Monday, August 23, 2010

How to write and have a personal life by author Kathryn Shay, author of The Perfect Family

Good Morning, Writing Daze Readers,

Thanks so much for asking me to blog on your site about the following questions: Tell us about a day in the life of you the writer, what's your writing day like? Do you balance family and writing, or writing and a job outside the house, or writing, a job and family? What was it like for you to write this book along with your busy life?

First, let me introduce myself. I’m Kathryn Shay and I’ve been published by Harlequin and The Berkley Publishing Group for the last fifteen years. THE PERFECT FAMILY, which will be released from Bold Strokes Books in September, is my thirty-seventh book. It’s about a typical family whose seventeen year old son tells them he’s gay and the ensuing struggle the family endures.

My typical writing day is different from what it was when I initially published, so I’ll start with that. When I sold my first book, I was a full time high school English teacher. My goal was to publish one book a year, which I thought I could do easily while teaching. But I “caught the writing bug” big-time and soon was writing two, three and sometimes four books a year. It took its toll, I’ll tell you. I used to get up at four in the morning to write before school started at seven, snuck in a scene or two on my lunch period or after school, then came home to my nine year old son and twelve year old daughter. Or on days when they had swimming or soccer, I brought my computer along to work while the team warmed up or while I waited for my son to dive. I specifically remember writing a pretty hot love scene at soccer practice once. I also carved out time on Saturdays and Sundays to work on my books. I had a lot of help, too. My husband was wonderful in picking up the slack, taking on more responsibility while holding down the demanding job of running a company. And we had a house cleaner, someone to take care of the lawn, etc. which we could afford because with both had good jobs. My real goal during that time was to be a good mother, and it wasn’t easy. I did balance everything, but it was tough and I wouldn’t recommend this lifestyle. However, the reason I lived like this for nine years was because teaching was a vocation for me and I simply couldn’t quit that job. I loved it too much to leave. The problem was I felt the same way about writing.

Now, however, I’ve retired from teaching and have only one job—writing. I appreciate having the time to simmer ideas, think about my stories and revise at a slower pace. But I got so used to being busy and out of the house every day, that I made sure I had other things in my life besides writing. I volunteer for a few hours at a soup kitchen on Mondays and one afternoon a week at a battered women’s shelter, take a yoga class twice a week and participate in church activities. I frequently go out to lunch with my friends. I still spend time with my kids now that they’re adults. My daughter is a teacher so she has summers off and she comes home often. My son is grown, too, and he’s the one who drops in and says, “Let’s go to the movies,” or “How about lunch?”

Just a short story about writing THE PERFECT FAMILY. My son came out as gay in 1999. I was still teaching full time and writing for both Harlequin and Berkley. I started THE PERFECT FAMILY in between contracted books, without telling anyone in my family I was writing it. Although the story isn’t autobiographical, there are elements of our journey in the plot and wasn’t ready to share this with anyone. It wasn’t until I finished the whole thing that I told my family about the book. My son was thrilled, read that first draft—and gave many suggestions for improvement! (He was a creative writing major and is now a singer/songwriter.) He also read the last draft and helped finalize the book, a long five years later. By the way, we’re giving away copies of a CD my son made in high school. Many of the songs are about loving a boy. You can get it free when you order from the Bold Strokes website at Or, depending on availability, you can and also get it from my website,

I’d like to conclude that my life is and always has been very full with my own personal hero, my husband, my wonderful children, good friends and two jobs I’ve loved. I’m thankful for this good fortune every day.

I’ll be back today to see if there are comments or questions to answer. Thanks again for the opportunity to post on your site.
Kathryn Shay

P.S. Many people ask about my next book. I’m working on new projects now, but I’d also like to say here that if readers are interested in my backlist, I’m making plans to put nine previously published single title books up on Kindle and Smashwords by the time THE PERFECT FAMILY is released.


In THE PERFECT FAMILY, seventeen-year old Jamie Davidson doesn’t think being gay should be such a big deal…until he comes out to his parents and friends. Even as Jamie celebrates no longer needing to hide his true self and looks forward to the excitement of openly dating another boy, the entire Davidson family is thrown into turmoil.

Jamie’s father Mike can’t reconcile his religious beliefs with his son’s sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused.

What happens in their small town community, in the high school, in two churches–one supportive and one not—as well as among friends and relatives is vividly portrayed. Finally, every member of their “perfect family” must search their hearts and souls to reconnect with each other in this honest, heartwarming, and hopeful redemptive power of love and family.


Kathryn Shay is a lifelong writer. At fifteen, she penned her first ‘romance,’ a short story about a female newspaper reporter in New York City and her fight to make a name for herself in a world of male journalists – and with one hardheaded editor in particular. Looking back, Kathryn says she should have known then that writing was in her future. But as so often happens, fate sent her detouring down another path.

Fully intending to pursue her dream of big city lights and success in the literary world, Kathryn took every creative writing class available at the small private women’s college she attended in upstate New York. Instead, other dreams took precedence. She met and subsequently married a wonderful guy who’d attended a neighboring school, then completed her practice teaching, a requirement for the education degree she never intended to use. But says Kathryn, “I fell in love with teaching the first day I was up in front of a class, and knew I was meant to do that.”

Kathryn went on to build a successful career in the New York state school system, thoroughly enjoying her work with adolescents. But by the early 1990s, she’d again made room in her life for writing. It was then that she submitted her first manuscript to publishers and agents. Despite enduring two years of rejections, she persevered. And on a snowy December afternoon in 1994, Kathryn Shay sold her first book to Harlequin Superromance.

Since that first sale, Kathryn has written twenty-five books for Harlequin, nine mainstream contemporary romances for the Berkley Publishing Group, and two online novellas, which Berkley then published in traditional print format. Her first mainstream fiction book will be out from Bold Strokes Books in September, 2010

Kathryn has become known for her powerful characterizations – readers say they feel they know the people in her books – and her heart-wrenching, emotional writing (her favorite comments are that fans cried while reading her books or stayed up late to finish them). In testament to her skill, the author has won five RT BookClub Magazine Reviewers Choice Awards, three Holt Medallions, two Desert Quill Awards, the Golden Leaf Award, and several online accolades.

Even in light of her writing success, that initial love of teaching never wavered for Kathryn. She finished out her teaching career in 2004, retiring from the same school where her career began. These days, she lives in upstate New York with her husband and two children. “My life is very full,” she reports, “but very happy. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to pursue and achieve my dreams.”

You can visit Kathryn’s website at


  1. I can relate to much of what you said, since I am also a High school teacher. You are more prolific than I could hope to be, though!

  2. Thanks, Tracy. It wasn't easy and I wouldn't recommend my schedule to anyone.

    Thanks to all at Writing Daze for letting me post this blog.
    Kathy Shay


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