Interview with author J.K. Ullrich

I reviewed her book Blue Karma a week ago. You can check it out here . You can find her book on for the kindle.

1. What inspired you to be an author? Did you always know you wanted to write?

I’ve wanted to write books for as long as I can remember. At age four I learned to read, and my parents also read aloud to me daily until adolescence, so stories were an integral part of my development. As a teenager, I cut my teeth on fan fiction and chose a university with a highly acclaimed creative writing program. Despite the lifelong determination to write, it wasn’t until my late twenties that I found the confidence and discipline to finish my first novel, Blue Karma.

2. Do you write part time or full time? What is an average writing day like for you?

Fiction is my passion, but not yet my vocation, so my typical writing day occurs in the interstices of my regular office job. Sometimes I’ll draft a blog post on my lunch break or plan out a scene while sitting in a dull meeting (shh, don’t tell my supervisor). After dinner I try to hack out a minimum 500 words of my current manuscript. It’s slow going, but I try to maintain momentum.

3. Do you outline your plots or just see where the idea takes you?

Outlines all the way! Having a full-time job puts writing time at a premium, so a road map of the story allows me to use those precious minutes as efficiently as possible. At one point in the process of Blue Karma, I hardly wrote a word for weeks because I didn’t know where the narrative was going. I’d planned the beginning and the end, but had only a vague idea of how to connect the two. The scenes I finally cobbled together didn’t take the story in the right direction, so I ended up re-writing almost a third of the manuscript. Lots of wasted energy could’ve been avoided with a better outline. I was much more thorough planning my new story, The Darksider, and so far it’s paying off.

4. What was the process of publishing like for you? Self publishing or going through finding an agent or a publisher?

I chose self-publishing for several reasons. First, I confess I gave in to my own impatience: after spending a year on Blue Karma, I wanted to get my novel out there without waiting months for a publisher’s condescension. Second, I wanted to maintain editorial control of my manuscript. Finally, I liked the idea of building an author platform on my own effort. The actual publishing process (i.e. uploading my book to Amazon) was surprisingly simple, but I think the ease of it can also be a pitfall for new authors: I see many indie novels that clearly haven’t been proofread before release. I worked hard to make Blue Karma as professional as possible before hitting that “upload” button. I owe big thanks to my Laddie, who is an astute editor and volunteered to go over several drafts of the book. Without him, the novel would have been full of typos and I would’ve looked very silly indeed.

5. Did you ever get frustrated with the writing process or have doubts?

What writer doesn’t? Even with a fantastic idea, dynamic characters, and a neatly outlined plot, the writing process is never flawless. Sometimes I want to fling my laptop out the window! A story is like a living, organic thing: it grows in unexpected directions, it can get wild and messy. But that’s what makes it so much fun

6. Why Climate Fiction? What drew you to the genre?

Funnily enough, I didn’t realize I was writing climate fiction until after I finished Blue Karma! Growing up, I spent inordinate amounts of time outdoors and always has strong opinions about environmental issues. I’ve also been a lifelong fan of science fiction and its ability to speculate on the future. Blending the two seemed natural to me. When I published Blue Karma and people began tagging it as climate fiction, I learned what I’d thought of as “environmental science fiction” had blossomed into a whole emerging genre. I identified with it immediately, and it’s been exciting to connect with the growing community of cli-fi fans.

7. Do you see Climate Fiction as another form of Dystopian Fiction?

Not at all. Climate fiction deals with imminent environmental issues and how they will affect society. The resultant visions—displaced populations, resource shortages, and cities reshaped by extreme weather—often provide fertile ground for dystopian themes, but are not so by definition. Cli-fi and dystopia are kind of like peanut butter and jelly: great on their own, but even better together.

8. Why write young adult verse adult fiction?

Part of it is my nostalgia for the genre. YA had a tremendous impact on me growing up, so I wanted to contribute to a literary tradition that gave me not only hours of entertainment, but friends and adventures that helped shape who I am today. As a writer, I like how YA embraces simple, fast-moving plots. It makes a great canvas for nuanced narratives, which in turn enable versatility of demographic—adults can enjoy YA just as much as teenagers.

I also like writing adolescent characters. Their life stage makes them incredibly dynamic. So much of what they experience is new to them, from their first kiss to their first betrayal. Combine that with teenage emotions and the result is volatile. But it’s not all melodrama: young characters are pliable and fun to develop. Writing Blue Karma, I felt like I got to watch the characters mature over the course of the story. Young characters are an allegory in themselves for a better future, which makes them perfect protagonists for cli-fi.

9. Will we be seeing more books from you in the future?

Absolutely. I’ve already begun my next project, The Darksider Trilogy. The queue of to-be-written stories in my head also includes several historical fiction novels and a series of detective books.

10. Favorite authors and books and why?

Tough question! One of my favorite authors is Bernard Cornwell. He combines extensive historical detail, ripping adventure, and irreverent humor into some of the most engaging stories I’ve ever read. I’m also a member of the original Harry Potter generation and will always carry huge affection for those books. From a writing perspective, I admire Rowling’s masterful storytelling, especially how she plants seemingly insignificant details early on that turn out to be critical later in the tale. As for standalone novels, I can’t say enough about David Benioff’s City of Thieves. How many books can make you almost burst into tears and wet your pants laughing within the same page? Another book that captivated me it Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. And I’d be remiss not to mention The Hunger Games, which reintroduced me to YA in my early twenties and rekindled my love of the genre.

One thought on “Interview with author J.K. Ullrich

  1. Pingback: Author Interview on Reading7Mandy Book Blog | J.K. Ullrich

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s