Monday, September 16, 2013

An Interview with Author, K.M. Rice!!

Meet guest author, K.M. Rice! First she completed the challenge and gave us Rainbow Worm, now she talks about her journey to becoming an author!

Where are you from?
Felton, California – a small town in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Given that I was in Kindergarten, I’m not sure other than I loved books and wanted to make one, so I wrote and illustrated a story called “The Haunted House.” Fast forward two decades and I had a dream about wandering into a haunted house and helping the spirits there… that became my inspiration for my first published novel, Darkling.
Do you write full-time or part-time? How do you balance your writing life with your family/work life?
I am blessed to have the support of my family and as such, am able to write full-time and earn a modest income. Balancing writing with a social life can be tricky because I tend to hole up with my characters until their story is told. Thankfully, I have wonderful friends who know to knock on my door anyway!
What jobs have you held that influence your stories?
Being a nanny for years and a care-taker of the elderly has given me a lot of insight into the beginning and end of life – two extremes that often have similarities. I hate self-aware children in books, because that’s just not realistic. I’ve noticed that I often write stories wherein an elderly woman is a sort of helper/guide. Children and old people often know the most about living. Children are full of wonder at the sun and clouds and acorns, while the elderly can sift through all of their experience and focus on the important things in life, like good food, births, and happy memories.

What fulfilling work experience you have! 

Do you have a specific writing style?
I often write in a different style to give myself the challenge of learning. That said, I do have patterns. All of my stories contain a touch of whimsy and brave young women. I will not say “strong female characters,” because I feel the inference there is that females are inherently weak, so the ones that stand out must be quantified with “strong,” which is entirely not true.

How did you come up with the title?
Keats! In his poem “Ode to A Nightingale” there is a line that reads “Darkling, I  listen…” as he describes listening to a nightingale in the coming dusk. The word is used to describe events that occur in the night or under the cover of darkness, which made it perfect for my story.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t believe in writing for the sake of delivering a specific message or theme. If one emerges as you go, then that’s great. Otherwise, the writing often comes off as preachy. I definitely see strong themes of sibling love in Darkling, along with grief, for every character in the book has lost a loved one and is dealing with it in a unique way. Mostly, however, it is about maintaining hope and the ability to love even in the face of pending loss.

How much of the book is realistic?
Given that it’s a paranormal fantasy, “realistic” is a relative term! However, I do try to keep my characters as grounded in the elements of their worlds as possible. The emotions of Darkling are probably the most compelling and realistic aspects of the story.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Friends and family are always trying to trace my characters back to people I know, but thus far, that isn’t possible. Everyone important to me, however, is certainly present in my books, for they have all taught me different aspects of what it is to be human.

What books have most influenced your life most?
The works of Tolkien have been a large influence on my life, for Middle-earth is a place I love to escape. I certainly share the Professor’s love for environmentalism and that comes through in my work. The books that have most influenced me as a writer, however, are probably Treasure Island, The Three Musketeers, His Dark Materials, The Hunger Games, and Little Women.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Louisa May Alcott reached me across over nearly 150 years of time with Jo March. Little Women has had a huge impact on my heroines and identity as a writer, for reading about Jo taught me a great deal about myself.
In terms of the present day, my screenwriting Professor Barnaby Dallas and screenwriting mentor Joe Mallozzi, both wonderful writers in their own right, were stalwart educators and supporters as I studied my craft. What I learned of story and structure from them and screenwriting has helped me a great deal with my fiction. Nick Taylor, my thesis advisor and fiction professor, was also a great help in graduate school, for he always encouraged my unconventional stories.

What book are you reading now?
Tom Barry’s Guerilla Days in Ireland and War Horse because of reasons ;)

The Guerilla Days in Ireland sounds very interesting! I'll have to check that out.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games  and Christopher Paolini’s works certainly draw me in, even if they are polar opposites!

What are your current projects?
Right now I’m working on an adult trilogy tentatively titled Afterworld. The books have a strong Irish influence and the first novel blends a contemporary setting with a Victorian mystery.  

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Santa Clause.

Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, I certainly hope so, though at the moment, my focus is on building a readership by telling the best stories that I can.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, but if I had to… as an e-book, I could, and you would never know. Mwuahaha!

Very true!
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I wrote and illustrated my first book for fun in kindergarten. When the teacher asked me to show it to the principal, I thought I'd done something horribly wrong until the principal smiled with her red-painted lips and pressed a sticker to the cover, telling me how much she enjoyed my story about a haunted house. Though it took me some time to realize that writing was my preferred form of expression, I have had a drive to tell stories my whole life.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Writing about the mundane and the here and now has always been a challenge for me. It is so much more fun to create your own worlds and rules! However, I adore basking in the beauty of our flaws and the little, mundane oddities that make us individuals and human beings, as well as our grander aspirations.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Louisa May Alcott has, as I already mentioned, played a large role in the shaping of my voice. I feel like she and Jo March are kindred of mine, and the truth and honesty with which she wrote in the 1860s is gripping. The sad part, of course, is that even nearly 150 years later, some women are still just as trapped and “unconventional” as Jo.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I haven’t yet, but I certainly would love to travel and meet readers!

Who designed the covers?
My sister is a very talented photographer. I showed her covers with a similar idea to what I wanted mine to look like, then we went out and shot it! We worked on the photo editing together and are still very pleased with the end product. If you want to see more of her work, please check out:

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Exploring Willow’s grief over her sister’s death. My sister is my other half, and having to imagine what it would be like to lose her was gutting and visceral.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I didn’t realized I’d written so much about grief until it was finished, but even then, it is not a dark message. You get to a point in your life where you have said so very many goodbyes and wonder if it’s all worth it. Like Willow, we all must go through the journey of questioning our pain and suffering, emerging stronger and brighter with the courage to love as much as we can, no matter how many goodbyes lie in our futures.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write! Spend less time talking about writing (unless it’s discussing a plot) and more time doing it. I can’t tell you how many people I have met who say they’re a writer then when I ask them more about their work, they reveal, “well, I haven’t written it yet, but I have this great idea in my head.” Writers write. It doesn’t matter if you never show it to anyone or throw it out, or publish it, just write so that you will learn. Hand in hand with that is reading. The more you expose yourself to styles and ideas and structures, the more you will absorb them and incorporate them into your own work.

Excellent advice.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I want to thank each and every one of my readers. You gave my book your time, which is the most precious thing you have.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
I worked on Darkling over a period of 20 days, but only wrote on 15 of those days. Needless to say, I was writing like a madwoman!

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! That is incredible. Good for you!
What do you think about e-publishing versus technical publishing?
While there are certainly pros and cons to both, I do enjoy the simplicity of e-publishing. I am my own boss and can deliver my book almost instantaneously to my readers. The downside, of course, is that all the publicity also falls to me, and there is only so much I can do on my own. As such, I am always open to new opportunities. The world of print has been going through some massive changes in the past ten years, and I am excited to see what new opportunities arise because of it.

Do you have an agent or publisher? How did you go about finding one?
At this time, I am not represented by anyone.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
In the mountains where I am now! Though I would love to visit New Zealand.

Good choice!
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Like most people, I would love to fly. Though mostly, I would want an Alfred. Life would be pretty cool with an Alfred (preferably Michael Caine) to watch over you.

 For More on K.M. Rice: