Kindle Author Interview: Kae Cheatham

Kae Cheatham, author of Child of the Mist (Gem of the Galaxy), discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Child of the Mist?

KAE CHEATHAM: Child of the Mist is the second book in the Gem of the Galaxy series—a world-building social SF story.

In this story, Juilan Pranss, a low-level government employee on a space-faring planet is whisked from a spaceliner, kidnapped and continually under threat on a distant planet she knows little about. During this time, she keeps having disturbing visions and begins to believe she’s possessed. Her captor, Rodrig Ferstan, is certain Juilan is the answer to all the galaxy’s problems. But his ideas seem dangerous. Juilan flees him, and comes under the tutelage of Trenner Curembac, a moody, driven outcast.

With doubt and danger at every turn, Juilan learns incredible truths about her background and the world into which she has been forced. Once she accepts the astounding realities, she must still evade her psychotic half-brother and handle the century-old Evincor—the indomitable gemstone that is the very basis of the culture—in a ceremony that could cause her death.

Child of the Mist was actually the first book I wrote in the series, and the questions I raised to myself prompted Daughter of the Stone, which takes place 1000 years before the Child of the Mist.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

KAE CHEATHAM: Once I get characters in mind, they become special friends. I learn about them the more we're together, just as in real-life friendships, and their reactions and personalities often dictate the course of my story. With Child of the Mist, I found the protagonist, Juilan Pranss, quite reserved, and it took me a while to pull her out. On the other hand, Daughter of the Stone protagonist Dwinn Somuron just stepped forward and told me what to write.

For secondary characters, they develop the same way, and often from how the protagonist interacts with them. My books all are filled with many characters; that to me simulates real life, few of us live without interaction with many people, from the bank teller to a best friend and all the folks you bump shoulders with in Wal-Mart and online.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

KAE CHEATHAM: For the Gem of the Galaxy series, my main readers would be anyone who likes new environments, strong female characters, and adventure. I like to write action, and have plenty of that in all my books. Both of the books in this series are stand-alone. I have also discovered that my stories, both SF, contemporary and historical, represent the problems of being a misfit—someone who is struggling with finding themselves and their place in whatever the society. This element is often compelling to many readers.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

KAE CHEATHAM: I began writing stories and poems in elementary school with no thought to it being a career. The "professional writer" aspect didn't really hit me until I was in my 50s (I won't say how long ago that was. ;-) ) My college background is English and History, and I have edited for various publishing concerns. I was a stringer for a national rodeo magazine for a few years, providing them photos as well as coverage of events. Although I already had four published titles, it wasn't until this period of life that I had the ability, with children grown and husband gone, to attend to my writing fulltime. My growth as a writer since then has been stimulating.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

KAE CHEATHAM: I often try to get words down before 9 AM. Recently, that writing has been more for my blogs and marketing efforts, and my WIP is languishing. Because I write in several areas of the book market, how my approach varies, but characters are the fundamental basis for the beginning of all my stories. With historical fiction, I then have to research the setting in which the characters are living; with speculative fiction, I can create my own world and make "worldly" adjustments as needed to make the story work; contemporary pieces seem to offer the most freedom, and the story flows with no outline or need for major research.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

KAE CHEATHAM: For Speculative Fiction, I find the science-probable imagination of David Brin most inspiring; Octavia Butler's social observations convinced me I could attempt something similar. For language and word usage, something I focus on when reading and writing, I find enjoyment in too many diverse styles to catalog the authors.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

KAE CHEATHAM: The one SF book I wish I had written: Muse of Fire, by Dan Simmons. He presents a thespian troupe intent on performing Macbeth, but they are in the way-and-fantastic future, travelling to various universes with their archaic play—and received well by most. Then it all shapes to give a here-in-now universal consideration in a meticulously written novella. Magical!

DAVID WISEHART: How did you create your cover?

KAE CHEATHAM: Covers are so tricky to get right. What you have here is the third ebook rendition covers. I am a photographer and also have studied art, design and graphic arts. I design my own covers and for other authors, too. Whereas I always have satisfied clients, I am not satisfied with the Gem of the Galaxy covers. ebook covers, first shown as thumbs on the Amazon category pages, need to be uncluttered with strong, readable fonts, and trying to transmit too much about the actual story can make it look messy. For this version, I decided to focus on the characters, with dominate eyes and faces that hint at personality. I work with my own photos and/or clip art, with software programs Micrografx and Adobe Illustrator.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

KAE CHEATHAM: My land-based promotion includes occasional flyers in the library, a notice of a new book in our regional literary monthly. Most sales, however, come in the Spring and Summer when I travel to different Art shows with my photography—and a prominent book display. Many tourists come through Montana, and this year I intend to offer people the at-the-show chance to download an electronic version of my titles. I'm working on a "gift" for this type of purchase.

I promote my work online at Kindle Boards and other forums and author sites; I have several blogs and own four dot coms, where I hope my interesting articles and news will entice people to take a closer look at my work. I find it difficult to just wave my flag and say "see me! see me!" So I'm grateful for sites like Kindle Author that have a presentation I can fit into. Thanks, David.

LINKS: http://mentalgeysers.blogspot.com - personal blog ; http://www.kaios.com - personal Web page; http://g-i-t-productions.blogspot.com - business blog; http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Get-It-Together-Productions/101756636550386 - GITP on facebook

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

KAE CHEATHAM: The idea of electronic editions has always enticed me, and as the Kindle became more visible, along with it came successful trad published authors touting the benefits. After 12-plus years of web work, I had the html knowledge to tackle it myself. I put up my first Kindle book, The Adventures of Elizabeth Fortune (an OOP trad published historical fiction title) in May of this year. I also reprinted the book in August. I'd like to say that this title and Child of the Mist are shooting up the Amazon sales charts; not so. But I'm a patient person. I continue to put up more books because I like the technology and want to be involved in the innovative trend.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

KAE CHEATHAM: To the first-time DIY Kindle author I say, be certain you know why you're doing this. If you assume it will be a quick way to get bucks into your bank account, think again. This is a business, not a game. It takes as much planning and hard work to be successful in the ebook marketplace as in the trad marketplace.

The main ingredient for success is quality of product. Be certain the story is written and rewritten to its very best; after you upload your book, proof it again before you hit "publish." Along with correcting writing errors, be certain the layout is readable and consistent. Plan a large portion of time to marketing, but don't forsake your writing for the promise of monetary reward. To be a good writer, you have to write, write, write. That should be your priority.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.


Kae Cheatham (K Follis Cheatham) isn't a product of her environment—at least not the one she grew up in. Born in Ohio, Kae lived there through college (Ohio State). After marriage, she lived in several other states East of the Mississippi, but her abiding passion has always been the American West.

Kae, a professional photographer, has also held jobs as a research analyst, sports magazine editor, movie extra, program director for at-risk children, rodeo photographer, copy editor, print model, and she has tutored math and history. Along with her eleven published books, her writing has appeared in newspapers and national magazines, including American Cowboy and Pro Rodeo World. For several years she was an assistant editor at Athlon Sports Communications. She has also edited for Thomas Nelson and Falcon Press. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals.

Kae now lives in Montana and as a speaker, she travels to various locations to share her history and writing knowledge. Read more about Kae in Contemporary Authors New Revision, by Gale Group.

Visit her website.

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