Katie Cross is an award-winning author of fantasy books. She is the CEO of KC Writing, where she shares her YA Fantasy novels which contain dragons, adventure, courage, change, fear, vulnerability, and friendship, that inspires readers to remember that they are actually the hero of their own story.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up in a sleepy town in Idaho, where mountains met farmlands and most people lived a quiet life. My mom was a single mom and I spent much of my childhood managing my own time and decisions. That taught me that I controlled my life—no one else. If I wanted something to happen, it was on me to make it happen. That changed the way I saw the world growing up, and I’ve pushed boundaries ever since.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

That my value has nothing to do with a number on the scale, how much I help other people, or what others say about me.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Money mindset issues abound in any creative endeavor. Authors seem to despise and fear money. They’re afraid to talk about it, afraid to be without it, and afraid to have it. It seems impossible to appease some people because when they have money, it’s not enough. When they don’t have it, they’re angry with it. Money is just energy. It comes, it goes, and it always exists around us.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

The time after I had my second child was very difficult. Post-partum anxiety, a husband with a dangerous job, two small children, a company I ran from home, and a life in the mountains, drained my energy. I’d wake up from nightmares that my son was walking off a cliff and I couldn’t reach him. That my daughter would stop breathing and I’d never heard her babble again. The depths of the darkness closed in so fast, and so deep, that sometimes I felt breathless. Like all dark times, I reached out. Within one session with my therapist, I felt relief. Although the fight was far from over and I still have moments like that more than two-and-a-half years since my daughter was born, I saw light again. It gave me an appreciation for mental health, and the issues some of us can’t escape from. The compassion and understanding it’s stemmed in me were worth the darkness.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Persistence. A while ago, while talking to a friend, she asked me how I defined success. I wasn’t able to answer that (which was frankly embarrassing) because “success” is so multi-faceted. There are so many factors that go into successful endeavors that I could measure, I wasn’t sure how to summarize them. Then she said, “To me, success is pivoting.” That struck me like a stone in the chest because those five works are permission. Permission to fail. To change. To alter my course. Ever since then, I’ve worked by that mantra. And that mantra leads to an undying level of persistence I’ve never experienced anywhere else. That’s why my company has such tremendous growth.

What is your morning routine?

Mornings are the hardest part of my day! I wake up between 6-7, whenever my kids storm down the stairs near my room and shriek me awake. Then I shuffle around, taking my meds, getting them breakfast. While they play, eat, or complain, I’ll write down my list of affirmations, gratitude, connect with God through prayer or study, write in my journal, and then I have a list of tasks that my business requires I do every day. Once I drop my oldest off at the bus stop, every morning is different for me. Sometimes I have two toddlers, sometimes I have none. But whatever it is that comes next, I always dive into it.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Gratitude, I think. Gratitude forces me into the moment, and when I’m in the moment, I can figure out my priorities. My ever-growing list of things that have to get done is easier to figure out when I’m filled with gratitude for my lovely life, and the awareness of what can and can’t wait. On a less existential level, I’d say writing almost every day, even a little, and doing so imperfectly. That is how books get written.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

For me, it’s a matter of making most of whatever moment I’m in. So when I’m playing with my kids, I’m only playing with my kids. When I’m cleaning the house, I have the kiddos help so more gets done. Really, it comes down to systems, organization, and imperfection. That sounds clinical when in real life the application of all three is quite messy. The rest of it is sheer grit and determination if you ask me.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

All of them, to be honest. I don’t think there’s a single book I’ve read and not walked away from a different person. But if I had to pick one that stands out the most right now, it would be Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. That book taught me I was more than the sum of my assumptions.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

I am power is my favorite affirmation. I think of it all the time when I feel small, frightened, or overwhelmed.