Published October 19, 2021

Kate Doughty, author of The Follower, is a graduate of the University of Virginia. She lives and works in Washington, D.C., and her debut novel is a spine-tingling YA thriller based on the true story of the Watcher House.

Get to know Kate in this Q&A and then join us on Thursday, October 21 at 12 PM ET to hear her speak about her debut novel, in conversation with Christopher Tilghman. This virtual event is FREE to attend and open to the public. To attend, please register to take part on Zoom or simply make plans to watch the livestream on Facebook.com/VaBookFest.

What is your method for beginning to write a new book?

I feel like my methods for writing a book change a little every time I try to sit down and draft something new! I like to think that (hopefully) my writing process is always evolving and becoming better. Right now, I’m trying to find a balance between pantsing (writer-speak for making up the plot as you go!) and plotting things out. Lately, I’ve been trying to do some further education on story and story structure – if you’re at all curious, I recommend the books Save The Cat! Writes a Novel, for basic plot beats, and Story Genius, for baking a character’s internal conflict into your story.

But in general, I know I have a good idea for a story when I have a) a wacky, strange scenario and b) a character who would absolutely hate to be in that scenario because of some internal conflict. I usually let ideas percolate in my brain for a couple weeks before I start writing, just to make sure that I’m still super excited about the story after the initial “shiny new idea” phase has worn off. That is essential – you have to be excited about the idea, because you’re going to be stuck working on it (and rereading ALL of your writing—oof!) for years. So it definitely has to be a world that you don’t mind being stuck in for a while!

Where did you draw inspiration for your most recent book?

The Follower is actually an atypical book, in that it was a commissioned project—so I actually didn’t do all of the character or plot work, and I didn’t have full creative control there. That being said, I had a really fun time playing with the creepiness of social media and those themes of real vs. fake identity—inspired, for sure, by existing in a social-media dominated world and growing up along with the rise of social media and the concept of being an ‘influencer’ as a career. I find internet culture super fascinating, and it was fun to be able to dive into that a bit for this book—as well as spend ages on YouTube in the name of “research.”

What are some challenges that you’ve encountered during your writing process?

Definitely balancing writing with, well, life! I also have a full-time job in addition to my writing career, and trying to establish a good work-life-writing balance is so important—and so difficult. While working on The Follower, I was on a ton of tight deadlines, so there were a lot of early mornings and late nights finishing up this project. I actually ended up burning out pretty hard after this novel was finished, which resulted in me taking the longest absence from writing that I have since I started my writing side career. That really made me rethink how I wanted to approach writing in a sustainable way going forward—and this is something I’m still working on! Every time I meet an author, I ask them about their work life balance and every single author I meet says something entirely different, so I think it’s really about finding what works for you—and, of course, making sure to prioritize rest and having a fun, fulfilling life away from your laptop.

What types of preliminary research do you do before writing?

It really depends on the project! For The Follower, I of course used the premise as an excuse to binge a TON of social media content. I am already pretty addicted to social media, so this was easy, haha. I also read up on the original story of the watcher house, which the novel is loosely inspired by. For other projects, it really depends! I love writing urban fantasy or realistic fiction because I feel like I have to do less research when I’m making everything up—not that that always ends up being less work, of course!

What books are you currently reading or excited to read soon?

I’m currently reading Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse—and it’s incredible! Her world-building is absolutely fantastic, and I highly recommend the book. Its an adult epic fantasy, and has been nominated for a Hugo award this year! Next up on my shelf is Payback’s A Witch by Lana Harper, which I have heard is a delightful witchy rom-com.

What are you working on next?

I had a ton of fun working with the folks at Amulet, but my next goal is to get an original book out into the world! It’s been exciting looking into new projects and looking forward to something new. I’ve always loved fantasy, and while I enjoyed writing The Follower my next book will definitely have magic in it!

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With generous support from Michelle and David Baldacci

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