Today, our guest is young adult author, Kelly McClymer.
Kelly McClymer was born in South Carolina, but crossed the Mason-Dixon line to live in Delaware at age six. After one short stint living in South Carolina during junior high, she has remained above the line, and now lives in Maine with her husband and three children.
Writing has been Kelly’s passion since her sixth grade essay on how to not bake bread earned her an A plus. After cleaning up the bread dough that oozed on to the floor, she gave up bread making for good and turned to writing as a creative outlet. A graduate of the University of Delaware (English major, of course) she spends her days writing and teaching writing.
How long have you been writing?
Short answer: since I could hold a pen. Longer answer:I worked on my high school newspaper, took my first writing class in my sophomore year of college, and submitted my first (quite awful!) short science fiction story when I was 20, and didn’t start writing novels for a decade after that.
How long did it take you to write your most recent release?
I’m not a fast writer. It typically takes me a year to write a novel. My last release (Must Love Black, Simon Pulse, 2008) took longer because my father’s terminal cancer meant a lot of traveling, juggling and creativity-blocking worry. I think, ideally, I’d like to give every idea about 2 full years. A fast draft to get the shape down (a month to four months), and then multiple revisions to layer in depth, emotion, and humor. Not to mention make things harder for my characters (I’m too easy on them in the first draft).
What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
I was lucky enough to attend the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop at MSU in ’88. That year, Chip (Samuel) Delaney led us in an exercise to tweak our narrative for chronological accuracy (if that bin of apples topples, what do you hear first? see first? smell first? then what?) Although playing with time can be fun, paying attention to logical sequences can tighten the narrative and make it sweep a reader along without a hitch.
Are there any books on writing you recommend?
On my desk, I have: Donald Maas’s Writing the Breakout Novel; Stephen King’s On Writing; Robert Olen Butler’s From Where You Dream; Robert McKee’s Story; and Andy Couturier’s Writing Open the Mind. I refer to these books often, because they work for me. Every writer is different, however, and I say sample widely, take what works, and leave the rest.
How often do you write? What tips do you have for people who have trouble staying on task and getting the book done?
I have a fairly regular schedule, except when life intervenes. Much of my writing involves research, however, which can lead me down unexpectedly delightful paths that eat up hours and days for one little specific detail that a reader may not even notice. I consider this a perq of the job, and often wish I could afford to spend more time researching.
In this changing world of publishing, what advice do you have for new or aspiring authors?
The ultimate contract a writer has is with the reader. Whether you aim for being a hot new writer at a major publisher, a reliable storyteller for a small press, or a writer who self-publishes the book that breaks all the rules, you owe the reader the best story you can provide. Honor your editor’s insight, while heeding your writerly instincts, and your reader will be happy (note: not everyone is your reader; if you write magic, some people will chide you for promoting “nonsense”…those are not your readers).
What do you do to promote yourself? How do you balance time promoting and writing?
I have done very little to promote myself. I blog, when I remember to blog. I Tweet (although mainly I Retweet interesting things I discover in my research on a very wide variety of topics).
I am learning more about how to build a do-it-yourself promotion schedule with social media, but I am still learning all the things I need to learn on that front.
My first big promotion is a 50 day 99 cent sale of my first historical romance re-release. I’m hoping to pay for a modest wedding for my newly engaged daughter with the proceeds. I have no idea how that will go, but I’ll be sure to report on it.
From talking to other writers, I believe I balance the same as most writers: I lurch from one crisis, deadline, and unexpected life event to the next (taking notes on how to work it into the next novel as I go).
How about reviews? Do you think they are important? Do you have any advice for dealing with less than positive reviews?
I think review sites can help build a cohesive reading community, and reviewers offer a peek inside the head of a unique reader. When it comes to less than positive reviews, I take a business perspective: 1) someone is talking about your book; and 2) not everyone is *your* reader and that’s just business (for example, while I rely on McKee’s Story for writing insight, I know many other authors who believe it serves better as a doorstop).
Is there anything else you would like to add either for readers or writers?
Readers: Go forth and read with an open heart and mind.
Writers: What are you doing reading this interview?!? Get back to writing.