Are we having fun yet? … by Chris Goff

Chris-GoffI have always considered myself a "glass half-full"-kind of gal. You know, the one who always looks on the bright side, who sees the funny in things, and enjoys her work. But lately, I'm finding it harder and harder to write.

Take RED SKY, my book-in-progress. I should be thrilled. I have a contract, an agent who loves me and an editor who loves my writing. I love the thriller genre. What could possibly be better?

Except, I have a deadline that's killing me! I've already been granted two extensions and I'm late again. I have a plot that seems to be getting larger and larger, that I can't seem to wrangle, and self-doubt is mumbling in my ear. It's becoming harder and harder to write.

Take DARK WATERS, my first book in the new thriller series. It's on some kind of roll. We sold the audio rights, international rights and book club rights. It's a Finalist for both a Colorado Authors' League Award and a Colorado Book Award. It garnered some great blurbs, some great press and it's got 43 Amazon reviews. All good, right?

Except, I can't seem to shake-off the notion that if I could just hit 50 reviews (hint) Amazon's next algorithm will trip launching me into the stratosphere (am I overreaching?) OR that the last review posted (while not bad and which I should never have read) dissed a premise in my book that carries over to the next book (FYI, a premise that I adore) and now I'm finding it harder and harder to write.

2016_Goff_Owls CoverTake A PARLIAMENT OF OWLS. It was March of 2007 when my last Birdwatcher's Mystery was published. Nine years ago! Now I've found a home for my backlist and Book #6 is scheduled for release in May. The launch is scheduled for May 25th at the Tattered Cover Book Store at 7 p.m. (hint), and I should be doing the "happy dance," right?

Except every signing conjures memories of the launch of DEATH OF A SONGBIRD, Book #2, at my hometown book store, where only two people came—two!—the head boy from my high school graduating class and my aunt. I was devastated, not to mention embarrassed (the book store owner had ordered in 100 copies of my book). Fortunately, the next week, friends returning from their summer vacations descended on the book store and saved my bacon. Yet, 15 years later, I still angst about every book signing—making it harder and harder to write.

Need I go on? There are the writer gigs. Sooo much fun! And I've been fortunate to have been asked to do quite a few in the next several months. But, while I love sharing with other writers and with readers, preparation takes time. Plus it's only fair to the event planners, my publisher, and me to spend time on Social Media and promotion.

And then there's my personal life....

Okay, you see the theme (and, if you're like me, you've got the tune to the Maroon 5 song "Harder to Breathe" stuck in your head) and you're probably thinking: "What the heck is she whining about ?" because your professional and personal life is no doubt way more busy and congested than mine.

So, my question for you is: Are we having fun? If it's always fun, I want to know your secret. Please post!

But for those of you who can feel my pain, I've come up a simple strategy for putting the FUN back in writing.

1. Free up some time. I used to write every chance I could—in the evening after the kids were in bed or in the morning after everyone went out the door. I craved time to write, and every minute I carved out was a gift. My vow: to once more cherish my writing time.

2. Unfetter the muse. When I first started writing, I never worried about deadlines or page counts or plot lines or genre constraints. I used to follow the tangents to see where they'd lead, never worried about the pages I might have to throw away. It was a joy to see where my writing took me. My vow: to write with abandon again.

3. Nurture yourself. Everybody needs time to breathe. There are only so many hours in a day, and there are so many things to get done and so many things that need doing. I used to be much better at compartmentalizing my time. My vow: to find a better balance.

So, to answer my own question, of course we're having fun! Or we will be. Right now I have to get back to my writing. You see, I have this deadline that's killing me!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chris Goff is the award-winning author of six environmental novels and a new international thriller series. Her sixth book in the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series, A PARLIAMENT OF OWLS, comes out in May. Previous titles were nominated for two WILLA Literary Awards, a Colorado Author's League Award, and published in Japan. DARK WATERS, her first international thriller, was published September 2015 by Crooked Lane Books. Manhattan Book Review calls it “Absolutely masterful...” and it’s a Finalist for both the 2016 Colorado Authors’ League Award-Genre and the 2016 Colorado Book Award-Thriller, and a Nominee for a 2016 Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook. For more information, visit her on the web www.christinegoff.com; on facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/authorchristinegoff; or twitter https://twitter.com/christinegoff.

Is My Middle Looking a Little Fat?

Bite me, for any of you who answered with an automatic yes.

Scruffy middle aged man in his underwear with flowers and candy for Valentines Day, puckering up for a kiss. Isolated on white.

To those who didn’t, whom I still like, yes, I’m talking about that soggy middle we all have to suffer through at some time in our careers. Until this book, the damn one I’m currently trudging through, I didn’t believe those who whined about their middles.

Then the middle…came and look at me now….

So I was whining, I mean, discussing this phenomenon on facebook the other day (yes, instead of writing) and I had a few interesting ideas for how to lose the baby fat:

1)  Kill someone or something. Get blood on the page, and a lot of it.

Aside from the obvious, that writers are a bloodthirst lot, this idea does indeed have merit. Action, whatever it is, engages the reader. Especially if who you choose to kill is someone already important to the reader. Honestly, there is nothing worse than two characters doing nothing. And since my characters have had lots of sex already, I might as well kill someone. Watch out, sidekick best friend.

2)  Go off to an exotic port of call.

I’m talking metaphorical, unless you’re writing the next version of The Love Boat. In other words, take the characters out of the familiar and drop them somewhere you as a writer haven’t gone. I tend to get stuck in one type of story, usually with a murder spree, which isn’t going to work in this contemporary romance, so I need to push my edges, find out what else I have up my sleeve. Oddly enough, it’s fluffy bunny and your card…(This would be where you go oooohhhh and ahhhhhh).

3)  Drink whiskey.

This happens to be my favorite option. However, I will admit, it doesn’t help you firm up that middle. It just makes it easier to stay on your diet of crappy words. Okay, scratch this one. It’s a Band-Aid, not a real fix.

4)  Step back and evaluate.

It’s about the middle when a weird thing happens to me. For a brief moment, the haze of delusion lifts and I see my writing for what it is. Junk. I’m a terrible writer. Just look at all those split infinitives and dangling modifiers. Who wrote this crap…? Oh, right. It was me. I wonder if there are still any openings for professional mourners available? I have a feeling self-doubt and fear are driving my middle depression. Therefore, I must take a step back, and evaluate the actual story. Is it as bad as I think? Probably not. Have I taken a poor turn in plot? Perhaps. Now what do I need to do to fix it? By taking a realistic look at what needs to be done, I help lift myself from the middle and toss back on my rose-colored glasses (the special ones that say I’m an okay writer).

5)  Stop being a wussy and write.

This is my best practice. Throw it on the page. It might not make the revisions, but the only way out of the middle is to write until you hit the end.

 

How do you avoid the middle sag? Word crunches? I’d love to hear your ideas.

About This Year’s Conference Bookstore and Signing

RMFWConference_Chalkboard_booksaleandsigningThe Colorado Gold Conference Book Sale is a great way to promote yourself as an author and sell copies of your books. Not only are there over 400 attendees, the public is also invited to attend the Friday night book signing. Please spread the word to your friends and fans.

It takes time to order books, design the book signing area layout, and get the bookkeeping set up for our seller, Who Else! Books. And space is limited in both the bookstore and at the Friday night signing. That’s why we ask that everyone eligible provide advance notice they wish to participate. If you miss the deadline to sign up or we’ve reached our limit, you will be out of luck. So read on, be informed, and don’t miss out on this event!

Eligibility

Lots of people ask if they are eligible for the bookstore and signing on Friday, so here’s a list of who can participate in the Friday night signing:

  • Anyone who is presenting a workshop or participating on a panel
  • RMFW PAL members
  • RMFW IPAL members

If you are an RMFW member, you can have your books in the bookstore, even if you can’t attend the conference.

For information on how to become a member of RMFW PAL or RMFW IPAL, click the links or locate the information under the menu above: Members > IPAL or PAL Membership

Ways to Participate

  1. Eligible authors can request a spot at the Friday night signing. That way, you can talk to readers, sign your books, and sell copies through Who Else! Books. Nina and Ron Else are happy to order books for the store or take copies on consignment. They will pay you 75% of the selling price of your consigned books sold at Conference.
  2. Authors can have copies of their books at the conference bookstore, whether or not they participate in the book signing. Nina and Ron Else are happy to order books for the store or take copies on consignment.
  3. This year we’ve added after-panel book signings outside the bookstore, another opportunity to meet readers. If you are a panelist and you want to participate in an after-panel signing, you are responsible to sign up to ensure your book is available in the bookstore. Also make sure you identify that you want to participate in one of these signings on the sign up form. And in case you’re wondering, you can participate in both after-panel signings and the Friday night signing.

How Are Authors Chosen for the Book Signing?

Special guests, Honored Guiding Members, and WOTY and IWOTY nominees are guaranteed a table at the Friday night book signing. Because space is limited, we are implementing a lottery drawing to select all other authors. That way, there is no need to hurry and sign up early this year, although you must sign up before the deadline. We will draw participating authors in the signing proportionately, based on total PAL and total IPAL members.

After the lottery selection process, Nina Else will contact you personally mid to late July about your books. We will also post the authors drawn on the website in case emails don’t reach recipients. Please make sure to add who_else@att.net to your email address book and promptly reply to her emails. Also note that if there are any cancellations by lottery winners, we will draw for replacements.

When and How to Sign Up

Sign up begins May 20th and runs through July 1st at 11:59 (Edit: date moved up on 5/23) PM MDT. This year you’ll fill out a form on the rmfw.org website, accessible from a link on the home page and conference page. The form will ask for the same information as in previous years plus a few more items. Make sure you complete the entire form. If you leave out information Who Else! Books needs for accounting, you risk not being a part of the book sale and signing.

Everyone who wants to be in the bookstore and signing must complete the form. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • How you plan to participate: bookstore, book signing, and/or after-panel signing
  • Author information including your name, pen name, and email address
  • PAL/IPAL membership status and additional information about your eligibility
  • Information about each of your books for ordering and payment purposes
  • Whether you’re bringing books on consignment or need your books ordered
  • Any additional special instructions for Who Else! Books

Now mark your calendar! Return here to the RMFW website on May 20th and reserve your spot in the bookstore and enter the book signing lottery.

Note to Presenters: If you plan to recommend any books on writing craft during your sessions, we appreciate your sending the titles to Nina of Who Else! Books at who_else@att.net. She will do her best to include your recommendations in the conference bookstore. And don’t forget to mention during your workshop that the bookstore has your suggestions in stock.

Post by Nina & Ron Else of Who Else! Books and Bonnie Biafore, Book Signing Coordinator

5/17/16 Correction: When originally published, this article incorrectly stated "Special guests, presenters, Honored Guiding Members, and WOTY and IWOTY nominees are guaranteed a table at the Friday night book signing..." This has been corrected to remove presenters from those guaranteed a table. 

Your Fantasy, Or Mine

Some of my friends talked me into entering my latest book in the RITA, the Romance Writers of America’s annual contest. One of the requirements for entering is you have to judge seven books. And since they don’t want you to judge the category you’re entered in, the books they send are a random mix of other sub-genres. The entries I received were all over the place: I had a short historical romance (the same genre as I write although with fewer words), two short contemporary romances, two contemporary novellas, a romantic suspense and an M/M romance (love story about two guys).

You might think the M/M romance would be the hardest for me to evaluate, because it’s a genre I don’t read and also completely outside my own experience. But actually, the only trouble I had with the M/M romance was deciding if it really was a love story or a mainstream, coming-of-age novel that featured a romance. (One of the RITA eligibility requirements is that the book has to have a romance as its main focus.)

The books I really struggled with were the short contemporaries. At first reading, they seemed hopelessly clichéd. For one thing, in both books the heroes were billionaires, and in a position to provide the heroine with a life of total ease and comfort. Right. And we know how often that happens in real life. And there were other well-used tropes: a secret baby, a mix-up between twins, and a hero who is a shallow playboy until he meets the one woman, the heroine, he can’t live without.

I sighed as I started the first short contemporary. Then I began to get depressed. Both of these books were published by the biggest romance publishers out there, and had worldwide distribution. I’m sure the authors have made several times as much money on their books as I made on my romance published by a small press. But that wasn’t really what discouraged me. What got to me was the realization that these books were much more successful than mine because of the fantasy they presented. No matter how trite and ridiculous it seems to me, that fantasy is clearly shared by enormous numbers of readers. These books were successful because they gave those readers what they wanted, and what those thousands of readers wanted was a fantasy that had no meaning for me.

This realization put me in a tailspin. I began to wonder if there was any point to my continuing to write romances. For a couple of days, I considered changing genres. But the vast majority of the story ideas that come to me are romances, and they’re what I enjoy writing. They are also the only genre in which I’ve ever had any real success. So it seems stupid to stop writing romance now.

I shook off the mood of gloom and defeat and finished reading the two contemporary romances. And one of them, I have to say I actually enjoyed. It seemed silly in places and some of the plot twists made me roll my eyes, and the author changed viewpoint so much that any editor I’ve ever had would have thrown up their hands in despair. But overall it was a fun read. A bite of cotton candy compared to the dark, gritty mysteries that make up a large portion of my reading fare.

The book was gone from my mind nearly as soon as I finished it. But while I was reading, I have to admit I experienced a pleasant escape from real life. I can almost understand why books like this are so popular. Because it is fun to completely forget reality for a time and pretend. Fantasies are wonderful things that can get us through our often unlovely, sometimes miserable lives.

I still struggle with the fact that my preferred romantic fantasy is a lot different than most readers. But I remind myself that there are some people who share my vision. Who want a love story where the characters are a little more flawed and realistic and face real danger and conflict. Over the years, I’ve sold quite a few books and some have been nominated for awards. I’ve received fan mail and interacted with a number of readers who thoroughly enjoyed my books. Not many, maybe. Not enough to make this a career that will pay my bills. But enough to make it worthwhile for me to keep writing. Because although the number of readers may be small, as a writer, I’m providing an enjoyable escape for more people than simply myself.

On a final note, one of the novellas was exceptional, and the historical romance was pretty good, too. And I learned a lot, not only about romance and romance readers, but about myself.

Rocky Mountain Writer #43


cropped-linda-hullLinda Joffe Hull

This podcast is about getting involved.

Specifically, it's an interview with former RMFW Writer of the Year Linda Joffe Hull about her journey of getting involved in both Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Mystery Writers of America.

Last week in New York, Linda was one of the co-presenters at the Edgar Awards for the best novel in juvenile fiction. Her work with writing organizations, however, started with becoming active within RMFW.

Linda Joffe Hull is the author of two standalone novels, The Big Bang (Tyrus Books) and Frog Kisses (Literary Wanderlust). She has also written three books in the Mrs. Frugalicious Mystery series (Midnight Ink) featuring bargain hunter and sleuth, Maddie Michaels: Eternally 21 (2013), Black Thursday (2014) and Sweetheart Deal (2015).

Linda currently serves on the national board of Mystery Writers of America. She is a longtime member and former president of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and was the 2013 RMFW Writer of the Year.

Linda Joffe Hull

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Something wrong with you.noʎ ɥʇıʍ ʇɥƃıɹ ƃuıɥʇǝɯoS

Here is how I found out that there is something wrong with me.

Boy wearing dunce cap.I was 7 or 8 when, during a parent-teacher conference, I was asked to leave the room. I went into the coat room and found I could still hear everything that was said. My teacher told my parents about an assignment in which students were asked how to divide 2 apples evenly among 3 people. The correct answer, it seems, was to cut each apple into thirds and give each person 2 pieces. Most of the class got it right, but three people gave wrong answers. One kid said to tell one of the three people to leave, then give the two remaining people each an apple. Another kid said to just go buy a third apple.

And then there was me, a quiet kid who kept mostly to myself. My teacher was worried - I had said to give each person a sharp knife and let them take as much as they wanted. When asked how my answer gave each person a fair share of the apple I said, in effect, that the three people would either be generous and take only a little, leaving more for the others, or they would all fight it out amongst them, killing at least one of them, and then split the apples.

My teacher then proceeded to ask my parents if I'd ever been caught mistreating pets or weaker children. I laugh now, but at the time I was hurt and outraged. It was a different teacher who recognized my unharnessed imagination and set me on the path of channeling it into storytelling, but I still spent many years after that thinking there was something wrong with me because I didn't see the world the same way as everyone else.

As writers, we don't see the world like everyone else. If we did, there would be nothing interesting about the stories we tell, and therefore little reason to tell them. It is our own, individual skew on reality that makes our stories unique and fun and ultimately readable. If anyone tries to tell you what's wrong with you, own it proudly. Because what's wrong with you and me as people is very right with us as writers.

In Defense Of The Prologue

Ancient_Greek_theatre_Segesta996Modern practice and my personal bias suggests that there is no defense for a prologue.

The ancient Greeks used the prologue to tell a short story that explained the setting or relationship for the work that would follow. They considered the prologue a piece apart from the main narrative. Literally, “a speech before” the story begins.

Generally, the ancients used prologues to explain what was about to happen, or to give insight into the characters or action. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales starts with a prologue to introduce the various pilgrims before they’re each given a tale to tell. The literary device remained in common usage in Shakespeare’s time to literally set the stage for the action to come.

My personal distaste for the device falls squarely on the idea that it is – by definition – a separate, shorter piece intended to explain some aspect of the story before the reader is allowed to actually read the story. On its face, that seems harmless enough, but I would suggest that you won't get a better laugh if you explain the joke before you tell it.

I have the same problem with prologues.

I probably wouldn’t have worried about prologues except I kept finding them in modern novels. In fantasy, they’re often of the form of an ancient battlefield where the scion of some High House vows to get revenge through the generations, or some other rationale to justify the story to come. In science fiction, they're used to show some hidden aspect of the universe to the reader. Frequently, the historical cause or hidden aspect arises normally from the narrative, often repeating the very story recounted in the prologue. Too often they are little more than an exercise in extended world building with little actual bearing on the story to follow.

In short, they were not necessary to the story and only served as a distraction from the real story which happened weeks – or centuries – later to different people in a different setting.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. These abuses of prologue have trained readers to skip them.

Yet can we say “never” with the prologue? In as much as I find little value in the examples I regularly encounter, one must admit the value for those that actually work.

Consider The Canterbury Tales. The prologue works for that story because it provides the information needed for the various tales to hang together but which would not be available in the story itself. The key question is “why wasn’t it?” and the answer lies in the structure of the work as a whole. Each tale told by each pilgrim remained true to that point of view. The prologue served as a kind of omniscient perspective to provide a bit of background which helped to explain – not only each story – but the work as a whole. Without that prologue, the reader is robbed because the story is lessened.

In The Name Of The Rose, the epistolary prologue serves to lay the groundwork for the story to come in a way that is not possible within the structure of the liturgical calendar which governs the rest of the work. Again, structurally, some of the richness of Eco’s tapestry would be lost without that prologue.

A more questionable example is the prologue to Gruen’s Water For Elephants – perhaps the most famous NaNoWriMo novel of all time. Its spare few paragraphs sets the stage for Jacob’s remembrances and provides a sense of clarity, of reality, that anchors the rest of the book. The structure of the following story – with its hazy and sometimes questionable memories – argues that the prologue worked more by providing that anchor in the reality of sawdust and blood than by recounting the incident itself.

While each of those examples offer back story or setting or characterization, the reason they work is not because of the content but because of the structure of the stories which followed. The prologue's narrative content could not fit within the structural context of the story which made a prologue necessary – in a speech before the story began.

In the process of writing this piece, I’ve come to appreciate the limitations of my existing bias. It’s also helped me understand what a prologue might be used for so that “never” no longer applies. I still believe that back story or setting or hook are not sufficient reasons for a prologue. Back story should inform the author, not the reader. Setting is where the characters interact to derive a plot. Hooks should be reserved for the story.

Unless you can’t because of the story’s structure.

Unless the prologue works.

Which is probably the correct answer after all.

P.S. Write the prologue last. You can’t tell if the story needs it until you see the completed work.

Image Credit: Ancient Greek theatre (Segesta) by Matthias Süßen
Wiki Media Commons

Linger & Mingle

Last Thursday Night at the Edgar Awards in New York City.
Last Thursday Night at the Edgar Awards in New York City.

How did I get here?

That was my question last Thursday night as I sat at the banquet at The Edgar Awards in New York City.
Technically, I got to the banquet because I’m president of Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America (RMMWA).

That slot puts you on the national board for Mystery Writers of America and that means you get to attend a quite swanky event and watch mystery writers pick up the top award in my favorite genre.

But the RMMWA gig only came about because I also previously had the chance to do lots of things with RMFW.

But how did that come about?

Years ago, I’d started going to the monthly workshops on a regular basis. I started asking more questions. I started hanging out. I lingered. And, well, mingled. I started getting to know a few people. And then someone asked if I would like to serve as monthly workshop coordinator. Maybe? Would I?

I won’t belabor every step but suddenly I found myself in the flow of the organization. After a few board meetings, I started to see how the organization functions. Who wouldn’t be impressed by watching so many give so much?

(Don’t worry—this isn’t a ‘please volunteer’ pitch.)

(Of course, it would be fine if you did. RMFW is always in need of new voices. It would give you a chance to linger and mingle.)

By chipping in a little time and effort, showing a bit of care for how RMFW did its thing as an organization, I found it felt good to chip in and help. And then the next thing you know, I’m helping out with the mystery writers group and there you go.

So hold that thought for a second and now see if you agree with me on this (or not).

Writers are friendly people.

True? Yes?

As the Edgar Awards banquet was winding down, I hung around. Yes, lingered.

A guy who is, in my world, a pretty darn big name in the mystery writing field came up to say hello. He has won a “best novel of the year” Edgar. His new book (comes out in a few weeks) has already been optioned for film. He’s heading out soon on a national tour.

I’d met him once before at mystery conference, but I mean that “meeting” was 3.5 seconds and done.

Last week the chat was five minutes. Um, maybe ten. He said he knew my name. What? Seriously?

The banquet hall.
The banquet hall.

I handed him my business card, which has the cover for Lake of Fire on it and he was surprised. It turns out that was going to be the title for one of his books, a few books ago.

(So glad I beat him to it.)

Well, after chatting for a few minutes he said something along these lines: “If there is anything I can ever do to help you, please let me know.”

So pitching in to help run a few workshops about 10 years ago led me to this conversation with this very well-known writer who is offering me help.

???

I was telling a non-writer friend about this exchange the morning after the banquet.

She said: “Well, it makes sense, you know, it seems to me that writers have to like people. I mean, if they are going to write about people they have to like them first, be interested in what makes them tick.”

Boom. There it was.

Yeah, writers are generally good people.

We are, generally, interested in people.

Don’t we have to be?

The RMFW Spotlight is Shining on Volunteer Julie Kazimer

JAKazimer1. Welcome to the RMFW Spotlight series, Julie. Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I don’t do nearly as much as others do, nor do I feel like I do enough, so thank you, Pat, for asking me to answer these very intrusive questions about myself. I do a couple of things, semi-regular. I co-edit this here blog with the awesomeness that is Pat Stoltey, as well as blog twice a month (the hardest part of my volunteering, for sure). I also was lucky enough to review workshop proposals for the upcoming conference. I have to say, damn, we have a brilliant group of faculty. Even those proposals not picked were above and beyond. I wish we had more time slots. Let’s see, I also have judged the CO Gold contest, and taught a handful of times, both at conference and for the Western Slope (a great group headed by the fabulous Terri Benson, also one of our bloggers). As to why I’m involved, that’s easy; I owe my current career to RMFW. No other way to say it. My first book deal came directly from a workshop at the conference in 2010. For better or worse, RMFW is to blame for my writing. Yep, full blame to RMFW!

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

My current WIP is a romance series about service dogs. Completely different from anything I’ve written before. As in it plays on emotions, where my other books are more suspense or humor focused. Yeah, I wake up in a cold sweat even thinking about it. As for my most recent publications, I have the 2nd book in my Assassin’s Series, The Assassin’s Kiss and a prequel novella, The Assassins’ First Date, coming out in August and July. You can buy any of my stuff or stalk me on amazon. You can also purchase most of my stuff at any other online retailer or sometimes a bookstore (for those youngins: a bookstore is a physical place you can by books. Yes, books actually come in paper. Weird, I know).

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

Damn great question. I’d love to be a keynote for RMFW when I become rich and famous. Come back, and thank all the little people. And since I stand barely over 5 feet, little is hard to find.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

I think I did above, but I say it again, I have a terrible time with ‘real’ emotion. I don’t do deep. In-depth gives me hives. I would rather kill a million characters than write an emotional scene. Ick.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

The power and fame. People bow and scrape for me. Set down rose petals at my feet as I walk. Yeah, right. My favorite thing about writing is the magic that runs from fingers to keyboard. It’s not a conscious thing for me. I just type and it flows. I don’t think (which you probably guessed already).

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Great question. I am actually teaching a workshop at the conference (No, I didn’t select my own. That would be cheating) about 25 things I learned going from pre-published to multi-published. Most of all, I’d tell myself, it’s going to be a roller coaster, one that I won’t want off of, but to keep in mind the greatest climb has a subsequent fall. Ride it for the sheer joy.

7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

I don’t have a desk. I mean, I do at work, but that’s a boring 9-5 desk. I write on my lap, often with a cat, and two dogs vying for the space. FYI, the cat almost always wins, much to the sausage-like pup’s dismay.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I am reading so many at once, and yet, not one currently as I don’t read while I’m writing so I don’t mimic voice. What I last read is, When Good Angels Go Bad by Audrey Brice, which is the pen name of our very own, Stephanie Connolly Reisner. She’s a hell of a writer.

Thanks for having me, Pat. It’s been fun!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer kills and kisses people for a living, be it a bad guy who deserved it or an arrogant frog prince who didn’t. Find her online at her website (jakazimer.com) or on Facebook, much, much too often. She can also be found on Twitter. If you go here, you can sign up for her Readers’ Group (Newsletter) and get a free book or two.

Julie's best friend shot this photo.2016_Spotlight_Julie Kazimer

 

Why, you ask? It’s a picture of the Denver Post, found as is, with her first ever review in the Post, for Froggy Style. A great review, BTW, by the incredible Tom Schantz.

The Truest Voice of All … by William Kent Krueger

2016_William Kent Krueger (2)Isn’t it amazing how everyone seems to know, even better than we do ourselves, what’s best for us as writers? We get advice from everybody on how we ought to be using our time and energy. From our agent (if we have one). From our publisher. From our readers. From other writers. From the pundits in the publishing world. Write what’s hot, they say. Leap on that passing bandwagon. Create the next Gone Girl. Emulate Stephen King. Put vampires in your work. It’s hard not to listen, especially if you’re still struggling to figure out who you are as a writer.

My own belief is that there’s only one voice you should be listening to: the one that speaks to you from your heart. And here’s why I believe this.

For most of my career, I’ve been known as the author of the Cork O’Connor mystery series. My books have been on a number of bestseller lists, including The New York Times. Several years ago, I sat down with my editor and was told essentially that my publisher was only interested in seeing Cork O’Connor novels from me. This was because the book I’d just published, my first stand-alone thriller, had sold poorly. Not because it wasn’t a good book—it got great reviews—but Cork O’Connor wasn’t in it, and readers were incredibly reluctant to follow me to a place that didn’t include Cork.

A few years later, a very different kind of story idea came to me. I knew it wasn’t a good vehicle for Cork O’Connor, and because of that, spending the time and energy writing it would be a risky proposition. Clearly my publisher wasn’t interested, and I had no idea if anyone else would be. But it was a story that spoke to me so deeply and in such a compelling way that I knew I had to write it. I cleared the decks, and over the course of the next three years, I composed the manuscript for a novel called Ordinary Grace, the story of a Methodist minister’s family in a small town in southern Minnesota in the summer of 1961.

2016_Krueger_ordinary graceI had a new editor at that point, and although I knew that Ordinary Grace wasn’t at all what my publisher wanted from me, I went ahead and sent the manuscript anyway. My editor fell in love with it. Against all the prevalent thinking in the publishing industry about what was hot, she chose to accept it and threw herself behind the championing of it one hundred percent.

Ordinary Grace went on to sweep the major awards in the mystery field. It took the Edgar, the Anthony, the Barry, the Macavity, the Silver Falchion. It found a place on many Best Books of the Year lists. It continues to sell incredibly well, and daily I receive notes from readers who tell how much the story has meant to them.

The writing of that novel remains one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I absolutely loved every moment I bent to the work. Because I had no expectation of success and because the story spoke so deeply to me personally, it didn’t matter to me whether anyone, in the end, wanted to read it. One of the things I’ve come to believe about writing, after all these years, is that it’s a little bit like sex: If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re probably not doing it right. With Ordinary Grace, I had the time of my life.

For those of us who are writers, there will always be the loud clamor of others who believe they know what’s best for us and our careers. They’re not always easy to ignore, especially when we’re doubting ourselves. My advice, based on my own experience, is to do your best to shut out all that noise so that you can hear your heart speaking to you. It’s the truest voice of all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

William Kent Krueger is the author of the New York Times bestselling Cork O’Connor mystery series, set in the great Northwoods of Minnesota. His work has received a number of awards, including the Edgar. He lives in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves. He does all his creative writing in local, funky coffee shops, and attributes his success as a writer to all those wonderful stories he read as a child.

You can learn more about Kent and his books at his website. He can also be found on Facebook and Goodreads.