Tell me a about yourself. What got you started in writing?
I write the Crystal Series books, which are sci-fi action and adventure stories that center on the themes of aliens, spies, AI, romance, and battles in space. Criss, the overarching personality in the series, is a four-gen AI crystal with the cognitive ability of a thousand humans. He is hard-wired to protect and serve his human leadership team, which includes Dr. Juice Tallette, the crystal scientist who created Criss; Cheryl Wallace, a captain of a Fleet military space cruiser; and Sid, a covert spy for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
I started writing science fiction when I was looking for a new creative outlet in my life. At that time, I chased several ideas--developing webcasts to go with my online textbook (www.controlguru.com), launching a new technology company, and tapping away at my keyboard writing a scifi novel. Within months, my writing morphed into a passion and I dropped my other projects to give myself more time for it. I’ve been at it for about five years and my writing time remains a most treasured part of my day.
What is your process for writing a book?
I begin with an idea in my head and then start writing. I don’t plan, and I even prohibit myself from thinking too far ahead, because my joy comes from the creative process of writing into the unknown.
I write each scene in the order it will appear when published. The fun thing about this is that my stories follow a rotating point of view among the characters, and don’t always follow a straight timeline from chapter to chapter. So, I write a story that does not follow a strict timeline sequence, and that rotates among the viewpoints of the central characters, in page order.
And to really make it fun, I don’t allow myself to go back and change a previous scene to help me solve a challenge with the current one. To me, plot development is like solving a puzzle. I enjoy being at a particular point in an adventure, with characters deployed here and there, all with histories and in certain situations, and now I must move forward in a plausible and entertaining fashion. It’s a slow process, but my key to success is persistence. I write every day for a few hours. And slowly but surely, I write books.
Do you edit as you write or do you wait until the novel is finished before you start editing?
I edit as I go. And as I write, I will look back and tweak pages here and there until I can read a whole scene without stopping. I can usually achieve this in five or so passes. And during this time, I edit for sentence structure, word selection, line breaks, showing not telling, replacing passive voice with active voice, continuity, and anything else that might make me unhappy at that time. Writing new lines for a story is equally slow. I can take a minute to write one sentence. And then five more messing with it.
What's your favorite part about writing?
I enjoy having my characters surprise me, which they do pretty much every time I write, and which is why I can’t plot ahead. The conversations are the wild card. I can describe a setting or have action take place and stay on track. But once the characters start talking, then all bets are off.
In a verbal exchange, a character will reveal information I had planned on holding back, note something that becomes a flaw in my own plot, or make a quip that takes the scene in an unexpected direction. I don’t fight it. I embrace it. Discovering what’s going on in a character’s mind is one of the thrills that keeps me writing.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
As a kid, I discovered Tom Swift, Jr., a young adult science fiction series. In different books, Tom builds a flying lab, a jet submarine, a giant robot, a rocket ship—I was in heaven and spent many hours daydreaming about science and technology. The Crystal Series stories might be described as an adult version of Tom Swift, maybe mashed up with some Star Trek, Mission Impossible, and I Robot.
Why did you choose to become an indie author rather than follow the traditional publishing route?
I chose the indie route for a number of reasons: I’m anxious to get new works out to readers in a timely fashion, I want to maintain long-term control over of the work, and I am excited by the entrepreneurial challenge. Self-publishing has all aspects of the small business enterprise, including product creation, branding and marketing, finance, project management, and intellectual property concerns. I love exploring ways to pull those levers to advance my writing career.
What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?
I just released the third full-length book of the series, Crystal Rebellion, and I’m gratified by the positive reader response—it’s been amazing! The setting is on Mars, and the bad guys are three AI crystals left behind after the last alien invasion of our solar system. Our heroes struggle to save the world and soon realize they need to save themselves. I’ll leave it at that as I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. I invite everyone to give the book a read and enjoy the ride!
Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.
The epilogue of book II, Crystal Conquest, suggests the premise for this new release, Crystal Rebellion. And Rebellion’s epilogue suggests the premise for the next book, Crystal Escape. That’s all the clues I’ll give to my wonderful readers. I’m half way along on the new book and already know it will be the best one yet.
What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish?
Write every day and have fun doing it. Writing is art, and so there will be people who like what you do and those who don’t. So like any art form, do it for yourself. Write what brings you joy and satisfaction, and you will produce the best work you are able and have fun doing it.
One way to practice is to write pieces and then stick them in a drawer. An alternative is to write things that will help society. Your neighborhood library, museum, senior center, or shelter all have access to grant opportunities and would benefit from a talented individual willing to help them write one. It’s hard work. It’s only creative to the extent you can spin the circumstances of the organization you are supporting to the requirements of the granting agency. But I know that anyone who writes a dozen grant applications will be judged a dozen times. It’s frustrating work, but like practicing your scales on an instrument, this sort of activity strengthens writing skills.
A Question for Kathryn:
What is a good marketing strategy for an indie author like me?
Great question! Recently, I've been learning the importance of connecting with readers for the long haul - not just to sell a book or two - but to keep readers reading through my connection with them.
We support our friends, those who care about us, and social media is becoming more and more of a hangout with our friends, whether we have met with many of them personally or not.
Great friends like to help us. They share what they have liked, what we have written, with their friends. And these friends share with their friends and so on.
We create friendships not only through social media, but through speaking engagements and author events. We may decide to do a signing at a hair salon or a craft show. Who says we have to sell books only at book stores?
We open our eyes and our hearts to opportunities of connection, and we give our readers the best we have to offer.
Those who call us friend will keep coming back.