Meet Katie Mettner, amazing friend and author of the Sugar Series!
Katie is an author that I've had the privilege of getting to know. I thought it would be great to interview her so you could get to know her as well.
1.) Tell us a little bit about yourself, Katie.
Thanks for having me on the blog today, Jan! My name is Katie Mettner and I live in a small town in northern Wisconsin with my husband and three children. I grew up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and lived there for the first 21 years of my life. I fell in love with Superior/Duluth when I met my husband and he took me there to meet his parents on our first Christmas together. We went to the Radisson and ate in the restaurant that turns you around the hotel and gives you a view of the Duluth Harbor. It was breathtaking and I was hooked. I have saved that experience for last and the Radisson is where Sugar's Night will take place!
As I said, I'm mom to the three E's and wife to Dwayne. He teaches the fifth grade and my kids are in 7th, 4th and 3rd grades in his district. My day job is a medical transcriptionist and at night you will find me in Sugar's world with Sugar, Van, Jesse and Julie. Obviously, one of my favorite things to do (and I don't get to do enough) is ballroom dancing, so Sugar often gets to do the dancing I'd like to be doing. As a left below-knee amputee for the last two years, I have had to align my desires with reality, but with a new prosthesis on the horizon I'm looking forward to trying it out again.
2.) Have you always been a writer?
I started writing early on in elementary school. Whether it was a little poem, a short story or journaling it was something I really enjoyed doing and took great pleasure from. I have loved to read since I was old enough to hold a book and I'm sure that has played a huge role in how much I enjoy writing. It's about getting lost in the story, either as I read it or write it, and that feeling of having to know how it ends before I can go on with real life.
3.) Tell us about your current series or WIP.
My current series is called, The Sugar Series, and it is a Christian romantic suspense series. There are three books: Sugar's Dance, Sugar's Song and current WIP, Sugar's Night. Tula "Sugar" Dubois is a ballroom dance instructor in the twin ports of Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota. She has lost a lot in her young life and as her Dance opens we waltz with her as she tries to overcome the guilt and fear and overpowering nightmares that fill her as she approaches the anniversary of the death of her parents and dance partner 10 years ago. She is thrown into a rather scary situation by her adoptive brother, Jesse, and has to rely on her new bodyguard, Donovan Walsh, to keep her safe. Sugar seems to have everything to the average person looking in on her life, but Donovan very quickly realizes that she has a lot of secrets and her world is falling apart.
(This is one of my favorite scenes because it shows Sugar's true love of
ballroom and just how much she uses it for solace in her life as she is
struggling with nightmares of the accident.)
~ I was in the ballroom and Rascal Flatts came on with, I'm Movin' On, and my feet began to waltz, right there with no one else. It was me and the music. Each step was measured, each step was soft and each step was putting me in a world where there was no pain. It put me back in that little top floor dance studio in Duluth where I danced my first waltz with my best friend. It put me back in that ballroom in St. Paul where Brent and I had taken home the waltzing trophy. It put me back in the place that made me happy. Each step reminded me that there was always a place to escape when I couldn't take any more of the world around me. There was always that place that I could go to where my heart didn't ache and I didn't have to struggle to keep the tears at bay. I danced with a smile on my face because I saw the brown eyes of my best friend with each turn and I heard him laugh as he led me through turn after turn until I was so dizzy that I could barely stand. I felt his hand was in mine as he began to waltz, but I kept my eyes closed. I could feel the tears on my face and I couldn't stand to see the look of pity in someone else's eyes. I finished the dance and when the music died he pulled me to him whispering. "I've never seen anything more beautiful than you waltzing like that and I've never seen anything as heartbreaking as the sad smile on your face." ~
The second book, which I lovingly refer to as "Her Song" opens with a rumba and we get to watch Sugar come into her own. She is finally happy having waltzed through the darkest time of her life and is starting to see the light now. She meets Donovan's sister, Lillie, and sees a lot of herself in this girl who also has secrets to keep. There are a lot of new beginnings in her Song and I recently had a reader e-mail me that she had to stop at a rest stop and fix her makeup because she read it on the drive to the Twin Cities and had no mascara left for their event!
(Sugar takes Van's sister, Lillie, to a rather infamous bar in Superior for
a burger. This bar is known for its interesting decor amongst other
things. This is the beginning of the scene where Sugar finds out just how
much Lillie has to hide.)
~ I weaved my way down toward the old docks to a little building that had the best burgers in town. Lillie lifted a brow at me. "There's a big anchor in the yard," she said, stating the obvious. "I know, it's called Anchor Bar, hence the anchor," I said, laughing and we climbed out of the SUV and opened the door. Lillie pulled up short in front of me after she took two or three steps in. "There's a fake leg hanging from the ceiling," she whispered horrified. I patted her on the back. "Oh honey, that's just the beginning," I said, winking.
The Anchor Bar is notorious for its innovative decorating, its simplistic menu and its rather colorful service. The bar's owner had a bit of an eclectic decorating theme going, with nautical meets demented puppets meets a fish wearing a lei. There wasn't a spot of wall space not covered and not a spot on the ceiling that didn't have something hanging from it. The tables and chairs were the most mismatched set of garage sale finds on the planet, but surprisingly it all worked. Their reputation for the best burgers and homemade fries at a price that undercut McDonald's made it standing room only pretty much anytime of the day. I pointed her towards the round table in the corner and we climbed up the two steps and sat down.
"I've been in a lot of bars," she leaned over and whispered, "but this one takes the cake." I picked up a menu, "You've been in a lot of bars?" I asked, raising a brow. "Sugar, I lived in Texas. Yes, I've been in a lot of bars!" she looked around her and motioned at the wall. "Books?" She questioned.
"Yes, ma'am. We are sitting in what is otherwise known as the Anchor Bar library." I said trying to hide my smile. I handed her a menu. "My suggestion would be to know what you want when they come to the table. Don't stutter and don't make eye contact." I said very seriously looking over the menu at her. I heard her snort at me like she thought I was joking. I wasn't, but she'd find out soon enough.
"So what's good here?" She asked. "Everything. The fries are homemade and the burgers are wonderful. The olive burger is out of this world." I said and her nose turned up a little. "A burger with cream cheese and olives?" She almost gagged just saying it.
"Hey don't knock it til you try it! Your dad said the same thing and now he loves it!" I said stopping short, "I'm sorry, I mean your brother, Van, Donny Don." Ugh. Open mouth insert foot. She was laughing at my stumbling. "It's okay he's all of the above to me. I haven't been very sure what to call him now, so don't worry about it. Usually I just call him Dad."
"Seems to me you can call him whatever you want." I said and she looked down at the menu and then back at me.
"Very few people know that he isn't actually my dad, so if it's okay with y'all I'd just as soon start calling him dad again." She said.
"I smiled. "It's just fine with us. Is it okay if we refer to him as your dad? " I asked. I wanted to be sure that the rest of us were doing everything we could to make sure she understood that we care about her and her feelings.
"Yeah, unless I'm mad at him, then his name is Mud." She said and we both broke into a fit of giggles.
The waitress came over and stood one foot up on the stair. "What can I get you?" she asked and I jumped right in giving her my order of an olive burger with fries and a Diet Coke. Lillie was still looking at the menu, taking her own sweet time, and I could see the waitress was about to move us to the back of the line. "She'll have a jalapeno burger and fries with a Diet Coke." I said quickly snatching the menu from Lillie's hand and the waitress muttered something about being right back and Lillie gave me an eyebrow. "Not the talkative type, are they?" Lillie asked watching the waitress walk away and I just smiled. ~
In Sugar's Night, my current WIP, Sugar once again finds herself in a bit of a conundrum when it comes to her life, but this time it is professionally instead of personally. She is faced with the realities of her changing personal life and the effect it is having on her professional abilities. Yet at the same time she is finding that what she used to love to do no longer holds that draw for her, instead she finds herself missing her one true love, dancing. With the final rumba, Sugar comes out of the dark and the light of her future shines bright. In this book, the reader also finally finds out who Julie, Sugar's best friend and Jesse's wife, really is. The first two books give us her background and the final one, well, I can't say, but I think the reader will be happy to know that Julie is going to be okay. :)
(In this scene, Sugar's friend, John, has a little chat with her about doing
what you love or doing something else. It is the start of Sugar's final
waltz into the light.)
~ "So why the grim look? Something seems to be bothering you," he said, leaning forward on his knees. "No, no," I said, trying to deny it. "I'm just tired and we have a long way to go before the competition is over in November and we jet off to Ireland.
"You look tired," he said, leaning in, "and maybe a little," he hesitated, I don't know. You just don't seem yourself, haven't for a few months. You don't have to worry about the kids they are going to be just fine."
I nodded faking a smile. "I have no doubt in my mind they will be fine, John."
"But?" he said persistently and I groaned inwardly. "But I can't keep up this pace," I said, surprising myself. He didn't look surprised. "I agree. You're spread pretty thin."
"I miss this." I said motioning in front of me at the dance floor. "I miss dancing and having impromptu dance parties."
"So what else do you miss? he asked.
"I don't get to spend much time at The House, which is really starting to take off and I want to be a part of that, you know? I know things will slack off now that the wedding season is over, but... I don't know." I said snapping my mouth shut.
"So you miss doing the two things that you love the most," he said, as a statement rather than a question.
"Yeah, I guess that's what I'm saying." I agreed. "And I promised Van after the competition we would try for a baby."
His brow went up, "Really?"
I jumped in quickly, "I know I have problems, but Dr. Mueller assured me I could still have kids."
He raised his other brow.
"Sorry. I'm a little stressed out." I said shrugging and grimacing on the inside. Shut up, Sugar, just zip the lips.
"I noticed that, Sugar, but I've also seen the way children flock to you and there isn't a doubt in my mind the kind of mother you will be. Can I give you a little piece of advice?" he asked, laying his hand over mine and I nodded. "Do what makes you happi..."
"I am happy!" I was quick to reassure him, but he held his hand up.
"Let me finish. Do what makes you the happiest. Life is not a dress rehearsal. You don't get do-overs. If you find yourself at the end of the day wishing you had spent it some other way then that's what you need to change. It's never too late to reinvent yourself, or maybe in this case, un-invent yourself."
I looked out over the floor and nodded. "You're right."
He stood and patted my shoulder. "I know I'm right and I know you'll figure it out. I will bid you adieu for the evening now. Thank you for the lovely party." He whispered in my ear.
"Thank you for the words of advice." I whispered back and he smiled, patting my cheek before collecting his wife and saying their goodbyes.~
My next series will be The Northern Light Series. The series will again be based in the Twin Ports, but instead of being told from Sugar's point of view it will be a new character each time. Sugar fans have told me over and over "We want more Sugar!" so with this series we will still get glimpses into Sugar's life and the life of her family, but we will meet some new Duluthians with secrets to keep and love to find. The first book will feature Grant Harris; an Australian born, California trained physical therapist who comes to Duluth. He is integral in helping Sugar see her light in Sugar's Night and is very mysterious. My current working title is, Granted Redemption, and the woman who helps him find his redemption will be someone Sugar fans will certainly remember!
4.) You have a knack for creating believable, lovable characters and the things that are dear to them shine through in your writing. (i.e. in Sugar's Dance, Sugar was a strong advocate for MAMBOS - Miracles Are Made by Organ Sharing - that was so touching!) Do you want to say a few words about that?
My second grade teacher always told us "write what you know about". And Sugar's Dance is filled with "what I know about". I wrote the series from Sugar's point of view because I wanted the reader to feel like they are having a conversation with Sugar. I want them to feel like they are sitting across the table having a cup of coffee while she pours her heart out to them or be a fly on the wall as she has a heart to heart with Jesse or Van.
Organ donation is incredibly dear to my heart. My husband's brother, Andrew, is a two time kidney recipient after losing his kidneys to a birth defect at age 18. His first donor was his father and he had that kidney for some 20 years. I will honestly tell you I never much cared for my husband's only sibling, I loved him as a family member, but didn't like to spend a lot of time talking to him. I found him to be a bit overbearing and too much of a know-it-all for me. He seemed to know a lot about the world he had barely started living in and he had a bit of an entitled attitude that rankled me. As time went on and he matured from college student to working as an educator, I began to see a change in him. He seemed to mellow out and was able to respect other's opinions without necessarily having to tell them why they were wrong. Well time went on and soon his kidney was failing. We were faced with a hard decision at that point because my husband is his only sibling and his only chance at a second living donor. He was fortunate not to have to go on dialysis the first time and we were hoping to get him a kidney before he had to go on dialysis this time too, as patients usually do better this way. My husband was tested to be a donor, but unfortunately was found to also have stage-1 kidney disease. Unbeknownst to his family, I had also sent in the early testing material and it came back that not only was I a match, but I was a better match than his own brother! Long story short, four years ago I was given the incredible honor of being his second living kidney donor and it was an experience that changed my life. It has given me the perspective that someone always has it worse and I think it has changed how I live my life and how I teach my children about life. This was a message I wanted to pass on in Sugar's Dance and so MAMBOS was born. MAMBOS is the foundation that Sugar pours her energy and love for her dance partner, Brent, into after he is killed in the accident and becomes an organ donor. It's what keeps his memory alive for Sugar and something she really has held onto and believed in since that day 10 years ago. When I wrote that part of the book I needed an acronym that I could use for her foundation and I really struggled trying to think of something that wasn't already used and somehow tied into the book. Strangely enough as I stood in the shower washing my hair it was just there. I'm soaping away and I get "MAMBOS, miracles are made by organ sharing." I'm looking around the shower stall thinking did I just hear that? It was a case of divine intervention for me and I ran with it! I actually started laughing because as a ballroom dancer the one dance I can't do is the mambo! Okay, I can do it, but as a short Canadian I look plain ridiculous! In Sugar's Dance we meet Justin who received one of her dance partner's kidneys and as Sugar watches him and his new baby on what she was expecting to be a very bad night she sort of started to see a change in the gales as they blew. She was still deeply affected by the loss of her loved ones, but comforted by seeing Justin moving on with his life, something he wouldn't have been able to do if it hadn't been for losing Brent. She saw the circle close and understood that some things happen for a reason and we may not know the reason that very second, but eventually it becomes clear and we can take solace in it and move on.
5.) What do you love most about the writing process?
The part I love most is being the characters in the story. Getting lost in the story and letting it unfold under my fingers as I type. I don't pre-plan my stories, I let them go where they take me and when I type "The End" I look forward to going back and reading the story to see if it's anything I had originally set out to write. Sugar's Dance was so far from what I had planned to write it's in a different state. Sugar's Song was a little bit closer because it followed the first book, but again, Sugar's Night is NOTHING like what I had in mind when I closed her Song. The writing process for me is simply enjoying the story I am creating and all the rest doesn't matter. I don't get bogged down with outlines and notes and over-thinking this or that. I just let it be what it was meant to be and that's a story told from the heart about a character that fills my heart.
6.) Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
Most authors would say things like "read, read, read and write, write, write. Take advantage of all the information and people out there that can help sharpen your writing skills". Etc. And while all of that is very true and great advice, the only words of wisdom I have are these -- "Write it from the heart and they will read."
It was truly a joy having Katie on my blog!
You can contact Katie at: firstname.lastname@example.org
LinkedIn: Katie Mettner