Monday, November 14, 2011

Interview with Author/Editor Nicole Zoltack

Deirdra: What made you decide a career as an editor?

Nicole: First and foremost, I’m a writer but as a writer, you also have to be an editor and self-edit your own novels. When I saw some epublishers were looking for editors, I thought it would be a great experience for me. By reading and editing other people’s stories, you learn what works and what doesn’t. I work as both a content and a line editor for MuseItUp Publishing, and a content editor for eTreasures Publishing. Finally, I’m a freelance editor for Passionate Writer Publishing. It’s very rewarding work to be an editor and help an author make his/her story the best it can be.

Deirdra: When you are not wading through massive amounts of query letters what do you like to do in your spare time?

Nicole: Family is very important to me. I’m married to a wonderful man (we just celebrated 4 years!) and I have two wonderful sons that keep me on my toes! The oldest is three soon, the youngest is one. And in February, another one will be coming - another boy. I really hope the next one (our last) will be a girl! I also love to watch movies with my husband. And, of course, I love to read!

Deirdra: How does one become an editor?

Nicole: You don’t have to have a degree in English, although I’m sure that would help. My degree is completely unrelated to my writing and editing careers. Basically, any writer can become an editor. Start out small and help other writers by being a beta reader and critique partner. Learn or relearn all of the grammar rules. Take a course, if you need too. Then you can start to apply for editing positions at smaller publishers and work your way up.

At two of the publishing houses that I work for, I’m paid a portion of the royalties; at the other one, I get paid a flat fee for each manuscript.

Deirdra: What is the most challenging obstacle editors encounter when working with authors?

Nicole: Some authors are easier to work with and willing to learn than others. I think the biggest challenge is to have an open channel of communication between the editor and the author. Communication is a two way street, though, so I would say that authors that are hard to get a hold of are the most challenging ones for editors.

Deirdra: What kinds of books are currently in demand?

Nicole: All kinds. As long as a book is well written, there is a place for it somewhere.

Deirdra: Are there any genres that publishers in general shy away from?

Nicole: Most publishers have their niche so it’s important to read their submission guidelines so you aren’t submitting a romantic suspense to a publishing house that only publishes fantasy and science fiction. It’s a waste of both your time and the publishers. There are so many publishers out there that you can find a publishing house for any genre.

Deirdra: Do you prefer to find your authors through query letters, live pitches or as references from other authors or agents?

Nicole: Through query letters. At two of the three publishing house, I’m not an acquiring editor, but for the other one, I do read query letters and manuscripts. Visit for what the editors are looking for specifically at MuseItUp Publishing. I mentioned paranormal, but really I’m up for anything that’s well written and interesting.

Deirdra: What’s the best part of your job?

Nicole: Helping an author make his/her story the best it can be.

Deirdra: What’s the hardest part of your job?

Nicole: Making the time to edit. With two little ones, it’s hard to find time for myself, let alone for my work.

Deirdra: Would you ever consider representing a new client who previously self-published? Why or why not?

Nicole: As I said before, I’m not really an acquiring editor, but I would have no problem working with a client who previously self-published. Some authors choose to only self-publish, some use it as a means to be published by a publishing house. In publishing, there are more options for authors than ever before.

Deirdra: How do you think the growing popularity of e-books will impact the literary market?

Nicole: I think ebooks are wonderful. The more options there are for readers, the better it is for authors. The literary market is going to have to change and expand to better include ebooks and epublishing.

Deirdra: On average, how many query letters do you receive each year?

Nicole: Me specifically? Not many, although I am involved with submissions at MuseItUp Publishing.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for someone aspiring to become an author?

Nicole: Read in your genre. Find a trusted beta reader and critique partner (or two or three). Polish and edit your story until it’s as perfect as you can get it. Then have another reader look at it. You can never have too many eyes on your story before you submit it.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for someone aspiring to become an editor?

Nicole: Make sure you know your grammar rules and be ready to defend yourself to an author who wants to break the rules for no good reason.

Deirdra: I also noticed from your blog that you as an author as well. When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Nicole: Since I was a little girl. I’ve been writing stories since I was six. I’ve always wanted to be an author.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Nicole: I love creating stories and making up lives for my characters. I’ve been reading a lot of picture books to my sons so lately, I’ve been working on some picture books. Now that is one tough market to crack from what I’ve heard, but I’m willing to try!

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Nicole: It varies from day to day. I’m very lucky that my two boys take a nap together every day from 2-5 or so, so that’s built-in time to edit or write. But sometimes real life and chores get in the way and I end up staying up until 2 am in the morning writing. I’m trying to get as much done writing and editing-wise before the next baby is born.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about Woman of Honor and Knight of Glory.

Nicole: Sure!

Woman of Honor is about Aislinn, a young girl who wants to become a knight to take her fallen brother's place. She's willing to give up everything for the Kingdom of Arnhem - her childhood, her life, even her heart.

Knight of Glory takes place immediately after the events in Woman of Honor. This book focuses on Sir Geoffrey, a knight who trained alongside of Aislinn. War has come to the Kingdom of Arnhem, and Geoffrey is trying to recruit allies in the fight. Along the way, he finds his heart torn between two different and mysterious ladies.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Nicole: I want to provide my readers an escape from their troubles and worries. I want them to love the characters, for them to immerse themselves into the world I created. Most of all, I want them to finish each story with wow, I'm glad I read that.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Nicole: Good question! I would have to say my mom. If it weren't for her sitting my sister and I down and giving us papers and pencils, neither of us would have grown up wanting to be a writer.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Nicole: I love to sing. I was involved in choirs in high school and college and I miss it. I also enjoy horseback riding, but I've stopped my lessons for now until I'm done having kids. It's not a good idea to ride while pregnant.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Nicole: Read, read, read, write, edit, polish, edit, polish, edit, polish. Writing isn't about writing so much as it is about rewriting and editing. It's a process.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Nicole: I'm waiting to hear back from beta readers on my MG fantasy story which I hope to start querying before the end of the year.

I'm also working on another MG fantasy. This one is an adventure story about a princess who likes to lie and loves to sneak out of the castle.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Nicole: Here's the link to my books on Amazon:

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Nicole: Never write to trends. Write the book of your heart. I also strive to write books that I would like to read.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Interview with Author Kindal Debenham

Bio: Telling stories has been a part of Kindal Debenham’s life ever since he first put down a book, looked around and asked himself ‘But what happened next?’ That question led him to write his own stories to find the answer he was looking for, and from then on he was hooked. Writing became a passion that followed him through school and led him to the writing group where he met his incredible wife-to-be, Emily. Somehow, she continues to tolerate him, and they recently had their first baby girl, born in March 2011. Writing has brought him this far, and he hopes it will continue to accompany him for the rest of his life. He’s still trying to find the answer to what happens next, and he is grateful to all those who are supporting him in his journey. Thanks for your support, and he hopes you enjoy the story!

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Kindal: I think the first time I wanted to be a writer was back in high school. I had a project that I worked on for years that I always wanted to publish, but I never thought much about trying to make a living as a writer. It took me a long time to realize that writing was the way I wanted to make a living for myself and my family, but I figured it out eventually.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Kindal: I majored in Molecular Biology at Brigham Young University. At that point in time I had more or less resigned myself to being a doctor or a researcher, so the biological sciences made sense. On the side I took just about every creative writing class I had access to, as well as joining a writing group at the Quark Science Fiction and Fantasy club. Of course, knowing what I do now, I would have gone back and taken a lot more of those writing classes, but that’s hindsight for you.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Kindal: It’s a combination of things, really. Writing is one of the best ways to explore new ideas and concepts, and I love the feeling of creating a totally new world for my characters to run around in. The independence a writing career gives me is incredibly nice as well. Not having to accommodate other people’s concerns or schedules just to do my work is a really big bonus as well. Combine all of that with the sense of satisfaction that you get when you finish a good story and the enjoyment that other people can get out of it, and there’s no better career path than this one for me.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Kindal: Well, it was a bit different than it would be for a traditionally published author. I basically had to find my own cover artist and copy editor, as well as get my own writing group started so that I could get content revisions done. Fortunately, thanks to my dear loving wife (she’s going to read this right?) I was able to track down the right people for each of those things and create a finished product.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Kindal: Part of writing is getting discouraged every now and then. The fact is, most people are going to look at you like you’re a bit crazy, and to be honest most of us are. Rejection can get pretty rough sometimes as people disagree with the way you are writing something, or want to ‘help’ you choose an alternate, more profitable career path. That’s just how it goes.

In dealing with that sort of thing, I’ve found it useful to keep in mind that there is discouragement and obstacles in every career path. For every starving writers and artists out there, there are just as many doctors and lawyers scraping the bottom of the barrel or dropping out to pursue other careers. You have to remind yourself that not everyone is going to like what you write, and that not everyone is going to appreciate what you’re trying to do and how. The important thing is to remain committed to your course and find your own way through the obstacles you face. Don’t let a few failures ruin your vision.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Kindal: I think that depends on your point of view. My wife thinks I’m mildly crazy, but I’m betting people like Brandons Sanderson wouldn’t be very impressed. I typically write about twelve thousand new words a week when I am working on just one book. Most of the time I tend to be rewriting one book while I write the first draft of another one. That means I usually write about six to eight thousand new words on one book while I rewrite about ten to twelve thousand words on another one. I’d write more, but the full time job kind of takes up too much of my time for that to work.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book Wolfhound?

Kindal: Wolfhound is an action adventure story written from the perspective of Ensign Jacob Hull, an officer in the Celostian Navy on his first cruise. Pretty much everything goes wrong for Jacob. He’s assigned to a hard luck crew testing an experimental vessel, members of the crew don’t take too kindly to him, and to top it all off, a disaster puts every person on board in mortal danger. It’s a story about heroism and adventure, and about remaining true to your responsibilities even when it is hard.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Kindal: Well, I wrote Wolfhound at a time when I was feeling a bit discouraged at the course my life was taking. In essence, it is a story about how someone can face all the obstacles and disasters that this life can throw at us, and how that person can choose to rise above those challenges instead of being crushed by them. In a way, that’s what I came away with from writing Wolfhound, and I would hope that my readers are able to have that as well. Along with an intense appreciation for railguns and explosions, of course.

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

Kindal: I come up with a lot of story ideas a bit out of the blue. I typically have a bunch of facts, possible plots and story ideas all running through my head, and occasionally some of them just happen to mix together and form an idea compelling enough that I have to write it down. From there, I tend to sketch out a rough outline of where I am going to go with the story, but I never consider myself bound to it. If the story starts to bend a bit out of line from where I was originally going to go with it, I let it happen. Writing is always at least half structured planning and half lucky discovery for me.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Kindal: I hit writer’s block for one of three reasons. Either I’ve burned out, I don’t know where I’m going next, or the previous section is bad enough that I need to rewrite it before I move on. Burning out is a result of my own reckless behavior; I’m still new enough at this career path that I look at a project and say “Hey, I can work a full time job and still revise half a book this week.” It…doesn’t always work out that well. Rest can really help with that problem. If I don’t know where I am going next, it is a very good time to sit down and sketch out a better outline of where the story will go, which will get me excited enough to start in again. As for writing the occasional bad section, that happens every so often when I am working on a first draft. It’s like replacing a bad foundation so that the rest of your building can stand strong.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Kindal: My wife. Without her none of my efforts would have ever amounted to much. She’s the one who has always encouraged me in this career path, and she has never questioned my ability to do what needed to be done. Of course, she also seems to have ended up with the marketing brains as well, so that helps me be able to focus on the writing while she helps me that way.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Kindal: Well, good dialogue is one way that characters can kind of show their personalities. My friends and I tend to banter comments back and forth, and I borrow a lot of that for the dialogue in my books. I also tend to give each of my most important characters a kind of theme song. In fact, some characters and even some of my books are pretty much inspired by a particular song that fits them in my mind. Kind of weird, probably, but it works for me.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?

Kindal: Well, there’s a lot of them out there. Michael Stackpole was always one of my favorite authors, even since I was a kid. I think his I, Jedi, and Rogue Squadron books will always be among my cherished possessions. Brandon Sanderson is another author I’ve come to enjoy. My wife introduced me to the Mistborn series, and from there I’ve kind of been hooked on his work. There are a lot of other authors out there, from Dan Wells to Patrick Rothfuss, Timothy Zahn to John Scalzi, David Weber to Jack Campbell. Too many to mention everybody, but there’ve been a lot of authors that I have loved to read.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Kindal: I like to read, obviously. Unfortunately I have a weakness for videogames (the nerd is strong in this one), but I’ve managed to avoid getting sucked into any MMORPGs. Otherwise I’d never get anything done. Running has always been a hobby of mine as well.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Kindal: Don’t give up, and don’t overlook the opportunities you are given. There are plenty of people willing to help you learn what you need to know, and the nature of publishing today is open enough that anyone who is willing to work hard enough at it will have at least some success. Just don’t let the occasional failure or discouraging friend turn you away from what you really love.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Kindal: Currently, I am working on revising the sequel to Wolfhound, a book called Badger. At the same time I am writing the first draft of a sequel in another series. It’s about a steampunk detective named Hector Kingsley. As the first book is titled The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, the second is appropriately The Continued Adventures of Hector Kingsley: Mysteries in Whitechapel. Or at least those are their working titles for now. And waiting in the wings is another series, with the first book called Iron Angels. It’s another science fiction adventure novel, though it’s in a completely different universe.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Kindal: Wolfhound will be going up on Smashwords and Amazon. People can also order my books through Wandering Leaf Publishing’s website.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Kindal: Just thanks for the interview! I really appreciate the chance to talk about my work. Anyone else interested in what I’m up to can visit my blog at Hope all goes well for you!

Thank you so much, Kindal. It’s a real honor to get your insights.

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