I'm so excited to introduce you to my friend and fellow writer, Kieran Kramer. I met Kieran through my critique partner Sharon. Lucky for me they're related through marriage. Now I get to celebrate Kieran's debut novel's release today, November 2, 2010. When Harry Met Molly. This book is part of the Impossible Bachelors series. I've invited my friend to share her journey with us and celebrate the release.
Pop! Ah, champagne flowing into glass right now. And here's a bit of dark chocolate to go with my bubbly. And best of all, one of my commenters will win a copy of Kieran's book! Woohoo!!
Me: How did you end up becoming a writer?
Kieran: I've been writing since I was a kid. I think it all started because I loved reading. I wanted to participate in that amazing world of words and stories.
Me: What is your favorite genre to write?
Kieran: I LOVE writing historicals, so I'd have to say that's my favorite genre! But I also love funny contemporary stuff, so I could see myself writing that someday, too. Honestly, it's not the genre that matters to me so much as being able to express myself, to be able to use my voice to tell a story.
Me: I really love your philosophy about writing as a way to express yourself. Tell me about your process. Are you a plotter or do you follow the muse?
Kieran: I'm a combination, but I lean highly toward following the muse. I always start a story from one image that comes to me: an impression, a fleeting dream…. I won't be able to get that idea out of my head, and so I build a whole story around it. But until I read craft books, I wasn't that good at making the story as cohesive as it could be. Now I know structure, and that really helps me out when I find myself in a dark plotting corner. Favorite craft books: everything by Blake Snyder, Syd Field, and Michael Hauge; Dwight Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer; and Christopher Vogler, The Writer's Journey.
Me: First another sip of champagne. Ah, and a nibble of chocolate. I like to hear that I’m not the only writer who had to read a lot of craft books and take a lot of workshops to learn “how” to tell my story. I just ordered The Writer’s Journey and I can’t wait until it arrives. I’ve got your book When Harry Met Molly pre-ordered for my fun reading. Reading is what I like do when I relax and unwind. What about you? How do you relax after a writing day?
Kieran: I watch a reality TV show with my daughter, something really silly and fun like Project Runway or the Housewives series, or I might watch Modern Family or The Office with the whole family. Sometimes I'll take an evening walk with my husband or go visit my wonderful neighbors. I don't do anything spectacular.
But one way I pamper myself every day is to keep a pile of excellent reading material on my bedside table and lying around the house. I'm always reading at least two novels at a time and some magazines.
Me: What do you read? What are your favorite genres? Who are your favorite authors?
Kieran: I read everything, but I focus more on novels than non-fiction. My favorite genres to read in? Of course, romance is my all-time favorite, both contemporaries and historicals. LaVyrle Spencer is my favorite romance author, but I adore so many others as well. We should be proud of how many spectacular romance authors are on the shelves right now!
Other favorite books and authors: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith; I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith; To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee; and Mistress of Mellyn, by Victoria Holt. I also love Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Laura Ingalls Wilder, James Herriot, and too many others for me to be able to name them all.
Me: Your bookshelf and mine sound alike.
. Now I’m curious about your next project. What are you working on now?
Kieran: I'm writing Book 4 in my Impossible Bachelors series. The title is not set yet—we're still mulling it over. I love a good title, though. It gets me psyched to write the book.
Me: I love your titles for the books. I can see why they inspire you. Today we’re celebrating your debut release When Harry Met Molly. How soon will we see your next book in the Impossible Bachelors series?
Kieran: Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right is coming out Nov. 30th! And Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage comes out next April.
Me: Awesome. I don’t have to wait too long for my next Kieran Kramer book. This debut is very exciting, but we all know getting published is hard. How long were you trying to get published before you got the call?
Kieran: I wrote my first book fifteen years ago. It was a 60,000-word Regency. That went nowhere—I sent it out to one publisher, and when it got rejected, I put it away (I had a dog's POV in it! And I didn't know what head hopping, conflict, or pacing were). I also didn't know I should keep submitting. I assumed that if one person said they didn't want it, it was no good. Over the next decade, I got smarter: I joined RWA, and when the Romance Writers Report came every month in the mail, I'd read it cover to cover, which helped me keep the dream alive (although I didn't seek out a local RWA chapter, and I should have).
The bald truth is, I didn't focus on my writing dream as much as a person who wants to get into the business should. I started a lot of manuscripts and didn't get past Chapter 3 in most of them. The truth was, for me writing was more a hobby and a form of stress relief, a haven I could go to when I needed to replenish me. There's nothing wrong with that, either. I learned a lot in those years!
But time marched on. I was super busy with my kids, and we moved a lot, and life just happened. It wasn’t until my husband got laid off from work about five or six years ago that I got the notion that I had the talent it took to make money with my writing. I began to go to the National RWA conference. That catapulted me to the next level of believing. I saw that this was the place where I would learn the ropes, and I would take full advantage of it. I started reading craft books and writing full or almost full manuscripts rather than snippets. All told, I wrote about four manuscripts over those five years. And then my husband went to Afghanistan and suddenly—age 40 was behind me. That was scary. I didn't want to have any regrets about not pursuing my dreams! I wanted my kids to see that we should all have dreams and go for them. Everything clicked. I felt it the time was right to go all out, full speed ahead, and do this thing. Simply put, I gave myself permission to put my personal passion for writing at the top of my list of priorities. That's when I sold When Harry Met Molly.
Me: Wow, your story is amazing. No regrets and wanting to teach our children to go for their dreams are the main reasons I’m pursuing the dream and waiting for the “call” myself. I know I've got champagne chilling in my fridge for thad day. So tell me, what was it like when you finally got the “call?” How did you celebrate?
Kieran: I'm a very simple person, so I didn't do anything immediately but call my distant family and share lots of hugs from nearby family and friends. The big celebration came when we got to go to Disney World for the first time. My kids had never been, and two of them were teens. One was ten. We had such a great time!
Me: I think going to Disney World is a fabulous way to celebrate your success and to share the victory with your family. I might have to do that when I get “the call.” But there’s one thing I’ve always wanted to ask, is it really a “call?”
Kieran: It was a phone call, and I was driving on a very narrow country road when it came! I told my agent I had to hang up or I'd drive off into a corn field!! I was on my way to jury duty, actually. It was fabulous because in the courtroom, we were told to stand and announce our profession, and I got to say, "Hi, I'm Kieran Kramer and I'm a full-time writer." That was cool! I just had jury duty this week (again, but a different court) and I've since learned that a lot of published people say, "Author" when asked to describe their profession. But I still prefer to say writer—because paid or not, I am a writer, first and foremost. It's who I am, whereas the word "author" describes my output combined with the efforts of a marvelous publishing team. As proud as I am of being an author, I want to stay focused on the core of who I am, which is simply—writer. That might be splitting hairs for some people, but the distinction matters to me.
Me: I love how you separate the idea of being an author from being a writer. This gives authenticity to those of us who are not published yet. What about aspiring writers? What advice would you give to them?
Kieran: To believe in what you're writing. If you don't believe, it won't be any good. Always turn inward, every day, and say, "Why am I doing this?" Ponder it for a moment. Another question you could ask is, "What is it I really want to say?" It's important to start at the foundation and figure out why you write. Until you do that, you won't hone in on the passion deep inside you that gives you the impetus to write and infuses life into your writing. In a nutshell, know your worldview and always find your passion.
Me: Excellent advice. What encouragement can you give writers who face rejection?
Kieran: First of all, it's often not you, and many times it's not your manuscript. Sometimes it's simply that an agent or editor is looking for something different. The same way that we all buy winter coats but choose different styles, colors, and fabrics, editors and agents have their own personal preferences. You could have a perfectly lovely manuscript, but it simply doesn't appeal to that editor or agent's tastes. Too many writers don't seem to be aware of this and take rejection as a sign that their writing is not good.
Keep submitting until you locate that agent or editor who looks at it and goes, "Wow!" You want someone to be excited about your work.
If you're submitting for a long time, and every editor and agent offers the same reason for rejecting it, then maybe you should do something different. But you have to decide what "a long time" is. That's personal. We all develop at different rates in everything we do, including writing. If you want to give yourself just one year—or five or ten—before you change your patterns, that's fine. No one should tell you how long you should give yourself. Some people like to tweak things constantly so they have a faster learning curve. It suits their personalities. But others like their voice to develop like a fine wine. It's all in what YOU want to do.
But set yourself those goals. Give yourself that deadline. Be aware of what you're doing. Don't just keep floating without a plan.
Me: You’ve faced rejection, learned to set goals, and worked through years of learning how to craft a story. What is the most difficult thing about writing for you today?
Kieran: Trying to plot out the story ahead of time. I simply can't get more than the basic turning points on my storyboard or in a synopsis, and even then, they change. For me, the story evolves as I go.
Me: What is the most surprising thing you discovered after you received the "call"?
Kieran: That life doesn't really change that much. But I like it that way and prepared myself for it to be that way, actually. I intentionally went into this adventure telling myself that I already have everything I need, and I do. I have a loving family, true friends, a roof over my head, and food in my belly. I'm extremely blessed.
I think it's very important, no matter where you are in life, to remember what your essence is versus your identity (thanks, Michael Hauge, for your Essence vs. Identity talk). I have a lot of identities, and I love my new identity as an author. But the most important thing of all is that underneath all my roles, I want to be a good person. If I'm remembered simply as that, I'll be happy.
Thanks for having me today, Christine! I love your blog, and I think it's because you are a very passionate person. Your worldview definitely comes through in your writing. Your cup is half-full instead of half-empty, and that's an awesome way to be.
Thanks for your kind words, Kieran. I’m so glad you stopped in for some champagne and dark chocolate to celebrate today’s release of your debut novel When Harry Met Molly.