An Interview With Kourtney Heintz, Author of Six Train to Wisconsin

Today I welcome the awesome Kourtney Heintz to my humble Blog.authorpic Kourtney has recently released her speculative fiction book Six Train to Wisconsin which I reviewed Here.SixTrain As part of her Blog Tour for Six Train, Kourtney has graciously agreed to let me grill her interview her.

So, let’s just get right down to it, shall we?

kls: Welcome, Kourtney. Wonderful to have you here. Please, make yourself comfortable. Careful of the minions, they get a bit rowdy when we have guests.

KH:  Thank you so much for having me here on your blog! It’s great to chat with a fellow author and a Wisconsinite.

kls: Most welcome. First off, tell the readers a little about yourself. Who is Kourtney Heintz and why should we want to read your book? Besides the fact that it’s excellent, of course.

KH: I believe that life is all about accumulating experiences. Every emotion and every situation should be lived and felt. I absorb as much as I can and then I funnel it into my writing. So there are times scenes feel uncomfortably real because the emotion came from some aspect of my life.

Six Train is the novel I always wanted to write. It’s about the journey of love. I don’t believe in love as an end point. Love is a continuum we move along.

 kls: What’s your writing day like? Any superstitious little things that helped your muse? You know, favorite socks, Cat in the Hat hat, special drink?

KH: After the alarm goes off, I stumble over to my desk to check email and social media. Once I’m caught up on that, I breakfast. I have a to-do list that lays out things I’ll be working on that day.
Right now, I’m in promotional mode, so I’m drafting guest blog posts and workshop presentations, running Goodread giveaways, keeping very active on social media, and trying to line up events for my book tour.

I have a secretary desk–I do most of my writing and computer work there. The glass cabinet above is fill with special things. Mementos of treasured moments–a mini David statue, a birthday card from a dear friend, a wine cork from my favorite Napa vineyard. My desk is my happy place.

Kourtney's Happy Place.

Kourtney’s Happy Place. Much tidier than mine, I must say.

I don’t believe in a muse or at least one that is necessary to write. Fingers on keyboard and go is my motto. And I always stop with an idea of where I will start the next day.

 kls: Ah, that’s an excellent idea. I often have no clue where I’m starting the next day. Until I get there, of course. I do know I always have music playing while I’m working. What about you, music or not?

KH: When I’m drafting, yes. It helps get me in the space to conjure up the emotions. Inevitably, one playlist is on when I hit my groove and it becomes the music I play to get me in the zone faster.

I was listening to Eclipse’s soundtrack when I wrote Six Train. Now if I watch Eclipse, I get very confused by “Six Train’s” music being associated with another story.

When I’m revising, usually not. Because music evokes emotions, I need silence to judge if the words on the page are doing their job or if my playlist is pushing me toward that emotional moment.

kls: I’m a dyed in the wool pantster. I may have some idea of where things are going but I don’t have any kind of outline, except maybe in my head. What are you?  Plotter or pantser?

KH: Plantser. I plan but I never know my ending before I reach it. I can’t just let it flow. I spend months thinking about the story. Before I start writing, I usually have a 2-5 page synopsis without a definitive ending in mind.

Too much freedom makes it impossible for me to know where to go. Too little and it’s no longer fun.

kls:  On to Six Train: For me, at least, it doesn’t fit into any one specific genre — could be paranormal, romance, literary fiction — What do you label it as?

KH: I write a story and then I categorize it for the industry. It’s truly a process of elimination for me. Originally, I though it was a romance. I spent a year learning why it is not a romance, but a love story. Romance as a genre has very strict guidelines and this book doesn’t meet them. I try to avoid paranormal as a genre because it is inextricably linked with romance and I don’t want to give readers a false impression of the book. For a while, I thought it was commercial fiction. Agents at conferences told me it was more fantasy. So I explored that genre for a while.

My editor, Katrina Bender, suggested speculative fiction to me. The novel plays with the concepts of telepathy, dreamwalking, and the afterlife–speculating on things. It also has some literary turns of phrase, which seem to fit more in the speculative fiction realm.

kls: Titles are an important thing for me and I often spend quite a while agonizing over just the right one. Can you explain the title choice for Six Train to Wisconsin? Where did it come from? What’s the meaning behind it?

 KH: My original working title was The Killing Lights. No idea how that related to the story. It sounded really cool to my ear and it was all I had for a while.

Back then I lived in Manhattan. I was riding the subway on my daily commute and looked up at the subway map that was plastered on the wall. My characters lived on the 6 Train. My gaze skimmed along its path from the Bronx to the tip of lower Manhattan. The husband brings his wife to Wisconsin. But neither of them wants to leave the city. The 6 Train doesn’t run to Wisconsin, which hints at how much conflict there will be in the book. I think the book is very much a physical and emotional journey for my characters. I hope that the title captures that.

kls: As a born and raised Cheesehead, I have to ask, why Wisconsin? Did you visit the actual places in the book? If so, when you were in WI did you buy a Cheesehead? Or at least some fresh cheese curds? You know, the kind that squeak against your teeth when you eat them?

KH: I wanted to create the most conflict possible for my characters. So I thought where can I transplant two New Yorkers and make them the most out of their element? The Midwest seemed like a good choice. So I picked a state–Wisconsin. I poured over a map of the state.

At first, I was drawn to the Apostle Islands, but there are too many visitors there for my story world.  So I looked a bit inland and found a town with an adorable name–Butternut. I researched it and discovered it fit my story parameters well. Plus I loved the name. I went out for a visit back in 2010 while I was drafting the book. Being in Butternut influenced me to add several places to the book.

I didn’t buy a cheesehead–too hard to get back on the plane. But I fell for the cheese curds–squeaky and fried. So excited to head out to Butternut this summer and stuff my face with them.

kls: Dang, I really wish our schedules meshed better so I’d get the opportunity to meet you in person when you’re there. That would be great fun. Unfortunately, things weren’t always great fun for your characters. The characters in Six Train are very damaged souls right from the beginning. What made you choose to portray them that way? Can you tell us a little more about Kai and Oliver?

KH: I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t flawed or damaged in some way. Some hide it better than others, but when you truly get to know someone, you see their scars.  I don’t believe in falling in love with an idealized version of someone. I believe in falling in love with the entire person–faults and baggage included.

Kai and Oliver represent what love is to me. Despite the years they have shared together, their love is constantly being tested, evolving and changing. They are still discovering each other and uncovering each other.

kls: I found Six Train to be a very emotionally charged tale. There were times I was so deeply immersed in their story it became almost too intense, just as it did for Kai and Oliver. Did that affect you during the writing process? How much distance did you have to give yourself from your characters?

KH: It was very cathartic to write it. So many of those emotions were drawn from my life experiences. Putting them on paper helped me gain perspective.

I loved crafting this book. It felt like every emotion or situation I’d experienced had a purpose–they helped me to write this book.

kls: Now that Six Train is out there, what’s next? What projects are you working on or pondering?

KH: I have a YA time-travel murder mystery that is represented by ICM Partners and Harlequin has made an offer. I’m hoping to get working on revisions this summer. I have another YA novel in draft out to a beta reader. And I really want to start drafting the sequel to Six Train this winter.

kls: Congratulations! That’s fantastic news. What other exciting news do you have to share with readers? I know there’s some. It’s been that kind of Spring for you, so share!

KH: I’ve been busy arranging a book tour for the summer and fall. I’m hoping to tack on more events as the summer progresses.  I’m offering writing workshops at libraries and conferences along with my book signings. You can find out about all my upcoming events here:

kls: I want to thank you for stopping by today, Kourtney. It’s been a blast and I wish you nothing but grand success in your writing endeavors. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

KH: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. It was fun to talk about the book with you! I really appreciate you finding time to read it before we chatted.

Oh, before I forget, I have a few Goodreads giveaways going on until July 1:

5 free signed copies of my book (US only):

For Canadians, I am giving away 1 signed copy:

Several other countries can enter to win 1 signed copy:

kls: Awesome! There you go, readers, get yourselves entered in those giveaways.

Author Bio:

Kourtney Heintz writes emotionally evocative speculative fiction that captures the deepest truths of being human. For her characters, love is a journey never a destination.

She resides in Connecticut with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, her supportive parents and three quirky golden retrievers. Years of working on Wall Street provided the perfect backdrop for her imagination to run amuck at night, imagining a world where out-of-control telepathy and buried secrets collide.

Her debut novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin, was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist.

One Sentence Summary of Novel:

When Kai’s telepathy spirals out of control, her husband Oliver brings her to the quiet Wisconsin hometown he abandoned a decade ago, where he must confront the secrets of his past to save their future.

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  1. Fantastic interview!!! Can’t wait to read it!!

  2. A stimulating interview. I enjoyed this.

  3. Great interview! 🙂 Sounds like a really interesting book

  4. A great interview by both of you! And the book is fantastic. 🙂 By the way, my husband’s a Wisconsin native, and he had never heard of Butternut. When we looked it up on a map, he understood why. It really is in the middle of nowhere! You couldn’t find a place more different from Manhattan. 🙂

    • Whereabouts in WI is your hubby from? I can say, I’ve actually been to Butternut. Once. 🙂 But, yeah, it’s way up nort dair hey. On the other hand, I’ve never been to Manhattan. I don’t think I could handle it. Cities make me buggy. I did spend the day in Chicago once.

      • He grew up along Lake Michigan in a town a bit south of “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.” And while he lost the accent, his siblings still sound Canadian to my ears. 🙂

        • I’m along the lake as well — probably a bit further south of Lambeau, and closer to Milwaukee. I don’t think I have any accent — but people I’ve met in other states tell me I have! LOL Okay, if you say so. 🙂

    • Thanks JM! LOL. Many Wisconsinites aren’t familiar with it. 🙂 It was quite a culture shock when I visited. But I really loved the town and the people. 🙂

  5. Great interview! Some of the things I wondered about were answered here.

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