My name is… Kat Shepherd.
I am… a middle grade author, and I love writing fast-paced mysteries and spooky adventures. I have lots of ideas for other books and series, so that description may change! I am also a former teacher, and education still courses through my blood like oxygen.
As a kid, I was… kind of bossy, and I liked doing my own thing. I was always coming up with new ideas for games, trying to get everyone to be in a play I wrote, or telling friends what costume to wear for Halloween. Other kids got pretty tired of that, so I often had dramatic screaming fights with friends where we’d both storm home to cool off. I did eventually learn to compromise, and now people would consider me a good friend.
When I was in elementary school my parents used to sign me up for things I didn’t really want to do, like swim team and golf lessons. I remember hating how cold the water was in the early mornings, and how the Japanese beetles in the pool would always get tangled in my hair. I was terrible at golf and utterly uninterested besides. So they’d drop me off in the mornings and I would ditch both to hide behind a tree and read horror books and mysteries. I guess it paid off!
Writing is… complicated for me, because I’ve always loved telling stories, but throughout my life I heard a lot of people tell me that real writers all had to be a certain way. They would say things like, “Writers write because they have to,” and “Real writers write every day.” Writing was fulfilling, but I didn’t feel like I had to do it; in fact, there were about a million other things I would rather do instead. And I certainly didn’t write every day. I thought that meant I could never be a writer. I also didn’t feel like a real writer because the stories I wanted to tell weren’t beautifully crafted, award-winners that made people cry. I wanted to tell stories that were silly and scary and fun, the kinds of stories I still love to read.
How amazing it was for me to meet other authors and hear that every person approaches writing in a different way. There are lots of authors who struggle to get the words on the page. In fact, I think most of them do! Some people write daily, and some people write only once every few months. Some writers publish their work, some don’t. Some people consider writing their ‘happy place,’ and some write in the depths of misery. So, in growing up and pursuing this life, I have learned that writing is a place that has room for everyone. Everyone is a writer, everyone has stories to tell, and all of their stories have value.
Reading is… a lifeline for me, and it always has been. I started reading early and often, and I never stopped. Even in those times when I was lonely or had no friends, or when I was fresh out of college with nothing but Ramen for dinner, I was always reading. As a teacher I learned that reading is guided thinking, and it does feel like a magical power that someone can make you laugh or cry out loud in an empty room, simply from the words they chose to string together.
I think that reading and literacy is a fundamental right for all people, and to deny anyone that right is morally wrong. I believe that children should have access to a wide variety of books, and I am against banning or censoring books under the guise of protecting children. Children deserve to read stories that reflect their lives and the world they live in, and we have to respect them enough to honor and celebrate their reading choices. Access to literacy and books is as vital to life as clean air and water, food, and health care.
Books are… like people to me. Some of them you clutch to your heart and know you’ll remember forever and ever. You visit them time and time again. Others bring happiness or intense conversations that are exactly what you need at that time and place, and then you move on. Still others are just not for you. It’s rare that I will abandon a book; I used to feel so guilty about it if I did, like I was letting the book down. But I have been doing it more as I get older, because I’ve learned that it’s okay to say, “This isn’t right for me.”
I was at a conference recently, and a wonderful author said that one of the great things about books is that they create a safe place to practice saying no. For some of us that might mean that if we get to a part that makes us uncomfortable or feels too intense for us, we can listen to that feeling and know that we’re not ready for it right now, or maybe ever. And for others it might be that we just don’t feel the connection we were hoping for, and the story isn’t engaging us. That’s okay. We don’t owe it to books to stick with them if they aren’t right for us, just as we don’t owe it to people to stay in relationships or situations that are uncomfortable or aren’t allowing us to grow. And I really like that message. Books let us practice all kinds of things: facing fear, falling in love, having our hearts broken, coping with loss, feeling compassion and empathy. They are a great training ground for everything.
Did you know… that I have never in my life been without a pet at home? I have always loved animals, and I can’t imagine my life without an animal in it. I am totally a dog person, although I’ve had lots of other pets, like cats, rats, mice, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, lizards, turtles, tortoises, fish, and birds. I have always wanted a pet snake and a hissing cockroach, but my husband refuses. He only likes the fluffy stuff. In my volunteer work at zoos I’ve gotten to work with a lot of interesting animals. Of those I got to work with directly, my favorites were tigers and small primates, although I did form a pretty strong bond with an Andean condor. I love zoos, and volunteering there shows me how much thought and care goes into each animal’s welfare. Sometimes friends would joke about wanting a pet monkey or a meerkat or something. When I tell them what it really takes to properly care for an exotic animal, the jokes stop pretty quickly! My love of animals also includes advocacy. I do a lot of work with dog rescues, and I am also an advocate for wildlife conservation, and you’ll see some of that come through in my books. I’ve put a few of my dogs in my books, too!
You can find me…