Between the Lines
by Gabrielle Fimbres
Surrounded by stacks of laundry and with endless diapers to change, Kate Mathis needed a break.
The young Tucson mom spent the week caring for her adorable twin daughters, reading nursery thymes and playing patty cake.
When the weekend came, that was her time.
With husband Brent left behind as chief cook and bottle washer, Mathis – armed with her laptop – would sneak off to the corner fast-food joint for refuge. It was there that Agent Melanie Ward was born in her first novel, “Living Lies.”
“I don’t know what my goal was,” Mathis said. “I wanted to get away from diapers and bottles and laundry.”
With the babies now in middle school, Mathis is the author of two Agent Melanie Ward novels, with a third due out this summer. She also has delved into the world of young adult literature with “Moon Over Monsters,” now on Kindle and due out in print this summer.
Mathis, a third-generation Tucsonan and Salpointe Catholic High School and University of Arizona grad, was raised in a family of postal workers who believed in steady jobs with good income. After college, Mathis chose banking.
Once her girls were born, Mathis found that much of her paycheck was going to daycare.
“I wanted to do something where I could work and still take care of the girls,” she said.
Born were the weekend writing marathons at McDonald’s.
“All of my characters have some of me in them,” Mathis said. “I’m just not telling which parts.”
The road to becoming a published author, as one might expect, was not simple.
After she thought she had finished “Living Lies,” Mathis attended a writer’s workshop at Pima Community College. It was there that she discovered novels are at least 80,000 words. Hers weighed in at 60,000.
It was back to McDonald’s for rewriting. Mathis would spend the week thinking about her characters then write about them on weekends.
Soon it was time to put Melanie out there, and Mathis submitted “Living Lies” to about 60 literary agents. They all turned her down. “They tell you don’t take it personally – but how can you not take it personally?”
After she received the final rejection, her husband posed the question: “Why don’t we just do it ourselves?”
Mathis and her husband, published “Living Lies” in 2009 and PowWow Publishing was created.
Together they have handled all marketing and distribution. They have attended book festivals, author signings and special events at retirement homes, art festivals – you name it.
Through it all, Mathis continued writing the adventures of Agent Melanie Ward in “Second Chance,” published by PowWow in 2011.
“Melanie does things I can’t do,” Mathis said. “She’s adventurous. She’s brave.”
The adventures of Agent Melanie Ward appeal to women of all ages, but the neighbor guy across the street loved it, too, Mathis said.
She calls the genre “light mystery, romance, humor, with a chick lit edge to it.”
Bonnie Lewis, reviewer for TheVirtualScribe.net, had this to say: “Author Kate Mathis has emerged as a master storyteller, packing each page with plenty of action and leading her characters through life at a hasty pace.”
No book is without its critics, which Mathis said has been perhaps the toughest part of the journey.
“You put all this out there and then it gets judged,” she said. The judging part is hard, Mathis said, but is softened by the many readers who tell her they couldn’t put the book down.
She receives emails from readers around the world, who tell her how much they enjoy getting to know Agent Ward and that they can’t wait for book three.
Today, Mathis writes about five hours a day, seven days a week. She sometimes writes from the brick home she shares with Brent, 12-year-old daughters Samantha and Sydney and Weimaraners Jack, Libby, Tori and Luxa.
The characters in her books are never far from her mind.
“I’ll be driving trying to figure out her next move,” Mathis said of Melanie and her friends. “I go to bed thinking about them and I wake up thinking about them. They’re like friends.”
She is also working on the next installment in the “Moon Over Monsters” trilogy, inspired by a little girl that Mathis and her daughters met a few summers ago. “She had the girls believing she was a fairy, and I thought, well, maybe she is.”
With dragons and elves and fairies, “Moon Over Monsters” is the story of a girl who finds out why she is different as she joins her journalist father on a journey to Germany to report on a dragon sighting.
“It’s fun,” Mathis said. “You can have a crazy, kooky idea, and it works in that genre.”
Mathis is unsure how many copies of her books – in hardback, paperback and electronic versions – have been sold. Melanie Ward novels are sold on Amazon, but the greatest number of sales comes from Kindle.
“The eReader has changed the game for little people like me,” Mathis said. “It’s a new world. It’s like your own book festival at your fingertips. The eReader is cheaper and you make more money.”
“Living Lies” was given away during a free promotion on Kindle for five days recently, with 25,000 copies downloaded. Mathis said the promotion boosted sales of her other books.
Writers can earn a living self-publishing, Mathis said. “The key is you have to have enough books so readers can go to the next and the next and the next. If you have enough product and people like your work, you can make money. And self-publishing allows the author to keep control of the content, the cover, everything.”
Her next challenge is a screenwriting class in Los Angeles this summer, coupled with writing the next adventures of her characters.
“Everything you do, you have to have fun,” Mathis said. “This is fun.”