The Fairy Tale Bride, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about The Fairy Tale Bride?
KELLY McCLYMER: First, I can tell you I never expected to write a historical romance when I first began writing. I am a voracious reader and I always loved to read historical romance novels, but my first love is science fiction. Unfortunately, science fiction didn't love me (editors almost universally advised me to turn my stories into novels, and all my critique group members indicated my endings...ummm....sucked). Being a logical sort, I knew I wasn't tackling an entire novel without knowing the ending: enter historical romance, with its traditional happily-ever-after ending. I could do that. So I wrote a very big North-South post-Civil War epic for practice. It sprawled, it traveled, it pontificated. It had a happily ever after. It did not sell (something about the sprawling and pontificating, I think).
I wasn't sure whether to write another science fiction story with a fizzle-meh ending, or another romance novel. Then, as often happens, my characters decided the matter for me. Miranda Fenster, the heroine of The Fairy Tale Bride, was quite certain I should tell her tale. After all, she was determined that everyone deserved a happily ever after, and she was so busy trying to enlist help to see that her brother and his true love got theirs, she didn't even notice her own happily ever after was busy glowering at her and muttering under his breath about the futility of fairy tale endings.It seemed clear to me that, if I didn't write Miranda and her duke a happily ever after, they might not get one. Because, honestly, every romance novel needs an obstacle to keep them apart, and Miranda's duke, Simon Watterly, Duke of Kerstone, seemed an insurmountable obstacle. He doesn't just talk family, honor, and blood, he lives and breathes it. An unexpected wife doesn't fit into his carefully laid plans. In order to defeat the duke's magnificently pig-headed defenses against his own happily ever after, I had to deploy Miranda's five delightful young sisters, a lost child, and an ambitious relative without much conscience. I hope it would not be a spoiler to reveal that Miranda and her duke have the perfect ending: happily ever after.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
KELLY McCLYMER: I am a people watcher, and have been from a young age. I'm fortunate to come from a large and interesting family (my dad was a Southerner and my mom a Yankee—so even the holiday traditions changed whether we were celebrating on Long Island with my mom's side, or in Charleston with my dad's). I learned to see what people were saying, and thinking, underneath the accent and local phrases. For example, as has been widely explained in fiction by other, better writers, a southerner's soft "Bless her heart" can be a pat on the shoulder—or a knife in the back.
When my characters begin to tell me who they are, I pay attention. I've never met two real people who fit in the same box, so I don't write two characters who do either. Sometimes, in the very beginning of a book, when I'm not quite sure who the character is, I'll think of a real person I know and take a trait I love and a trait that frustrates me and pin it to a character, but by the time that character is "cooked" there's absolutely no resemblance to the real person. Over the years of writing, I've tried various character development tricks, but I almost always rely on one straightforward method now: I put the character in conflict and see how she/he reacts. Very often, I'm surprised to learn something about the character that I wouldn't have if I'd tried to draw a little box around him/her too early on. It's one of the methods I offer to my students: what would your character do if the door doesn't open this time? It seems like a simple question, but the answers can vary from "walk away" to "pick the lock" to "break it down." That tells you a lot about your character.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
KELLY McCLYMER: That is an excellent question, and one I don't have a good answer for, though I have been trying to define it lately, with my dip into indie publishing. I write science fiction, fantasy, historical romance, and paranormal YA. Obviously, my ideal reader is someone like me, who loves to explore interesting ideas in different ways (for example, romance explores exactly what it is that can take two very different people and turn them into an unbreakable couple; historical romance throws in the twist that the heroine, socially, isn't even usually considered a full person under the law).
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
KELLY McCLYMER: I wrote my first play sometime in junior high, for my sisters to perform for our parents. I was on my high school newspaper staff. I won a prize at our state competition for a review I wrote (which was quite pragmatically critical, something the judge that year valued). I learned the toll that fame can take, when I did not win the next year, and my newspaper advisor was utterly crushed by my lack of win, place or show.
I took writing classes in college, and I submitted my first short science fiction story when I was 20 years old (it was deservedly rejected, but the next story got me connected to a critique group that shaped my writing life for a decade and beyond). It took me longer than it should have to write a novel for many reasons (though I think I will soon begin to start blaming my children, in hopes they will feel guilty and take care of me in my dotage).
I wrote my first historical romance (the North-South sprawler) and was then hooked. I sold The Fairy Tale Bride and six more in the series (to tell the stories of Miranda's sisters and brother) to Kensington and was very busy writing for three years. Then I had a teenage witch show up and demand I tell her story. So I did. The Salem Witch Tryouts took me into an entirely new world for three books.
Now I'm re-releasing my historical romance novels (which have been out of print for seven years). Ten years makes a difference in writing skill (especially since I have been teaching writing for a decade), so I'm rewriting them, too. I have two YA novels that I am seriously considering going indie with. Once I'm finished with the re-releases of the historical romance, I'll be editing and getting those two books ready to release.
I love the freedom that epublishing has offered to me. I have several books that didn't quite make it past the marketing department's gatekeeper. I had planned to do what author friends of mine have done for years (i.e. submit them every three years, to the new revolving crop of editors). But now I have other options.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
KELLY McCLYMER: Mayhem. Chaos. Lunacy. On good days.
Seriously, I have tried many different techniques and schedules. 3x5 scene cards, no outline, detailed outline (well, I did that for the first third of one book, but gave up after that), brief outline, photo collages. Right now, I'm in love with Scrivener, which lets me make notes, drag in research materials and inspirational photos, and write scene by scene (which helps me keep the idea of conflict front and center). Before Scrivener, I would spend a lot of time looking for things (a historical reference, picture, character detail, timeline, etc.) in order to get the scene right. Now its right in the program when I need it. Less excuse to go get a cup of coffee, but much easier on my stress levels.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
KELLY McCLYMER: I will never write a book like her, but Harper Lee has my heart. If you could only publish one book, wouldn't it be wonderful to say it was To Kill a Mockingbird? For more contemporary references, I have to reveal my science fiction and current YA bias and say Suzanne Collins with her Hunger Games series. I'm so jealous of her mastery of character, world-building and conflict. Not to mention the killer (literally) concept.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
KELLY McCLYMER: To Kill a Mockingbird. But I never could have. That's the thing about books—the great ones have to be written by whatever author writes them. No one else sees the world, the character, in just that way that tips the reader over to feeling like they lived the story.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
KELLY McCLYMER: I've given talks, done signings, have a website with a blog, I'm on Twitter and Facebook and have a presence on my YA publisher's (S&S) site. But marketing is not an easy thing for me (or for most of the authors I know). It would be akin to walking around introducing my daughter to every eligible man I met and trying to marry her off! Which I don't have to do, because she is engaged (and I'm running a 99 cents promotion to help pay for her wedding that is probably the most fun marketing and promotion I've ever done...is that smooth marketing or what?).
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
KELLY McCLYMER: Amazon has recognized indie authors, and offered them a very powerful incentive to partner with them to bring our work to readers—70% royalties and placement that doesn't discriminate between indie and Big Six published. Amazon doesn't make any more promise to indie authors than that our books will get a fair shake with readers, and that we are free to experiment with what will sell more books as we learn our way around putting our books out there. And that's something that even the Big Six can't offer to every author nowadays.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
KELLY McCLYMER: Make sure your book is ready. And by ready, I mean written as best you can write it, critiqued by trusted critique partners, or a paid editor, proofed by someone who knows grammar and spelling. Being able to let go of a book and stamp it "ready" is a tough thing for some of us. But the good thing about the Kindle process is that you can always go back if you realize later down the road that you really must fix that not-quite right scene. I am very grateful for the opportunity to revise my historical romances before putting them back out there in the world of readers. I loved the the stories when I first told them, but I'm a better writer now, and I can write more sharply now, than I did then. I fully expect, if my books are still going strong on the Kindle in ten years, that I may just revise them again. I plan to write new books, and grow as a writer, but that doesn't mean I can't spruce up my backlist (at least, the books in my control, not my publishers'), if I really, really want to.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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