Josi S. Kilpack grew up hating to read until her mother handed her a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond when she was 13. From that day forward, she read everything she could get her hands on and accredits her writing “education” to the many novels she has “studied” since then. She began her first novel in 1998 and hasn’t stopped. Her novel, Sheep’s Clothing won the Whitney Award 2007 for Mystery/Suspense. Lemon Tart, the first book in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery Series was a Whitney Finalist for 2009. Book four in the series, Key Lime Pie, was released in August 2010. Josi currently lives in Willard Utah with her husband, four children, one dog and varying number of chickens. For more information about Josi, you can visit her website at www.josiskilpack.com or her blog at www.josikilpack.blogspot.com
Josi: When I was about half way through my first book, something that had started as a short story and just kept going. About half way through I realized it sounded like a REAL book and I was amazed at the entire process. I realized this was something I wanted to do; a part of me I hadn’t discovered yet. It was a definite turning point.
Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?Josi: I never took advanced writing, I rarely got A’s in school, but enjoyed writing projects through high-school—which helped even how how badly I hated math and science. I took one year of college during which time I took all the writing classes necessary for my Associates of Science Degree. Having taken all the writing classes might be one reason why I never went back to school :-) I loved those writing classes and it was in my argumentative writing course that my teacher told me I was a great writer—no one had ever complimented my writing before. Years later when I started writing, that comment was a huge motivator. Someone had believed I was good at this, that meant something.
Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?Josi: There are few things as enjoyable to me as reading a really great book. Feeling like I am creating that experience for someone else is similar, but has a few more elements such as meeting a new challenge, learning new things, sharing my views and opinions through my stories and feeling like I’m using a talent in a way that God is pleased with. All that together is incredibly exciting.
Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?Josi: I knew nothing about publishing or book writing or anything at all. After being rejected by the first three companies I submitted to, I revised according to one of the rejection letters and went to a smaller company. At that time they had a program where the author paid for a portion of the publishing costs of their first book. It made a lot of sense to us at the time and so we invested a good chunk of our savings ($2,500.00) into my first book and sat back, waiting for the royalties and TV show interview requests to roll in. It was pretty discouraging when it didn’t work out that way, but it was a start and it launched me into really learning about the industry and what it takes to really make a writing career work.
Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?Josi: I am discouraged a lot. In the beginning it was about not being a good enough writer, not finding an audience, not making enough money to make it worthwhile. These days my discouragement comes from seeing how many great books are in the market and wondering if my latest one can compete. It’s hard to juggle deadlines and keep the many responsibilities in my life going while making time to get my writing in. I’m not a planner when it comes to my stories so I panic when I get stuck and often times I run out of ideas or I’m convinced that my current story is garbage. As simple as it sounds, when things get hard I pray for help and then I keep writing. I usually find that my discouragement with my writing is tied to something else in my life that I’m letting slip—my home, my family, my spirituality—and that by identifying what has moved too far down my list and giving it the attention it deserves that things even out. I’ve finally given up on feeling confident, comfortable, and calm about my writing all the time—it’s a journey, one full of unexpected stumbling blocks and pitfalls but I try to remember that the whole point of this journey is for me to learn. It’s not about the stories in the broad spectrum of my life, it’s about my growth and my education and experience. I’m trying really hard to keep that understanding forefront in my mind.
Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?Josi: Right now I’m writing in chunks of time I call Write Nites. I schedule it out with my husband and write from 6:00 to midnight, usually one night a week. We own an office about 20 miles from my house so I go there and leave the distraction of home behind. My schedules are always changing per my families needs but by staying flexible then I can still make my writing work.
Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?Josi: A lot of my ideas come from newspaper articles, TV shows, and other books. Not in the sense that I’m copying anyone, but a specific characteristic or a plot twist or something will spark something that I can then shape and mold into something that feels like mine. I’d be lost without the creativity of other people and their willingness to share.
Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?Josi: I don’t really know. I feel like I live so much of my characters that I’m happy to simply be me :-) Maybe if I wrote about magic I’d feel differently but I just write about normal people.
Deirdra: If you could spend a day with one of your characters who would it be and what would you do?Josi: I hope they have a really good time. That’s it.
Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?Josi: I percolate ideas in my mind until I can sit down, sometimes I write notes about what needs to happen or what needs to have happened up to this point. When I get the opportunity to write, I address those notes and just start writing. I’ll end up cutting a fair amount of what I write when it takes me in the wrong direction, but it works for me in the long run. I’ve attempted outlines and used them for some projects, but I usually on turn to them when I get stuck in the story.
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?
Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about Blackberry Crumble that will be hitting the book stores in February.
Josi: In Blackberry Crumble, Sadie takes her first case-for-hire after a negative newspaper article is published about her previous adventures. She’s embarrassed and in need of proving to herself that she isn’t a joke. However, she quickly finds herself in yet another mess as she realizes she didn’t have the full story and there is more going on than any one player is aware of.Josi: Oh man, you’re my new best friend! The biggest help is that I have a test kitchen that helps me cook all the recipes. I only have to make them a couple of times and then consider the feedback of my test kitchen. Beyond that, I run and I do some weights—not on a regular basis, but enough that I still fit into my clothes. It’s definitely getting harder as I get older, dang-it-anyway!
Deirdra: How do you stay so fit with all your desert titled books on your mind? I just look at your book covers and my mouth waters.Josi: There are so many people responsible for turning points in my career. Rachel Nunes has played an important role in my career—helping me set goals and get on board with Deseret Book. BJ Rowley has also advised me and helped me make hard decisions that made all the differnece in my carreer. My good friends Heather Moore, Julie Wright, Annette Lyon, Carole Thayne Warburton and Tristi Pinkston have been my own little cheerleading squad for many years. One of the greatest things about my writing is the remarkable people I have met along the way, I am grateful every day for them and the books they write.
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?Josi: I figure if they feel like someone I could sit down across the table with and have a real conversation with, I’m on the write track. I don’t believe in perfect people and find perfect characters just as suspect—including perfect bad guys. Good characters need to be complex, imperfect, but determined toward their goals.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?Josi: I admire anyone who takes the time to write at all. It’s a hard process and takes a lot of guts. I’m admire even more the writer who takes feedback, hones their skills, and works toward bettering themselves continually—that takes determination and faith in themselves that’s priceless.
Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?Josi: I’ll eat pretty much anything :-)
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?Josi: I cook, I’m a fairly good organizer, I raise chickens and like to sew though I’m not very good at it. I love knowing I still have a lot of years to grow the gifts I’ve been given—it’s one of my very favorite things in life; finding, building, and using talents, both my own and other people’s.
Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents do you have?Josi: Be humble enough to know you’re not the bomb, be confident enough to put the words down, and be teachable enough to get better.
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?Josi: Pumpkin Roll, book five in the Sadie Hoffmiller culinary Mystery series. It’s due out Fall of 2011.
Deirdra: What are you working on now?Josi: They are available in all LDS bookstores and most walmarts and Barnes and nobles in Utah and Idaho. They are also available at www.amazon.com and www.deseretbook.com. Also, check your local library and if they don’t have it, ask if they’ll order it in :-)
Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?Josi: Just that I really enjoyed this interview. You didn’t ask the standard questions and it was a good journey for me to look over things this way. Thanks so much.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Awesome interview - and it's way fun to be one of Josi's cheerleaders. Let those pompoms wave!! :)ReplyDelete
Great interview, Josi. I too am cheering you on!ReplyDelete
Josi is awesome! Pumpkin roll sounds really good right now. Maybe I'll go make one...ReplyDelete
I've read the first three so far and they are such fun books that Josi's goal for readers has been accomplished. PS--I'd love to help with your test kitchen recipes if you need more testers and I don't live too far from you. Becky (from your group) knows me.ReplyDelete
My mother handed me a copy of a Reader's Digest with a Victoria Holt mystery in it. Every since I have been an avid reader and have read every Victoria Holt book I could get my hands on. I would love to read your books. They sound so fun and delicious.ReplyDelete
Mary in Naples
Deidra, thanks for interviewing one of my favorite people and one of my favorite writers too.ReplyDelete
Great interview. Just looking at the book covers is making me hungry.ReplyDelete
KEY LIME PIE was terrific! I understood what you meant when you said you pray when it feels like something is out of whack--it happens to me, too. I'm looking forward to PUMPKIN ROLL since I make 10-20 of them every Christmas. Very inspirational and honest interview.ReplyDelete