Monday, February 3, 2014

Oh What a Knight! Day 7 & How Authors Write- KF Breene

It's a busy day on the blog today. First, I'm hanging with Heather Fraser-Brainerd and her brother, and co-author, David Fraser. Last time we got together, they did an interview with Midnight, a horse from QUEST OF THE HART (you can find that HERE) Today, they interview me at Driving Blind Productions. Find out why I love living where I do, where I wish I could live, and the all important answer to Narnia or Hogwarts :-)

And now to the good stuff! I'm pleased to be hosting fellow MuseItUp author, KF Breene as she talks about her writing process and shares a bit of her release, INTO THE DARKNESS. Welcome, K!

What do you write?
The newest release is paranormal romance/urban fantasy. Before this I’ve published contemporary romance. After this I will put out some fantasy. Next to write is dystopian. I don’t like to stick to one genre; I get bored easily. [I totally understand this. I've been genre hopping lately, too!]

Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs?
I do all of the above. The first thing I wrote was in first person, which is great if you want to leave the motives of the other characters a mystery. I like third person best because I can better visualize what I’m writing. The book coming out now is both first and third person. Sasha, the heroine, is always first person, and everyone else is third. Sounds like it wouldn’t work, right? Trust me, it does ;) I’ve seen one other book that did it, which is how I knew I could cross that boundary. I get the inner workings of the heroine’s mind, but I get to work with more characters, too.

Yeah, it does still wound weird—I know. Give a read, see what you think.

 [I'm beginning to think you're my writing twin. My FAERY series (first book releasing from BookFish Books this summer) does this same thing. The Faery Queen sections in Faery are 3rd person, and the rest of the book in the Human realm are 1st person. And yes, it does work!]

How do you get started with a book—is it an idea, a character vary from story to story?
My books all kind of start the same—with a daydream. I’ll be running, or driving, or showering, or looking at a spreadsheet, and random things will flit through my head. Sometimes I imagine myself somewhere else because I’m tired of my location. Sometimes I imagine myself meeting someone new. With Into the Darkness I wanted to live in a world with magic, and I also wanted to come up with another way to explain the myth of vampires in a modern day society. Those two desires then went back into my daydreaming head, and the rough outline was born. [Nice. Love vampires!]

Do you draft quickly?
Draft? Um…well, if a fuzzy idea of an alternate reality is a draft, then it depends on how bored I am with life at the time. Like I said, I daydream. Sometimes I sit down to a keyboard and just start typing, no direction in mind. With other stories, I take months to think about the world I will create. I get a rough idea of the characters’ personalities, of their society, of their struggles, and hang around there for a while. I might even have a starting and ending point. But for me, writing isn’t a passion. It isn’t a calling. Film is. Writing, for me, is a way to create movies without a film crew (my dream was to be a director—which I am fulfilling with the written word instead of the camera). I sit down, and go on a journey. Some might say I don’t outline a draft at all. And that’s the fun of it.

Do you research before your first draft? During?
I tend to write what I know. At least in a basic sense. That could be from watching a whole lot of survival shows and deciding I want to put a character into that situation. It could be from pulling crazy experiences from my life and incorporating them into the story. Everything I write has a kernel of truth—I don’t know how to write things that don’t.

I mentioned I get bored easily, right? Well, I also love to learn. Those two things combined means that in my 34 years, I’ve covered a lot of ground, and I’ve studied a lot of subjects. I have a lot of kernels to expand from.

For Into the Darkness, I used a heavy dose of knowledge from one of my other passions—Anthropology. I find the subject fascinating. A few things I had to go back and look up, but mostly I pulled from the items that lodged in my head, which were quite a few. After having a kid my memory went out the window, but in my scholarly years, I retained quite a lot. It really helped turn the vampire myth into something that could be explained in a modern world (with a lot of artistic license, of course).

Do you outline?
Nope. Like I said, I might have a starting point, or I might have an ending point, but not usually both. I can’t express it any other way besides noting that I daydream. I just put my head in a body in some other place, with other people, and get to know my surroundings. I think about what the people are doing, and why. Random scenes pop into my imagination, and I take note of them. I analyze how those scenes might reverberate through the story. I continue to develop my sense of this new world. When I am bursting with ideas and a desire to live in this place, I put my hands on a keyboard, and live it. [I do something similar, so I totally get this. I let the scene play out in my mind like a movie, and when it all clicks, then I write it out. Not every scene, but many are this way for me.]

Do you name everything up front when you are drafting or do you leave comments for yourself to go back and fill in later so you don't lose the flow of what you are working on?
I certainly do name everything—but never with any thought. I kind of just throw things out there and see how it goes. That sounds amateur probably, but what you have to understand is I am extremely logical. Before my dream was film, I wanted to be an accountant. I eventually majored in business.

I am an accountant with a strong business sense. Math brain.
Some things that art people find difficult, I do automatically. I name things, create reasons why they exist, and make sure my B.S. meter doesn’t go off when I am working with this new facet that probably just popped out of the scene. If it sounds too weird, I’ll alter it so it (whatever it might be) fits into the world I created.

Lately I’ve told a few people of ideas or stories I have written, and they always go… Huh.

Even an agent, who is used to dealing with writers, had that reaction. Meaning, “That sounds crazy, and you must suck at writing.”

I don’t know about my ability to write, but even the fantastical things I come up with will make sense when I put them in the story. That’s because, if they don’t make sense, I don’t keep them in. I can’t stand for things to be totally out there. They don’t have to be real, but they do have to jive with the elements around them. So yes, I name away. Then create reasons why they are plausible. Then poke holes in those reasons…and finally fill in the holes. If I don’t tie up all the loose ends, my mind dwells on it. So yes, I name away, and then make sure the new creation is water tight. Or, at least, jelly bean tight.

Do you work with CP's or Beta's? How soon into your draft do you let them see your work?
If you’re a writer, you best be using Beta’s! I self-published a story thinking it wasn’t all that great (not even bothering to send it to a publisher) without editing or using a beta reader. The reviews I got back nearly buckled me. Readers liked the story, but the editing was terrible (my worst fear), and there were a few issues that a beta could’ve smoothed out.

I think I mentioned that I hate to fail. Well, that was failing. Even though I sold a great many books, I still viewed it as failing based off the amount of negative reviews—why does one negative review wipe out four positive ones and then ruin your day? I’ll never know, but there you have it.

Anyway, since then, my stuff goes through two editors and as many betas as I can find. I actually pay good beta readers now (they are on my “new book payroll”) because they greatly improve the story. I don’t mind harsh critique on the front end—I can fix that. Whatever staves off those angry hornets at Amazon is good news!

How soon into the drafts? When I’m completely done with the manuscript. When I can read it through, as a reader (not a writer), and love it. If my mind wanders for any reason while reading, or if I get bored reading at any time, I revise, and put it back on the shelf for a future read-through.

I have six stories on the shelf right now. Some are first drafts, some second, and the fantasy I mentioned is getting ready for a fourth read through. I’m excited to read it again—I really like it. Not because I wrote it—I don’t really care about that. I’m excited to meet the characters again. To re-live some funny moments. To feel their pain. To see them triumph. That means it’s nearly ready for the first round of edits. Then the beta readers. And then more editors. Finally, after all that, it’ll be ready for public consumption.

Side note to clarify my method: Mary and I are both with MuseItUp Publishing, which is about the best publishing house I could’ve gotten with. But I’m a business major, turned accountant, which is also excellent at computers. Oh yeah, and now I write a thing or two. The only thing I really lack is marketing. So I don’t use publishers, anymore. I foot the bill for all of the above with the great vendors I’ve collected, and then I prepare it for the bookstores, and then monitor the sales. I maintain control, which is how I can put my story through an editor, then send it to betas, and then more editing. That is not a normal deal with a publishing house.

My betas are excellent and opinionated. I’ll revise my book with each beta until the book goes through edits, and then I’ll do a final revision with the editors comments in mind. My stuff has seen a lot of eyes before it goes to shelves.

That is how extensive my fear of failure is. [I really like this process. In addition to being at Muse, I'm also at BookFish Books, and I'm also self publishing a couple novella's this year. And they will see my CP's and an editor before they go out. You're right- that is so very important.]

What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best?
None. To be my best, I read. A lot. And then I write. And write. And keep writing. And then read some more. I search for the best writers so I have a high bar to aspire to. To hopefully help me grow. I ingest the story while noticing how the writer told it. I think the way to be an excellent writer is to read a lot, write often, and read/edit your work.

I did some beta work to “give back” and was surprised when the writer said, “This is the third time I revised it! Maybe I’ll get it right on the next story the first time.”

Terrible way to view things. There was only one chapter J.K. Rowling wrote, in the whole Harry Potter series, that she didn’t go back and revise. Write the first draft with your heart, revise with your head.

That said, the one thing I’ve learned from a website was about showing versus telling. In my opinion, the main reason Indy writers fail is because they don’t “show” what’s happening. They don’t experience it, making it impossible for the reader to experience it with them. That’s why I re-read my story as a reader. I wait a while, for the details to wear away (often writing something else), and when I come back, I expect to get engrossed in the story. The boredom and shifty eyes means I’m probably telling. Bad.
Revise. [More great advice! Letting the novel sit and then going back to it with fresh eyes let's you find things you missed the first time around. And I love how you mention the boredom and shifty eyes. Good things to watch out for when you're reading through. If you're bored with it, a reader will likely be, too.]

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
1. Great, professional cover.
2. Catchy blurb.
3. Professional editors.
4. Beta readers.

You need a good cover like a four-way stop needs stop signs. It is the thing that catches the eye, and makes a reader look harder. Then, of course, they read your blurb. That reels them in. You writing will hopefully keep them in, but mistakes will buck them back out.

Whether you are self-publishing, or going through a publisher, make sure the editing is spot on. Readers notice. And they’ll write that in reviews. And your book will stop selling.

Like I said, MuseItUp is great. They do a thorough job with editing. They put out a good product—but not all publishing houses were created equal. I’ve read a book put out by a supposed publishing house with a great many inexcusable errors. There was an obvious error in the second paragraph. You have to make sure that editing is carried out or your sales will greatly suffer. [Indie-authors and small presses aren't alone in this. I've seen some bad editing out of some big houses, and while I love the author and they story, I did feel a little cheated on paying what I did for the book.]

Beta readers—note what I said above. 

What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share?
Good god. *dodging questions*

Into the Darkness is coming out now. It’s action and comedy and fun all wrapped up into a paranormal ball, and then hurled at the reader. 

I have a giveaway going, and will have flash giveaways at the blog and website randomly just to keep the ball bouncing.

You can find K here:

Twitter: @kfbreene

Now, for an excerpt from Into the Darkness. Be sure to read all the way to the end for the giveaway!

I’d always been different. I saw objects in the night where others saw emptiness. Large, human shaped shadows, fierce yet beautiful, melting into the darkness. I collected secrets like other women collected bells; afraid to fully trust lest my oddities be exposed.

Until I saw him. He’d been gliding down the street, unshakable confidence in every step. 
It wasn’t just that he was breathtakingly handsome with perfect features. Something about him drew me. Sucked my focus to him and then tugged at my body. As his eyes met mine, I was entrapped.

No one had noticed him. He’d been right there, just beyond the light, but only I had perceived.

I had to know if he was real. Or maybe I really was crazy. And even when my secret box was blasted wide open, dangers hurled at me like throwing knives, I couldn’t stop until I unraveled his true identity.

I just had to know.

As I met his black eyes, his puzzled expression deepened. “You’re human…”

We established that, yes. What I want to know is, if I am human, what does that make you? And why do I notice you when others usually don’t?”

His head cocked to the side. His easy balance, his lethal edge; he was like a blade resting on billowing silk. “Very few humans are able to withstand our pheromones. Fewer still to break a Kolma once it has been placed. You’ve not been trained, that’s obvious; so how is this possible when you’re definitely human? Do you possess the blood of another species?”

I could barely think past the pounding ache of my body, begging to touch him. I needed to get a grip! He was revealing some very interesting factoids I needed to jot down in my mental notebook.

His nostrils flared. “Charles was right; your arousal is a unique scent. Like a spicy, warm drink on a mid-winter’s night. It rises above other smells, entrancing the mind.”

Umm,” charged with questions, determination, anger, and demands, I thrust forward, “Listen, what did you mean about withstanding the…pher-thing? Or breaking the other thing? How can you trap someone’s head with pleasure? Because I’m pretty sure—not positive, but pretty sure—that Jared is straight. And also, I really think we should circle back to what the hell you are, and why nobody knows that you exist? Because this whole people scattering thing is not normal, and I think an explanation is probably in order.”

He stepped closer, not hearing me, or not caring that I spoke. His eyes looked at me like I was a life-sized riddle. They delved, searching. He took another step, forcing me to retreat two steps to keep distance between our bodies. Another step back had my back to the wall. 

A small smile curved his lips. “I exude pleasure, you run. I exude fear, you come calling. You want me, I can smell it. I can feel it, almost like a palpable thing. Give in to it. Yield to me.”

Oh God I wanted to. His body was mere inches from mine, his intense eyes looking down into my soul from a face out of a Renaissance painting. The power of him, the sheer strength, had strange, primal fantasies running amok through my head. My core tingled, my chest surged, and my nipples were so hard they could cut this stone wall. 

Why had I come here, again?

Oh! That sounds like a very, very good read!

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  1. The shifty eyes line is such a good tip. Not one I've ever consciously hashed out, but the feeling has niggled my author conscience. Then again, it looks like you've got it all down to science, and its impressive you put all your talents to work in your writing.

    1. Hey Loren! Yes, the shifty eye thing niggles me every now and then too- I really need to pay more attention, both in my work and those I CP for- no good not letting people (yourself included) know when something just doesn't seem to work right!

      Thanks for stopping by!!

    2. I definitely don't have everything figured out! I've merely narrowed down what seems to work for me, always trying to hone and refine. I don't like being bored, though, so if I find my attention wandering from something I wrote, or feel the need to skim, I defiintely take notice :)

    3. Definitely a good point to consider, though. If you, the author, are dreading reading it, then so will your reader :-)

  2. Thanks for having me today, Mary!!

  3. I really enjoyed this interview. K, you shared so much good, solid advice. I think it's really interesting that you're putting your love of film into writing. One of my favorite authors is a very visual writer. I'll be interested to check out your writing style to see if it translates in that same way.

    1. It's been commented that my style is unique. I call it off-kilter. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes I scare people away. You just never know. I'm bold, though- you've been warned - lol?

    2. Thanks for stopping by, Heather. I'm also anxious to check out K's writing. I know the snippet she shared here really whetted my appetite.

      As for visual writing-I try to picture my scenes as if I were watching a movie, especially when I'm doing description. I kind of think-hmm, what would the camera show? and then I describe what I see.

    3. K- there's nothing wrong with bold!


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