Congrats on your debut novel, The Travelers! I’m excited to pick your writing brain 🙂
1) Many of my blog followers are un-agented/unpublished authors looking to break in. How did it happen for you? Did you toss your hat into the query slush pile? Did you meet an agent or editor at a conference?
Getting published was definitely a difficult undertaking. It took perseverance, and frankly, luck. I spent a lot of time researching publishers who tended to focus on my genre (young adult) and who would accept un-agented manuscripts. These are usually smaller, independent publishers. I made a thorough list and just started sending query letters. Eventually, I got lucky. Some random person happened to like the first three chapters of my book and asked for the full manuscript.
If your readers are looking for some advice, obviously research is key. It’s important to target the right publishers and have a proper query letter. Additionally, I’d recommend not querying publishers that won’t accept simultaneous submissions (i.e, queries also submitted to other publishers.) For my first query submission I waited 6 months to hear the publisher might be interested and nearly another 6 months for an eventual “No.” I spent that year waiting on one publisher. I wouldn’t recommend this. Lastly, talk to other authors. After I got published, I started interacting with more authors and learned so much about the publishing world that I wish I’d known before, tips and tricks they used to get a publisher or an agent. Find published authors and pick their brains. Chances are they’re more than willing to talk to you about it!
2) On the opening page of your YA fantasy novel, THE TRAVELERS, one particular line grabbed my attention: “The power to magically move your soul to another person’s body was not as exciting as it sounded.” Is this the essence of the idea that sparked the novel? If not, what concept did you start with?
In a sense, yes. From the start of this book, I wanted the theme to center on this concept that people often hate those who are different from them. Moving your soul from body to body to live forever probably seems great on the surface. You never have to grow old. You can experience different places or just start over. But, for Dagny, the main character, it means she’s hated because she’s different and misunderstood. People even want to kill her. My goal was to use this idea to explore why people hate the unfamiliar or the different and how we can overcome hate by questioning, talking and, fighting against it.
3) How has your freelance writing/editing helped your own writing?
I’ve been an editor for nearly 15 years now, specifically in the medical field. I don’t have a medical or science degree. I actually got my degree in communications (journalism/PR). However, I’ve always been drawn to facts and data. Medical editing and writing is very different than fiction writing. But, in a way, that’s a good thing. It allows me to hone that more technical aspect of my writing. Much of my day job includes reading and editing complex medical material or going to meetings with groups of physicians and then summarizing those meetings. This has helped me become a better listener and more observant person. It’s also taught me, and continues to teach me, how to synthesize material and break down information into something digestible, which can be a very helpful skill when writing a novel.
4) In reading about you, I discovered our shared love of Buffy and Veronica Mars. Their sass, strength, and outsider attitude always kept me coming back for more. Do your female characters tend the carry these same traits?
Definitely. I like strong, sassy female characters. Dagny, the main character, certainly falls into that category. In fact, I think most of the major female characters in the book are strong and sassy, in different ways. But, what I love most about Buffy and Veronica Mars is that they also struggled, like all of us, to figure out who they are and their place in the world. As a teenager, I often felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I think a lot of us felt or feel that way. Dagny is literally in someone else’s skin. I wanted to showcase how she tries to balance being strong and independent with self-acceptance and discovery.
5) How do you structure your writing life? Do you set goals? With a job and a family life, how do you carve out time/space?
I actually recently went to a tarot reader for the first time and she said my biggest problem is balancing all of my competing priorities. I’m not sure I believe in tarot reading, but it is a struggle for me. What seems to work best is carving out the same time every day to write and working that into my family life. For example, about an hour before my daughter’s bedtime, we’ll both climb into my bed, me with my laptop and her with her book. She’ll read and I’ll write. Sometimes she’ll talk to me about what she’s reading and I’ll take a break from writing and discuss it with her. Or she’ll ask me what I’m writing. She’ll even read sections for me if I’m struggling and give me suggestions. I’ve found incorporating writing time into my family life makes the process even more enjoyable. It also helps that I’m an insomniac. I spend a lot of time writing or thinking about writing when I should really be sleeping.
Ok, now imagine I’m applauding for you…because I actually did when I saw this amazing quote from you: “I wanted to tell a fun and exciting story that also emphasized characters who questioned the hatred taught to them by their families,” Ms. Kranes explains. “My goal was to help inspire young adults to rethink negative ideas and learn the truth for themselves.”
I think in this world we need to do everything we can to break down barriers between people and encourage thoughtful interactions. If this book does that even a little bit, I’m thrilled.
Thank you, K.L. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you!