The description for your current book, Storming, says it is “a jaunty historical adventure / dieselpunk mash-up that combines rip-roaring steampunk adventure and small-town charm with the thrill of futuristic possibilities.” What made you decide to mix all those genres together?
Honestly, it wasn’t so much a decision as just something that happened. The story started out as straight historical, set in western Nebraska in the 1920s, but it soon took a turn into something with a slightly fantastical bend. I knew from the beginning I wanted it to have a distinct “summer blockbuster” vibe—an adventurous romp of a story, but one with a lot of heart.
What do you think makes it work?
As for why it works, it’s deeply grounded in our realistic world, with only touches here and there of the speculative, and those I tried to keep realistic in their own right, even as I had fun with them and didn’t worry too much about the physics and science.
How did you get started in writing?
I started writing when I was twelve and published a small newsletter throughout high school. I independently published my first novel, the western A Man Called Outlaw when I was twenty. But I didn’t really take it seriously as a business until my next book, the medieval historical Behold the Dawn, came out three years later.
Who encouraged you?
My family has always been incredibly supportive, and I’ve had many wonderful writing buddies and critique partners who have joined me in the struggles and joys of the writing life along the way.
Besides writing novels, you’ve also published short stories. What is the market for short stories? Even though they are not printed books, you still have to buy a cover, format and market them. With those expenses, how can you make a profit? Or are they like loss leaders at a grocery store meant to create interest in your novels?
When I first started writing, I churned out about 120 short stories in 5 years. Since then, I’ve written hardly any. But I emerged from that intensive apprenticeship with three shorts in particular that I was proud of. They were just sitting there, doing nothing, so I decided to throw them together as little e-books and offer them to my readers for just $.99 apiece. They obviously aren’t very lucrative, but they’re an easy way for new readers to gain an introduction to my work
PenForASword Publishing is your own imprint, correct? Why did you decide to indie publish?
Yes, PenForASword Publishing is mine. As both an independently and traditionally published author, I’m a proponent of both publishing venues. Independent publishing has presented authors with previously unheard of opportunities that should always be taken into consideration and weighed against the pros and cons of traditional publishing.
However, independent publishing does not guarantee success. I’ve seen far too many indie authors who jumped into publishing, believing with all their hearts their books were polished and professional, when they were anything but.
What pitfalls do you see for those who are new to indie-publishing?
Before opting to self-publish, I always recommend that authors take that extra moment to be brutally honest with themselves about their priorities. It's always worthwhile (even crucial) to hire professionals (especially an editor) to help produce a product that will enhance a career as an author, rather than tarnish it.
It's also important to realize that even if you do have a great product, there's no guarantee it will be profitable. I couldn't live off what I make from my fiction.
That said, self-publishing as a whole has treated me very well and if you can make it work, I definitely recommend it over a traditional route.
How do you go about choosing your cover art?
Book cover design is an art unto itself, and one that is integral to any author’s marketing efforts. Unless you happen to be an expert in design and marketing (in addition to being an awesome author, of course!), your book cover probably isn’t something you’re going to want to relegate to DIY.
I started using the awesome design company Damonza when Structuring Your Novel came out—and then I immediately had them redo my existing cover for Outlining Your Novel, so the two books would be visually branded together.
Since then, Damonza has also done the covers for Outlining Your Novel Workbook, Structuring Your Novel Workbook, Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration, the updated version of my medieval novel, Behold the Dawn, as well as Storming, of course.
What makes for a good cover?
I start out by describing the book to them and the general tone I want to convey to potential readers. They take it from there, and then we go back and forth until I have something I’m completely happy with.
With all the books on writing in print and eFormat, what makes your writing tips a must buy?
I’m addressing niche subjects that are in-demand but that aren’t being covered in much depth elsewhere. I break down complex subjects—such as story structure—into the smaller pieces of an overall process. I like taking the big picture and analyzing the different integers that make it work. I think people find that nitty-gritty approach useful, amidst what is largely a swarm of very general information.
As writers we’re told that social media is the live blood to growing an audience and readers. Your blog is listed as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. How did you become so popular? How do you find time to build or find content?
I stumbled into blogging about writing because, hey, every writer needs a blog, right? And you’re supposed to blog about what you’re interested in, and that would be…writing. Then one day I woke up, and the blog had just sort of taken off!
I keep a running list of blog article ideas, and in over six years, I’ve never run out. Many of my ideas are based on the lessons I’m learning in writing my own novels; other posts are subjects requested by readers. They say, “Those who cannot do, teach,” but I don’t think that’s true at all. When you’re forced to distill thoughts into a teachable form, you learn so much more from it yourself.
What do you know now about publishing that you wish you knew sooner?
Probably the biggest bit of advice I would have offered myself would have been to seriously consider where my blog would be in five years if it succeeded. By that point, many of the decisions I made in the beginning were too difficult to change. I wish I’d spent more time considering my blog title, url, publishing platform (Blogger, Wordpress, etc.), subscription options, all that stuff. You don’t want to have to make major changes down the road that might undo some of your hard work in building a following.
What’s next for you in writing?
I’m currently in the throes of editing my next novel, a historical superhero story set in Regency London. I’m also getting ready to start work on several new writing how-to books, including one on character arcs, which I’ve been getting lots of requests for.
That's it for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about K.M's writing and books, here's some links to get you started.