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Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Susanna Leonard Hill is having a little Halloween fun on her blog and this is my contribution for it. The challege was to write a story, only 100 words in length, and to include: Jack O-Lanter, Candied Apples, and Boo. It needed to be age appropriate for 10 year olds.


Here is mine.

Someone knocked.

Chad answered the door. It was his good friend Jack O’Lantern.

“Ready for Halloween?” Chad asked.

“I’m not going.” Jack seemed sad.
“Why not? I know how much you like candied apples.”
“People are afraid of me because I have a pumpkin for a head.”

“Not if we put a costume on you.”

They tried a cowboy outfit. – Jack looked like a pumpkin with a hat.

They tried a clown outfit. – That made him even scarier.

Then they put him in a space suit. – Perfect.

They had fun all night. Jack even said “boo” and didn’t scare anyone.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Interview with Ali Cross - Part II

Here is more of Ali Cross on being part of a writing community.

Randy: If more than one community exists, should an author participate in several of them or focus on just one?

Ali: That’s a good question! I think timing and an author’s own personal journey answers this question.

For instance, when you’re just starting out, just starting to stick that nametag to your shirt that says “Hi, my name is … and I am a WRITER,” you’re joining the large, world-wide community of writers. For a while, it’s good to just check things out. Learn the lingo, pick up the basic skills.

As you associate in the global community, you’ll start to find writers you gravitate toward, and these will become your extended family, or dojo. Probably some of them will want to work with you in a more intimate crit group-type setting.

So it’s a process, but one I think all writers should engage in—it’ll be good for their writing and for their souls.

Randy: What does an author need to do to get the most out of their participation in the writing community?

Ali: There’s an African proverb that states, “The fool speaks, the wise man listens.” I think this thought applies to your question—that in order to get the most our of their participation in a writing community, a writer must be willing to learn from others.

That means putting aside their own need to talk, talk, talk about their stories, and to listen to what others have to say. If all we’re doing is talking about ourselves, our projects, our roadblocks, our accomplishments, then we’re only going to know what we know. The only way to learn what others know (which is the best way to improve your own writing) is to listen. Ask questions. Seek the wisdom of others who are further down the road than you.

At my dojo, we have a belt system—a ranking of skill and expertise on our journey to publication. An important element to any belt rank is the willingness to mentor someone less-experienced than you. The give-and-take of growth and advancement is necessary for general success and exists at all levels of writing.

Randy: What’s the first step in getting involved?

Ali: In general terms, I think the first step to getting involved in the writing community is simply to seek out writers, hang out where they hang out. Everyone can find groups of authors meeting online—a simple google search will turn up Query Tracker, YA Lit Chat or any number of other excellent writing forums. Or, you could start in the real world, at a small writers conference or a meeting of your local writers league chapter.

Specifically, I invite anyone to visit my blog, become a writing ninja, join in on our thrice-weekly #ninjachats, or join us on Twitter using #ninjachat or #ninowrimo.

Whatever approach you take to finding and building your own writing community, the key is to DO IT. You won’t regret it. J

Randy: Do unpublished authors benefit from being part of a community more than published writers? Less than published writers? The same?

Ali: Oh, I think it’s the same, no matter where you are on the path. I think published authors tend to have more well-established connections than unpublished authors, so I think there might be greater need for the unpublished. But we all benefit from our association with each other—we all have a need to connect, to be needed, to be appreciated, and to be taught and guided, no matter where we are in our journey.

Randy: How does participation in a writing community differ for published and unpublished authors?

Ali: I think a published author is looking for ways to connect and expand their reach, ideas for better marketing, and the opportunity to serve and help less-experienced writers.

An unpublished author is looking to stay motivated, to be a part of something, to be guided and to be encouraged.

Randy: What is your number one tip for all of us authors in training in regards to participation in the writing community?

Ali: My biggest advice would be to not let fear restrain you from participating. All of us started at the beginning and there’s no shame in it. Just open your heart and mind and allow yourself to learn from others.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interview with Ali Cross - Part I

            The prospect of interviewing a ninja is exciting all on its own. However, this is not an ordinary ninja interview it is a Narley Ninja interview, which makes it about ten times better. And on top of that, it’s the wonderful Ali Cross who discussed being part of a writing community.

            Ali’s first book, Become, is being released next month and is part of the Dark C.A.R.M.A. tour. You can find out about both of them on her blog:

            And the Dark C.A.R.M.A. blog:

            Sensei Ali is the creator of writer’s dojo, where authors can work together to develop their writing skills. The dojo has training rooms for writing drafts, rewriting, and submitting/queries. You can even earn belted ranks as a writing ninja. They even have Ninja Chat three times a week. You really should check out the dojo.

            It’s pretty easy to see why I picked Ali for this topic.

Randy: How did the Narley Ninja thing come about?

Ali: The more time I spent with other writers, the more I realized that everyone has something awesome to share. A technique, an approach, an attitude toward writing that is just so cool that everyone deserves to hear it. So I devised a regular feature that would allow writing ninjas to share their knowledge—and get a little pat-on-the-back in the process. J

Randy: As a writing ninja, what special skills and traits are needed?

Ali: The only trait needed is dedication. As for skills—we all have ’em. It’s the ninja-ing part that will help us hone them.

Randy: Traditionally, the nemesis of the ninja was the samurai. Is there an equivalent for them for the narley ones? Or for writers in general?

Ali: Heck yes. The samurai to the writing ninja is SELF-DOUBT. Ninjas can’t afford to doubt themselves. No matter the sticky situation they find themselves in, you never see them stop short and ask, “I don’t know. That jump’s awful far. Maybe I can’t do it.” NO! The ninja doesn’t stop and think, he just goes for it.

So should we, as writing ninjas, ignore that taunting samurai trying to make us doubt, and just go for it. Write another chapter, query another agent, start another book. Writing ninjas never give up and never surrender!

Randy: Being the head of the dojo seems like a lot of work. Why do you do it? And is it worth it?

Ali: My initial reaction is to say, nah, it’s not a lot of work! But yeah, lol, it kind of is. But the reason for my initial reaction is because associating with all the amazing writers I’ve met through the dojo has been such a blessing to me, that I just wouldn’t have it any other way. It is 100% worth it. I’ve made friends, been inspired, been helped and guided by all the writing ninjas—in my dojo, the student often becomes the master and I’m the better for it!

Randy: How important is it for an author to be part of a writing community?

Ali: Having tried both approaches—alone, and with friends—I can honestly say it’s unbelievably important for a writer to be a part of a writing community. Writing is a brutal activity. It’s arduous and challenging, demanding and sometimes demeaning. Associating with others who know where you’re coming from is essential for survival. Well, essential for happiness, anyway.

Randy: What is the biggest benefit from being part of a writing community?

Ali: Knowing you’re not alone. Knowing that someone else has been exactly where you are and they managed to come through (relatively) unscathed. The writing community grants the lone writing ninja courage—something we all need an extra dose of now and then.

Randy: Is the “writing community” a conglomerate of all authors, or can the term apply to smaller groups of writers?

Ali: Whoa, this is deep. I’ve never really thought about it before, but I think you can equate the writing community to humanity in general. All writers, published or otherwise, are like the global human population.

We’re not all islands floating around bumping into each other from time to time, we belong to smaller groups, typically, like a dojo or an extended family. There can be many members of your particular writing community, and while you belong to the larger one as a whole, you have closer relationships with your smaller training group—friends online that you tweet with, or always visit each other’s blogs, or whatever.

But we can go smaller from there too, like your immediately family. This would be your critique group, your close writing friends.

So while there is a general writing community, a conglomerate of all authors, there are also smaller and smaller groups that all fill a particular need in the individual writer.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ahoy! Sea Serpent?!?!


 A chill seeps into your bones as you swim towards the ship. You can’t be certain whether it’s due to the cold water in the abyss or a reaction to the eerie glow pouring from the windows. In either case, the dwindling supply of air urges you to approach the wreck without delay.

You peek into the window. Then you wish you hadn’t. Inside is a reminder of your fate should you remain here much longer. The dead walk through the interior of the ship, bathing the cabins with their phosphorescence. They enact the actions of the living, their motions the slow, tortured pantomimes of the ship’s crew.

Uninterested in joining them in this underwater purgatory you start to turn, ready to swim to the surface in the hope that the sea monster has left; bringing a soggy, but safe ending to this day. Out of the corner of your eye - something glitters.

One of the dead crew members carries a silver platter. An ancient relic that size, made of silver, might be worth a reasonable amount of money. Not enough to go up against a horde of unholy creatures, but the object on the platter is another matter. A necklace rests upon the platter. It sparkles. Rubies and emeralds enhance the majesty and beauty of the diamond at the centerpiece. With a diamond that size, there would be no restrictions to what you could do. With that diamond you would command your own destiny.

You swim from window to window keeping an eye on the platter and the necklace. The crewman enters a cabin that is larger than the rest. He moves towards a wall and sets the platter down on a barnacle encrusted table. This is your chance. As he fumbles with a rusty lock on a pitted-iron chest you attempt to squeeze through the window.

For a moment you are stuck in place. You kick and wriggle. Some of the metal breaks away as you struggle, allowing you to swim into the room. Just as you reach for the necklace, the dead crewman opens the chest and turns around. He spots you.

Snagging the necklace you swim as fast as you can out of the room, through the door, and down the passageway. More of the dead crew notices you. They walk to intercept you. Their glacially slow walk allows you to move between them with ease.

One more door remains between you and the outside of the ship. A crewman blocks your path. None of the dead have been able to move fast enough to pose a problem so far. You decide to risk a straight-on dash for freedom. At the last moment you swim along the floor, hoping to dart between his legs.

A bony hand latches on to your pants leg. Despite being little more than bones, the dead crewman is surprisingly strong. You’re held fast.

Placing the thin part of the necklace between your teeth, you use both hands to bludgeon the crewman with the air tank. With the second blow the arm that holds your leg snaps in two. You place your foot against the dead man’s chest and kick off, leaving the ship and the crew behind.

You smile at your success. Then the last gasp of air flows out of the tank.

Go Back: -turn and swim away as fast as you can—without bursting your lungs  http://jessicaaspen.com/2011/10/23/ahoy-sea-serpent/

Go Back: Arm Yourself and Prepare to Fight 

Start Over: 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Interview with Christine Fonseca - Part II

     Book signings; the dream event of many upcoming authors. Here is the second part of my interview with Christine Fonseca as we discuss her experiences with book signings. I don't know about you, but this has certainly got me psyched about getting a chance to do one of my own.

Randy: Do you work with your agent, or publisher, on the book signings?

Christine: I did not – I have set them up on my own. But, I do have friends who have published with larger publishers that have help setting up their signings.

Randy: How is your reaction towards book signings different now then from when you were first published?

Christine: I am smarter now – I know not to expect a stampede of expectant fans. And I have really learned that “non-events” – you know those signings in which no one comes – are events. I have made connections with bookstore personnel that has proven helpful in the long run. Even if I didn’t have a great event.

Randy: How many book signings do you do for each novel? Or is it a continuing process that you plan a certain number of signings each year?

Christine: I plan signings – or really book chats – per year, trying to secure a 1x mos way to visibly connect with readers. This has proven very successful for my two educational titles – both of which exceeded publisher expectations.

Randy: How does a book signing differ for a recently published book as compared to one that has been out for awhile?

Christine: For me, no difference. But then again, I am really talking about educational titles – evergreen books that do not have a specific shelf life like most novels.

Randy: Is the first book signing for a new release an opportunity for the author to judge the book’s success?

Christine: Absolutely NOT. Unless you are a career author with a large following, book signings will not typically be big events. That is why it is so great to have multiple author events.

Randy: What do you pay attention to at your signings? Customer comments? Number of people attending? Or the level of enthusiasm the readers display?

Christine: For me, these things are all about connections. One person or 100’s of people (and yes, for my lectures and book chats I have had the full range) makes no difference. Every encounter is a chance to connect with a reader. You never know where those connections will lead.

Randy: Do you enjoy connecting with your readers at the book signings?

Christine: Definitely – it is the ONLY real reason I do them. Hearing my readers tell me about a positive experience they had with the book, or hearing them processing some information I shared is the best part of this whole thing.

Randy: What suggestions can you give authors about connecting to your fans at book signings?

Christine: Be authentic in all things. The public as a whole has little tolerance for anything else.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Interview with Christine Fonseca - Part I

            As an unpublished author I often imagine what it would be like to achieve publication. One of those day dreams centers on having my very own book signing. To help me get a better grasp of what that would (will) be like, I have asked Christine Fonseca to my blog for a few questions on the topic.

            Christine writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her fiction titles include: Transcend and Lacrimosa and are both Young Adult novels. She has also written 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Handbook and Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Outbursts. If you see a trend in Christine’s non-fiction work that would be because she works as a school psychologist

            You can find out more about Christine from her blog:

            And now for my interview with Christine.

Randy: What is the best thing about book signings?

Christine: I really like connecting with readers. Book signings, book chats and school visits enable me to do that in a really dynamic way.

Randy: What is the worst part of book signings?

Christine: The constant worry that NO ONE will come! I have really moved from traditional signings at a book store to book chats at local schools, etc. Don’t get me wrong – my currently released titles are both educational titles. It makes sense to meet with potential readers AT the schools in a book chat format and partner with a book store to sells books there. That is what I really try to do.

Now, as I break into the YA fiction market, I will happily do more bookstore signings.

Randy: How much work goes into a book signing?

Christine: It depends. The signings I do locally are pretty easy – I have a fabulous person at one of the Barnes and Nobles in the area. She really does most of the work for me. On the book chats, that is more work for me – contacting the schools, trying to talk with the “right” person, etc.

Randy: How soon after you’re published should you have a book signing?

Christine: My first signing was 7 days after my first book was released. For me, it was a little soon – I hadn’t built up readership and the event was not in my home town. Two things would have improved the outcome of that event – A local signing, and stronger readership.

Randy: How far in advance do you plan them?

Christine: For me, I plan three months or more in advance. With my book chats in the schools, I plan out the entire school year in the month of September. For example, I am doing two types of books chats locally this year – one focusing on each of my two books. I have the chats planned between November and April, having 1 to 2 per week during that time.

Randy: What is your #1 tip for making a book signing successful?

Christine: PR! That is right – get the word out. The next book signing I do out of my area, I plan on conducting a school visit during the day, with a signing that night. Another good tip – contact the local school district. In the case of my educational titles, this has proven very helpful.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Interview with Nichole Giles - Part II

     And now for the rest of the interview with Nichole Giles. This is some excellent advice for any authors who are planning to attend their first writing conference any time soon.

Randy: How often should an author attend conferences?

Nichole: In my opinion, as often as you’re able, financially, physically, and mentally. There was a time when I attended one every other month. That got expensive. Exhausting. But I learned a lot, and it was worth it. I hope to someday be invited to present so I don’t have to keep paying for all of them.

Randy: What is the biggest benefit to attending writer conferences?

Nichole: 1. Making personal connections. Those are priceless. Trust me. 2. Learning from actual people. It’s like the difference between taking a class in school or completing a packet. Two completely separate experiences in which information is retained differently.

Randy: What is the biggest drawback to attending writer conferences?

Nichole: Some people get overwhelmed by all the information, and it can be discouraging. I know a lot of authors who come away from a conference needing a break from writing for a few months. Being reminded of what a competitive field this is, of the serious dedication it takes to build a career as an author can be discouraging and disheartening. This is not unusual. Go ahead and take a break if you need. Just don’t let it last too long. And next time you attend a conference, try to give yourself a breather every once in a while. You never know who you’ll meet hanging out in the halls.

Randy:  Do you have a favorite conference story that you can share with us?

Nichole: How about a few favorite moments. At the National Book Festival in Washington DC, I had the opportunity to meet Suzanne Collins and get my copy of Mocking Jay signed. At WorldCON, after a minor amount of stalking, my friends and I dragged George R.R. Martin to the Iron Throne and got our picture with him. At a small local conference in Springville, UT, a motivational speaker taught us to ride the wave while looking up—always up. At a publisher party after a conference, I sat for two hours discussing writing and my work with a senior editor at a major publishing house. There are hundreds of these moments stored in my brain—all from conferences.

Randy:  From my experiences, a lot of the conferences have extras that you can sign up to participate; like dinners, workshops, and agent pitch sessions. How important is it to participate in these added events?

Nichole: Again, it depends on your purpose and where you are in the process. Workshops can benefit everyone, no matter where they are, as long as they’re taught by someone who knows what they’re doing. So definitely, if you can, do those.

If your purpose is to publish nationally through a traditional publisher, then pitch sessions or dinners with agents/editors are a wonderful opportunity, even if you’re not yet ready to submit. If you’re planning to submit to smaller publishers or self publish (aka INDIE), then those things are still great networking, but maybe not as beneficial to the individual other than to make friends.

Randy: Is there any difference in how you react, or enjoy, a conference as a published author? Are they still exciting or is it more of an opportunity to hang out with your friends?

Nichole: I should include a disclaimer for this question. My books are through small publishers, and by no means national bestsellers (though I hope to someday be there), so my thoughts here might be very different from those of another author.

For me, every conference has become social. I’m not going to deny that. However, that is never the sole purpose for me to attend any conference. I have never, ever attended a conference at which I haven’t experienced an a-ha moment that somehow affected me or my writing for the better. There will always be something more to be learned from others, even were I the keynote speaker. So as far as I can think, the only real difference between now and when I was starting is that I have more confidence, know more people, and look for advanced rather than beginning writing sessions.

Randy:  What is it like to be a published author at a writing conference?

Nichole: Satisfying. When someone hands you a book with your name on the cover and ask you to sign it, gratifying.

Randy: Does being a published author hinder your ability to learn more of the writing craft at one of these conferences?

Nichole: No, it doesn’t. Actually, once you’ve published a book, there’s a certain expectation that you will continue to produce, and that each work you produce is as good as or better than the last. There’s an enormous amount of pressure involved in that, and in my opinion it is always helpful to listen to tips and processes talked about by other authors.

Also, I enjoy helping others find their processes as well.

Randy: What are your priorities, or expectations, for a conference as a published author?

Nichole: Depends on the conference. Each one has a little different purpose for me. At a convention like WorldCON, networking is my main priority, while a conference like Storymakers will offer classes, pitch sessions, or keynotes that will take priority. I once attended an ANWA conference in Arizona because I felt pulled to a couple classes they offered. (Yes, it was worth the plane tickets and hotel room.) I also once attended a conference in Southern Utah for a similar purpose, and some things I learned there became a turning point for me as a writer, as well as for the projects I was working on at the time.

As a published author, my focus has adjusted somewhat, but not as much as you might think. I still have a lot to learn, and I will always believe others have a lot to teach.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Interview with Nichole Giles

            Today I have the opportunity to interview Nichole Giles. She is the author of The Sharp Edge of the Knife and Mormon Mishaps and Mischief. Wow, talk about versatility; she has written comedy and a real life thriller.

            Nichole also has two blogs where she splits her time. The first covers writing concerns and with the second one she reviews books. Take some time and check both of them out.

            I interviewed Nichole about Writing Conferences. Until an author has a couple of these under their belt, conferences can be a bit intimidating. If you’ve been contemplating whether you should attend one in your area, this interview should help you decide.

Randy:  What is your favorite writing conference and why?

Nichole: That’s a hard question to answer, because each conference has a little different feel, a little different style, and for me, a different purpose. And in Utah (where I live) there are quite a lot of local conferences from which to choose every year. At least one every two months or so. The LDS Storymakers spring conference packs a whole lot of classes and workshops into two or three days of conferencing, and the price is phenomenal as compared to the benefits. That’s definitely one of my favorites. Also, this year I attended my first WorldCON. Definitely, absolutely worth my money, my time, and all the energy it required. I hope to make WorldCON a conference I attend every year.

Randy:  At what stage in an author’s career should they start attending writing conferences?

Nichole: As soon as you decide to start writing. There is so much to be learned from other authors, and nothing more empowering than connecting with other creators who understand the ins and outs of our creative sides.

Randy:  Does the size of the conference have any impact on how worthwhile it is to attend? What are the advantages of a bigger or smaller conference?

Nichole: I think it depends on your individual purpose and where you are in the process. For instance, something like WorldCON might not be as beneficial for a beginning writer as it is for an advanced one, because while panels are interesting and informative, they don’t necessarily get into the nuts and bolts side of things the way a smaller conference or workshop environment might. However, the networking opportunities are incredible for an author on the verge of breaking in. And when you’re at that stage, networking is a key factor in career building.

There are definite benefits to smaller conferences as long as you choose them wisely. Smaller, more intimate settings better allow personalized face time with industry professionals who might otherwise be lost in the crowd of a larger conference. And if the small conferences also include workshops in which you get professional feedback on your work, all the more value.

Or, for a shorter answer, there are definite benefits to both small and large conferences. It’s all about the current needs of each individual.

Randy:  What tips can you give to first time conference attendees?

Nichole: Don’t be afraid to talk to your favorite authors, or anyone else for that matter. We’re all there for the same purpose, even if we’re at different stages of progression. Talking to people is the single most important benefit writers get from in-person conferences. If you have an opportunity to make a personal connection with someone, don’t let it pass. You will regret it.

Randy:  How would your conference tips to first time attendees differ from those you’d give to a published author? How is the focus and need on conferences differ between the two groups?

Nichole: I think first time attendees tend to get easily overwhelmed. It’s important to take what you can from each conference, and leave the rest for later processing. My suggestion is that you not try to cram in too much, even if you think you HAVE to get to every single class. Make sure you take a minute to breathe, get a snack, use the restroom, and talk to other attendees.

Toward the end of the day, some published authors who have been regular attendees at conferences can be found lingering in hallways. Not because we don’t need to keep learning (we totally do) but because we’ve been to enough conferences that we’ve found our personal limits—that place at which we risk burnout of the brain—and this is our way of preventing that.

As far as focus goes, I think there is a distinct difference in class / workshop needs between new writers and published authors. Again, though, it’s a personal call. For instance, someone who is just getting started might be better off attending writing-type classes, while published authors might attend marketing ones. Both types are necessary and important for each set of people, but sometimes it’s a matter of deciding what you need to know NOW, rather than trying to cram in information you won’t need for a year or more.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Josi S. Kilpack Interview - Part II

     Here is the rest of my interview with Josi S. Kilpack. And don't forget about the contest she is having on her blog. Jump over there and see about winning an iPad.

Pumpkin Roll Contest

Randy: Do you see any evidence that publishers prefer a series of books rather than shopping for stand alone novels?

Josi: I don’t see that. From my perspective, publishers are looking for great books. If it’s a stand alone and it’s great, awesome, if it’s a series and it’s great, that’s good too. The author, however, has to understand the pros and cons of a series from a publisher’s perspective and be willing to address the drawbacks.

Randy: Is there a concern that you could be painting yourself into a corner by writing a series? And if readers were only expecting you to write more of your Culinary Mystery series, would that be bad?

* Obviously, this is theoretical for you since you have written more than just your Culinary Mysteries.

Josi: I think it helps that I’d already written a variety of things before I wrote Lemon Tart. I’d written women’s fiction, romance, suspense, and a YA novel. I think that allowed both my publisher and myself to see beyond just THIS series. We also both realize that it can’t go on forever. We’re already discussing what I’ll do next, and it won’t be a culinary mystery though we’ll use the good things we’ve learned to make this next series just as good but from a new perspective. I’m sure there are some readers who won’t transfer over when I go to something new, but hopefully most of them will come with me. I think the fear of ‘painting yourself in a corner’ is very valid thought, which is why I am working my tail off to take full advantage of THIS opportunity right now. I’m very aware that I may never find this same kind of success, so I am maximizing my potential within this series right now. There’s so much said about branding in the industry, and it’s a good thing, to get a name for yourself, but it can also be stagnating and restrictive. It’s not easy to create a balance, but I’m grateful that so far I’ve been able to do so.

Randy: What tricks, or methods, do you use to keep new books in the series from sounding too much like the previous ones?

Josi: This is my biggest fear! I struggle and struggle with this everytime I start a new project. It’s such a pet peeve of mine with other authors and series, so I try hard to keep it fresh and different but it means that each book has less elements to pull from since I’m using things up all the time.

Randy: Is there a danger in making a book in a series that is too different from the others?
Josi: Absolutely. Readers can read one book in the series for a variety of reasons, but they will only come back and read another one because they liked that first one. I have to keep the books similar enough that it’s familiar to the readers, and yet I need to make it unique enough that it doesn’t feel recycled. It all goes back to the story arc, series arc, and character arc. It has to be consistent and yet new all at the same time.

Randy: What is the best bit of advice you can give unpublished authors about writing a series of books?

Josi: Understand a publisher’s concern with a series—if they contact for the whole series and the first one doesn’t go well, they could sink themselves. If an author has written one book in the series and the publisher loves it, but the others aren’t as good, they, again, are in a tough situation. I suggest, as I’ve heard many other people recommend, that the first book be capable of standing on its own. I also suggest having a really great marketing plan if you’re planning a series so that the publisher can see that you understand the need to launch strong.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Josi S. Kilpack Interview - Part I

            Today I have the privilege of interviewing Whitney Award winning author Josi S. Kilpack. She has written the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery Series as well as To Have And To Hold, Her Good Name, Unsung Lullaby, and the Whitney winner Sheep’s Clothing. Josi’s latest book, Pumpkin Roll, has just been released and she is holding a contest to celebrate it. You can follow the link below to find out how to win an iPad.


            Without further ado, here is what Josi had to say:

Randy: When you wrote “Lemon Tart” did you plan for it to be part of a series?

Josi: I was mindful of it’s potential, but I was looking at is as just one book at the same time. It wasn’t until Deseret Book said they liked it that I told them the series potential and they agreed to do three, which of course put me in a panic cause I hadn’t thought about the plots for these other books.

Randy: In what way, if any, is it easier to write a book series than it is a stand alone novel?

Josi: There’s already a developed character to work with. I’m not having to create back story and character traits and there’s a sense of familiar that is refreshing and allows my focus to move toward plot instead of character.

Randy: In what ways is it more difficult to write a series?

Josi: In addition to the story arc, there is a series arc which has to use each book as an essential element just like a story arc uses each scene as an essential element in each book. Keeping those questions open, but answering enough of them to keep the books connected has been tricky. On top of that there’s a character arc in each book AND in the overall series. Sadie has to grow and change but she can’t change too much. It’s been a whole new experience for me and I guess I won’t know until I finish if I pull it off.

Randy: Is there a greater sense of success associated with writing a series as opposed to a stand alone novel?

Josi: A little bit, but there’s also an increased fear. Because the books are connected, I’m constantly worried that people will say “This newest one isn’t as good as the others.” Every writer I know lives in fear that the book they are writing is garbage and will fail. I fear that too, but I also fear that a bad book will ruin the whole series.

Randy: Do you get tired of writing about the same characters?

Josi: Yes. There are times I can’t wait to write about someone else—Sadie and I get very sick of each other. And yet, it’s kind of like a family member that you might get tired of, but then you can’t imagine not having her there either. There’s a sense of comfort when we get going on a new adventure, and yet the woman wears me out too.

Randy: Which is stronger; the sense of comfort in writing in an established and familiar setting or the desire to write something new?

Josi: It depends on the day. When I’m in a groove and the story is flowing, I’m so glad to be here and appreciate not having to take time to develop a character. When the story isn’t working, I’m certain that I’m out of ideas for her, she’s stale and boring and I need to do something new. It does help that each setting is a new one, which forces me to factor in the changes which is a huge help in the stories and in presenting Sadie some growing opportunities.

Randy: How far ahead do you plan the books in your series? Do you write them one at a time or do you have a grand plotline that you follow?

Josi: One at a time. I might have some vague ideas or thoughts on how it will work, but each book starts with a brainstorming session where I consider all the plot devices, motivations, methods, and characters I’ve already used and figure out what I can do that’s new and different. I rarely know who the bad guy is until the second half of the book which is both exciting and neurotic. Mostly neurotic.

Randy: Do you currently have an end for the series in mind? And if so, do you have an amount of time, or number of books, in mind for when that will happen?

Josi: We are planning on ten books. Book 8 is untitled as of yet, but we’re working on it. Book 9 will be Baked Alaska and the final book will be Wedding Cake. Based on the current schedule the series will finish in 2013 with the publication of a comprehensive cook book including all the recipes in Sadie’s Little Black Recipe Book.