Tuesday

Kindle Author Interview: Kris Bock

Kris Bock, author of Rattled, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Rattled?

KRIS BOCK: Rattled is a romantic suspense novel set in New Mexico. Erin and Camie are best friends searching for a legendary treasure that has been lost for over a century. When Erin finds a clue to the treasure’s location, she suffers a hit-and-run accident on her bicycle and they realize other people are also after the treasure. They take off for the desert anyway, helped by a handsome helicopter pilot. The wilderness has its own dangers, though, from wild animals to the weather. And of course, the bag guys are still hunting them. You’ll find dramatic scenery, lots of action, budding love, and a powerful friendship.

Oh, and for animal lovers, Rattled includes a very cool cat.

I’ve posted the first three chapters at www.krisbock.com.

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

KRIS BOCK: I tend to be strong with plot but struggle more with characterization. I’ve learned not to start writing until I really know the characters. When they start talking in my head, I’ve got it. Some of the characters in Rattled are loosely based on real people, which helps. Erin is precise, cautious, and thoughtful, much as I was when younger (I’ve loosened up). Camie has a lot in common with a dear friend of mine, though I switched genders for the character. Even the cat, Tiger, is based on a cat I once had the privilege of knowing. I’d like to hang out with these people (and Tiger). I hope readers will feel the same way.

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

KRIS BOCK: Rattled should appeal to anyone who is a fan of “lighter” romantic suspense, along the lines of Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels, and Nora Roberts. You’ll find plenty of action and a sweet love story, but not the gritty violence and explicit erotica of some modern romantic suspense. I also tried to bring the New Mexico scenery to life—gorgeous sunsets, dangerous monsoon storms, and everywhere you turn a plant or animal that wants to scratch, bite, or sting you. Armchair adventure travelers are welcome!

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

KRIS BOCK: I slipped sideways into writing fiction. I studied photography in college but started writing for the school paper. I returned to grad school to study “Professional Writing and Publishing” with the goal of magazine journalism. I wrote my first novel as something fun to do while looking for a job. That novel, historical fiction for young people called The Well of Sacrifice and published under the name Chris Eboch, actually sold! I went on to write a number of lousy manuscripts that didn’t sell (and shouldn’t have), but that early success convinced me I could make it as a fiction writer.

I kept working on all the skills of writing and over the years published in a variety of genres for kids. After 12 traditionally published children’s books, I found myself losing my enthusiasm. I’d been reading lots of romantic suspense, so it seemed natural to write one, and that got me enthused about writing again. I had so much fun getting these characters in and out of trouble!

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

KRIS BOCK: Over the years, I have become a big believer in outlining. I find that an outline gives me a solid roadmap for the novel and drastically reduces my revision time. When I started Rattled, I was switching from 35,000-word middle grade novels to an 85,000-word adult novel. I wanted to make sure I had enough material to sustain that length, so an outline became even more important. Some things changed along the way, but spending a couple of weeks on the outline allowed me to then write the first draft in under three months.

As far as a daily schedule, I feel most creative in the morning. I check my e-mail while eating breakfast, then get to writing. First I’ll revise the chapter I wrote the previous day. This lets me catch errors while my intent is still fresh in my mind. (I use voice recognition software which sometimes comes up with bizarre alternatives to what I really said.)

I may expand the scene as well, as my first draft tends to be focused on action and dialogue but lacking in reaction and emotion. Reading the previous day’s writing also gets me back into the proper mental frame so my voice stays consistent throughout the novel.

Then I go on to write a new chapter, which I usually finish by mid-afternoon. After that, I’ll run errands or work on other writing related tasks—writing articles, preparing presentations, critiquing manuscripts, publicizing my work... the list never ends, so it’s important for me to do the writing first.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

KRIS BOCK: I’ve always read widely and passionately, but I’m really most inspired by the writers I know personally. I have many friends and acquaintances in various writing communities, and I’m impressed by how hard most of them work for little reward. Many are juggling full-time jobs, freelance work, children or other family obligations, volunteer time, or all of the above, as well as their personal writing. Success is most inspiring when it’s so hard won.

And I love how generous most writers are. We celebrate each other’s successes and lend a hand when we can, no matter how crazy our own lives get. Knowing I’m not the only one suffering setbacks, and that other people are rooting for me and celebrating when I succeed, helps me believe I can do this.

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

KRIS BOCK: One that made a fortune, so I could support my other writing.

No, seriously, I’ll mention Mary Stewart again. I’m not sure if she was the first  romantic suspense writer, but she certainly helped establish the genre and remains one of the best. Her work stands up more than 50 years later and it draws me into a world that is both exciting and comforting. I’d love to have that kind of impact on readers for generations. It’s hard to pick just one of her books to wish I’d written, but I guess I’ll say My Brother Michael because of its powerful story, strong character interactions, and vivid details of Greece.

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

KRIS BOCK: Letting people know about the book is the first step. This is where having a large social network helps, especially for indie books. I’ve asked friends to help spread the word, to agree with my tag words on Amazon, and to post a review if they read and liked the book.

I also recently attended the Left Coast Crime convention for mystery writers and fans. I chatted with dozens of people, gave out lots of postcards about Rattled, passed out several free review copies, and gave a couple of presentations. Conventions and conferences are a great way to meet people in the field.

“Social networking” could become a full-time job, but I’m trying to do a little bit at a time. I’m posting on the Kindle boards and a couple of listservs for writers/readers, I’m doing blog interviews like these, and basically following whatever leads come along. Publicity tends to feed on itself, so I hope that if I get things started, at some point I’ll have enough strangers talking about Rattled that the publicity will take on a life of its own.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

KRIS BOCK: I started looking into self-publishing for one of my middle grade novels. The publisher had dropped my Haunted series about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show. I had a nearly complete fourth manuscript, so why not release it myself? And while I was at it, why not publish another middle grade novel, a mystery set in ancient Egypt that had gotten good feedback but wasn’t considered marketable in today’s publishing climate? (That one has been released as The Eyes of Pharaoh, written as Chris Eboch.)

Modern technology means that authors don’t have to make a huge financial investment in order to publish their out-of-print books, new books in a series dropped by the publisher, or other work that might not fit the market.

But the more I learned, the more I saw that the real possibilities were for adult genre fiction. Even traditionally published authors are moving toward self-publishing, because ebooks provide such a strong market. I had an agent who was happy to represent Rattled, but when I told him I was thinking about self-publishing, even he agreed that it made sense today.

For me, timing was a big part of the decision. It could take six months to a year to sell a manuscript and then another year or two or three to get it in print. I’m trying to make a living as a writer. It’s hard to run my business when several years pass between writing a book and getting it published. With self-publishing, I could have the ebook and print on-demand versions out in six weeks.

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

KRIS BOCK: Don’t rush into publishing too quickly. Take classes—lots of them. Get professional manuscript critiques at conferences. Hire a freelance editor. Work on your craft first. Don’t try to publish the first thing you write, especially not the first or second or third draft. I have 10 unpublished novels. One or two might be victims of market trends, but most are not worthy of publication. They were learning experiences. Rejection was frustrating at the time, but now I’m glad that those novels didn’t get published. Publishing before you are ready is much more likely to hurt your career than help it.

That said, self-publishing on Kindle can be a great way to find an audience for work that might not have enough of a market to attract a big publisher. You can also test your work with the people who matter most—the readers. And if you are willing to take on the whole business of being an independent publisher, you’ll have much more control and just might make more money.

But don’t assume it’s easier than traditional publishing. Self-publishing badly is easy. Doing it well takes time, hard work, and most likely some upfront financial investment. The end results are worth the effort if you really care about writing.

For more of my thoughts on self-publishing, and a step-by-step overview of the process, read my series of posts on The Spectacle group blog: http://thespectacleblog.wordpress.com/author/chriseboch/

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




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kris Bock writes action-packed romantic suspense, often involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. To learn more about her latest work or read the first three chapters of Rattled, visit www.krisbock.com.

Ms. Bock also writes for young people under the name Chris Eboch. The Eyes of Pharaoh is an fast-paced mystery set in ancient Egypt. In The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan girl in ninth-century Guatemala rebels against the High Priest who sacrifices anyone challenging his power. Read excerpts at www.chriseboch.com.

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