Guest Post: Supporting Characters Don’t Exist

Today the Read Room welcomes as guest author Kate Scott, who is here visiting on a promotional blog tour for her new book, Counting to D. Counting to D releases February 11. Give it up!

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Supporting Characters Don’t Exist

by Kate Scott

I know Julie Israel in real life, sort of. We’re in the same writing critique group. We’ve met face to face numerous times. I’ve read her fiction. She’s read mine. We’ve talked about writing, and we’ve traded book recommendations. But I don’t know anything else about her.

We aren’t friends. We’re barely even acquaintances. All I know about Julie is the fiction she invents, and she doesn’t know anything about me beyond what I write. My lack of knowledge regarding Julie’s life doesn’t mean she doesn’t have one, though. I’m quite certain Julie is in no way a one-dimensional person. She feels a myriad of emotions every day. She has hopes, fears, dreams, and regrets. She has to. She’s human.

If I were to write a story about my life, Julie would be lucky to make anything more than a brief cameo. If she even appeared at all, it would be unlikely for her to receive a name. Julie isn’t a major player in the Kate Scott story. She barely qualifies as a member of my supporting cast. Yet, she exists all the same, fully formed and infinitely complex. Funny how reality works that way.

I’m a fiction writer, not a memoirist. My YA novel, Counting to D, tells the story of a girl named Samantha Wilson. Samantha’s life is complicated. She has hopes, fears, dreams, and regrets. But so does everyone else in her world. As an author, it’s my job to remember that.

Characters, both large and small, enter stories for a purpose, and each scene needs to move the story forward. Writing in first person, it’s easy to get caught up in the life of the main character and to think of the other characters as nothing more than animated props. But one-dimensional people aren’t real, and one-dimensional characters shouldn’t be either.

Minor characters need to have their own lives with their own problems. Sometimes, those problems intersect with the main characters’ and make it into the narrative, and sometimes, they don’t. But their lives always dictate who the characters are and how they interact with the people around them.

One of my absolute favorite characters in Counting to D is a girl named Kaitlyn Banks. At the beginning of the story, Kaitlyn is introduced as a mean popular girl, and it would have been very easy for me to keep her that way. But as an author, I found myself asking the same question every time Kaitlyn walked onto the page: “Why is this chick such a bitch?” Once I figured out the answer to that question, my story’s stereotypical villain became a beautifully complex character with a subplot all to herself.

As a general rule, I require myself to make every single character in my books significant enough to receive a name and their own character arc. Granted, some of these character arcs are smaller than others, and they may unfold in only a few sentences. But together, they weave a larger and more compelling story.

Counting to D is about Sam, but Sam doesn’t live in a vacuum. The people around her help shape who she is. More importantly, the people around her are people. I’ll say it again: one-dimensional people are mythical creatures that don’t exist in real life and shouldn’t appear in fiction either.

Julie might not know me any better than I know her, but just as I’ve read for her, she’s read Counting to D. The first thing she said to me after she finished it was, “You write really great supporting characters.” I accepted her statement as a compliment, even though I knew she was wrong. I don’t write supporting characters at all. I can’t—because there’s no such thing.

Book Review: Counting to D by Kate Scott

Kate Scott is a very talented author in my local critique group. I had the pleasure of reading her debut novel Counting to D in advance of its release, and today share my thoughts on it. Counting to D officially launches February 11, but you can enter Kate’s Rafflecopter giveaway between now and February 2 for a chance to win your own copy!

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To the review!

The Book

Book: Counting to D

Author: Kate Scott

Publisher: Elliot Books

Release date: February 11, 2014

Rating: 4 stars

Goodreads | Author Website | Elliot Books


The kids at Sam’s school never knew if they should make fun of her for being too smart or too dumb. That’s what it means to be dyslexic, smart, and illiterate. Sam is sick of it. So when her mom gets a job in a faraway city, Sam decides not to tell anyone about her little illiteracy problem. Without her paradox of a reputation, she falls in with a new group of highly competitive friends who call themselves the Brain Trust. When she meets Nate, her charming valedictorian lab partner, she declares her new reality perfect. But in order to keep it that way, she has to keep her learning disability a secret. The books are stacked against her and so are the lies. Sam’s got to get the grades, get the guy, and get it straight—without being able to read. —Goodreads


Warning: May contain spoilers!

Any kid who’s ever moved will be able to identify with Sam Wilson, who at the beginning of Counting to D moves to Portland and away from her two close friends and the safety she’s known all her life. Moving is scary enough, but add to that a learning disability that means illiteracy and the pressure is on not just to find her place at Kennedy High, but to keep anyone from discovering her secret…

In addition to the brilliant, Sam-shaped portrait of dyslexia Counting to D paints—taking refuge in numbers, count patterns, advanced math; having to listen to textbooks, pretending to take notes during class, discreetly conning lab partners into reading directions and writing up reports; the paradox of wanting to be like everyone else and embracing the differences that predispose Sam to unusual talents—what resonated with me even more was a universal theme: wanting to be accepted.

At least as much as surviving Spanish and improving her ability to read and spell, Sam worries about having friends—and that opens this book up to so much more than dyslexia. As she meets new people and gets to know them, Sam is constantly asking, Does that make us friends? Does this mean we’re friends now? and evaluating how they perceive her.

And the friends she makes are half the fun: everything from smart geeks with slight BO problems to two-faced popular girls, a star athlete, and a somber valedictorian boyfriend. I LOVED the characters in this book! They were complex, surprising, and more than anything human: with their own shortcomings and vulnerabilities, same as Sam.

Contains other high school drama/rites of passage: cliques, bad grades, prom, relationships, parties, etc.

An inspiring read. Perfect for anyone looking for insight on dyslexia or just the kid next door trying to fit in.

And don’t forget the giveaway! Enter between now and February 2 for your chance to win.

Kate Scott on Writing, Her Debut Novel, and Elliott Books

Today I am interviewing Portland YA author Kate Scott. I met Kate through a local critique group, and have the pleasure of hearing her read her work each week! Kate is the author of Counting to D, which comes out February 2014, and the executive editor of newly-formed press Elliott Books, both of which she discusses in this interview.

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Me: How did you start writing fiction?

Kate Scott: I’ve ALWAYS had a very active imagination. When I was little, I was constantly making up stories and inventing characters. I had a whole cast of imaginary friends as a small child. I knew they weren’t real, but I still loved making up stories about them. My imaginary friends were bold and daring and slightly magical. They went on the most amazing adventures. I talked about them pretty much non-stop.

When I was about seven, I got sick of people (mainly my older brother) teasing me about all my imaginary friends. I decided that I wasn’t too old for them, they were too old for me. So I had them move to Palm Springs, since that is where people move when they get old.

Even after they moved away, I kept on thinking about them. I don’t know how to turn off my brain now, and I certainly didn’t know how to turn it off in second grade. So I did the only thing I could think of. I wrote myself a letter describing all the great new adventures my friends were having in Palm Springs. And then I wrote another one. And then I stopped writing letters and made up new characters that lived in new places and wrote about them.

Like I said, I’ve always had a very active imagination. And I was lucky enough to discover at a young age that becoming an “author” is a socially acceptable way to play with your imaginary friends.

Me: What do you enjoy most about writing?

KS: Meeting the characters. I find people fascinating, both real life people and fictitious ones. Inventing characters and then getting to know them as they come to life on the page is super fun!

Me: What has been your greatest struggle as an author?

KS: I’m a really bad speller! Like not kind of bad, really bad. I have dyslexia and struggled a lot to learn how to read and write in school. The making up stories part of writing has always been super easy for me. But the writing it down part is a lot harder. I’m a much better reader/speller now than I was even a few years ago, and writing no longer feels like a difficult chore to me. But at times it can still be a struggle.

Me: What one pearl of wisdom would you share with aspiring authors?

KS: Accept that the publishing industry moves very SLOWLY early on. It takes a long time to write a book and it often takes an even longer time to sell a book. If you want to make lots of money, go to Law School. If you need to make up stories, go ahead and write them down. Then accept that your name isn’t J.K. Rowling and your words are never going to make you rich and famous. Once you’ve done that, write because you love it and can’t think of anything more fun to do with your free time.

Me: Your first book, Counting to D, comes out February 11, 2014. What can you tell us about it?

KS: Here is the teaser that’s going to appear on the back of the book:

The kids at Sam’s school never knew if they should make fun of her for being too smart or too dumb. That’s what it means to be dyslexic, smart, and illiterate. Sam is sick of it. So when her mom gets a job in a faraway city, Sam decides not to tell anyone about her little illiteracy problem. Without her paradox of a reputation, she falls in with a new group of highly competitive friends who call themselves the Brain Trust. When she meets Nate, her charming valedictorian lab partner, she declares her new reality perfect. But in order to keep it that way, she has to keep her learning disability a secret. The books are stacked against her and so are the lies. Sam’s got to get the grades, get the guy, and get it straight—without being able to read.

Me: What can you tell us about The Evolution of Emily, your WIP?

KS: This is a companion book to Counting to D, so it’s set at the same school and there are some overlapping characters but it could also be read as a standalone book. I don’t have a completed draft, let alone a snappy teaser, for this book yet. But here is the general gist of it.

Emily is shy and sheltered. Her parents’ home schooled her and her autistic sister up until Emily was about to begin to start her junior year of high school. At that time, Emily decides to brave the complicated waters of public school. She quickly befriends Sam, from Counting to D, and meets an adorable boy named August. Both Emily and August have their fair share of issues, but this book is more of a traditional YA romance than an “issues book”.

Me: Any other books or projects on the map?

KS: Of course. There are three future projects fighting for attention in my head right now. I feel like I should finish writing/revising The Evolution of Emily before tackling any of them, but I don’t think I’m going to. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a boy named Peter. So my new plan is to try and write a book from his POV this November for NaNoWriMo. Then I’ll have two books to finish this winter which will hopefully equal double the fun.

Me: Why self-publish?

KS: If my earlier answers didn’t make you think I was completely bonkers, this one might. I had a literary agent from a well-respected New York agency for several years before deciding to go it alone. She didn’t sell Counting to D at auction a month after signing me, which made us both a little sad, but she was still very excited about my work and we both believed I could publish with a traditional large press. It would just take a while to get there, because the publishing industry always moves slowly.

In a way my decision to self-publish was me losing patience. But more than that, it was me losing faith in the traditional publishing industry. The publishing industry is undergoing a huge transition right now. In the past, the big New York publishers had the size and capacity to do large print runs, which created a clear advantage in book sales. Now with the rise of both e-books and POD (print on demand) this advantage has disappeared. Publishers can’t even boast the ability to buy co-op space in Borders, because Borders doesn’t exist anymore either.

The publishing world is changing. And working with a New York based agent who was invested in the traditional industry felt a lot like jumping onto a sinking ship. Except it was more like camping out in line for months to buy a ticket for a ride on a sinking ship. So I decided to step out of line. I parted ways with my former agent and decided to steer my own craft through these murky publishing waters.

Me: Why create your own press?

KS: As I said above, the publishing industry is changing. The advantages to working with large publishers are decreasing. But there are still advantages to not doing everything alone. Authors can, and in my opinion should, pool their resources. By marketing similar books together and working directly with comparable writers, authors can increase their sales at a lower cost.

Traditional publishers do this to a point. One publicist will cover several authors for a given imprint and comparable authors often go on speaking tours together. But I think small presses often do a better job at this than big presses because they work with a smaller and often more comparable set of writers.

My initial decision to stop attempting to sell my work to a large press was a plan to try and work with a small press instead. As I began doing research into various small presses and learning what types of services they provide for their authors, I found myself thinking, that looks like fun.

I love to write, but I enjoy a lot of other things too. I am fairly business savvy, and think being a publisher for a small press sounds like a dream job. So I decided to found Elliott Books and hire myself. Being able to start off by publishing my own books was just an added bonus.

Me: What are your goals concerning, or what developments do you hope to see with Elliott Books in the near or distant future?

KS: I want to wait until after Counting to D comes out before even thinking about taking on other writers. Mainly because I want to make all my mistakes on my own work first, so I’ll feel like I know what I’m doing when I sign with other authors. Eventually, my goal is to have Elliott Books because a boutique style press that publishes about a half a dozen books per year from various authors. I say boutique press, not small or indie press, because that really is my end goal. I hope to attract very talented authors and publish only exceptionally high quality books. While I never want Elliott Books to be “big”, I’d love it if ten years from now every book on its roster was a best seller.

Me: What sort of submissions will Elliott Books be looking for?

KS: While Elliott Books is not currently accepting submissions, I am already looking forward to the day I can claim the title of acquisitions editor. Basically, I want books that I like to read by authors that I will enjoy working with. But more specifically, I expect Elliott Books with publish primarily Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Although I may also consider Middle Grade, “Old Adult” and Narrative Non-Fiction that has a strong cross over component so it could easily appeal to the YA/NA market.