspiration for this book? And what draws you to writing fantasy?
Yes! The Last Dragon of the East is an adult romantic fantasy that’s set to be published by Fall 2024 by Saga Press, an imprint of Gallery Books and Simon & Schuster! The story builds upon the Chinese myth of red threads of fate, invisible strings of magic that is said to connect soulmates across time and space. I’ve seen the myth depicted in movies, television (namely Asian dramas), and many of my favorite manga, but I couldn’t ever recall reading about it in a novel, and therefore was inspired to incorporate it into my next story.
I was drawn to writing fantasy because it’s so much fun. The possibilities are only limited by my own imagination, and I’ve been told I’ve got plenty of it to spare. Writing fantasy allows me to indulge in some good ol’ escapism. There’s no need to worry about the mundanity of our day-to-day when I’m too busy slaying monsters and saving Prince Charming.
How would you describe your general writing process?
I have a very strict writing schedule that I hold myself to. When I was still working as a ghostwriter, I needed to churn out roughly 20,000 to 30,000 words per week in order to keep to my client’s publishing schedule, which was typically one book per month (like I said, high turnover). I treated it like any other nine to five, writing from morning until afternoon.
The trick was to get used to writing my stream of consciousness without caving into the urge of going back to edit. That always comes later. On a good day, I could typically write 1,500 in thirty minutes. I’d sometimes time myself to keep myself on track. I know that probably sounds really stressful to a lot of writers, but ghostwriting was what paid the bills, and I was determined to get my work done in a timely manner. If I didn’t, that meant no food on the table.
Obviously now that I write stories for myself, I’m a little bit more relaxed, but a lot of these old habits have stuck with me. For example, I’m a part of a Discord group full of writers, and we often have “writing sprints” together to stay motivated and focused. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good about drafting as clean as possible.
I always start with a chapter-by-chapter outline and go from there. Sometimes when I feel like a section is dragging (or I get a sudden shower thought), I’ll take the story in a new direction, but I always make sure to at least have a roadmap I can fall back on to hit the main beats of the story. I guess I’d categorize myself as a hybrid pantser-plotter.
I typically hold myself to the Stephen King method of drafting at least six pages per day. It doesn’t always happen, of course, but I try my best. It’s important to me not to let a story sit too long, or else I’ll forget my train of thought or drop story threads I wanted to explore. I once scrapped an entire manuscript (it was roughly 90% complete) because I took a month break, came back, and decided I didn’t like it anymore and couldn’t remember where I was trying to go with the story. It’s important for me to write at least a little bit every day, and since I love what I do, it never actually feels like work!
What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging?
I love full-circle endings. I’ve always found them incredibly poetic and satisfying to read, especially when all the pieces come together perfectly in the end.
A challenging element of writing for me is finding moments where I can slow down and let readers breathe. I write with the philosophy that if I, the writer, am ever bored with a section, then there’s a very good chance that the reader will be bored, too. My husband (the original beta reader for all my stories) says that I have a bit of an all gas, no brakes style of storytelling, and I recognize that can be very overwhelming to read.
I’m learning to take a bit more time and appreciate slower moments in storytelling. That’s why I take special care in the editing phase and look for areas where I can be expand and develop. If everything is action-packed, then the climax won’t feel very exciting, now will it? You must have moments of calm to appreciate the chaos.
As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?
I take a lot of inspiration from screenwriters. As I mentioned before, I’m a part-time actress based out of Vancouver, so I get to see a lot of behind-the-scenes of some awesome TV shows and movies that film here.
I find scriptwriting very interesting, and as an author, I can draw many lessons from the scripts I get to read. I’m rather envious of screenwriters because of how concise they are. Each page of a script is said to be roughly one minute of screen time. If your average movie is an hour and a half, you’ve got ninety pages to work with. That’s daunting for a writer like me because there’s zero page space to waste.
Every line of dialogue, every action note must count, and I try to apply that in my own writing. Everything in a story should be purposeful. No fluff. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, scrap it. As such, I’ve never been hesitant to kill my darlings. Maybe that’s where my all gas, no breaks style comes from (haha)!
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?
I don’t know, actually. I’m a pretty open book!
Aside from your work, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?
I can get pretty quiet sometimes. There are moments when I need to step away and recharge, so if you’re trying to reach me over socials and I don’t respond, I swear I’m not ignoring you or anything! I’m super appreciative of everyone who sends me messages about my stories, and I try my best to reply to everyone, I just need a bit of time every now and then.
In this day and age, I think there’s an expectation that authors not only write, but do their best to market themselves, but juggling both can be exhausting for me. Sometimes I feel like an old lady shaking my fist at the clouds because I’m really not good with social media at all, but it feels like an inevitability. My biggest fear is that if I don’t use it, I’m going to fall behind or fall into obscurity—which would suck, because I want people to read my books!
Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?
I’m currently working on the sequel to The Last Dragon of the East. I don’t have a title for it yet (I’ve been calling it Project SWSTS), but in the same way that The Last Dragon of the East is based on a Chinese myth, Book #2 is heavily inspired by the myth of Houyi and the Ten Suns. I intend for this sequel to be a stand-alone, but it exists within the same fictional universe several thousand years before the events of The Last Dragon of the East, so readers are able to pick up either book without necessarily having to read the other (though it’s definitely recommended)!
What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?
Block out the noise. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Don’t worry about trends, don’t worry about everyone else’s book deals. Focus on your story and you’re bound to finish it. Your story deserves to be shared with the world, and the only way you’re going to do that is if you sit down and write. You’ve got this!
Finally, what books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
Every single author at my indie press deserves a shout out! They’re all incredible people and amazing writers. We’ve got Kirsten Bohling, Camri Kohler, Juliet Bridges, Ann H. Fox, Erin Mainord, Kayla Morton, Kit Karlsson, Jeremy Harrison, Rae Valtera, Allie Doherty, Jayme Phelps, S. Reed, Ashley Merdalo, Hazel Marie, Kait DeMoney, True Sloan, Hannah Loraine, Haley Warrington and Brittany Weisrock! You can find a list of all published and upcoming titles here.