Katrin Schumann is an award-winning writer, editor and artist who has struggled to be published for 15 years and FINALLY DID IT: Mothers Need Time-Outs Too (McGraw-Hill 2008). She is currently completing a novel, The House of a Thousand Eyes, about the search for love and redemption in post-war East Germany. After five years working for NPR in various capacities, Katrin started her freelance fiction and non-fiction work. In addition to teaching, she ghostwrites and edits non fiction book proposals (one of which sold for almost $¾ m). She studied Modern Languages at Oxford (BA) and journalism at Stanford (MA). Born in Germany, Katrin grew up in NYC and London, and now lives with her family in Dedham MA.
1. Tell us about your latest book.
The fact that I broke into publishing with a self help book is nothing short of a miracle as I had never read a self help book in my life. (Something to do with being German, or something to do with never realizing how much help I needed getting my life in order?) It’s been an eye-opening experience on many fronts: working alongside two co-authors; working on deadline; dealing with a large publishing house; getting insight into the self help industry…
For the past three years I have been saying I’m almost finished with my novel The House of a Thousand Eyes. I’ve day dreamed many times that when I’m being interviewed on NPR I’ll be able to claim, “the first part of the book wrote itself—it was almost no work at all!” So when, in my last edit, I cut almost the entire first part out… I had to wonder what that meant…
If it weren’t for my agent, I would be a nervous wreck. She loved my novel the minute she read the first page (yes, which is now edited out…) and I have to believe she knows what she’s talking about. Right?
It’s a novel about the Germans after the war. I think it’s a fascinating topic, and still totally taboo.
2. How did you get started as a writer?
On my mother’s typewriter in the dining room, writing about horses. Of course.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
I fantasize about having a typical day that starts around 8 and finishes around 5, but I do not ever have a typical day, although I work about 40 hours a week.
I have three kids. My work day is constantly interrupted. I am an incredibly focused writer, however, and find that the busier I am the more I can achieve. Martinis in the evening help, too.
I try to get to a writer’s coop in downtown Boston once a week. It’s pathetic how hard that is to achieve. I love being downtown as I get about ten times as much work done then as when I’m standing in front of my fridge eating day-old noodles.
4. Describe your desk/workspace.
I have lilies from my mother-in-law on my desk. My book, in Spanish, (HASTA LAS MAMAS MERECEN DESCANSO!) is propped up on my windowsill, as are two mocked-up copies of my novel (for inspiration). I have three in-boxes with my current projects and bills. Three spiral bound notebooks (one for each project). A Real Simple magazine (pitching them for the mom book). A Spanish music CD. All 400 pages of my novel, printed out and hand-edited. An article my mother sent me about why we shouldn’t be drugging our kids. Nail polish. Tissues. Gum. Water. And of course, a computer.
5. Favorite books (especially for writers)
I was inspired in the early days by a book called HOW TO WRITE A BLOCKBUSTER, by Albert Zuckerman. No nonsense and helpful. My favorite book of all time for writers is Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.” Buy it. Read it! It’s a must have. In fact, I use her mantra about writing “shitty first drafts” every single time I sit down to write something. All I have to do is write a shitty first draft. It takes the pressure off, and then like magic, what I write is usually not so totally shitty after all.
6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you
Oh, crazy… I wish! I have a big tattoo but how crazy is that, these days?
Um, interesting? I grew up in London and used to hang out on the Kings Road munching No-Doze. I sometimes yell affirmations out loud when I’m driving. I’m a night owl who has to be up and running by 6am every day TO DRIVE CARPOOL!
7. Favorite quote
It’s on the back of my business card: I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues, Duke Ellington.
8. Best and worst part of being a writer
Best: Getting to write
Worst: Getting paid for writing
9. Advice for other writers
If you stick with it long enough, you will make it.
10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.
I was hobnobbing with the literati at a book party with my agent and some of her clients. The owner of the agency was chatting with me and asked me who my editor was at McGraw-Hill (for the book I had just published). The editor is the person who BUYS YOUR PROPOSAL and EDITS YOUR BOOK and SENDS YOU A MILLION E-MAILS.
I blanked on her name. Then this uber-agent asked me who my first agent was. I blanked on his name.
Smooth, very smooth.
Where can people buy your book?
Go to www.momstimeouts.com