I’ve been keeping tabs on K.E. Garvey for a while now. I subscribe to her email list and you should, too. Her blog posts are intelligent and down to Earth – for writers and readers, alike. I’m thrilled to have her for on my site for a BACKSTAGE Chat. Let’s do this!
BC: Tell us about your “Like A Girl” series and the first installment, “Cry Like A Girl.”
KEG: Cry Like A Girl is the first book of my first foray into trying my hand at a series. The initial concept was going to be a single title that centered around three women, friends, who each had a story to tell. I hadn’t gotten very far into it before I realized that unless I was shooting for a 150-word novel, I had too much story, not enough pages. So, I broke their stories down and added to each to make three faster reads, each coming in between 65,000 and 75,000 words. The first, Cry Like A Girl, is out and is a bit more of a suspense novel than straight-up women’s fiction. I don’t know if that’s where I intended it to go, but the story took me there. The next, Run Like A Girl (forthcoming), falls under women’s fiction with a more straightforward plot. Each is a stand alone book.
BC: Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
KEG: Well, one person’s quirky is another’s normal… Haha. I don’t have rotting apples in my desk drawer or write standing up if that’s what you mean, but yeah, I guess I do have my own ‘system’ of writing although not necessarily quirky.
Most of us go through rough draft, first draft, and final draft with any given number of drafts in between first and final. I take one or two months to put the book together in my head. Without that time, I can’t begin writing. Once I do, I don’t rough draft at all. It’s often said you shouldn’t edit while writing, but I do. As my ideas change, as the story takes shape, I alter previous scenes. Think of it as mowing the lawn. With each pass you overlap the last by just a bit to ensure you don’t miss any. I don’t go back to page one each day and begin again, but when I sit to write each day, I do re-read what I did the day before and often find things I want to change. Not so much mistakes, but ideas that have percolated overnight and I see more clearly the following day. So by the time I hit “The End” I am several drafts in. I’ve tried writing start to finish without looking back until I hit the end and what I ended up with was utter crap.
BC: I can relate, in many ways, to the writing process you’re talking about. What do you feel is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
KEG: I was cheated by my first publisher, Dawn Rivers (then of Wahmpreneur Publishing), which was beyond unethical, but I don’t believe that issue is as widespread as some of the others. Pirating has become an issue. Many times, they are based overseas making it extremely hard if not impossible to stop them or recoup losses. I also believe that there are major flaws in most reviewing platforms, but don’t see how that can be corrected with accuracy.
BC: Ah, yes. We have discussed Amazon’s reviewing platform via the comments section on your website. What do you think are common traps for aspiring writers?
KEG: Without a doubt, the internet would be the biggest. Although I don’t recall exact numbers, the ratio of aspiring writers to those who make it with a modicum of success is astounding. Anyone who sits to write without a good idea, discipline, and goal, will rarely make it as a writer. Now that most writers use the computer not only for writing, but brainstorming, researching, marketing, etc., it is too easy to be distracted, especially when the words fail to come easily. Too often, writers who are struggling with their own work find a suitable replacement in reading about writing, or networking with those who write. I suppose at the end of the day, many of those writers fall into the “I don’t want to write, I want to have written” group.
BC: What is your writing Kryptonite?
KEG: Distractions. Before I do any writing each day, I do check email and social media as often times, there is something of urgency that has to be taken care of. If I veer away from what I should be doing, the next thing I know, I’ve blown several hours and filled my head with things not conducive to a distraction-free writing session. I turn my phone off. I have music on 24/7, but I mute it when I’m working or everything I wrote would sound like a song from the 70s. This may sound rude, but I don’t answer the door during my writing time either because if I do, it is guaranteed I will not go back to it for the rest of the day. I close myself off and don’t usually come out of my office until I’m finished for the day, usually mid-afternoon.
BC: Your last two answers are very important for writers to be aware of – the distractions are everywhere. We have to do everything in our power to shut them out before they pull us in. Okay; subject change. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
KEG: Haha… It is not as easy as it looks. I think the idea of sitting down and pumping out rave-worthy novels goes through every new writer’s mind. Yes, there are those who can write with the depth of Faulkner or Camus, but not many. I am not one of them. (From what I am told by others) I create three-dimensional characters a reader is able to identify and sympathize with. I offer a well-told story. But I write what I call quick-fiction. I don’t dabble in the literary, philosophical type of writing most often attributed to the greats, what we now refer to as the classics. It took me a while to realize and understand we are all different and even given the same criteria, each of us will put out a completely different work.
BC: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
KEG: I am much more careful now than I was then. I trusted that my publisher had my back, they would scrutinize my work for any mistakes I might have made, that they were the backbone I was to use to make my way through the process. I learned the hard way that I was wrong. There are some great publishers out there as there are editors and agents. But unless you’ve worked with them before and you have a solid working trust, take matters into your own hands. Check and double check every aspect of the publishing process until you are content with it, not until someone tells you to be content with it. Your work, your name – treat it with the respect it deserves.
BC: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
KEG: I spent $40 on Literature & Latte’s writing software, Scrivener. It’s a very robust application with a steep learning curve if you want to take advantage of all of its features, but once learned it truly simplified my writing life.
BC: Agreed. Scrivener is a real treat for writers. What author(s) did you dislike at first but grew into?
KEG: I don’t know that I can answer that question. Usually, if I don’t like a particular book I rarely will pick up another work by that author. There are just too many wonderful authors out there to warrant spending money on those who aren’t. There are a number I once liked and no longer do, but we both know it’s best to keep their names to myself!
BC: What’s the best way to market your books?
KEG: I don’t know that I’ve found the key that unlocks that door yet. A lot depends on whether you self-publish or go traditional. There have been authors who have made it big simply through Wattpad. Type of publishing, type of book, following, genre… too many variables that affect the outcome.
BC: It’s dog-eat-dog out there and can certainly be a daunting task to find success. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
KEG: I used to read them religiously, but have given up that practice. As I mentioned earlier, most review systems are greatly flawed. Anyone who has made a previous purchase on Amazon can leave a review, even if they didn’t buy the product they are reviewing. For example: There is a woman who posted a tweet after the presidential election that read, “It looks like it’s time for a presidential assassination.” Absolutely true. She is an author. If you go to her Amazon page, it is now filled with one-star reviews of her books accompanied by nasty comments directed at her personally, each written after her now infamous tweet. Her case is extreme, but her book is a little known and less read book about trains which had hardly any reviews before the election. None of the new reviews came from people who had read her book.
Anyone with a grudge, a jealous peer, an Evil X (as in my case) can leave a negative review. Friends and well-meaning family can leave positive reviews on books that don’t necessarily deserve them. I don’t put a lot of value on reviews, although I regard personal messages/emails from fans highly. If someone is willing to include their real name and contact information, chances are it is legit.
BC: There’s nothing better than a personal note from a reader, is there? I, too, cherish them. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
KEG: Absolutely! And I have an aunt who catches every one of them.
BC: Which of your characters would you want to date?
KEG: This question took a bit of research. I am terrible with names. Not the kind of terrible most people cop to, I mean so bad that I’ve insulted people unintentionally. For this reason, I had to skim through several of my books to remind myself of their names. Sadly, I’m being serious. That being said, it would be Nixon Shepard from The Red Strokes. Con Ellis from Lily White Lies was too perfect, too Fabio from every romance novel I’ve ever read. But Nixon was flawed just enough to make him endearing, approachable, human.
BC: See, I love that about you! Something like this is what makes you different and special. It’s not a bad thing or “wrong.” It makes you, you. 🙂 What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
KEG: Wow. I suppose my right arm or my first-born would be too cliché… Haha Seriously, I would gladly give up the accolades that go along with being a well-known, prolific writer as I am the quintessential introvert and find the busyness of large groups draining anyway. I’d see it as a win/win.
BC: That’s a good tradeoff! Most people want to be famous. Any resources you would recommend to other authors or aspiring authors?
KEG: A great critique group is one of the best resources a writer can have. Good beta readers are worth their weight in gold. There are several reference books I keep close by, although it is easy to get bogged down in the thought of them making you great. They won’t. The ability to apply what’s in them might.
BC: If you were deserted on an island, which three people would you want to have with you and why?
One fictional character from your book
One fictional character from any other book
One famous person that is not a family member or friend
KEG: Fictional character from one of my books: Heddie Mae Porter from the novel The Red Strokes. She is a wise, old soul full of life, memories, and meaningful stories. I could sit and listen to someone like her as she imparted wisdom for hours on end.
Fictional character from another book: Almost any character from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but I’ll go with Lady Chabliss. Full of life, entertaining, street smart, and made defied odds by becoming well-respected in an era that shunned who she was. I respect anyone who is secure, confident, and comfortable in their own skin.
Famous person: This one is the most difficult as there are so many people I’d love to meet and I know after I answer it, I’ll think of answers I would have preferred to give. The first one to come to mind would be Stephen King. I would love to have one day to wander unsupervised inside his mind if for no other reason than to see if I make it back out unscathed. In my off-hand way, that truly is a compliment to him.
BC: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
KEG: It would be a picture (Right) I picked up on the web some years ago. I would give credit if I knew where it originated. I have used it as a Twitter banner and I believe it is my current Facebook banner. In my opinion, it is the truest representation of me (to include my writing) as there will ever be.
That really is a very cool picture. Thank you so much for joining me on BACKSTAGE. I’ve enjoyed learning more about you and can’t wait to continue keeping tabs on your success!
To learn more about K.E. Garvey and her work, checkout her website www.kegarvey.com.