Longmont --Veteran elementary school teacher Kathy Williams sometimes masquerades as someone else. She goes by the name Kate Stevenson for her second job--a romance writer.
"I've written off and on for many years," she said. "I've always read just everything there is. And I've always especially liked adventure and a mystery." So instead of writing just straight romance, she throws in plenty of suspense. She sold her first novel, A Piece of Tomorrow, five years ago. Her second, Witness . . . and Wife?, is slated to come out in mid-January as part of Silhouette's Intimate Moments series.
In the book, a Boulder homicide detective finds his ex-wife--a reporter--unconscious at the site of a district court judge's murder. Though the ex-wife can't remember anything about the murder, she begins receiving threats. And as the detective tries to protect her, the two fall in love again.
Now, Williams is working on a third book with an Armed Special Forces hero. And the heroine is a children's books illustrator who runs an inn in Estes Park.
She's also planning to teach short workshops on rewriting through the Colorado Free University in the fall.
She writes mainly in the summer and on weekends during the school year, when she teached fourth grade at Loma Linda Elementary School. "It's hard during the school year," she said. "You've always got papers to grade and stuff to plan and after-school meetings." Most of the school's staff and many of the parents know about her second career as a writer. Loma Linda Principal Deana Sonnesyn said Williams' second career isn't all that unusual. "A lot of us love reading and love writing," Sonnesyn said. "It's a natural field to go into." And fellow fourth-grade teacher, Kendra Russell, who read Williams' first draft of A Piece of Tomorrow, said writing professionally helps Williams teach her students to be good writers. "If we ever have any questions about anything, we ask her," Russell said. "It's pretty neat to work with somebody who's a published author."
While it might seem odd for someone who spends her days working with children to write steamy stories, Williams said she concentrates more on romance than bodice ripping. "They're not books about sex," she said. "They're about building a lasting relationship." Still, she likes the contrast between writing and teaching. "You tend to picked hobbies that are completely different from your job," she said. "Writing gives me a chance to use my imagination and be creative."
She started writing at the urging of her sister about 12 years ago. She called her first attempt, a historical romance, "pretty bad." Then she joined Colorado Romance Writers. "I learned a lot about writing and developing a novel," she said. "If I hadn't joined them, I wouldn't have published." Not only did the group help her hone her writing skills, it also brought her into contact with editors and other industry contacts. "People think that romance is probably a little bit easier to break into, but it's really not easy," she said. "It still involves learning your craft and developing your writing style." The statistic she heard from an editor is that book publishers buy one novel for every 1,000 unsolicited manuscripts.
She chose Silhouette's Intimate Moments series because those books include suspense and are longer than many others. "I like having a plot and developing characters," she said. "You can't do that as well in the shorter books." Her books are about 250 pages long, or about 80,000 words. She gets her ideas from her interests and current events. "You do a lot of 'what if'," she said. So far, she hasn't made much extra money off her books. "I'd like to think of it as a second occupation, but it doesn't really pay huge amounts," she said. "Unless you're a big name, like Nora Roberts or Michael Chrichton, you can't make a living just writing."
Her goal is to reach a point where Silhouette buys her books on proposal--three chapters and a synopsis--instead of requiring a full manuscript. The key, she said, is consistently producing quality work. "I'm kind of a slow writer," she said. "But I've promised my editor I would try to get one done a year."