In April, I was contacted by a lovely young woman for an interview. What makes this an extraordinary interview is that she chose me for her final, before graduation. The following is her assignment:
- “Hi, my name is Alicia Brautigan. I’m in my final semester of getting my creative writing degree from UCA and there is an assignment where we have to interview published writers from outside the school. The interview has to be turned in on paper so it can be done through messenger. Please and thank you for your help.”
I was not only surprised, since this is the first time I have been interviewed by a writing student, I was absolutely honored! I am very pro-education, and I encourage all young writers to not wait until you are my age to begin writing. Trust me on this! I also promised her that I would publish it as soon as she graduated, which she did on May 14, 2017. I’m very proud of you, Alicia!
So, I hope you all enjoy my very first interview by a student with a major in Creative Writing, and again, thank you, Alicia! Your questions were excellent, and some I’ve never been asked before I truly enjoyed answering! ~ LK Kelley
Interview: LK Kelley
LK Kelley was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and adopted by Curtis and Jerry Smith. Her hometown from the age of seven months was Fort Smith, Arkansas. AT 17, she toured Europe. She graduated from Westark Community College (now known as University of Arkansas Fort Smith, or UAFS) with an Associate of Arts Degree in usic, and a minor in English. As of 2012, she is also a Freelance Book, Article, and website Editor. LK Kelley’s series, the White Wolf Prophecy, has four books in its series, and of January, 2017, published The Anaerris Code, her next series. LK Kelley lives in Barling, Arkansas, which is a suburb of Fort Smith, AR.
Interviewer: Alicia Brautigan
Brautigan: What made you interested in writing?
Kelley: This is a bit involved, Alicia, but to answer this correctly, I have to tell you a bit of my background. I have always been interested in writing, but never really realized it until 2013. That having been said, I was a straight “A” student in all my English classes from day one – until I reached the 7th grade, where I encountered the strangest, English Lit teacher I ever met! Her name was Mrs. Werner, and she made up strange, Sci Fi stories for basic diagramming of sentence structure. I had always been very good at this. However, not so much at that point. I couldn’t wrap my mind around her silliness in her writing! I was always a fan of Sci Fi, so that didn’t enter into the problem I was having with her. Not only did she write very strangely, but she spoke the same way she wrote. So, I went from an A to an F. I was devastated. After a while, I swallowed my pride, and asked her for help. Strangely enough, she was in a continuing education class, and the topic was how to help a struggling student. She asked if I would participate, and I said yes. So, every day for the first semester, she pulled me out of study hall (YEA!), and she applied what she was learning to tutoring me. The scariest part, at first, was the huge, suitcase, tape recorder that was used to tape our sessions. But, that scare disappeared by the third session. By the 2nd semester, I earned a D. Not a great improvement, but it was an improvement. By the end of the third semester, I had earned a “C”, and on my final, an “A+”. She had earned my full respect, and I have never forgotten what she did for me. From then on, I never made less. Because of Mrs. Werner, I could write rings around the other students. But, I was also very active in music, and was planning on becoming a music teacher. As fate would have it, that never came to pass, because I met my husband of 43 years as of this year. I never regretted it. But, in the interim, I found I had a amazing knack for being an office organizer. I’ve worked in that capacity for 20 doctors, and now, I manage an office for an audiologist, and love it! But, still, I never lost my interest in writing. And, I used my skill to write in these positions when my employers found I could writer. The closest I came to writing was when I served as my daughter’s editor – even before she started school. She had the same capacity for writing that I did, but she hated editing. However, that was not lost on her, either. She achieved what I waited most of my life to do. She interned as a writer and producer for KTHV Channel 11, Little Rock, AR as an intern, before graduating, and after, in 2003, she was employed there from for over three years. In 2006, Laura Kelley was snapped up by Gannett News Media in 2006 for writer and producer for KUSA, their flagship station in KUSA in Denver, Colorado. She was there for two years, until she was offered a lucrative position at The SolutionsPR in Denver, CO, and has been in PR for the last 8 years. I still edit for her. Editing, in and of itself, is absolutely fun, and I love it! But, it is highly specialized, and unfortunately, too many writers either do not use one, or they use a friend or family member.
But, finally, I decided to put myself out there, because I believed it was my turn to write. Today, I wonder why I didn’t do this in my earlier years!
Brautigan: How did you go from reading to writing your own book?
Kelley: That is a good question, Alicia. Actually, I didn’t. There was another step, before I began to write. I went from reading a great deal, which I have always done, to a friend who asked for my editing help for her books in 2012. (As I mentioned above, I became a professional book editor, first.) Anita Meyer is the author of a 5***** book series. The books in this series, include: “The Primordial Language – Confirmation of the Divine Creator”, “In Search Of The Holy Language”, and “Beyond The Bible Code”. And, I am presently editing her other book. I have edited many other author’s books since that time as well. She was needing someone to edit for her, and I although I had never edited a book before, so I said yes. It seemed like a fun way to not only get to read books for free, but to edit them for money. I was absolutely right! It has been a great learning curve for writing my own books. In 2013, I actually asked why I wasn’t writing. And, so, I sat down in July of 2013 to write my first series, and had all three books in “The White Wolf Prophecy” Series written by October of 2013. I wrote them in secret. No one knew – not even my husband or daughter! That was really fun! I also had a publisher, Michael Kiser of DragonEye Publishing House, lined up to publish them as well.
Brautigan: What sorts of genres or elements inspired you to write?
Kelley: For years, I have studied many mythologies, legends, and Science Fiction all my life. And, I spent 6 ½ weeks in Europe at the age of 17 actually visiting many of the sites of mythology and legends. I was also an Administrator on a forum owned by Atlantis Rising Magazine that dealt entirely with these subjects. I also had the amazing opportunity to speak with real researchers and writers, and included many famous people, between 2001 – 2015. So, this was my first My writing limited my time afterwards, and I also spent a lot of time studying Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Conan Doyle, JRR Tolkien as well as contemporary Science Fiction writer in the 20th Century in both books and in television and movies in new ideas as well as adaptations of older books into movies, such as Star Trek (Gene Roddenbury) and George Lucas. Studying TV and movies actually influenced how I write today. This will be explained in your next question.
Brautigan: What was the basic process that you take to write? Do you have a system? Does your system change with each novel that you write?
Kelley: Many writers use outlines, or notes. I found outlines to be far too restrictive in school, so I won’t use them. Why? The restrictions are required that you stick to your basic outline, but as writing progresses, you think of new, and exciting things to add, but if they do not fit into the outline, you can’t use them. I do take some notes, but usually it’s something I just thought about adding or subtracting from my writing. So, I don’t go overboard on them. Something I just thought about adding or subtracting from my writing. So, I don’t go overboard on them.
My very first, basic step? Choose the names of my characters. This is very important. You have to actually develop a real relationship with them – just as if they were real people. This is how you write each one with feeling. Your first goal is to make sure your reader feels a connection to them, and that means that you have to do the same. If you don’t, it won’t come through on paper.
Step 2: I use a process called “storyboarding”. I am a huge fan of commentaries that are associated with TV and movies. I watch, and listen, to all of them over and over. These venues use “storyboarding”. They draw out each scene, and post them to a wall, then the writers brainstorm together. My way is similar except I actually visualize each scene as I write – and act them out! Once I have that scene the way I desire, I sit down and write. You can imagine how silly I must look as I act each scene and dialogue! But, it’s a great way to keep the continuity of the story. I also have a page that lists each character’s name, who they are, their full descriptions, relation to the other characters, and more. I do this so that they remain consistent throughout the books.
I believe that every system is always changing, Alicia. And, it should be a writer’s basic desire – change. Not to change or grow in your writing will result in boredom for your readers. And, I also believe it contributes to the writer’s worst fear? Writer’s Block. So far, I have had no writer’s block. I do not stick with just one paranormal group, but I like to shake things up, and choose a different one for each stand-alone book and series.
Brautigan: What sorts of research did you take on the supernatural/paranormal parts of your books?
Kelley: As I said above, I have been studying these things all my life, so I have so much research already done, I just use what I have. However, as I said, a writer must seek out change at all times. So, while I know a lot about things, there are always things one knows nothing about, or little – such as entropy and time travel – both of which I know something about already. This is when I go online. Since the internet, research goes much faster. There are no trips to the library needed these days. I research people. I pay attention to how each person reacts to different situations. And, this is how a character seems to always be based on a real person! And, this is a really fun part of writing! Depending on the age of the character, you will find all of my characters based upon a real person. All four of my female leads in the White Wolf Prophecy, as well those in the Anaerris Code (out now), are based on real women. I use their personalities in my writing, and only they and their friends know who they are. They are usually very flattered by this.
After assigning a character and their personality, I then assign them to a paranormal/supernatural role. I try to fit the personality to the role – not the other way around. I find that my love of them grows when I do this, and it actually shows well in my writings.
Brautigan: What steps did you take post-writing?
Kelley: This is where the real work begins, Alicia, and it’s the part most writers just do not like.
Step 1: Find an editor! Never, EVER publish a book without having a real editor edit your book. There are many freelance editors out there at reasonable prices, but if your book does not read well, because of a great many mistakes, then I guarantee you, your readers will criticize you over it! Never make the mistake of believing that a reader doesn’t know anything about spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. You will invariably be wrong!
Step 2: While you are actually writing, begin your search for a publisher. If you are going to self-publish, be very aware that many of those who say they are self-publishing publisher to help you, are scams! Research, research, research. It may take you a long time to find a Publishing House, but self-publishing is also a good way to go.
Step 3: Once a publisher is located, and you have made contact with them, and your manuscript is back from the editor, it is time to submit it to the publisher for review. This could be a physical copy or a digital copy you can send by email. Make absolutely sure that it is an unalterable, PDF form! And, then, be prepared to wait…and wait…and wait…and wait. You may be accepted, or not, but either way, it’s a waiting game.
Step 4: You may get snatched up immediately, or eventually, or you’ll get a rejection notice.
Step 5: While many do go the self-publishing route, or not, be forewarned that you may have to pay for several things up to and including an ISBN number – absolutely necessary, your book cover, but unless you design it yourself like I do, these could cost upwards to $600 to $1000 or more. An editor, of course, is necessary. The fees vary wildly, so make sure you get references first. There are other fees that must be paid to different people such as all bookstores and online bookstores. Print seems to be on the way out, but not totally yet. Too many of us like the feel of the book. Bookstores will not always put your book on the shelf, so don’t be upset if they decline it. Also, they will not suffer any monetary loss, but will return your printed book to you if it doesn’t sell, or only sells a few. There are a great many other fees. Also, note…upfront Royalties are only paid to those authors whose books are known sellers.
One final note: You must pay fees to EACH type of format, and to each type of online bookseller.
If a large publishing house won’t consider you, then consider paying flat fees to a smaller publishing house. Again, do your research. My publisher loves to publish new, and upcoming writers. Try this site first, and tell Michael that LK Kelley sent you!
For me, I was lucky, because I was already freelance editing for him. He loved it when I asked him if he would publish my first book. But, there is a reason why we are called hungry writers. Most people will never see a lot of money from their books. It is the author’s responsibility to do all promotions. The publisher only does a minimum amount of advertising. You need your own website, twitter, facebook, instagram, and any number of other social media as well. And, you must be active on them at all times. If you want examples, please feel free to check some of my links below.
Brautigan: How did you feel after your first book was published?
Kelley: Surreal. Exciting. Nervous. To see your book on online bookstores and in a bookstore, give you a feeling that this isn’t real!
Brautigan: What sorts of criticism/praise were you given when you published your first novel?
Kelley: So far, I have had nothing but what is known as 5***** reviews, Alicia. I have also had three Independent Author Awards known as Indie Awards.
Brautigan: What have you done since the first book, i.e. conventions, readings?
Kelley: This is tough in Fort Smith, AR. There are no venues for booksignings. My first one was in Denver, CO, as was my second, both at Barnes and Noble. They were a blast! Setting these up in this area of Arkansas is almost impossible unless you lay out $500 plus at conventions where they will be accepted. Most of us don’t have that type of money, so it’s a useless way to do it. I contrast, Anita Meyer lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is great for authors! She is always going to one or another. It’s rather sad that Arkansas doesn’t support its authors.
Brautigan: How has the experience of writing changed from the first novel to your latest?
Kelley: More Descriptive. It’s something I have strived to achieve
Brautigan: What is your advice to beginning writers?
Kelley: EDIT EDIT EDIT! I cannot stress this enough! The range of errors I see in e-books today is actually horrendous! The main error? The use of “me” and “I” has deteriorated to the point that authors of today are copying this error. And, worse? Not only in print, but in Television and Movies! Other errors are in punctuation, sentence structure, etc. If you are not an editor, you will need one!
Some of my sites are below: