- Guest Author and Ghostwriter -
Today, I interview a multi-talented writer from the U.S.A.
Welcome, Karen ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I’m a number of things as are most people today: wife, mother, grandmother, author, ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.
I’ve lived in New York City until five or six years ago when I moved to Long Island – I didn’t get very far. LOL
I always liked to write. Like most writers I started writing as a child, primarily poems. I did this through my teens. Then when I had my first child, she wouldn’t sleep. Pacing the hallway with her at night, I started humming a tune and added words. I wrote the sheet music to it and it became our family lullaby.
Many, many years later, my children decided I should turn the lullaby into a picture book. That’s how my writing and publishing journey began.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
Turning my lullaby into a picture book was the starting point to becoming a writer. I joined writing groups, a critique group, and found a writing coach. And, I attended online writing conferences and read a lot about writing.
Through one of the conferences I took a workshop on promotion. It motivated me to create a group website, Writers on the Move. I asked authors and writers I’d met along the way to join and we started doing virtual book tours.
It’s been almost 10 years and we’re still at it. We don’t do virtual book tours any longer though. We now use content marketing, blogging, to bring visibility to the members and the group.
In addition to writing for children, with my business background, I started ghostwriting articles for business sites and health sites. That took me in another direction for a while until I realized it’s so very important to focus on one thing. So, I put that focus back into children’s writing.
While I really enjoy both types of writing, I find children’s writing, whether for myself or for ghosting clients, more rewarding.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I’m a pantser. I shoot from the hip. Although, for my middle grade fantasy I used an outline of an old Chinese tale to work from. It was given to me by a nonfiction Chinese writer in one of my writing groups.
But, it also depends on the type of story being written. All my children’s picture books and chapter books are from the hip. If it’s a middle grade novel, it makes more sense to create some kind of outline, even if it’s simple. Once the basic direction is known, I let the story and the characters unravel themselves.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The thing I enjoy most about being a writer is to create something from nothing. You start with a blank page and whether you’re working from an outline you created or just jumping in, you begin to create a story. And, it can at times amaze you how it takes shape and how it grows. I just find it fascinating.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I guess rejection can be a tough part of being a writer. And, it’s not like other work where you go to an office with fellow workers. Most writers work out of their homes and they work alone.
And unless you’re self-publishing, it’s researching and submitting your work as often as you can. And, it’s continually coming up with new work so you always have things in the submission loop.
And then there’s the marketing.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I was an assistant controller for a manufacturing company. Then in 2000 I decided to give writing my all.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My greatest achievement so far is my middle grade fantasy, “Walking Through Walls.” It based on an ancient Chinese tale and set in 16th century China. It took two years to write and I think it’s filled with great lessons that are subtly weaved into the story. And, it has a great ending. It was honoured with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.
After this, making my clients thrilled to have their very own quality children’s book is a wonderful achievement.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
For my own stories, I have a three-book picture book contract with 4RV Publishing. And, I’m working on a sequel to “Walking Through Walls” as well as another middle grade novel.
I’m also working with a number of clients on their books.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My grandchildren inspire me. And, I think the love of stories inspires me. Once I start writing a story, it’s like entering another world.
And, what’s amazing about writing is if something’s not working or you don’t like something in the story, you just rewrite it. The only limit you have is your imagination.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I write children’s books, focusing on picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books. But, I also do young adult.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
My first tip for new writers is to learn the ropes. Self-publishing has opened a lot of doors, but some writers think it’s a pass-go card. Writing and publishing a less than quality book reflects poorly on the writer and on the industry. Take the time to learn how to write. Take online and/or offline courses.
My next tip is to persevere. Writing can be a tough business. It can bring lots of rejection and there’s lots of competition. Don’t let anything stop you. Keep writing and keep honing your craft.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
I’m so very fortunate, I haven’t suffered from writer’s block.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I don’t have an actual writing schedule, like writing from ten to five, or something like that. But, I do write every day, including weekends.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Well, I don’t know if I’d call it a favorite writing spot, but as there’s no where else to write, I write in my living room.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
I think this goes back to the question of what do I enjoy most about being a writer. It’s all about creating the story.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I love Kate Chopin. I read “The Story of an Hour” by Chopin while attending college and it’s stayed with me since. That’s what a really good story should do.
And, Linda Sue Park because I love “The Single Shard.”
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
From a reader of “Walking Through Walls,” the greatest compliment has been, “It’s really good.”
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Maybe enough people haven’t read my books yet, I haven’t had any bad comments.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I don’t think writers can help but have some of what happens in their lives influence their writing. That’s what makes every story unique - it’s told from the perspective of an author who has her very own history and experiences. Is it possible to filter all that out?
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Aside from writing, I love the obvious stuff, God and family. I used to draw a lot, but that and accounting gave way to writing. Between family and writing, there’s not much time for anything else.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
I did get a professional edit on “Walking Through Walls,” but not for “Day’s End Lullaby.”
I meticulously self-edited both books.
In case new writers are reading this, I just want to mention that while self-editing is a must, as the author you can’t possible catch all your errors. You’re too close to the work. You know what you meant to say and you see what you meant to say. So if it’s at all possible, get your manuscript professionally edited.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
My perfect day in regard to writing would be if I had a new book submission going the rounds and I got a call from an agent or editor who wanted to take it on.
Okay, let me think bigger. My perfect writing day would be having one of my books hit the New York Times Best Sellers list.
23. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
My plans for the future are to continue what I’m doing. I’m also making it a priority to attend more children’s writing workshops. It’s important to keep honing your craft and to keep up with new trends.
24. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I think book trailers are an effective book marketing tool. People love visuals and getting a teaser or bits and pieces of a book can certainly help motivate someone to buy.
25. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I do see myself in some of the characters I write. I think sometimes my values pop up here and there while telling a story.
26. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
The children’s publishing industry does frustrate me, especially the picture book side of it. But, it’s business and just like all businesses, publishing companies do what they do to make money. The editors have to find manuscripts that will do just that. So, they’re going to carefully choose books that they think will get past the acquisitions committee and go on to do well.
The best thing a writer can do is to keep learning, keep getting better at writing stories an editor would be willing to take a chance on. And, to keep submitting.
27. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
I’ve thought about quitting the writing business here and there, but never did.
28. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
My favorite manuscript was “Walking Through Walls.” I love the ‘respect’ of the time period the story takes place. And, I enjoyed the research I did to get the place and period right. And, I just love how it turned out.
29. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
I define success as a writer as creating page-turning books. Books that the reader remembers. Books that may even change a reader’s life.
30. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I’d love if my books made it into a movie, wouldn’t every author? I’ve never written a screenplay, but will probably take some courses on script writing as I’ve gotten a few queries for it.
31. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A book’s cover is the first thing a potential reader will see. And, it’s probably the most significant determining factor for the person to buy the book.
A lot of thought must go into designing the book cover.
32. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
You can write a great book, but if no one knows about it . . .
Book marketing is a must. I have a number of strategies I use to bring attention to me and my work. I’m also an author/writer online marketing instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. I give online classes through them.
If there are new authors out there, the first thing needed is an author website.
33. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
One of my books, “Day’s End Lullaby” is self-published. “Walking Through Walls” is traditionally published.
34. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Hmm. Five words I would use to describe myself would be: hard working, loyal, responsible, positive, and creative.
35. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
The things that most make me ‘mad and sad’ are hatred, dishonesty, and the attitude of entitlement.
36. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading for my work, so the latest book I read is “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires. It’s an excellent children’s picture book.
37. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
I know it’d never fly in today’s publishing market, but I’d love to have my last sentence be, “And, they lived happily ever after.”
I think in today’s climate of anger, hatred, and craziness, everyone wants a happy ending.
38. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I’d like to thank you for this interview opportunity, Clancy.
Clancy's comment: Thank you, Karen. I admire anyone who can write for young kids. Best wishes to you, and wishing you top book sales.