Kati has an appetite for film and recently Executive Produced a documentary titled ‘Sunset Strip’ about the fabled Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. She has written screenplays, many short stories and poems and is currently working toward publication for her novel, entitled ‘Twine’.
BRIAN: I’d like to welcome Kati Thomson to the Underground. I met Kati through our mutual affiliation with Author Salon, where we bared our literary souls to one another on our journey to publication. Before we begin, I want to tell our readers this lady can write, I mean really write. Her breakout novel, Twinecan’t get to the bookstores fast enough for me and has generated a tremendous amount of buzz among potential agents and publishers. Kati, without giving too much away can you tell us a
little about Twine?
KATI: Thanks so much, Brian, for having me! TWINE is a story about a teenage girl, Mackie, who has been physically and spiritually tethered to a capricious ghost since she was born. Her ‘twine’, Anna, has her own agenda and zero personal repercussions for bad behavior. This makes high school a bumpy road for Mackie. Mackie thinks she is utterly alone with this affliction, but after a traumatic event, she’s institutionalized and there meets others like herself. She finds she’s a sought-after commodity, and not because of her SAT scores. Her burgeoning psychic talents make her a healer, but also a weapon if she falls into the wrong hands.
BRIAN: Where did you come up with the idea for this novel?
KATI: Initially, I was fleshing out an idea for a horror film, because teenagers love great horror movies. But as I wrote the screenplay, the story emerged as a teen-paranormal thriller rather than a horror piece. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of imaginary friends. Childhood is a time when magical ideas are acceptable, even encouraged. But what loves and nourishes you as a child may be what’ll get you beat up in high school, or at least marginalized as looney. As a parent of teenagers and as a storyteller, I’m intensely interested in how kids deal with the things
they’ve outgrown, both emotionally and physically.
Also, my background is in nursing and I know that, sadly, real-life mental health issues often emerge during adolescence and young adulthood. I wanted to explore what it would be like to have that suspicion complicating an already difficult age. Especially because teenagers already feel like nobody understands them.
BRIAN: How does one go from a nurse to an executive producer?
KATI: It does imply a grandiose series of left turns doesn’t it? My family wonders if I’ll be a roughneck on an oil rig next. Life is long and my husband is patient. In all seriousness, I’ve been fortunate to be able to pursue my interests through work. As a profession, Nursing is an incredible foundation for my imagination. I gained some formal training in psychiatric care and first-hand experience working in locked psychiatric units. It’s fascinating, and tragic, the way people can construct an elaborate system of belief that is self-sustaining, defensible, and utterly pathological. A psychologist friend of mine likens deciphering the delusions of a psychotic patient as learning the language of their thinking. I’ve often wondered how it would be to live inside a world of your own making, and be sure that the people around you are just plain wrong. Working in ICU’s, I was inserted into the most catastrophic events families can experience. It taught me so much about group dynamics and the depths of emotional endurance. Nursing also taught me very practical lessons about project management and imposing order on chaos. Those skills are what made a friend think I could help him get his slate of films put together and made.
BRIAN: Tell us a little more about your film work. You write screenplays. How ifferent is it to write a screenplay than a novel?
KATI: Writing a screenplay requires paring away detail and prose, exposing the backbone of a story. There is no room for literary ramblings, which forces discipline and economy into your storytelling. There’s an important emphasis on dialogue because description is very limited. Every word, every gesture has to move the story forward. That being said, the elements necessary for a great story are the same whether it’s being told through the format of a novel or a screenplay. I wrote TWINE as a screenplay originally, and a producer friend loved the story but suggested I write it as a novel. Being given latitude to elaborate is a wonderful and dangerous thing. I think the greatest challenge for me is balancing on that knife edge between overindulgence and scraped bare. Writing TWINE has been one of the hardest, and best, things I’ve ever done. I’m so glad I took up the challenge because I’ve definitely found my artistic home in the novel. But the process of writing in screenplay format is very satisfying, and I have a couple others I’m wrapping up. It’s hard to walk away from it.
BRIAN: Tell us about Sunset Strip.
KATI: Well, if Hollywood is the entertainment capital of the world, the Strip, a one and half mile portion of Sunset Boulevard, is the collective soul of that capital. It’s widely viewed as a vital artistic crucible by musicians, actors, comedians and other drivers of American popular culture stretching back to the silent film era. The Strip predated Vegas in its identity as a clubbing destination and venue for the Rat Pack. Movie stars hide out there. Nearly every influential rock band cut its teeth there. And plenty of talented people have fallen prey to their demons there. Billy Corgan, lead man for the Smashing Pumpkins says it’s a ‘holy place’. I would assert it’s at least extensively haunted. Given all the potential ghost stories, when I was asked to participate in a documentary about that place, how could I possibly refuse?! Sunset Strip premiered at South by Southwest Music Festival in March and it’s been a privilege to play a very small part in getting it to the screen. I’m looking forward to developing film projects around my own content someday.
BRIAN: You’ve got a family, kids, and a busy life. How do you make time
KATI: During the school year, I block out three or four hours to write on most days. When it’s going well, I’m usually late to pick someone up. When it’s not, I go ride my horse or pace the length of the house. Summer is tough, though. My kids are wildly entertaining and also drive me nuts. So in the summer, I claw out my writing time and defend it, snarling and biting. I’ve drawn blood a few times. But to be honest, I’m a lot less efficient in the summer. I rely on my Author Salon peeps and a couple editor friends to stay on my bacon and keep me focused.
BRIAN: If you could go back in time and confront Kati Thomson right when she decided to embark on the road to becoming a writer, what advice would you give her?
KATI: I’d tell her that, no, she’s not crazy. Yes, she can write stories that other people want to read/see/hear. And she has many, many stories stuck inside her head. All she needs to do is give herself permission to be dreamy for periods of time. Like an overstuffed closet, once you open the ‘story door’ all kinds of cool, crazy stuff will come tumbling out.
BRIAN: On your website you say you are a natural story teller. What’s the difference,
in your mind, between a storyteller and a writer? If they are different, when did you cross the line?
KATI: In my opinion, the difference is found in one word: Commitment. Okay, two words. The other being Discipline. It’s true, I’ve always been a storyteller. As a nurse I used storytelling techniques to communicate with families, and I certainly used it in my pharmaceutical sales career. But writing requires commitment to one story for a period of time, whether it’s days or months or years. Not just for one presentation or sales call, but until the story is told the way it needs to be told. Discipline is necessary to carry through on your intentions, because it’s all in the execution, right? The moment I ‘came out’ as a writer to friends and family is the moment I promoted myself from my storytelling hobby. I spoke it into truth and typed it into the record, so to speak. What’s liberating about taking that step is you don’t need an immediate audience in order to write, and write, and write. Nobody’s waiting for you to wrap it up so they can freshen up their drink.
BRIAN: Kati, thank you so much for joining us here in the Underground.
If you are a publisher or agent, you can find Kati’s breakout novel, Twine, on Authorsalon.com. If you want to see a sample of Twine right here on UBR let us know by subscribing to our newsletter, liking us on Facebook, and commenting on this interview. If you want to follow Kati's writing career, visit KatiThomson.com.
For more information about Sunset Strip, visit the website: Sunsetstripthemovie.com.