4 November 2015 - K.J. McPIKE - Guest Author





K. J. McPIKE

- Guest Author -

G'day folks,

Today, I welcome you to another interview with an emerging author. K.J. McPike is an infant teacher turned author who loves all things paranormal. She grew up in rural Virginia and started writing stories as a way to escape small-town horrors like Drive Your Tractor To School Day, which was an official part of her high school's Spirit Week.

Since escaping said small town, she graduated from Penn State University and made a habit of moving across (and out of) the U.S. To date, she has lived in 11 different states and visited 9 countries. Despite her nomadic tendencies, she spends at least a few months out of the year in Seattle, where she regularly consumes too much caffeine and is more likely to be found in a coffee shop than her own apartment.

Welcome K.J ....


1.   TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.

I have always loved to write, and I started writing short stories at about ten years old—back when I thought it was cool to make all my characters’ names rhyme. Getting into my teenage years and early twenties, I began writing poetry and song lyrics, and I journaled like crazy. Even through the busy college years, I squeezed in creative writing courses wherever I could. Though reading has always been a big part of my life, the idea of writing a novel seemed overwhelming to me until I hit my mid-twenties. The inspiration for XODUS kind of hit me all at once, and I was so excited about writing the story that it suddenly didn’t matter how long it was, as long as I got to tell it.





2.    HOW DID YOU GET YOUR IDEA FOR YOUR MOST RECENT NOVEL?

Interestingly enough, the idea came to me while I was trying to map out the plot for a different book.



So, backstory: I have a tattoo on the back of my neck of a symbol I designed when I was in high school. The symbol combines the first initials of my four siblings with my own first initial. End backstory.

As I was thinking about where to take the storyline for the other novel, I started rubbing the back of my neck. Then it hit me that it would be really fun to write a book about five siblings and a symbol they shared that had some kind of mystical power. The idea of astral projection has always fascinated me, so that came to me right away. Everything else I originally planned transformed quite a bit through the writing process, but it all began with a tattoo and a little bit of writer's block.






3.   WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?

Honestly, planning has never been my strong suit. I started writing XODUS without an outline, which may or may not be why it took me nearly three years to write it. It could’ve also been that I had a lot of learning to do about scene structure, story arcs, character development, etc. Whatever the cause, I know my journey with this book needed to happen the way it did so I could give this story the polished writing it deserves.


4.   WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?

Sleeping in! No, I’m kidding. I actually have this really bad habit of not sleeping much at all when I’m in create-mode, but that’s beside the point. I love that writing gives me freedom of location. My family is spread out, and the fact that I can write from anywhere means I can visit the people I love for longer stretches of time without having to worry about running out of vacation hours.


5.   WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?

Letting go. I suffer from a disease called perfectionism, and it is incredibly difficult for me to read something I’ve written and not want to change it. Therefore, it is really hard for me to feel like something is done and just let it go. There is a saying I love (and wish I could live by) that goes “Better done than perfect.” I’m trying to get to the place in my heart.


6.   WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?

Finishing a novel!


7.   WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?

I am working on the second book in my Astralis series, XODUS Genesis (see what I did there? ;) ). It will be coming out in the fall of 2016. I also dedicate some of my writing time to the first novella in the series, which will be told from a different character’s perspective just before, during, and just after the events that take place in XODUS.


8.   WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?

I write Young Adult Paranormal Fiction and Fantasy. (No, I don’t write about vampires or werewolves . . . at least, not yet.)




9.   DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?


Make time to read and write every day. Both are equally important.

Also, try not to go back and edit until you get to the end of your project. I spent so much time editing and perfecting scenes as I wrote them, only to find I had to cut them once XODUS was completed. Cutting scenes always seems to be heartbreaking, but it eases the pain if you didn't spend countless hours working on one before you give it the axe.




10.              DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK? 


All the time! So far, the best remedy I've found is to close my laptop and use good old-fashioned pen and paper. I usually just start writing words on the page, even if those words have nothing to do with my project. I've been known to begin with things like "I have no idea what to write" and go from there (shout out to my tenth-grade English teacher, Ms. Stanley, for teaching me that trick). Once the pen gets moving, there's no stopping it. Best case scenario: I get back on track with my project. Worst case: I get my frustrations out. I figure it's win-win.



11.              DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?

I love to write first thing in the morning, when my brain is still in that fuzzy state. I read somewhere that you’re most creative right after you wake up, and I feel like that is true. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion, but it works for me. My brain also seems to think it’s okay to come up with tons of ideas in the wee hours of the morning, so I typically end up scribbling notes onto a pad beside my bed at two or three in the morning. I’m working on toning that down.


12.              DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?

There’s something about coffee shops that is just magical for getting the creativity going. Also, trains. If there’s a coffee shop area on the train, there’s no telling what can happen.


13.              WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?

Not that this will surprise anyone, but J.K. Rowling is my hero. She amazes me in just about every way, but I am was just floored by her world-building (I’ve never wanted to go anywhere as much as I wanted to go to Hogwarts.) and planning. The fact that she planned out the Harry Potter books so well that she was able to mention concepts in passing and two or three books later, make them major plot points is mind boggling to me, especially because planning and I have never been great friends. I’m also blown away by her ability to write in a way that entrances such a wide variety of people. It’s like she took the concept of a target audience and stabbed it to death with her mighty pen.

I have also recently discovered Tahereh Mafi, and I absolutely adore the way she writes. I’ve never seen so many jaw-dropping metaphors in such close proximity. She has such a poetic way of writing, and an incredible ability to say things in a way that you know exactly what she means, but you’ve never heard it put so beautifully before.


14.              WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?

One of my beta readers sent me emails as she read to give me feedback, and the second email she sent me said, Love the book so far, I cleared over 300 pages in one sitting. I've only ever done that with the Harry Potter series, so this book is really great!!” Being mentioned in the same sentence as Harry Potter just about did me in.




15.              WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?

Well, my novel just came out, so I haven’t had time to rack up too many reviews (good or bad), but shortly after I finished the third draft of XODUS, someone told me that a major part of my plot felt deus ex machina. I put so much thought into making things line up the way they did, and hearing that was like a slap in the face. Luckily, that was pre-publication, so I was able to adjust the manuscript before it went public. Mwhahaha!



16.              WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?

I am definitely influenced by my own life. I have moved (and continue to move) a lot, and I weave pieces of people I see and meet into characters all the time. I also like to put lessons I’ve learned into stories so my characters can learn them, too. Anyone who knows me also knows that my family influenced a lot of the characters in XODUS. I grew up the second of five children, and Lali, the protagonist in the story, is the oldest of five children. The way the siblings banter back and forth is very similar to the way my siblings and I are when we are together. Writing the scenes with Lali and her brothers and sisters was actually one of the most fun parts of writing the story.


17.              OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE TO DO?

I love to draw, and I love to sing (though not in front of people). I’m also a board game fiend, and I LOVE video games—perhaps too much.


18.              WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?

I worked as an Infant/Toddler teacher for five years before I became a freelance writer. I loved working in Early Childhood Education, and I adored the children. My poor boyfriend had to listen to stories about my kids for hours. He took it like a champ, but in retrospect, I talked about them ALL the time. Sadly, moving around and working with children don’t mix well. It’s hard on children to have attachment figures leave, and it was heartbreaking for me to say good-bye to my kids. I was a sobbing mess whenever any of them aged out of my classroom—leaving an entire center permanently was just devastating.


19.              DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?

YES! Multiple times. Typos haunt my nightmares.


20.  DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.

People I love. Beach. Pen and paper.


21.   WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?

My master plan is to sell enough books to support myself while I write more books.


22.    DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?

My protagonist in XODUS starts out a lot like I was at sixteen. She is sarcastic, fiercely protective of her siblings, and she has a very black and white view of right and wrong. If only I’d been able to astral project at that age . . .




23.    DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?

I find it frustrating that there is still a bit of a stigma surrounding self-published and indie books.

24.    DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?

I definitely thought of quitting. It took me nearly three years to write XODUS, and there were days I wrote myself into corners or spent hours reworking scenes only to realize that the changes I made created major plot holes that would take even more hours to fix. Some days, I was convinced I would never finish my first novel. Thankfully, I loved the story world and the characters enough that I couldn’t bear the thought of not telling the story in my head.



25.      HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?

I can’t speak for everyone, but my perfectionism makes me a little obsessive about getting a book cover just right. Even though I knew right away the concept I wanted for the cover of XODUS, I went through several designs before it felt right, and choosing a font for the title was a nightmare. For the record, many fonts don’t seem to put a lot of thought into styling the letter X. So if anyone else out there is planning to title a book something that starts with that letter, you were warned.



26.      WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?

Marketing books is probably just as hard, if not harder, than writing books. There are so many novels published every month that standing out is a constant battle. That is one of the reasons I was so picky about my cover design. No matter how many times you hear not to judge a book by its cover, the truth is that people do it all the time. Your cover has to make people want to pick up or click on your book. Your description has to convince people to open your book. You as an author have to sound like you are worth reading. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.


27.      DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.

Never want to grow up.


28.    WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?

Liars. Unless they are lying temporarily to pull of an epic surprise or trying to save a life, I cannot handle liars.


29.              WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?

Schrödinger’s City by Matthew P.Buscemi. Great one.


30.      WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?

Finishing my second novel. And then my third. You get the idea.




Clancy's comment: Go, KJ. Keep travelling and keep writing. Can't do any harm, eh? Good luck with the next novel.

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