Monday, March 3, 2008
We have a real treat today. Award-winning author K. L. Nappier joins us to talk about all sorts of good stuff. Kathy has been published in many genres, but leans towards thrillers and mysteries. She is also a founding member of the Indiana Writers Workshop and a member of the Tampa Writers Alliance. Kathy contributed two articles to Inside Scoop: Articles about Acting and Writing by Hollywood Insiders and Published Authors. This is just one of several interviews I am performing with the writers who contributed to Inside Scoop.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Kathy. I’m thrilled you could join us today.
Thanks, Cheryl. I’m flattered you asked me.
Let’s start by getting to know you. How long have you been writing? How many genres have you been published in?
Oh, I’ve been writing for over 20 years and I’ve done a little bit of everything, really. Most of my novels fit into at least two genres. I work with themes or premises first and don’t tend to focus on genre. For a lot of years, publishers didn’t know how to catalog me. At any given time, a novel might be a thriller/adventure/horror story or a mystery/intrigue/romance. It all depends on what the theme calls for. But since I like to work with mythic images, I’d say most of my stuff leans toward the darker genres. Always with an eye toward the light, though. ;-)
Who or what has influenced your writing the most?
It’s not popular to say so but the simple truth is that, being a Baby Boomer, TV and movies have influenced me as much as great literature. Although I was more consciously aware of literature’s impact on me than I was of the silver screens’, both big and little. E.A. Poe was a major, major inspiration when I was a girl and he remains so. Unlike with movie icons and those on the tube, I knew I wanted to “write like Poe.” I read everything he wrote and, also, as much as I could about the man.
It wasn’t until later that I realized what an impact Alfred Hitchcock had on me as well as Rod Serling. They were as formative for me as Poe, whether I knew it or not at the time. I think that’s because of media’s natures. When you hold a book in your hand, you know who the author is, even when you’re a kid. But, as a child, you don’t even know what a screenplay is. You pay no attention to the film credits at the end of the movie. You’re just swept away by the story itself. Or, at least, I didn’t pay attention as a girl. I had to mature a little before I realized that Serling was a writer first, who became a TV icon later and Hitchcock...well, I’m convinced that the reason Hitchcock was so great as a movie maker was because he had a writer’s soul.
Now, from what I understand, there were many years between your debut novel, Shadows in the Mist and your supernatural thriller, Full Wolf Moon. Why do you think that happened? What did you do to keep yourself from getting discouraged?
Well, before I start pointing fingers, I need to look in the mirror. First and foremost -at the risk of sounding like a public broadcast announcement- I dropped out of college. Big mistake. Cost me years, because colleges and universities are to publishing houses what minor league is to baseball. Connected professors refer talented students. It was -and still is- a large part of the system and there’s no shame in it. Why would publishers go out into the general public when there’s a guaranteed source of talent in a concentrated area easily tapped?
So, stay in school, kids, if you want your writing career to develop early.
Beyond that, I couldn’t write to trend. Honestly, I tried, I really did. I wasn’t too proud to mimic the flavor of the month or year. It’s just that I’m not good at it. Also, by today’s standards, I’m a slow writer. It takes me a couple of years on average to complete a novel. And if you’re going to be a trend writer, you gotta pump those babies out faster than that.
Now for the finger pointing. I had two terrible agents in a row. I won’t name names or go into details, but they were volume agents: agents who loaded themselves up with every writer they could sign. The theory there, of course, is similar to throwing spaghetti on a wall. If you stuck to the wall immediately, they focused all their attention on you. If you slipped off the wall too soon, they left you to shrivel on the floor.
This is not a statement against literary agents in general. Heaven knows there are many, many very good ones out there. Just consider it a cautionary tale. I should revisit the mirror here as well because I did, after all, choose to sign with these people. The lesson is that a writer should research the agent well and, most especially, not leap into the lap of the first one who asks him or her to sign. Regretfully, that’s what I did. Twice.
What kept me from being discouraged? Well, I did get discouraged. I can’t count how many times over the years I was discouraged. But getting discouraged and giving up are two very different things. But, during the tough times, I had a lot of hands pulling me up off my knees: my husband’s, my family’s and the Indiana Writers Workshop critique group’s, foremost.
But, you know, simply...I’m a writer. I know it’s cliche, but being a writer isn’t what I do, it’s what I am. I love to write. I get depressed if I don’t write. When I was a kid, I wrote stories just to write them. I wasn’t thinking about getting published. If I were to let publishing be the soul reason to write, then I guess I would have dropped out years ago. Would have wound up being a babbling old Boomer chick staring into her pinot noir, lamenting what could have been. ;-)
Good news, though. Today, there are so many ways to keep a writer from being discouraged. Even if you blew it like I did during your college years, the publishing opportunities -contrary to conventional wisdom- are better today than ever. Contests for both published and unpublished writers alike are all over the Internet. There are a swarm of independent publishers really putting the New York houses to the test. And no aspiring writer should discount self-publishing. It’s another avenue of potential, if you do your due diligence and proper research.
Since Full Wolf Moon you’ve experienced tremendous success. You’ve won awards and contributed to the online bestseller Twisted Tails Anthology. What do you feel is your most significant achievement?
Golly, I have to decide which baby I love best? ;-) That’s just too tough a call. But I can say that entering Full Wolf Moon in Double Dragon Publishing’s Draco Awards was my smartest move. Because of that, I was signed on, first, by Double Dragon as an ebook author and, most recently, by Aisling Press for the paperback rights to my novels. Needless to say, I mark my win in the Dracos as significant in relaunching my writing career.
Let’s talk about your articles that appear in Inside Scoop. How did you get involved in this project?
I have the great good fortune to know Marilyn Peake, the brains behind the series. She’s also a DDP author and a best selling writer to boot. She’s a savvy industry insider, she knows first hand the challenges of this calling and is keen to share her knowledge with aspiring writers. When a whirlwind like Marilyn invites you into a project, you do not want to say no. Good things follow Marilyn whereever she goes. I’m always happy to catch a ride on her coat tails.
What are “Barbarians at the Gate: The Future of Literature, Rumor versus Reality” and “Promo Ammo: What Is A Video Book Trailer & What Can It Do For You?” all about? What will writers learn from them?
“Barbarians at the Gate” is about the emergence of the independent publishing industry. Readers and writers alike are poised at the cusp of a very exciting and prolific time in publishing. Conventional wisdom -and I do use the term “wisdom” loosely in this case- is looking at what’s happening to the traditional publishing houses of New York and predicting all kinds of calamity, equating these houses’ financial woes with the demise of the global book industry. Typical. The NY houses rarely look outside themselves to see what’s going on and too many in the popular media take what the houses say as gospel. Well, I’m saying the future of literature is far from bleak. It’s just breaking out of its old NY boundaries and that’s disturbing to those who prefer the status quo.
“Promo Ammo” is an introduction to an emerging and highly valuable promotional tool for today’s authors: the video book trailer (or book preview). YouTube, MySpace, DailyMotion and their ilk are now major players in the popular media, and writers need to keep up. The video book trailer is a great way to get your titles in front of the reading public. And a struggling writer doesn’t have to break the bank to have one produced. It’s a niche industry getting ready to bust out.
As a virtual book tour coordinator, I am very interested in your opinions on video book trailers. Do they really help sell books? How fancy do they have to be? Any advice on how many minutes is too long or too short?
I think they’re one of the most exciting new tools available. But, like any other promotional aid, they won’t sell a book by themselves. They need to be part of a total package. They’re a “hook,” an invitation to “come see more.” A good one can really draw in the visits at the YouTube style venues. They’re also highly effective at conventions and book fairs.
The time element certainly is important. I know it’s a thrill for us authors to see our books come to life on a video, but to the reading public it’s just a commercial. I may love to watch a four minute video, over and over again, that’s all about my book. But my potential readers are gonna start yawning and say “bye bye” in half that time. Remember who you’re making the video for and keep it under three minutes tops. About two minutes is optimum.
Like any promotion, the more professionally they’re made, the better. The good news is that there are affordable, easy-to-learn computer programs that can produce impressive videos, if your budget is such that you need to create them yourself. But there are also professional production companies creating videos, and not all of them will stress a writer’s pocket book. I use one myself, which I name in the article. One of the best in this new business and very affordable. Believe me, I don’t have the deep pockets of a Stephen King or Anne Rice, so you can trust me on this.
What’s up next for you? Are there future projects you would like to share with us?
I’m scurrying around a bit right now with book signings and panel discussion appearances at conventions, so I’m not getting as much writing done as I’d like. But that should settle down by the end of the year. Between trips, though, I’m working on something for the fourth in the “Twisted Tails” series and getting some ideas mapped out for what will be the third novel following the characters in “Full Wolf Moon” and “Bitten.” I think next year I’ll stay home so I can knuckle down and get some real work done on my manuscripts.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Only my best wishes and strongest encouragement to everyone out there. Writers, when “stage fright” strikes you, sitting in front of that white space on the monitor and wondering what the heck you’re doing there, realize this: you’re thinking too much. Stop it. Just write. You can clean it up later.
Readers, thank you for being you. Writing is a dance between an author and a reader. Without you, I wouldn’t even hear the music.
If anyone wants to come visit, my web site is KLNappier.com or drop by my MySpace page or YouTube channel. And I’m always happy to hear from readers and writers, so write me at klnappierddp(at)yahoo(dot)com
Thanks for joining us today, Kathy. It’s been great getting to know more about you and your work. I wish you continued success.
I appreciate the invite, Cheryl. When the questions are as thought provoking as yours, an interview is great fun.