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Questions Answered (Part 1)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sherrinda asked:

      Your new picture on your banner showcases you with a new sassy, cute hairdo! When did you get it cut and what prompted you to cut off all your curls? You look great with both styles, btw!

Thanks, Sherrinda. I’ve always gone back and forth between long and short hair—and usually right after getting pictures made! I had the old headshots done in February 2008, when my hair was just about as long as I ever let it get (though not the longest it’s ever been). So in April 2008, knowing we were in for a long, hot summer, I got it cut to shoulder-length. I got it trimmed a couple of times just before the ACFW conference in September 2008, but ended up wearing it up in a clip almost the entire conference—though it was nice to be able to do a quick updo with a few loose curls for the semi-formal banquet. But after wearing it up for the entire conference, and now working from home and wanting something quick and easy, in October 2008, I got my first short cut. But even that was still a little too fussy—required styling if I didn’t want to look like I had seaweed stuck to my head. So before I went to Michigan in March 2009, when I went in for my haircut, I told my stylist I wanted it short enough that it didn’t touch my ears and that all I had to do was run my fingers through it. And my current headshot is the result! Will I ever grow it back out again? I’m not sure. It’s a drag having it get shaggy after just four or five weeks and having to get it cut so often; however, now that I’ve seen myself with this haircut and what it does for my face and eyes, I don’t know if I could go back to long hair, even though I do miss it occasionally.

Carla asked:

      When writing the black moment can I reveal a secret that the heroine has been covering up without having previously shown her inner turmoil about it. The situation has been implied throughout the story, but the reader will assume what the hero has also been led to believe. When she is finally convicted to reveal the truth, facing her greatest fear, consequently it forces him to confront his own fear. In short, will the reader think they’ve been duped? Is that a bad thing?

Carla, while it’s okay to keep secrets from readers, even in your character’s viewpoint scenes, the reader has to know that there’s something going on—there have to be hints that the character is keeping something from the reader. Can you sustain that for a whole novel? Well, it would be hard. Because if you hint enough that the character has a secret so that it doesn’t seem like a cheat or that you were holding out on the reader for the entire book, they’re going to get tired of just seeing hints and not knowing what the secret is—and then, if it’s not dramatic enough when it is revealed, the reader is going to be very frustrated with you. There are authors who’ve done it mixed success. My suggestion would be to write it the way you want to, then get feedback from several readers and find out how they react to it. Because no matter how successful other authors have been with the technique, your story is different from theirs, so the technique has to work within the story you’re telling.

Becky Castle Miller asked:

      What have your publishers done to promote/market your books, and what have you had to do? How much have they spent/how much have you spent? (I understand if you don’t want to / can’t answer that part)

      It seems like authors have to do so much of the promotion themselves. Do you ever wish you had self-published?

When I first found out I was getting published, I was worried about what might be expected of me as far as marketing my own work. Would I need to be spending a lot of money on advertising and marketing? Did I need to go ahead and get a big, expensive website? What was I going to have to do?

I have to tell you, I’m so happy that my first publishing experience has been with Barbour Publishing. They are so on top of the marketing aspect that I’ve actually had to do very little except just be available for whatever opportunities they send my way. I know a lot of authors spend exorbitant amounts of money on websites and book trailers and stuff like that, but I don’t know if they really see a return on that investment. If the publishing house isn’t behind the author and having their sales people get the books out into bookstores, all the self-marketing in the world isn’t going to help that author.

How much have I spent? Well, I pay less than $20/year for my domain name, and, obviously, I take care of all the content here. I haven’t had to pay for headshots—because the ones I had done last year were taken by a coworker who wouldn’t let me pay her and these new ones I did myself (a sheet tacked to the wall and my digital camera propped up on a book hanging off a book shelf at the appropriate height). HOWEVER, professional headshots are one of the best financial investments you can make! The bulk of money I’ve spent on marketing has gone to postage (mailing signed books to winners of drawings for blogs where I’ve done interviews/guest blogs; and just today, I mailed about 150 Ransome’s Honor post cards out—to churches in the area, to classmates from my high school graduating class who had their addresses listed on our private web community, to key media contacts I have here in town, etc.) and to travel expenses for the book signings I did in Louisiana last month. All I did was let Barbour know where I would be and when and they set the signings up for me. Barbour, on the other hand, flew me and three other authors to Michigan for a week-long book signing tour, and they’re flying several of us out to Denver for ICRS in July to do book signings and meet media contacts as well as booksellers. And because I’ll already be there, I got Harvest House to set up a signing for me with them as well.

This has been my experience. I can’t say that this is how it happens with all new authors—in fact, it’s probably the exception, not the rule. But that’s the only answer I can give you.

Do I wish I’d self published? Not at all. I know there are a few success stories of authors who couldn’t get published the traditional way and ended up becoming breakout bestsellers (Grisham, Clancy, and Young). However, theirs are very unusual situations. It’s hard to get anyone to take self-published books seriously, no matter how well written they are (because most aren’t, which is why they weren’t picked up by traditional publishers in the first place). For me, self-publishing never entered my mind. When we thought Stand-In Groom had been rejected by all the publishing houses, my agent and I were already discussing other ideas that we could start pitching to publishers (in fact, I had a small-town fiction series proposal go to pub board at Harvest House three months before I got the contract for Stand-In Groom). If Barbour hadn’t picked it up, I would have shelved it and moved on.

Caleb asked:

      Do you like Star Trek more than Star Wars? And if so, why are you insane? 😉

      But more seriously:
      When you find the love of your life and get married and live happily ever after, might your writing eventually start turning towards other genres or will you always strictly stick to romantic fiction? If so, what genre would you be most likely delve into?

On Star Wars vs. Star Trek, the best way I can describe it is with this analogy: Star Wars was my first love, my abiding love, from childhood, the love that would always be there, no matter what, the love I forgave when “he” tried to change himself from something classic to something techy and flashy. But still my first true love. Star Trek is the best friend I met as a teenager, sometimes moody and petulant, but there with me through many changes in life, teaching me things about myself and about the world around me as I transitioned from girl to woman.

But more seriously, I’ve wondered the same thing about whether I would still want to write romance if I ever fall in love and get married. Considering I’m now thirty-eight (as of Sunday!) and there are absolutely no romantic prospects on the horizon for me, I see myself writing romance for many years to come. If I ever did write something other than romance, it would probably be something similar—like the small-town series I pitched to publishers a couple of years ago that’s still burning a hole in my imagination (but a small one). It will most likely feature ensemble casts who, if they’re not actually family, will behave with family-like relationships and interactions. Still light-hearted, though touching upon serious topics and issues, but in keeping with who I am and what my writing has always been—something for entertainment first and foremost.

Eileen Astels asked:

      What is the single most important piece of advice you would give a Christian writer trying to perfect their stories for publication? And please, you can’t answer patience or perseverance, something more tangeable to help him/her work on in perfecting their writing is more what I’m looking for.

For new writers wanting to get published, the advice I give is the advice that meant the most to me when I was starting out on this journey: Above all else, get the first draft finished! With each manuscript we write, we’re learning important lessons about the craft of writing. With each manuscript we finish, we’re learning more about ourselves and what we can accomplish.

I may not be the best person to be giving advice to more seasoned unpublished authors who’ve been submitting for a while—after all, the first thing I ever submitted got me an agent and got published. But I’ll do my best. . . For authors who’ve been around awhile, who’ve finished multiple manuscripts, who’ve finaled in and/or won many contests, the advice I would give would be similar to that I’d give new writers: Keep writing—but more importantly, learn how to revise. Learn how to let go. Learn how to cut. Learn how to figure out when it’s time to move on to a new project. Work with critique partners—and try to find at least one who’s much further along the writing journey than you are, a mentor of sorts. Find people who’ll challenge you, who’ll point out any bad writing habits you might have, who’ll be honest with you and let you know when your story isn’t working. And when you get rejection letters or when you receive mediocre scores and harsh comments back from contests, learn from the criticism you receive. Don’t take it personally, but take it to heart—to make yourself a better writer. And though you said I couldn’t use it as my answer, it’s still a viable answer: persevere. Keep at it. But do so only if you’re certain your writing is the best you can make it right now.

But never, ever, ever forget that the most important thing is your story. Don’t let the pursuit of the “craft of writing” become more important than your storytelling ability. Write from the heart; don’t worry about craft when you’re composing. That’s what the revision process is for. Be true to your story and don’t write it thinking about possible publication. Write it for you, first and foremost.


Okay, that’s a long post for one day, so I’ll have to answer the rest of them tomorrow. But if anyone has follow-up questions generated by these answers, or if I didn’t answer the question satisfactorily, please feel free to post a comment asking for clarification.

  1. Wednesday, June 3, 2009 6:06 am

    Those are some great questions! And good answers too. 🙂 I’ve gone back and forth between short/long hair over the years too…and boy with it being over 90 yesterday that short haircut is looking better every day!

    Can’t wait to see what else other’s asked.



  2. Wednesday, June 3, 2009 6:52 am

    Loved all your answers! And thanks for showcasing your hair transformation with LINKS! Love the new cut!


  3. Wednesday, June 3, 2009 8:20 am

    Wonderful answers, Kaye, very helpful! Thanks for taking the time to answer so thoroughly!


  4. Carman Boley permalink
    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 9:12 am

    Kaye said: “the first thing I ever submitted got me an agent and got published.” Well Kaye, that just shows that God has had His hand on you and your work from the beginning.
    I also love Star Wars.I grew up watching it, and was SO excited when #3 came out. I even got up at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. to go see this movie. Well, we watched, we cried, and we did not like #3. It was so sad. But, we have all the other episodes (some still VHS) and watch them very often.
    Follow-up question- Talking about publishers made me think of it. Have you had any trouble with the covers of your books? Do they let you have any say in the design? Are all the covers of your books the original covers, or did they change them before publication?
    Sorry! If it is too much you don’t have to answer.
    I can’t believe you didn’t tell us about your b-day!
    *clearing throat*
    *singing very badly*
    Happy Birthday to you,
    Happy Birthday to you,
    Happy Birthday dear Kaye,
    Happy Birthday to yoooouuuu!!! 😉


  5. Wednesday, June 3, 2009 9:31 am

    Happy belated birthday! I swear that last Friday, I saw the warning on Facebook and though to myself, “I really hope I remember to say something,” but clearly that didn’t work out. Sorry! Hope it was a good one.

    Also, Carla’s question kind of reminds me of what M. Night Shyamalan did with The Sixth Sense, and people loved that, so I think it’s definitely possible to make it work. Then again, The Sixth Sense is a movie with movie-pacing. Might be a little harder to replicate in a book.


  6. Wednesday, June 3, 2009 12:08 pm

    Great follow-up question . . . and it deserves more depth than I can go into here in the comments, so I’ll tackle it tomorrow.

    Yes, The Sixth Sense is one of the stories I thought of with Carla’s question, but as you said, it’s easier to keep a secret from viewers who don’t have access to the character’s internal thoughts the way they do in a book. I think probably the best way to sustain a secret like that in a book would be to hint that there’s a secret, reveal some other secrets along the way to make the reader feel like they’re getting the inside scoop. That way, if they become accustomed to learning some “secret” the character has (whether it impacts the story or not) every few chapters, they’re being set up to anticipate that there’s a big secret to be revealed at the end of the story and they’ll be looking forward to it with anticipation to see what it is.


  7. Wednesday, June 3, 2009 3:04 pm

    As mentioned in the comment above, I’ll be talking about my books’ covers tomorrow, but just wanted to point out that I’ve uploaded the preliminary cover for A Case for Love on the Books: Brides of Bonneterre Series page.


  8. Wednesday, June 3, 2009 3:10 pm

    I was thinking the same thing about covers, so I can’t wait for tomorrow’s post! I’m interested in how much say you have in them, etc.

    And happy birthday!


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