AUTHOR INTERVIEW with Kristyn Miller: Advice for Planning, Writing, and Marketing Your Book

Welcome! My name is Michelle Dalson, and I will be interviewing Kristyn Miller, author of Charmed. She has experienced the stressful process of writing, publishing, and most of all, marketing. She has taken the time to share her author journey, along with some helpful tips for other writers and aspiring authors who are in the same phase as she is!

Michelle: Hello, Kristyn. Thank you for taking the time to discuss your writing journey. I’m sure many writers out there can relate to everything you’re going through! But before we discuss how you’re handling the writer’s journey, let’s hear a bit about your background. How did you grow as a writer? What inspired you to write what you write?

Kristyn: When I was little, around 5th or 6th grade, maybe even earlier, I liked to create my own books. Of course, they were children books based off of friendship and having new experiences. One was even about my friends and I called Adventure Girls—a series similar to the Bratz movies I owned. My classmates really liked my stories, but halfway through the seventh book I stopped writing.

Michelle: Ah, interesting! Mentioning Bratz brings up so many memories of my childhood. Now I am remembering the days when I started out making simple picture books as well.

Kristyn: See, childhood is very colorful and the only worries you have are whether or not you’ll get dessert or if you can go over to a friend’s house. I wrote the Adventure Girls books as I aged and at the time I was constantly losing and gaining friends, forcing me to change up the characters. About halfway through the seventh book, I stopped the series. I stopped watching Bratz movies and my sisters and I had stopped playing with our dolls. I had outgrown those little stories of togetherness and cheesy lessons. It was all too cute. Those days were over and I didn’t write anything for a while.

Then something crazy happened and it came in the form of a dazzling vampire and a stubborn girl in the town of Forks, Washington. Yes, I mean Twilight. I was twelve when I first saw the movie and after watching it, I read the books. (Twilight actually got me into reading and writing again. It was also my first real fandom). The books were fantastic to me and so was how Stephanie Meyer came up with the idea. I just found it completely magical how she transformed a dream into four novels. She got me believing in dreams again and how they could come true after all. She was my idol and I aspired to be just like her.

Michelle: I’m not surprised! Twilight can inspire its fans just as well as it can rouse its haters.

Kristyn: So, I decided to write again, but what to write about? I pondered that for a bit then I looked back into my childhood and remembered the episodes my sister Brittany and I would play with our Bratz dolls. They were characters of our creation and we had SO many dolls. Our world was amazing because our Bratz weren’t just ordinary. They were witches and warlocks and demons who lived together in a wonderful place known as the Brat House (later to be named the Witch House in my story). I knew a ton of the characters, but only two really stood out to me, so I took them and began building their world around them. I used the Bratz episodes as a starting point, but I wanted to go with something different. I drove off course, altering characters and events, turning away drama and comedy for something darker, yet magical. Unfortunately, in my drive to become a writer once again, the very first draft of Charmed sounded very similar to Meyer’s Twilight. When one of my closest friends told me it was similar, after reading a scene, I felt like I couldn’t write anything original, but I didn’t want to give up on this story. So I looked at what was similar and changed it. Eventually, after rewriting about four different times, Charmed was its own, but it was still missing that magical element.

Twilight was all about the romance and family bonds, but it didn’t really involve magic. I had the romance set for my leads, but they lived in a very large, and magical world, yet there was barely any magic. And I’ve learned I was not overly fond of books/movies whose main focus is the romance, so I looked elsewhere and much later I got into Harry Potter. I flew through the books faster than Twilight and adored every single one. I fell in love with Rowling’s thoughts and how she crafted this world. Harry Potter was gushing with magic. Little sparks of glitter and wisdom leaked out of the pages, inspiring me to do better and to not be afraid to expand my world. So I guess you could say Bratz, Twilight and Harry Potter helped Charmed off the floor and prevented it from becoming another book I tossed in a folder.

Michelle: Glad to hear that you love Harry Potter too. I have to say, your background itself is an interesting story! Let’s move on and start talking about the stories that you are writing now—I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

The Planning Process:

Michelle: Pick ONE novel that you have published. Describe how you planned the storyline of this novel. Did you outline your chapters before you wrote them? Did you keep a document where you jotted down all your ideas as they came to you?

Kristyn: If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that I absolutely suck at planning. You’re probably wondering how I get anything done and the answer is very slowly. I think everyone has their own “planning pace” and I’d be lying if I said don’t attempt to plan out my stories. As mentioned, I planned Charmed’s storyline based on the episodes my sister and I would play with our Bratz dolls. However, before I began planning the story, I got to know the characters through the little profiles I made for them or the sketches I created. I prefer to know the crucial points to the characters essential to the story, particularly the main character. I try to figure out what is this journey we’re going to go on, why we’re taking it and where will it lead us in the end. Aside from the plot, characters are the most essential thing to the story.

I think I can figure out a character without a bio or a sketch and just through their actions. The action is something I jot down in my notes. Whenever an idea comes to me, I find the closest, most accessible thing I can find, and I go to town on it. Whether it be my tablet, laptop, a notebook or even the tag to a shirt, I write it down. (The same thing is for my dreams too). Since the notes are everywhere, they will not be in chronological order until it comes time to put them to use. Then I sort them out and put the chapter title and write a summary about everything that may or may not happen in the chapter. I do this for every one so I’ll get a very good idea as to what is going on and how if flows.

Michelle: Sounds like a consistent way to plan! Many writers are inspired by their favorite books, or even shows. You can still develop an original story and plan accordingly.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors about planning for a novel? Would you advise them to follow the same steps you took to plan your book? Why or why not?

Kristyn: My advice would be don’t wave off an idea because it sounds strange, you never truly know what it might become. I advise you guys to advise yourself . . . if that makes sense. The best thing you can do is find your own way. Everyone has their own pace and my way not may not work for you. If it does, kudos to you!

The Writing Process:

Michelle: Now let’s talk about how you handled the writing process of your book. How many drafts did you go through before you finally published your book?

Kristyn: Well, I wrote the very first draft of Charmed and then I typed the second draft on the computer. I had finished the entire book and I was ready for editing then something happened that no writer should go through: the computer crashed and I lost everything. My story was gone and I was so upset, so destroyed, that I spent quite some time moping around before I started up the third draft. I think the fourth draft is when I got everything right and got myself a flash drive.

Michelle: I’m sorry to hear that! Well, that’s wonderful that you got yourself back on your feet and continued with your story. How did things turn out when you were editing? Did you work with an editor? Did you find him/her helpful?

Kristyn: I currently edit my own books. It’s not something I prefer because I feel like I always miss something. It doesn’t help that I am very forgetful and a total perfectionist, but I know editors can be expensive, so I do it on my own with the help of online sources. I try to do two chapters a day, but I think it’s best to do one so I can focus on what’s happening in that bit and not rush the editing. I know if you rush that you are guaranteed to miss something.

Michelle: Did you have anyone read your story for feedback? Beta readers? Critique partners?

Kristyn: The first person to read my story was my English teacher from my old high school. I believe I gave her the second or third draft of Charmed and asked her to read the book and critique it. She did a lovely job and had said, even with its issues, it was a great story.

My publisher was the second and I remember her complimenting me on how descriptive my book is and how I really put myself into my characters . . .

My Uncle Ron ordered the book online and said it was “indeed very well done” and “So I imagine you are in the process of writing the second in the series, otherwise I will be lost forever as to what happens after this.”

I didn’t have any beta readers. I’ve had people volunteer on the page a couple times, but I never gave them the chance. I guess I’m very protective over my work. I’m not saying people will steal it, but I don’t know, I think I like keeping my book close to home. It’s probably a stupid thing to do if I want Keisha’s story to appeal to everyone . . . but I don’t mind taking risks. 😉

Michelle:  That’s great that you had an English teacher critique it. However, I would strongly advise you to find beta readers to critique it as well—preferably people you trust such as other writers on facebook whom you keep in touch with.

What important advice would you like to give to aspiring authors about writing, rewriting, and editing a novel?

Kristyn: It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you are, there will always be an error or two in your work. That’s because errors are rather like Pokémon, you actually can’t catch them all. However, those errors won’t matter with an intriguing story.

The Publishing Process:

Michelle: What route did you take to publish your novel? Large press, small press, or independent publishing?

Kristyn: I’ve chosen Independent Publishing, but I had someone put it online for me. It seemed so much easier to me than going through the trouble of finding a literary agent or going directly to a publisher. I’d sent my book to publishers and maybe a few literary agents and I hadn’t heard back or I got rejected. I guess I dislike the idea of having to change my story to fit other’s standards.

Michelle: It’s tough to get in touch with an agent. But there are hardships in every route! Describe the pros and cons of this particular independent publishing route for you and your book.

Kristyn: I’m not saying I’m a control freak, but I do enjoy the control I have over my novel. That’s a major pro. I don’t have to change it for others and the work is all on me. That is also a con as it is a pro. You’ve got to do all the work yourself and it is a TON of work. It’s very stressful because if something goes wrong, it’s on you. You’ve got no one else to blame so you really have to do your best.

Michelle: You’re absolutely right. Is there advice you’d like to give to aspiring authors about the key factors a writer should think about before choosing one of the three publishing routes?

Kristyn: Choose wisely, friends…choose wisely. Or y’know, go with water floats your lovely, sparkly, dolphin boat.

The Marketing Process:

Michelle: Let’s talk about the process that many authors struggle through most of all: marketing. Explain how you drew people to read your book. What were your marketing strategies?

Kristyn: The truth is, I’m still promoting my book. It’s not popular. I almost didn’t complete this interview because I looked around and saw so much brilliance on the page and felt quite small compared to everyone else. Family is easy to draw into your stories and I’ve told many people that I’m a writer and what I write. I hear “Oh, what is it about?” Me: “Witches and demons.” After that comes with the look of “Is she serious” or “Oh that sounds dark.” I’ve already got some fans and I know even if you have one, it’s better than none. It’s nice knowing someone out there waiting for the next book and those are the people I enjoy writing for.

Michelle: No shame! Many writers, authors, and aspiring authors can relate to you. So, let’s discuss a bit more about what you are doing to promote your book at the moment. Let us know what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you! How are you using social media to promote your book? How much time did you dedicate to connecting with others on facebook?

Kristyn: I made two pages for Charmed. One is secret and the other is open, but I may delete the secret one because I don’t care for the idea of having two pages…If only I could figure out how to delete it! My publisher made a page as well and I believe we update them whenever something is going on with the book. Between college and filmmaking, it’s difficult to squeeze some update time in lately. But when I do update, I think to share exciting things and I’m trying to get around to posting more pictures and bios.

Michelle: What about twitter? How did you use twitter to promote your book? How much time did you dedicate to connecting with others on twitter?

Kristyn: I actually don’t have a twitter. I don’t wish to conform to society, haha . . . Part of me wants to, but I can hardly keep up with Facebook!

Michelle: Well, it’s good to dedicate lots of time to one or a few websites rather than scrambling here and there on a plethora. I would recommend strengthening your online presence with the websites where you feel you can make connections with the right people for your book. What other websites did you use to promote and sell your book? Any websites you recommend for other authors to promote/sell?

Kristyn: My book could be found on LuLu.com, but we’re currently making important changes. There’s not any other sites you can find Charmed on. I apologize for boring you guys, but we are working on it!

Michelle: No need to apologize! Again, many writers can relate to you. I’m sure that as your writing journey progresses, you can keep us updated with any successes on marketing your book!

Is there any additional advice you’d like to give to aspiring authors about marketing?

Kristyn: You guys already know how tough marketing can be, but if you want your story out there, don’t stop shoving your work in people’s faces until they get the message! Okay, don’t shove it in someone’s face, but you get the idea. Peace out girl scouts.

 

Facebook contact info: https://www.facebook.com/CharmedTheBook

 

If you have any questions about Kristyn, her books, or would like to know a bit more about how she handled the planning, writing, publishing, and marketing processes, leave your question in a comment below!

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