Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Interview with a Creative Writing Student - #amwriting #romance

Darcie and her friend made a day trip
to Bethany Beach for a
book signing event
Most authors tend to do a lot of networking. Personally, I love to connect with both readers and other authors (who also tend to be passionate readers - I know I am!) on social media.  I first met my friend Darcie Morin via a Facebook connection, but we were able to meet in person when she traveled to a book signing I did in Bethany Beach, Delaware. Incredibly, Darcie has already written several full-length novels at a very young age, and she's currently honing her skills in college with a creative writing degree.

I was honored to be chosen as the interview subject for her recent class project.  She forwarded me the finished product, and I copied it below.  Oh, and we got a 100% - woo hoo!

It is a young author’s dream come true when they have the opportunity to interview an author who has inspired them. There are so many authors who have inspired me in one way or another but this one is especially inspiring to me and to be able to interview her for this assignment and learn from her even more is a chance I welcome. Paranormal Romance Author Kathryn Knight took time away from her very busy schedule to talk with me and help with this assignment.

Q1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Answer: From the time I was very young, my absolute favorite pastime has been reading, so I always dreamed of someday writing a novel that would provide other readers with the same sort of pleasure I get from a great book. From childhood through adulthood, if I couldn't be reading, I'd spin my own stories in my imagination to keep myself entertained. I started writing my first novel at age 39, when I basically had the entire manuscript of Silver Lake written in my head.

Q2. Why did you choose a pen name? What are the benefits?

Answer: I have a marketing background, so I view a pen name as a brand name. It should be memorable and catchy, as well as easy to find in an online search. People often spell my real last name wrong, so I chose "Knight", which also conveys the mysterious and romantic feeling I'd like associated with my books.

Q3. What advice would you give to young writers?

Answer: Keep at it. The more you write, the better you get. Study successful books in your favorite genre, looking for things that make the story work. A critique group is very important--your family and friends rarely give honest advice that makes your writing better. And anyone interested in writing commercial fiction should have a copy of Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

Q4. Do you think there are benefits to having a creative writing degree? Does it make it easier to get into the field?

Answer: I think a creative writing degree is definitely an advantage in this field, as anyone who has earned this degree has already shown an ability to exercise their imagination, to explore different story possibilities, and to allow others to critique their work. In addition, those with writing degrees have shown they have the discipline to sit down and actually write! That said, agents and editors are looking for the next groundbreaking story, and the writer’s background is less important than a fantastic, fresh idea with huge marketing potential.

Q5. Is there a benefit to publishing with an Agent? Without?

Answer: Having an agent is usually the only way to have a manuscript considered by one of the big five publishers—having someone champion your work and possibly broker a deal with a big publishing house is a dream for many writers. However, the market has undergone massive changes in the past 10 years, and agents are more selective than they’ve ever been when it comes to choosing who and what they’ll represent.

Smaller presses such as my publisher don’t require an agent to submit. Some authors still choose to have an agent submit to small or digital presses on their behalf; those manuscripts usually move to the top of the pile for consideration. The downside would be sharing all royalties (usually 15%) with an agent as well as the publisher and the distributer. Since profit margins are already razor thin, this is something to consider.

Q6. How did you come up with the idea for Silver Lake? Gull Harbor? Divine Fall?

Answer: I’m fascinated by all things supernatural, and I read a lot of ghost stories and watch all the movies. And in most of the stories and films, one big loophole consistently bothered me. More often than not, the ghost writes some cryptic message somewhere—in a fogged-up mirror, on a wall, in spilled food on the kitchen counter. Of course, this serves as one more clue in the mystery, but what I always wanted to know was—if the ghost can write a message, why not just spell out exactly what it needs? The ghost never says “Look for my body in the basement” or “The butler did it”. And so my initial idea was born. The ghost in Silver Lake, Brandy, needs help—a certain set of circumstances—to get her message across. The rest of the story filled itself in from my affinity for “reunion romances”—novels that explore a second chance at first love. The friends Brandy needs to come together include a tight-knit group of men and women who bonded during high school, a time when emotions are intense and choices can be difficult and life-altering. I was lucky enough to have a similar group of friends during those tumultuous years, and I drew from those experiences as well.

The initial idea about barriers in communication between desperate spirits and living humans generated a new idea that became Gull Harbor. I envisioned a medium, newly accepting of her gift and eager to begin a career, who cannot understand what a desperate and destructive spirit needs or wants. The reason is--of course--a big reveal in the plot, and as the main character begins to solve the mystery behind the haunting, she winds up in even greater danger. I again went back to a reunion between two star-crossed lovers for the romance aspect, and I gave them both a reason to essentially despise each other (which became their backstory), despite the physical attraction that remains.

Interestingly enough, the inspiration for Divine Fall came from a Sunday school lesson I taught. In the beginning of the Bible, the book of Genesis discusses the Nephilim—the offspring produced when male angels took human women as their wives. The Nephilim were strong and virile, but they were also aberrations, and their kind was wiped out in the Great Flood. Of course, in my novel, at least one still exists. And since I knew how I was going to connect this fallen angel to the young teenage protagonist, her backstory came about fairly easily. I grew up in Maryland and spent a great deal of time at our friend’s barn, riding horses, and I wanted to give the main character a similar passion. Her love of riding brings her to the stable on a regular basis, where the mysterious new stable hand has found an off-the-records job. It seemed like the perfect setting for two lost souls to start to trust one another.

Q7. What is your writing ritual?

Answer: Usually my mind is always working on the story, and since I’m always on the go, I write ideas down on slips of paper or on my phone as things come to me. I like to sit at my kitchen island and do my typing there when the kids are in school or after everyone has gone to bed.

Q8. Why paranormal romance?

Answer: It’s the perfect combination for me. I love romance—all the emotions that come with falling in love and making yourself vulnerable to another person. And I’m also very interested in anything supernatural—ghosts in particular. I read a very sweet Young Adult ghost story/romance when I was about 8 years old (Jane-Emily, by Patricia Clapp); it became my favorite book and a bit of a blueprint for the kind of novel I wanted to write someday.

Q9. What made you want to write a young adult novel?

Answer: I had a great idea for a young adult novel, and I was looking for a new challenge. Writing YA is very different from writing genre romance for adults, because most YA novels are written in deep first person point of view (POV). This creates an intense connection between the character and the reader, but the writer must find a way to convey all the information through that one protagonist. If the main character didn’t see, hear, smell, taste, or touch it, it can’t go in…otherwise, the author becomes an omnipotent narrator. I read exclusively YA novels the year I wrote Divine Fall, both to remain in the right creative place mentally and to identify methods various authors used to show the internal motivation of other characters or to relay a scene that happened to another character.

Q10. What do you do to plan out your novels?

Answer: I’m a “plotter” in the industry’s “plotter vs. pantsters” debate—I plot an outline as opposed to writing “by the seat of my pants”. I have to have a fairly good idea where the story is going and how it will end before I’ll start. Once I have the bones of the plot, I allow creativity to take over. I also make charts to map out each character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts (both internal and external), and I make pages of notes for each character’s personal history, physical appearance, hobbies, habits, fears, etc.

Q11. What kind of have research have you done to prepare for them in the past?

Answer: I always visit the setting of each novel. Although I give towns or lakes fictional names, I set them in well-known areas, and I strive to capture the local environment and history. Since I write paranormal, I do have free reign to make things up in terms of supernatural aspects, but I try very hard to keep events and explanations within the realm of something that could be possible. Readers don’t have to travel too far out on a limb to believe the paranormal plotlines.

For the books involving hauntings, I’ve done online research, interviewed mediums, gone on ghost tours, and attended séances. For research into angels, I read passages from the Bible as well as other books involving Nephilim. I also research the characters’ hobbies and careers, and interview people with knowledge in these areas. Finally, I rely on friends and acquaintances for help with specific scenarios—I’ve talked to teachers, detectives, nurses, doctors, competitive riders, boaters, firemen…this list goes on and on, and most people are thrilled to share their expertise for a novel.

Q12. How well do you do with marketing your novels yourself? Does your publisher do any kind of marketing?

We have a marketing director who helps us with all our online marketing. She organizes promotions, runs sales, sends books out for review, and sets up ways for all of the authors at my publisher to connect. We have an online forum to enter book links or news events we’d like her to send out via Facebook, Twitter, and the website’s blog. Right now she’s running a “#HauntedGarden” promotion, highlighting paranormal novels or topics, so I’ve been very actively participating in that!

In this competitive market, however, it’s absolutely necessary for authors to contribute to the marketing effort. I have a graduate degree in Marketing, so I like to think I do a good job of finding ways to connect with readers and increase the visibility of my titles. I request reviews from new book blog sites, I arrange local presentations and signings, I do interviews on local television shows, and I maintain an active presence online. In addition, I will be teaching a non-credit evening class at the local community college this spring on “Fiction Writing and Publication.” It takes effort to balance all this with my writing, but since this is my passion, I’m truly enthusiastic about promoting both reading and writing.

From Kathryn’s interview, I learned the value of a pen name and how it can act like your brand name if you allow it to. It’s actually made me consider using a pen name. I’ve learned her methods of sitting down to write out the next amazing ghost story. I’ve learned about things that could help me get to the career I have dreamed about since I was a child. I found this interview to be very informative and beneficial to me. It only makes my intention to be a full time writer that much stronger.

Thank you, Darcie!  We look forward to great things!

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