This week’s #SPFBO Author Interview is with Kay Ling. Kay began writing fiction in grade school, and her stories always evinced a sense of wonder and love of adventure. In one, mythical creatures lived and traveled inside a rainbow, and in another, a bored sixth-grader turned her teacher into a maroon sofa and then teleported herself to London. As an adult, Kay never lost her ability to imagine strange and wondrous peoples and places. She has published over forty short stories, and Beyond the Forest, a unique fantasy adventure, is her first novel.
What drew you to self-publishing?
After years of a demanding career and no time to write, I retired and started writing again. Initially, I planned to write for the fun of it, but three books later, it seemed a shame not to share my work. The idea of spending months or years writing query letters and looking for an agent wasn’t appealing, particularly at my age, so self-publishing made sense. And having deadlines and a publisher to answer to would take all the joy out of writing.
Why did you enter #spfbo?
This program provides great exposure for self-published authors. Even if Beyond the Forest isn't a finalist, I hope the blogger who has my book likes it well enough to review it, introducing new readers to my writing. I also like the comradery of being part of this group. I’ve looked through the list of participant’s books and downloaded quite a few to my Kindle library. I’ve read a few so far, all quite different from one another and very enjoyable.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
There's little I enjoy as much as writing. I can hardly wait to start each morning. I'm going on adventures, discovering amazing things, and experiencing my characters' joys, sorrows and challenges. I can easily spend the entire day writing, and I often wonder where the day went.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
It’s entirely possible to do both, although I realize it’s easier said than done. Once readers find an individual book or a series they like, they gravitate toward books with similar plots, themes, and characters. But giving readers what they want doesn't necessarily mean using those same tropes. Trend-setting books owe their success to some element that captured readers' hearts and emotions, whether a sense of wonder, the joy of discovery, or experiencing an unusual location or lifestyle through the characters eyes. It's possible to use those elements in a fresh way and have the next trend-setting book. But once an author comes up with something unique and captivating, readers must be enticed to discover the book’s merits, and self-published authors are at a disadvantage in that respect. It’s harder to get our books in front of readers.
There will always be overused tropes because they’re ones readers enjoy, but I can’t use ones that personally bore me. I weary of snarky female urban fantasy characters, and orphans who discover they’re someone important with one-of-a-kind abilities. My main character is a menopause baby with older brothers who seem like uncles. Despite having some insecurities about being an unplanned baby that disrupted her parents’ lives, she doesn’t have a lot of emotional baggage. At the opening of Beyond the Forest, Lana is about to take over the family jewelry store, which has been in the family five generations. She has a keen sense of responsibility and a sense of humor. She doesn’t overcome the book’s central conflict on her own, but plays an important role, learning more about herself and her abilities along the way.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
For the foreseeable future, my books will be interconnected. I didn't intend to write a series. Beyond the Forest, had a satisfying ending, but the resolution opened the door to so many new adventures that I had to write the next book to see what happened.
In most fantasy novels, if the ruler is defeated, someone is ready to assume leadership. But in the gnome world, that was not the case. Gnomes had spent generations enslaved or in hiding, and the void of leadership created an interesting set of conflicts. Add to that the discovery of a sentient spell book with instructions to avenge the defeated queen, and the characters had more than enough challenges to fill a book.
In the course of writing book two, Shadowglade, I discovered that most everything the gnomes believed about themselves and their world was wrong, and as the book became longer and the plot more complicated, I knew there would be a book three. Midway through book four, which was already 500 pages with no end in sight, I stopped writing and decided to publish the first three books.
Book four will begin a new series, continuing the story, but for the most part, the new series will use gnome viewpoint characters rather than humans. The transition to a gnome viewpoint takes place toward the end of book three, and seems a natural progression of the story.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
My first drafts take three to six months, since I’m incapable of writing a book much under 100,000 words. Then, I spend months editing. I make at least four of five passes, clarifying passages, cleaning up awkward phrases, and making sure I have enough of the characters’ thoughts and emotions that readers will truly care about the characters. Finally, the manuscript goes through two or three rounds of proofreading. I envy authors who can write a first draft, ship it off to an editor to be polished, and end up with a publishable manuscript.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
Yes, my husband and sister have provided invaluable support. If it weren’t for my sister, I wouldn’t have published my books. After I retired, she literally begged me to start writing again, but I had been away from writing so long, I had no motivation. At her insistence, I resurrected the manuscript for Beyond the Forest, and before I knew it, I was engrossed in writing and thoroughly enjoying it. Having family members anxious to hear the next chapter is a great motivator, and I never want to disappoint them with a dull part, so I’m inspired to write something they’ll really enjoy.
What does literary success look like to you?
My goal isn't to publish a lot of books, but to publish a few that are so enjoyable people want to read them more than once. That would mean more to me than winning a prestigious award.
Thanks, Kay! To learn more about Kay, visit her at:
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kay-L-Ling/e/B01M33PTGJ
Gnome Gnotes Newsletter: http://www.kaylling.com/newsletter.html
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/KayLLing.author