Kindle Author Interview: Keryl Raist

Keryl Raist, author of Sylvianna, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Sylvianna?

KERYL RAIST: The really, really short version is: wizards in college. The longer version goes something like this. A group of people in an alternative world make some really bad decisions. They escape and end up here, or more precisely, at Sylvianna College in the fictional town of Reevesville, PA. (These would be my college wizards.) Sylvianna spans the year when the final two members of the group find the others, and all seven of them fight off the last remnants of the world before.

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

KERYL RAIST: I had the good luck of having some of that done for me. The characters are very loosely based on some role playing characters my friends and I played in college. So that's where the very rough starts came in. Things like clothing, magical skills, and some of the back story was already taken care of. Plus, when I started I had basic character archetypes I knew I wanted. Once I had matched archetype to role playing character I had the basic character in place. So, take Pat (the third major character) as an example, once I knew Pat wore a black duster in all weather, carried a black granite sphere, used martial arts as his attack of choice, and fit the courtly love knight archetype, filling out the rest was pretty easy.

The thing that took the most time was making sure each character had his or her own distinct speech patterns. But patterns that weren't completely dissimilar because they came from the same place originally and four of them had lived together for two years.

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

KERYL RAIST: Someone who loves character driven stories with complex plots and isn't easily offended. Someone with the patience to get into a story that has a lot going on. Someone who likes physical action as well as mental action in their stories.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

KERYL RAIST: Shortly after the Earth cooled, a baby writer emerged from the primordial muck and came up with a story. It was a bad story, but she had kind friends, and they encouraged her to write more stories. Soon our baby writer was an adolescent, creating other stories for other friends, who were also kind, and encouraged her more. Then came college, and there it seemed the writing journey ended. Our writer had written a full novel for her senior thesis, and it was bad. She knew it was bad, and it blew through all of her creative juices for quite a while. It was a full two years later before she wrote anything again, and when she sat at a word processor it was to write non-fiction. Three years of non-fiction went by, during which time the writer learned more about how to structure prose, how to make sure what she wrote was what she meant to say, and how to organize thoughts so they flowed. During this time the writer was reading all the time, seeing not just stories, but how stories were put together. Then, in her readings, the writer met a boy wizard with a lightning bolt scar, and she returned to fiction writing in the form of fan fic. This time, armed with skills honed in non-fic and lots of critical reading, she began to write genuinely good fan fiction. And finally, ten years after that college attempt, the writer returned to her own fiction. Sixteen months after that, her first novel hit Amazon, and the rest of the journey remains to be written.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

KERYL RAIST: I really wish I remember where I ran into this the first time. Probably on Absolute Write somewhere. However, it is called the BIC method. It works like this, you set aside a chunk of time every day, and sit your Butt In a Chair, and then write. Every day. No matter what. It doesn't matter if the words are good or bad or in between. Doesn't matter if you feel inspired or not. The point of the BIC method is to make writing become a habit, something you do as automatically as eat breakfast or brush your teeth. And once you've gotten there, where it's your routine, then doing it becomes easy. And that's where you want to be if you're going to try to make a living at this. Six days a week I go to the gym. My kids go in the kid zone, and I go write for two hours. On the seventh day, my day off, my husband takes the kids, and I go out and write for at least four hours. I've hit the point where it's so ingrained that if I do have to miss a day, I get nervous and fidgety.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

KERYL RAIST: For sheer joy of character: Robert Heinlein. He's the author I most wish I could have sent a thank you letter to. (He died when I was five.)

For humor: Dave Barry. (Do I need to say more?)

For beauty of language: Louis de Bernieres. Corelli's Mandolin is something I read over and over just to marvel at the technical skill of the writing and the beauty of the plot.

Putting it all together: Larry McMurtry. I'm firmly convinced that Lonesome Dove is the finest book ever written.

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

KERYL RAIST: The aforementioned Lonesome Dove.

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

KERYL RAIST: I have a blog where I write about writing, and review things other people write. I spend a lot of time online talking to other people in writing/reading communities trying to be a pleasant and cheerful companion, hoping they will find my input so interesting they go read my book. I put my book on any and every list it even remotely fit on I've sent the book off for reviews and done interviews with other bloggers. Pretty much everything I could think of that wasn't blatant spamming.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

KERYL RAIST: Kindle is fast, easy, and lets you price your book attractively. As a print book my novel costs $14.99. Now, there are people who will buy a book from an unknown, self-published author for that price, but there are a whole lot more of them who will take the chance at the $3.99 price point my Kindle version goes for.

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

KERYL RAIST: Hire an editor. Really, I know it seems obvious, but as a blogger who reviews only indie works, I've seen some appallingly bad examples of the English language, often written by people who didn't think they needed an editor or were convinced they couldn't afford it. Yes, I know it's expensive. (Trust me, I really know. Sylvianna is huge, and I paid by the word.) But, if you want to make money on your work, it needs to be edited. When people find glaring errors, they close the sample and move onto the next one. Unedited works annoy readers and turn them off Indies as a whole. So, for the sake of your wallet and the rest of us, get an editor.

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


Keryl Raist is a part-time writer, part-time blogger, part-time book reviewer, and full-time mom. When not balancing babies with books, she likes to sleep. She lives in Charleston, SC, with two little boys; the "Number One, All-Star, Son-In-Law Of The Year Champion" (according to a discerning panel of her mom and mom's best friends); and a remarkably unflusterable cat.

Visit her website, read her blog, and find her on facebook.

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