For June, we welcome back Kathrin Hutson to chat about her new novel, The Spellcast Gate. Previously Kathrin had been on the blog in 2019 and 2020 to discuss her Dystopian Sci-Fi series, Blue Helix. Now, I am pleased to welcome her back to dive deep into her new work. The Spellcast Gate is part of the Accessory to Magic urban fantasy adventure which has been gaining great traction on Amazon. Let’s welcome Kathrin Hutson to the blog!
Kathrin Hutson, it is so great to have you back! You’ve been quite busy. Please, for new readers and returning, tell us what you’ve been up to over the past year.
Hi, Konn! Thanks so much for having me back on the blog! It’s so much fun to be a repeat offender year after year.
What have I been up to over the past year? Whew. That’s a lot. Last time I was on the blog with you, I was just about to release Sleepwater Static, Book 2 in my Dystopian Sci-Fi Blue Helix series. That was a wild and crazy ride for sure for a lot of reasons. Many of them were personal, of course (that novel was a huge undertaking and labor of love), and the rest came about through the insane timeliness of Sleepwater Static’s arrival. I released a Dystopian book about racial injustice and genetic mutation on May 26th, 2020—the day after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, the day the protests in his name began, and during the height of all the Coronavirus Pandemic’s “unknowns” just starting to rear their heads. It echoed the strange prescience of its predecessor as well; I’d just finished the first draft of Sleepwater Beat about a month before the 2016 US Presidential Election, which readers still found incredibly timely when I finally released Sleepwater Beat in November of 2018. And like its predecessor, Sleepwater Static also became an international bestseller in the first week after its release. It was a pretty crazy journey, as was pretty much all of 2020, right?
Then a month later, my family and I packed up our life in Vermont and moved back to my home state of Colorado in July. We’d actually been planning to move to Mérida, Yucatán (in Mexico) at that time instead, but again…2020. Colorado has been fantastic for us over the last year. Most of my family lives here, my daughter has had a chance to make some friends in the neighborhood and get involved in four-year-old fun things like dance and music classes, and we’re just taking things as they go. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t still have plans for more moves…
And then, of course, I started planning and planning and planning and finally writing the Accessory to Magic series! I’ve generally been a pantser, so this was a new step for me in terms of loosely mapping out a book from the start, let alone an entire series of five books. That planning process took about six months from beginning to end, and then I finally got this epically snarky, action-packed Urban Fantasy adventure out into the world!
The first book was released in December 2020 and now we’re up to book five. Bravo! Tell us about the Accessory to Magic series.
Thank you so much! Yes, this series has definitely had a much faster production and release schedule than any of my other series. Five books in seven and a half months is something I couldn’t have fathomed three years ago, yet here we are.
The Accessory to Magic series is a wild ride: An apprentice witch with a criminal past inherits a magical bank that can think for itself, and the clientele are almost as dangerous as what’s inside their safety deposit boxes.
There’s my elevator pitch ;P
Honestly, this series has been an absolute joy to create, and I’ve had more fun with it than anything I’ve written to date. Writing Urban Fantasy had never really been part of the plan until I started ghostwriting at the end of 2018. That was when I discovered I apparently have a knack for writing in the genre, and last year felt like the perfect opportunity to test it in action with my own work. To be honest, I was a little nervous about how my existing readers would react to seeing new Urban Fantasy from me, but the response has been overwhelming positive. The Accessory to Magic series still has my usual dark flavor to it, with all the action and suspense and epic fight scenes, but it also has so much humor (another thing I had no idea I could write effectively until I crawled out of my comfort zone with ghostwriting).
One of the most surprising and exciting parts of this series is that I’ve managed to turn a building—a sentient building—into one of my readers’ favorite characters. Which is amazing. Writing Winthrop & Dirledge Security Banking as a sentient building was part of the plan from the beginning, but once the bank took on a life of its own (and an ability to communicate telepathically with our protagonist Jessica Northwood), the possibilities opened up like I couldn’t have imagined! And I’m still so in love with what this series has become.
Now, let’s dig into The Spellcast Gate which is the latest novel in the fast-paced urban fantasy series. What can readers expect in this new installment released June 24th?
Well, as far as I know (and so far, I’ve been sticking to the plan fairly well), The Spellcast Gate is the fifth and final book in the series. It’s the grand climax of the whole thing, right? For the first two books, Jessica finds herself tossed around, threatened, duped, lied to, generally confused, and just trying to get through each day with herself and the bank still intact. In Book 3, she finally has her most powerful magic restored, making her an even greater force to be reckoned with. And of course, it comes with a price. Multiple prices, to be exact. Book 4 has her stepping into her role as Guardian of the Gateway and really coming to terms with the fact that she just happens to be the right Guardian at the right time—with the right (or wrong) fae man as an accomplice. Jessica and Leandras finally step through the Gateway into his homeworld of Xahar’áhsh, and we see some pretty creepy things waiting for them there, where nothing is as it seems.
Book 5 is where everything Jessica has discovered about herself since the day she stepped foot in the bank for an apprenticeship gone wrong comes to a head. Everything she thought she knew is questioned—her loyalties, her willpower, what she is and isn’t willing to accept from and even forgive in others and herself. Of course, that’s to be expected when the fate of both Earth and the birth-world of magic are on the line, right? It just gets a little difficult to draw that line in the sand when the darkness threatening both worlds is the same darkness that makes Jessica Northwood who and what she is…
There are also some massive developments in the relationship between Jessica and Leandras, her fae “love interest”. I use that term loosely and can laugh about it, because when these two characters meet, neither of them is particular fond of the other (and that’s putting it lightly). There has been a very slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance building between them, which readers get to see more of in Book 4 and a lot more of in Book 5. But hey. Stick two secretive and insanely powerful magicals with dubious pasts together in the same bank with no other options but to work together, and that’s bound to happen anyway, right?
My favorite part about the relationship between Jessica and Leandras is that neither one of them reveals themselves completely from the beginning. We learn about both Jessica and the Urban Fantasy world on Earth through her chaotic new responsibilities as she learns about the bank. We learn about Leandras as his secrets—and intentions—are by necessity revealed in his world once they step through the Gateway portal. And we learn even more about both of them as they each discover what they are and are not willing to put aside or put up with in order to do what has to be done.
I’ve always had a soft spot for morally gray characters. Throw two of them together and forcing them to get along was even more fun! Jessica isn’t necessarily a good guy, but she’s trying. The same can be said about Leandras.
I just really love tossing around the idea that we can’t judge someone based on first, second, or third impressions; that our past mistakes don’t in any way dictate our ability to choose differently in the present; that who we are isn’t set in stone for eternity; and that we can’t truly get to know someone else unless we’re first willing to let someone else get to know us in return.
So yes, there’s a bit of a paranormal romance in here, but it’s offset with loads of action and violence, everything on the line, darkness, and all the impossible choices. So there’s a little bit of something for everyone!
What sparked the idea for the Accessory to Magic series?
I love this question.
I’d actually first had the idea when a ghostwriting client of mine asked if I wanted to write a spin-off of the first series I’d written with them. The idea for a “magical bank” (strictly a place where magical personages kept their magical belongings) came from that original series. I pitched the idea to my client, and they passed on it. Which was just fine by me, because I knew there was a nugget of gold in there somewhere. So I kept the idea for myself!
That was around the end of 2019, and the seed of inspiration for the Accessory to Magic series just wouldn’t let me go. Once I’d finished Sleepwater Static in March of 2020, I finally got to sit down and start writing Book 1, The Witching Vault.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted Jessica Northwood to be a bit of a different character than what we usually see in Urban Fantasy books right now with female protagonists—bounty hunters, police detectives, federal agents, etc. That trope definitely has its upsides and can be so much fun (I’ve ghostwritten plenty of them myself), but I’ve always enjoyed turning tropes on their heads. So instead, I put Jessica on “the other side of the law”. We meet her six months after she was released from magical prison, and she can’t hold a job to save her life.
And, of course, I also wanted to explore the common misconception of “once a criminal, always a criminal”. Jessica’s done some pretty heinous things in her life. Some of them were justified. Others…not so much. But what matters is that she’s trying to turn her life around. She’s a little broken, definitely damaged, afraid of the consequences for those she cares about if she lets herself truly be herself again, and on the run from some seriously deadly “ghosts of the past” she may or may not have had conveniently wiped from memory. Mostly.
Maybe she would have eventually come to the same conclusions about herself if she hadn’t been tossed into the chaos of Winthrop & Dirledge Security Banking and the disastrous responsibility of becoming its new owner by default. But that would have been so boring. And then she wouldn’t have come to realize that the parts of herself she was so afraid of embracing—the true power of who and what she is, in all its destructive glory—are the parts she needs to get the job done. And as the next Guardian of the Gateway, Jessica is the only one for the job.
Okay, so that was the long answer ;P In a nutshell, I got my inspiration for the Accessory to Magic series from a rejected pitch to a client revolving around a magical bank. And I guess I got my inspiration for Jessica Northwood from my own experiences in life: drug addiction, institutionalization, rehabilitation, trying to turn my life around, and recognizing that what makes me me—as a lover of darkness, as a survivor, as a recovering addict, as an author, a business owner, a wife, a mother, a human—is also what makes me the only one qualified to get the job done the way I do. And that, just like Jessica, the mistakes I’ve made don’t hold a candle to what I’m capable of now.
There’s been a new Accessory to Magic book released almost monthly, very impressive! Have some of the novels been on backlog or are you writing them as they are released?
Thank you! By the time Book 1, The Witching Vault, was available for pre-order in September of last year, I’d already started writing Book 2, The Cursed Fae. So I guess I had a three-month head start. Really, though, there hasn’t been any real backlog at all with this series. By the time I finalized everything for one book and only had to sit back and wait for its release (I’m obviously being facetious; there is so much more that goes into the release of every single book), I was already starting on the next book in the series.
All that mapping-out of the series I did before I sat down to actually write the first book helped immensely. So did the previous two years of ghostwriting for a living before I released The Witching Vault. At the height of my “write all the things like a crazy person” schedule, I was writing 2-3 books a month for clients on top of writing my own books and definitely broke the 300k-word mark multiple months in 2020 (I wrote 43 books in 2020 alone, and 41 of them were for clients). So writing a new book in my own series every 6 weeks or so hasn’t been that much of a stretch for me. And yes, just like stretching and strengthening any muscle, it took me a long time and months of writing almost 100 hours a week to get to that point. I may be a bit of a freak that way, and I’m okay with it. (Sidenote: I’m happy to say that kind of grind has paid off now to the point where I’ve been able to cut down my monthly work by almost a third, I take every weekend off with frequent vacations, and my work hours are more or less “normal”.)
It’s definitely been an incredibly fun experience to get feedback from ARC readers and readers who’ve hopped on this series as soon as each book releases and as I’m writing the next book in line. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to hear what is and isn’t working in the previous books, what readers are most excited about discovering in the next, and what has captured them about the characters and the chaos while I’m in the midst of continuing that same series. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t tweaked a few things away from my original “plan” (again, I use that term very loosely) based on getting that feedback in the process of so quickly writing the next books. In some ways, it almost feels like another form of collaboration, which is very cool. And it helps me learn so much more about what my readers want and expect and love to be surprised by than I could have imagined.
For my next series after Accessory to Magic, though, I’d like to have at least the first three books finished before I cement any dates and put a new wild ride of a series up for pre-order. Don’t get me wrong—I love the fast pace of writing and releasing books consecutively and quickly like this. But if I’m being perfectly honest (and why not?), I’m still so very guilty of procrastination. Granted, there are a lot more moving parts in my business now than there were when I was releasing 1-3 books a year. I have a lot of other people’s schedules to consider and work with too—my cover designer, my editor, my formatter, my marketing team. I can’t say I haven’t cut it close a time or two even with my current writing speed, and I’d really love to know what it feels like to have everything ready to go ahead of time with plenty of wiggle room.
And hey, if it turns out that’s not the route for me, I can always change it up again in the future. It helps to know that I’ve always “thrived under pressure”, but of course, it would also be nice to know what it feels like not to have that pressure (which is hands-down always self-inflicted). So I guess we’ll see!
Can we expect a sixth book in the series? Or are you onto a new story?
As it stands right now, the Accessory to Magic series stops at five books with The Spellcast Gate. Now, that’s not to say that I may have some brilliant epiphany in the middle of the night and declare Jessica’s story still unfinished (all of my previous series were “supposed” to be standalones that ended up taking on a life of their own and forced me to keep going). But I have mapped out exactly where The Spellcast Gate will end, where this portion of Jessica and Leandras’ journey will come to a close, and as I’m finishing up the writing of this book before its release at the end of June, I can’t see myself making any major changes that would open this up for more books beyond five.
There is, however, an really good chance that I’ll end up writing new series in the same world. I get a kick out of giving minor supporting characters a lead role in their own new series (or in some cases a new book in the same series), and there are so many incredible characters in Accessory to Magic from which to choose. So I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if you see something new from me that revisits Jessica Northwood’s world—maybe even Leandras’ world, who knows?—with some other quirky and seemingly inconsequential character at the forefront. The possibilities are endless, and I love it!
Again, very impressive with the releases of the series. Any advice to writers aiming to have consistent publishing dates on Amazon?
Yes! Don’t feel pressured at all to do it the way I do! Ha!
All joking aside, I think the best place to start is to find your own personal “limit” for how many words you can and will commit to putting down on paper each and every day. And if you can, push past that limit a little more every day, or every week, or even every month.
When I first made the commitment to myself to prioritize my writing as a part of my routine and my schedule every single day, I was a stay-at-home mom to 14-month-old little girl. I knew that if I didn’t carve out some time to put my writing first no matter what, I would most likely end up writing far less than I could bear. Maybe even not at all.
So I started with a commitment to writing 1,000 words a day five days a week. Of course, with a toddler around (or for anyone with an insanely busy schedule), it can be hard to find that time. For me, waking up at 3:30 a.m. every morning gave me the perfect amount of time to start my day by fulfilling a promise I’d made to myself. I realize that’s not a realistic option for everybody (again, yes, I’m probably a freak), but it doesn’t matter what time of day you sit down to write as long as you sit down to write and do everything in your power to hit that daily goal. And once I hit those 1,000 words, I could be fully present with my family and all the other things I had to do during the day, because I’d checked that writing box off my list.
Writing this way enabled me to complete and publish all three books in The Unclaimed trilogy in 2018. I never in a million years thought I could publish three books in a year, let alone write them all that year too (and I also published Sleepwater Beat, but that one had been sitting around for a while beforehand). And once I realized it was possible, I just kept pushing, kept carving out time, kept seeing how much further than my previous “bare minimum” commitment I could go. In August of 2018, I broke 100k words of fiction in a single month. Granted, I’d just started ghostwriting and had a client deadline to help push me along. I’m not saying everyone needs to get into ghostwriting, but it’s the personal challenge and holding myself accountable that really lit the fire under me.
Another huge motivator for me was planning out how that trilogy in 2018 would actually work on a timeline. I was completely baffled when I did the math the first time around: 1,000 words a day, 5,000 words a week, and an entire novel of 75,000 words finished in just fifteen weeks. Of course, the books in The Unclaimed trilogy turned out to be a bit longer than 75,000 words each, but just putting it down on paper and seeing how possible it was to write three whole novels in a single year—by only writing 1,000 words a day—really hit home for me. When we take little steps every single day, no matter what, they add up to become massive accomplishments a lot faster than we expect.
So, if you know what your bare minimum is and you commit to hitting that no matter what, you can plan consistent publishing dates that way. And yes, something will inevitably pop up that gets in the way—you find a major plot hole, or you have to write a few extra scenes, or the ending needs a bit of reworking. There’s life too, of course. Sometimes we just can’t find the time to write, no matter how badly we want to.
I’m not saying this is a hard and fast rule, by any means, but what works for me is to map out how long it will take me to write a book—say six weeks for my own books right now—and add 50% of that to your final timeline for finishing the draft. So I have 9 weeks to write a book, giving myself plenty of cushion that sometimes I need, and sometimes I don’t. Then I add on how long it takes my editor to go through my work, how long it takes my formatter, and when that’s all said and done, I have my publishing date. And yes, my cover designer works his magic with my book covers way ahead of time ;P
After that whopper of an answer packed to the brim with advice, I’ll just end this with saying you are so much more capable than you think. If writing a publishing one book a year seems like an insurmountable goal, break it down, map it out, carve out that dedicated time, and commit to writing something every single day. After the first time you do it, it just gets easier and easier. And if you keep pushing yourself just a little more each day, each month, with each new book, you’ll end up doing things you never dreamed were possible, just like I did.
Let’s thank Kathrin Hutson for joining us on the blog!
You can find her new novel on her website, amazon, and the various links below:
Twitter: twitter.com/Exquisitely Dark
Thank you so much for having me on the blog again, Konn!