Preparing for the Holidays with Kate
Welcome to my virtual café, Kathryn, I’m so glad to have you here today.
Kathryn: Thanks, Sherri! So happy to visit you in your cozy café. And feel free to call me Kate.
Sherri: Thank you, Kate. I’m excited to have you here for the holidays. You really go all out with decorating and baking, don’t you?
Kathryn: Oh, I do. In addition to a couple “faux firs,” we always have a live tree we decorate with treasured family ornaments we’ve collected over the years. Two ornaments feature photographs of my parents so, even though they have passed away, their spirits join us in our celebration. In addition to honoring our beloved family traditions, I have a creative itch that demands attention on a daily basis and, one way of satisfying it, is celebrating with decorations and baking. As a matter of fact, last year I combined decorating and baking with a Buche de Noel. So much fun to create, and we all enjoyed eating the fruits of my happy labor.
Sherri: I follow you on social media and I love the posts you share of your home and how you have it decorated for each season.
Kathryn: Thank you! Decorating for special days is one of my joys and our sweet, old cottage is the perfect setting for it.
Sherri: We met at one of the Pamlico Writers’ Conferences several years ago, is that correct?
Kathryn: Yes. I was introduced to Pamlico Writers’ Group in 2017 when I received second place in creative non-fiction for their anthology, Reflections. I had the pleasure of meeting you at the March conference and have enjoyed following you through social media. Speaking of writers’ groups, I must give a shout-out to my own special critiquing group family: Wordsmiths of the Inner Banks. We are a small group that meets twice a month to share and critique each other’s work. Their suggestions and support have been invaluable to me.
Sherri: 2017, truly, we’ve only known each other a very short while and yet I feel we are great friends. You are so supportive of me, my writing and the Pamlico Writers’ Group on social media, I guess that is what makes it seem like we’ve been friends longer.
Kathryn: Absolutely! It’s amazing how social media allows kindred spirits to connect, even when we don’t often have the chance to meet in person. We can follow one another’s life journeys and be there for each other in a very real way.
Sherri: You were born in Washington, North Carolina where we host our annual conference but where did you grow up?
Kathryn: Lots of places, actually. My father’s varying job opportunities had us move from eastern North Carolina to one snowy winter in Utica, New York, to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia (several moves within those two cities,) to a two-year stint in New York City, and back to Virginia. I changed schools seven times in seven years. But when I hit seventh grade, I remained in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk, VA area, graduating from Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, until I moved to Edenton, NC seven years ago. Hmmm, that’s a lot of “sevens,” isn’t it?
Sherri: Wow, you’ve moved around even more than I have. How has growing up on the east coast influenced your writing?
Kathryn: From the sandy beaches and historic lighthouses of the blue Atlantic, to the Spanish moss-shrouded coastal forests and swamps, I’ve been surrounded by story-telling inspiration my whole life. The history, mystery, and rich culture of the region form a deep reservoir of writing material.
Sherri: Your first book, Sea Snow is a paranormal, historical romance? Tell us a bit about it.
Kathryn: I think of it as historical fiction with a supernatural twist. Sea Snow- the gentle haunting of a 19th century lighthouse has romantic elements between the main character and her husband but cannot be cast in the traditional romance genre. It’s written in journal form by Rose, a young, 19th century woman from Norfolk, Virginia who falls in love with and marries a young man as he leaves the U.S. Navy and becomes the keeper of a lighthouse one mile off the Massachusetts coast. Throughout her journal, Rose prefaces several of her entries with excerpts from the work of one of her favorite poets, Christina Rossetti. As Rose experiences the joys and challenges of lighthouse life in the late 19th century—facing storms and illness, new and surprising friendships, New England village life, and the excitement and concerns of first-time pregnancy—she discovers their lighthouse is haunted (quite literally) by the sad but gentle spirit of a former occupant who needs her help.
Sherri: Was any of this story based on real people or events?
Kathryn: Not real people or events, per se, but based upon my extensive research into lighthouse life and New England at the turn of the 20th century. One of the challenges, as well as opportunities, of writing historical fiction is the research necessary to ensure accuracy in the details. You have to be certain that any references to books, music, clothing styles, terminology, etc was in use at the time, especially when the book is written in the protagonist’s own words. For example, you can’t have someone zipping up a dress prior to 1913 and you can’t refer to young people as teenagers until the 1940s!
Sherri: I love doing research but can often get lost in it. But I agree that to make it more authentic, you have to know it even if you don’t use it.
What are you working on now?
Kathryn: I’m very excited to announce that I have a completed Middle Grade contemporary supernatural mystery, Zephyr Stone and the Moon Mist Ghost, under contract with Raleigh publisher, Blue Ink Press, due to be released in 2021. It’s about a 12-year-old girl from the Outer Banks of North Carolina who encounters the three-hundred-year-old ghost of a Native American woman paddling her canoe in the midnight mists of the Great Dismal Swamp. While the grieving spirit begs for Zephyr’s help in finding her long-lost child, the spirits of the ghost’s cat and Zephyr’s beloved dog exchange places and cannot resume their natural (supernatural) existences until Zephyr returns with an answer for the distraught spectral mother.
Currently, I’m 62,000 words into an approximately 80,000-word adult contemporary fantasy based in Edenton and Scotland that has a working title of Murmuration. And, yes, I’m having a blast with it!
Sherri: I understand that one of your passions is photography, in fact, you have won awards with your photos. Would you share that with us?
Kathryn: I love how photography trains the mind and eye and heart to see the beauty and intrigue around us every day. After several years of actively selling and exhibiting my photographs in art shows and galleries and picking up many awards along the way, my creative energies are now focused on my writing. I’ve had many chapters in my life story. Some open and close pretty quickly, while others linger on in some form for many years. Photography is certainly one of my more enduring chapters. I think it’s because I see photography as another form of story-telling. And I just love a good story! By the way, my husband is also an award-winning photographer and my book cover for Sea Snow is based on one of his photographs, which I altered with Photoshop to reflect the look and mood of my fictional lighthouse.
Sherri: I understand you are also a newlywed. I believe you got married shortly before we first met. How has marriage changed your life?
Kathryn: Bill and I married in Edenton on June 16, 2012 on the front porch of our newly purchased1895 home we dubbed “Buttercup Cottage.” The ceremony was graciously performed by the minister of the church across the street from us. Having both been through problematical marriages in our pasts, we were—are—so grateful to have found one another. The wedding present I gave Bill is a sign that hangs in our living room: “It’s Never Too Late To Live Happily Ever After.” I believe this, with all my heart, and that realization has extended to every part of my life, including my career as a writer.
Sherri: I love your philosophy. I believe in happily ever after, as well.
You and you husband love to travel, and you share your pictures on social media. I love seeing all of your adventures. Do any of the places you visit influence your writing?
Kathryn: Yes. Every place has a magic of its own and I’ve sought to capture that magic in my photography. In turn, those photographs spanning North America from North Carolina to Alaska and across the Atlantic to Scotland, stir memories and emotions that play directly into my writing.
Sherri: What is something people might not know about you that you’d like to share?
Kathryn: I’ve worn many hats in addition to writer and photographer. Teacher. Social Worker. Television re-enactment actress. Church choir soloist. Nationally certified massage therapist. Enthusiastic home baker. Check out my favorite tried-and-true baking recipes on my “Kate’s Giving Plate” Facebook page!
Sherri: You know I love recipes. I’m a Food Network junkie. With the holidays approaching, do you have a recipe you’d like to share?
Kathryn: Yes! In Sea Snow, Rose prepared an 1890s version of a festive confection and called it “Red Cupid Cake,” since she baked it for Valentine’s Day. My recipe is for a classic Red Velvet Cake, but I went for a red and green Christmassy combo and called it:
Moist Stained Glass Velvet Cake
with Not-So-Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting~
cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 Tablespoons unsweetened, cocoa powder
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 cup vegetable oil such as canola
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1-2 oz food coloring of choice, more or less depending on how deep you want the color
• ½ cup plain hot coffee, prepared
• 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
Preheat oven to 325 F.
2. Generously grease and flour or line with baking parchment paper, two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
**If you wish to make two different colored cake layers, simply divide all the ingredients in half, using a different food coloring for each layer, and use separate mixing bowls for each layer. All of the ingredients easily divide by two.**
3. In a
medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder,
and salt. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and vegetable oil.
5. Mix in the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and food coloring until combined with the sugar and oil.
6. Stir the hot coffee and white vinegar into the wet mixture.
7. Add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, a little at a time, mixing after each addition, just until combined. Batter will be thin. (Over-mixing makes for a denser cake.)
8. Pour the batter evenly into each pan.
9. Bake in the middle rack for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it. Do not over bake as the cake will continue to cook as it cools.
10. Let pans cool on a cooling rack until warm to the touch.
11. Slide a knife or offset spatula around the inside of the pans to loosen the cake from the pan.
12. Gently remove the cakes from the pans and let them finish cooling on racks. (The warm cake will be very delicate.)
13. Frost the cake with cream cheese frosting after the layers have cooled completely. I leave the sides bare so the colorful cake layers can be seen.
(I garnished the top frosted cake layer with cracked peppermint candy pieces.)
Cream Cheese Frosting~
(Thank you, MarthaStewart.com)
ounces cream cheese, room temperature
-8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
-1 cup confectioners’ sugar (yep, that’s all!)
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl and beat until smooth and soft. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla, and stir to combine.
Sherri: This is beautiful and sounds delicious. I’ll have to bring my daughter-in-law over and see if we can make on ourselves.
I hate to say goodbye, but I know you are a busy woman. I look forward to spending time with you again soon.
If you enjoyed this interview with Kathryn Louise Wood, check out her book on Amazon.com and follow her on social media, the links are below.
Best wishes Kate, I’m excited to see what you do next.
Kathryn: Thank you, so much, Sherri. I’m honored to have been interviewed by you. Warm wishes of the season to you and yours!-
Louise Wood was born in Washington, North Carolina and received her BS in
Education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Having spent her
life on the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia, she grew up with the ever
present beauty of regional lighthouses: the twin lights of Cape Henry in
Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Old Point Comfort Light in Hampton, Virginia, the
Assateague Light on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and the Cape Hatteras, Bodie, and
Ocracoke Lights on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Having developed a
particular fascination with lighthouses as stalwart guides to ships at sea, and
as timeless sentinels of mystery, adventure, and romance, they were the natural
inspiration for her first novel, Sea
Snow- the gentle haunting of a 19th century lighthouse .
Another of Kathryn’s interests is the supernatural, born of her own experience and the experiences of friends and family. She has always held a soul-deep feeling that there is more to life than what is obvious to our physical senses.
As a life-long learner, Kathryn has worked as a teacher, social worker, television re-enactment actress, nationally certified massage therapist, and writer, and is an award-winning photographic artist.
She lives with her husband and kindred spirit, William Francis Ahearn, in a little turn-of-the-20th century cottage (that makes up in quirky charm what it may lack in size) in the beautiful, historic town of Edenton, North Carolina.
They share their home with their dogs, Minna and Sophie, and the memories of loved ones with whom they shared their lives, there.
Kathryn has a Middle Grade supernatural mystery under contract with Blue Ink Press and is currently working on an adult contemporary fantasy set in Edenton and the Highlands of Scotland.
Sea Snow- the gentle haunting of a 19th century lighthouse
wedding night, Rose Martin, the young bride of a 19th century lighthouse keeper
is awakened by a phantom fragrance, compelling her to leave her sleeping
husband’s side and climb the 102 steps of the light tower. What she encounters
there startles her, but is just the beginning of the unnerving experiences that
guide her through the unlocking of a secret that haunts not only the
lighthouse, but many of the nearby villagers, as well.
In Sea Snow, we open Rose’s journal and read the words of a southern woman transported by love and distance to a rocky island lighthouse, one mile off the Massachusetts coast. There, we discover the details of daily life at the turn of the 20th century: the challenges, the joys, and, in Rose’s case, the love and supernatural forces that part the veil between the living and the dead.
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