In honour of American Independence Day, I am thrilled to welcome writer Kate M. Colby to my blog. I have made some of my journey to being an ‘indie’ publisher alongside Kate and I have found her knowledgeable and inspiring, as well as a skilled writer. Her advice and encouragement has always been spot on. It’s great then, that, as an added bonus, her 100 Fantasy Writing Prompts (Fiction Ideas Vol. 4) is FREE today, download it here: http://hyperurl.co/adq1ul
Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. Kate’s writing contains everything she loves about fiction – imaginative new worlds (the more apocalyptic the better), plots that get your heart racing, and themes that make you think. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Sociology from Baker University, which she uses to marry her love of the written word with her passion for the human experience.
When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on two projects. The first is the sequel to my debut novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, to be published in early September. The second project on my docket is a series of nonfiction booklets, written for aspiring writers. Each booklet contains 100 creative writing prompts and each one focuses on a different genre of fiction. There will be 10 in total, to make a collection of 1,000 genre fiction writing prompts. Thus far, I have seven of the 10 volumes complete.
What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
My first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, focuses on the theme of revenge. In it, my protagonist showed she would do anything for “justice,” and never questioned the righteousness of her path. In the sequel, I’ll be diving deeper into the nuances of justice. When my new protagonist takes on the role of avenger, she seeks true justice, not merely her own definition of the term, and she constantly questions the righteousness of her actions. I think readers will enjoy the contrast in how these two women approach similar problems.
My nonfiction project is inspired by my desire to give something back to the writing community. As I move forward in my career as an independent author, I hope to leave a trail of virtual breadcrumbs behind, so that others who share my goals have a resource to follow. Right now, what I can give back is inspiration and motivation, in the form of creative writing prompts. Down the road, I hope to provide more information about the publishing process, marketing, and creating and running a successful business.
How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
I think how much fiction intertwines with real life depends on the imagination and empathetic ability of the reader. For example, The Cogsmith’s Daughter takes place in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. Some readers will look at that and think, “Wow, this has nothing to do with reality. It’s so crazy!” Whereas others will look beyond the surface level and see that the themes explored and the experiences of the characters are parallel to those we in “reality” undergo every day. For me, personally, I see fiction as completely intertwined with real life. Fiction is a reflection of reality, a way of revealing truths, even ugly ones, in an artistic form that makes them easier to swallow and accept.
Could you give five tips on how to tackle either characterisation or plotting or dialogue or descriptive passages?
I’ll give you one for each!
Characterization: Make a point of giving your character a flaw. Perfect characters are boring and unrealistic. One of my protagonist’s flaws is that she can get tunnel vision when striving for a goal and miss things that others see as obvious.
Plotting: Start with your three big points: beginning, middle, and end. Where is your character starting? What is the end goal? And what is one thing that must happen for her to reach her goal? Once you have those figured out, fill in the gaps.
Dialogue: Learn to convey each of your character’s unique voices. Some ways to do this are: varying sentence length (some people are more long-winded than others), varying vocabulary levels, and using curse words judiciously.
Descriptive passages: Study poetry. Seriously. I give my poetry classes full credit for my descriptive fiction writing. It’ll teach you how to incorporate sound into your writing and how to make your thoughts flow into each other organically. My readers will probably notice that I do a lot of flowing where others would inject an “and.”
My best tip: End your chapters on a high note. This can be a cliffhanger, witty line of dialogue, or dramatic realization. Either way, it will keep your readers turning the page. Many of my readers have said that they couldn’t put my book down. That isn’t a coincidence – it’s a design.
How would you describe your writing process?
I’m not sure that I really have a “writing process,” but I can tell you how a writing session typically goes. Basically, all I do is schedule a time for myself to write each day. Most days, I have to adjust the time because life gets in the way. Leading up to a writing session, I mentally plan out what needs to happen in the scene. Then, when I sit down at the computer, I write until I reach my goal, whether it be a set word count or the end of a chapter. I try my hardest to just let the words flow and not self-edit. If I think of something I should change later, I make a note in the sidebar and keep going. I also like to write in silence to minimize distractions.
What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
There are two things that help me write. First, I feel obligation very strongly. If I set a deadline for myself, I can usually guilt myself into meeting it. Second, my husband is really supportive, and he’s also great at being my drill sergeant when I need it.
What gets in the way of writing? Is everything an answer? Procrastination, exhaustion at the end of a 12 hour work day, our Netflix account. One thing I’m learning is that the world is REALLY good at sabotaging your writing, and you’ve got to fiercely protect your writing time.
What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
Honestly, I really dislike doing research. It’s one of the many reasons why I write science fiction and fantasy – if I make up my own world, I don’t have to research it! However, there are a few things that I have to research, mostly related to the steampunk gadgets in my world and the steamship. For these, I read articles on the internet and browse through books at the library until I find what I need. Personally, I’m much more interested in “aesthetic” research to help my descriptive powers, and this I do almost entirely on Pinterest.
Why did you choose the ‘indie’ route? What are your five tips for would-be indie authors? What are the pros & cons to indie publishing?
Oh, boy. These are big questions. I’ve written on all of these at length, so anyone who is interested in more information can check out my website. I’ll try to keep it brief here. I chose to be independently published for several reasons. One, I believe readers are the only valid gatekeepers and determiners of a book’s worth. Two, I believe the royalties paid by publishing companies are unfairly low. Three, I want full creative control of my work.
The pros of indie publishing line up with my reasons for doing it. The cons are: you have to invest your own money upfront, you have to market yourself in the ocean of Amazon and the internet, and you will still face stigma from the larger publishing industry and others you encounter on your journey.
My tips for indie authors:
At first, think of publishing as a hobby. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t take your writing seriously. I mean, you’re going to be sinking a decent amount of money into a passion project that may never pay you back. And that’s what a hobby is. You buy a fishing pole or a room full of scrapbooking equipment, and it only pays you back with enjoyment and pride. That’s what the beginning of your career will be like.
Do everything right the first time. Shell out the money for professional editing and cover design. Make connections, formulate a marketing plan. First impressions are everything, and some readers (and other authors) will write you off from the beginning if you look like an amateur or someone seeking a quick buck.
That being said, don’t be afraid to upgrade later. Sometimes, you’ve got to cut corners just to get your book out. If that’s the case, don’t be scared to go back and rewrite, hire an editor, or change the cover. The biggest benefit of indie publishing is that you are never locked into anything. You can always grow and adapt as time goes on. You are free to be better without restrictions.
Make connections. Do this by blogging, participating in forums, or joining online communities. Get a solid group of indie author friends around you and help each other. Everyone says the indie community is so much more helpful and supportive than the traditional publishing world, and it’s true. But it won’t stay true unless we all hold to that spirit.
Be proud. If you decide to indie publish, don’t feed into the stigma. When someone asks you who your publisher is (and they will, even if they cannot name a single publisher themselves), be confident. Say, “I started my own company and am handling the book production process myself.” It’s a huge accomplishment and you should feel happy to share about it. If you’re ashamed to admit you’re indie published, you’ve chosen the wrong publishing path.
When did you start calling yourself a writer? An author?
For the longest time, I called myself an aspiring writer. For a while, this was accurate, as I did more whining about writing than actual writing. I didn’t begin calling myself a writer until I started my blog and fully dedicated myself to writing my first novel. I didn’t use the term author until I had completed (not published, just finished) my first novel. And even today, a little nagging voice in the back of my mind says I’m a fraud – even though I know I’m not.
This is what irritates me about writers (myself included): so many of us are afraid to call ourselves writers! Listen up, people: language is free. You can call yourself whatever you want. If you feel a passion to write, if you express yourself best through language, if you maintain a blog or a journal or scribble poetry on grocery receipts, you are a writer. No one’s going to write “PHONY!” all over your corner of the internet. Embrace the label and get on with your creative life!
Where can people find you & your books?
Website – http://katemcolby.com
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/580266
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKateMColby
Twitter – https://twitter.com/KateMColby
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/KateMColby
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/KateMColby
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/katemcolby
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/katemcolby
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+KateMColby
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/katemcolby