Author & Screenwriter Katharyn Blair—The Burden of Glorious Purpose

Author & Screenwriter Katharyn Blair—The Burden of Glorious Purpose

Katharyn Blair’s brand of success is what I want to be when I grow up. Good human, great mama, a couple of published young adult books on the shelves of your nearest Barnes & Noble—with her debut adult fantasy on the way later this year—someone who gives back to her writing community, and a working screenwriter with experience on a Marvel set.

Katie is also the real deal.

While the word “authentic” gets wholly overused these days, she is just that. Humble, honest, sassy, and whip smart. Just check out her Instagram. From well-versed stories that bely the truth of a working writer for the screen and the publishing world—to everything else.

There’s that old concept of “having it all,” but I believe it’s more about balance. And in the words of this uber-talented sprite with dainty fang and bat tattoos and a heart as big as Hollywood, “I feel like it’s seasons. There’s gonna be days where you get there. You’re doing the work you need to do because you have a deadline. Creatively, I can’t—some writers are like, ‘Oh, look at the clock, that was two-thousand words, two hours. Perfect. Done for the day.’ I can't do that. I'm like, let's Gremlin. I got my Cheetos. I got my vibes, the drapery is drawn, don’t get near me. And then I'll stay there. I’m trying to get better at that.”

Katie’s stint as a writer on “Loki” season two was one of those memorable creative seasons.

“My mom came over and stayed with us for a month. And then my mother-in-law came a couple months later. But my husband was the MVP because from dawn till dusk, no matter how long shooting went, he would never be like, 'Where are you?' It was: 'Just crush it. Just do whatever you're doing, just crush it.' It went from May to October. There was an end date to this. We couldn’t do this continually. But for this spring where I have to prove myself here? We can do this.”

But for all her own fan girl “pinch me” moments working alongside “top tier humans” (her words), as I sit listening to her talk about being a production writer on the second season of “Loki,” Katie is a “pinch me” for the rest of us lucky to meet this talented top-tier human. She’s the kind of person you want to spend inordinate amounts of time going round about plot points with, because you might just end up talking about Transformers or a shared love of Norman Reedus. (Norman, if you’re reading this, does Katie ever have a story for you!)

In fact, she’s got lots of stories, and has been sharing them ever since realizing in college that the only thing she really enjoyed was English class.

“It felt like that Jim Carrey quote where he said, my dad was really funny, but he wanted to play it safe, so he became an accountant. Then he failed at being an accountant, so I realized you could fail doing something you loved, or you can fail at something you didn't love. So, you might as well fail at doing something you do love.”

While interning at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “I would write in the margins of my day. My husband got me a writing desk, set it up for me. I just realized that I love writing, and there’s nothing else I really wanted to do. Once I get my mind set on something, good or bad—hello, hyper fixations—I get there. I published my first book in 2019. And then I actually wound up getting a business contact who was a manager at that point. He was helping me kind of break into TV and film, but we didn't end up jiving. On the way out, he mentioned I was more of a novelist than a screenwriter anyway. I don't think he meant it as a jab, but I took it as one. And then I was like, well, I have to do this because I have to prove it to myself and to everybody else. So then I started working on screenplays really in earnest.”

In 2018, she hired screenwriting career coach Lee Jessup, was a finalist for the 2019 NBC Writer’s on the Verge program (and dramatically found out the night of her sister’s wedding rehearsal that she did not, in fact, make it in), before catching the attention of management company 3 Arts, with whom she signed.

Meanwhile, Katie was getting her master’s in literature, and a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting—at the same time, at two different schools. And she was pregnant. NBD. Married straight out of college to her college sweetheart, her husband had gifted Katie Stephen King’s On Writing years earlier during their honeymoon. Then four children later, he picked up and crossed the ocean for her shot as production writer on set for “Loki.” He’s the one who when she asked, “What if I just asked?”, said “What if you do?”

That question was to “Loki” creator Michael Waldron, who passed her sample to head writer Eric Martin.

“[They were] a year ahead of me in my MFA program. I was super pregnant with my youngest, Benjamin, watching “Loki” with my daughter, and was like, ‘my friend wrote that!’ We were just acquaintances. I’d be on panels for books and they’d be on panels for TV writing at our MFA program. It was a thing like ‘you could do anything with this degree!’ [So we] would meet at alumni panels and stuff. When we saw ‘Loki will return for season two’ I asked my husband, ‘what if I just sent them a message?’”

What followed:

Agonizing about how to perfectly “query” and getting over “what if they don’t even answer," work like crazy, send samples— you know, the usual "it just happened’+" crazy-hard lead-up to overnight success! Also: An encouraging lesson in what if you just believed in yourself?

Then while in surgery with her infant son, she got the call that Marvel wanted to meet—“It was awesome, and I cried!”—and Katie was in the room from October through January.

“Marvel is such an important part of my storytelling journey. I’ve just been a huge Marvel fan since Iron Man. They’re like my comfort movies. I watched Ragnarok to get through my morning sickness with River, and the original Thor to get through my morning sickness with Ben, and Winter Soldier is like what I put on in the background when I wanna work-out, or I’m not motivated. Homecoming—though technically that’s Sony—is a favorite. “Loki” is one of my favorites, and so I was just floored that they trusted me."

“Then that next March, when I was yet again unemployed—‘cuz you're gonna be unemployed a lot if you’re a TV writer—Eric called and was like, 'Hey, do you wanna come to London? We need a production writer.' And it was awesome. It was a dream. I'm so grateful that they gave me that chance. And they took a chance on me. I was green as green could be.”

The dreamy job of being a production writer was what TV is all about. Endless days of long, hard hours on set, collaborating, and just “writing shit!” Katie says happily. “It’s absolutely a team effort. Everyone was so supportive and wonderful.” And that’s the beauty of the medium. “Everyone has their place in the machine, and it’s all working together that makes the magic.”

Since writing for Tom, Owen, Sophia and the rest of the “Loki” team, Katie teaches with Script Anatomy, offers coaching for authors, and recently published a handy little eBook called The Busy Writer’s Guide To The Business of Writing. Her next traditionally published book, The Hushed, is coming out later this year.

Her process for balancing writing for the page vs. for the screen? “Varies wildly, honestly! I wish I was Stephen King and did a predictable 2k words a day. But some days are word days, some are vibe days—Pinterest and Spotify exploring— some days are plotting days—post-its and massive sheets of paper; I’m partial to packing paper from Lowe’s. Other days are rest days, where I watch and read things that refill my cup. Lately, I’ve been deep in a SJM spiral, and I feel very creatively replenished! I think the trick is being able to see the value of all days, even when the cursor doesn’t move, ya know?”

Because “even if it's a pretty promising lead, it’s a bunch of free work. So you better love it. The chances of someone buying it are so small—even my best stuff is a sample. You know how many ‘This is amazing. We love it. We love you.’ ... ‘Great, are you going to buy it?’ ... ‘No.’!?”

But Katie does have a process for rejections. “The best people you read got rejected so many times. It’s not something that shouldn’t happen. I have an email folder just for rejections. They hurt my feelings. Yeah, but I don't want to delete them yet; I don't ever forget, you know?”

Another Katharyn Blair life hack to get you through: “Failure is going to be an important part of your process. Rejection is going to be an important part of your process. It means you are moving towards something you want. Also! Life hack: I read the last sentence of the email first, because they usually start out really nice, then the ‘unfortunately' or ‘however’ feels like it just rips your heart out. So, ‘good luck with your endeavors,’ I knew that that was done. I didn't want to get strung along and, usually, agents are super nice. So, read the last sentence of your query first. ‘I look forward to hearing from you,’ All right! From the top. This is good.”

When they tell you that people became overnight successes, it's usually on whole folders of all those rejections. Meeting for drinks in London after landing the “Loki” gig, Katie’s beloved agent (like a good marriage, they’ve been through it all together since the beginning, and that says a lot about them both, especially in a place like Hollywood) gave her a hug and said, ‘Congrats you are a 10-year overnight success.’ And I was like, ‘You are not wrong.’”

She’s also not wrong about how telling a good story, one from the heart, is the key to success. “Good story comes from a place of truth, whether or not you mean it to. Writers have accidentally organically selling their trauma for decades,” she laughs. “Write something you care about, then find out why afterwards.”

For Katie, it’s drawing from a bad anxiety disorder she developed in childhood.

"It was September 10th, 2000. And I remember the date because we had these planners … I needed to pee, and the teacher wouldn't let me leave the room. I felt locked in.” From then on, "I didn't trust that people would let me leave situations. And I felt like I had no control over my own autonomy.”

It resulted in “checking out of middle school and doing independent study. I couldn’t handle school anymore. So, I would stay home and be mentally ill, as one does. But it was also like the early 2000s when mental health was not quite like … If my kids went through this now, we're equipped to have a conversation. We weren't back then. So I was at home, watching movies. I loved feeling like I could understand bravery when things were scary. My favorite was Interview With a Vampire. My mom’s like, ‘I can’t believe we let you watch that!’ I was like, ‘You didn’t. You were out of the house.’ I’m a preacher’s kid, and my parents let me explore story without putting boundaries on me, which is something that saved me.”

“They loved story themselves, so I grew up watching Braveheart and Gladiator. Interview With the Vampire was one that I kind of understood they don’t want to be like that—Louis doesn’t want to be this. He wanted to try to be better than what he is. And I was like, I too can’t go out in the day! I found these characters incredibly comfortable, and I wanted to write them. I wanted to see people being brave when they were really scared. I would think about that!”

Like Sarah J. Maas during a c-section? Why not!

“Sarah J. Maas has been a huge … I just absolutely adore her! ‘Hi Sarah,’” Katie giggles in an aside, and you realize: Everyone’s got their heroes. It’s what gets writers in the game in the first place. In our case, we’re lucky Katie did. But back to SJM ...

“I was going into a c-section, and I was thinking of her character who’s riding a dragon and has to jump off a cliff and hope the dragon flies. I remember sitting on the table like, okay, Manon was scared. I'm scared. That connection has always kept me kind of grounded. I’ve always wanted to write those characters, create worlds for people where they could feel brave when they weren’t. And that just goes back to being a scared little kid.”

And if you read one of Katie’s books or watch “Loki” season two, in which she’s so grateful to have played a part, you’ll undoubtedly get that sense of bravery because all the best art imitates life.

*Feature photo of Katharyn Blair by OANA FOTO

A writer of screenplays, fiction, and brand stories who operates on the notion we’re living in a galaxy far, far away and everyone deserves an HEA. Part-time fairytale addict & superhero fangirl.
More posts by Karin Maxey.
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