Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a town in New Jersey. I'm not sure if I'd call it a small town since we have a pretty decently sized population, and it's expanded over more recent years, but it really doesn't have much going on. The actual "town" part is pretty much just a grocery store, a pharmacy, and some restaurants. We have a library and a soccer field but beyond that, not much going on. It's the kind of place where if you want to do anything relatively exciting, you have to get in your car and drive. Nothing is within walking distance.
Now, don't get me wrong, it's a really nice town and I'm glad that I grew up there, but considering what it's like, I'm really not surprised that I got into science fiction and fantasy as much as I did. I needed something exciting in my life, and I turned to books and movies within those genres. They offered an escape from the real world, and access to a place where the thing that made you powerful was your ability to imagine. It was refreshing and captivating, and it wasn't long before I was imagining my own worlds.
I've grown a lot as a person and as a writer, but the love for scifi and fantasy has stayed with me, and I really don't think that's ever going to change. Nor do I want it to.
Describe your desk
Hah, it's a mess. I used to keep my entire room amazingly neat when I was younger, but as I've grown older, my space has gotten more and more cluttered, the desk especially. It's one of those "organized messes", though. Maybe the problem isn't that I'm messy, but that I just don't have enough desk space!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Probably the feeling I get when I finish writing and can look back on all the words I put down. That... might sound a little arrogant or self-centered or whatever, but it's more about just knowing that I managed to make a mark on all those pages than basking in the glory of what I've written. I mean, and let's be frank here, first drafts are usually total crap.
I generally find something that I like about my first draft well enough to keep it, but I also find better ways to say a lot of other things. So, while I do find a lot of joy in putting down words and playing with language and building worlds and characters, I also like being able to look back on all of that and say, "I did this." Which is usually followed by, "Oh God why did I do THAT?" but hey, at least it's something. It's your voice and all those words you couldn't work into everyday conversations turned into something real and concrete. And I think that's wonderful.
When did you first start writing?
Outside of the basic alphabet and learning how to spell my name, I think my first attempt at fiction was when I was 11 or 12 years old. I came home from school one day with this map I had made as an assigned exercise, and I liked it so much that I started writing a story based on it.
To give you an idea of what that story was like, the map showed a place called "Rainbow Isle". I probably don't need to say anything more beyond that. Although, there were dragons involved. I will say that.
I remember that I treated that story like a novel, and I think I got up to about chapter 12 before I called it quits. I had plans for a second and third book, but that all got scrapped in favor of working on the very first draft of what would later become "Chasing Shadows". A LOT has changed since I sat down and scribbled out those pages, but I really did start working on my first official novel when I was 14. Thankfully, it didn't get published until I was 23, by which time I had realized that I did not, in fact, know everything there is to know about creative writing, and had learned to love revisions and editing.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Well, I sort of gave it to you in the previous question, but I'll add that it's been a long and difficult process that ultimately ended up being incredibly rewarding. Now I'm working on the sequel, and that's terrifying and exciting all at once, but mostly it's just suffering the growing pains of a first draft. At least I actually know where the story's going now, as opposed to 14-year-old me who just sat down and started writing with no end goal in mind. All things considered, that probably was a good thing, but it's nice to have a solid plan now!
I'm also participating in this new project called StoryShift as the writer of "Fire and Feathers", my first fantasy story since the days of Rainbow Isle. Writing for StoryShift is a really interesting experience as the project combines serialized fiction with the Choose Your Own Adventure genre, and I can't write a new chapter until the community of readers has voted on the decision my protagonist has to make at the end of each chapter. I have a lot of control as the writer as I'm the one who gets to present the choices to the readers at the end of the chapters, but it's been a great experience overall as this has forced me to consider possibilities that I otherwise would not have. My readers don't always vote for the outcome that I personally would have written had I decided to write "Fire and Feathers" outside of StoryShift, but that's really helping the story take shape and forcing me to flex my skills as a writer. It's challenging, but so much fun, and I'm planning on developing the story into a full manuscript once the StoryShift version is complete. Plus, I'm planning on writing a companion book that follows the rival character and shows her side of the events. I'm looking forward to exploring that side of the story more.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I really enjoy having total creative control over my work. I have to put a ton of effort into marketing and reaching out to potential readers, but that's not a terrible trade off. I've learned a lot from my experiences already, and at the end of the day, I know that no one is going to work harder than I am when it comes to my own stories.
There is a bit of a stigma attached to self-publishing, and people tend to look down on it because "anyone can just hit a button and publish a book online now". That's so far from the truth. While there probably are a few people who don't invest the time to get feedback on their work or even proofread it, there are many others who do all that and more. The sheer amount of effort that goes into learning how to properly format a book, let alone actually format a book, really is enough to deter those who aren't serious about their writing. Does that mean that everything you read online is going to be the same quality as someone who had an agent and a publisher and an editor all dedicated specifically to their work? No. But then again, I've read some pretty awful books (in my opinion, for whatever that's worth) that had all of the bells and whistles of traditional publishing.
Being an indie author gave me the opportunity to strike out on my own and produce the exact novel that I wanted to, right down to the cover art. That was motivation enough for me.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm usually making plushies for my side business Dragons by Kris, but I also take on freelance projects when I can. I just illustrated my second children's book thanks to freelancing, so that's pretty cool. I also love drawing (which goes along with the illustrating, I suppose), reading (goes with the writing, really), and playing video games. Some of my favorites include the Mass Effect trilogy, Infamous, Journey, Minecraft, and Dragon Age: Inquisition.
What is your writing process?
It varies, really. Sometimes, I can just sit down and the words will come flying out and then BAM! I've got a story or a chapter. That's about... 10% of the time? Maybe? About 60% of the time, though, I spend a few minutes brainstorming possibilities. I throw those into an outline and explore them further by typing out whatever comes to mind, then I'll revise the outline by thinking up new possibilities or a reason why A lead to B in the first place. From there, I'll work on the actual draft.
The other 30% usually involves some combination of sitting totally still while frowning at the computer, staring blankly into the middle distance, switching between the outline and the draft, trying to think of the best and least bizarre search words to throw into Google, and skipping ahead to write some other part of the story because I'm stuck on the one spot.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Erm... do YOU?
I'm fairly certain that I was reading in preschool, along with most of the kids I went to preschool with. I have no idea what the first thing that I read on my own was. I think the Berenstain Bears were pretty popular at that point, and I know that one of my favorite bedtime story books as a kid was "Little Beaver and the Echo", though I could not tell you how that book ended. Or started. Or middled, really. I know there was a beaver and an echo involved, though.
At some point, there must have been a book that really made me want to write, and I think the closest I could give you would be a book called "The Golden Goblet", which I read and reread until the cover fell off, but no, I don't remember the first story I ever read. I am pretty certain that there was a point in my life where I preferred movies to books, but that's it's own form of storytelling too, so maybe that had an impact as well. Overall, though, I really can't say.
What do you read for pleasure?
Fiction, mostly. Scifi and fantasy, usually. Which probably isn't all that surprising. I'm on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my reading list for any reason.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Other than an alarm clock, you mean?
I could give you a totally cliché answer about the thrill of the potential creations that I might bring into the world today, but I don't want to. Creativity is a fickle, fickle thing, and while I may have spent the whole day writing yesterday, fingers flying over the computer keys and thoughts pooling into paragraphs, today might see me get less than 100 words written.
I've always felt that writing and art in general is something that you really can't force. Sometimes, you do need to make yourself sit down and just start, because that's all the kick you need to get going, but there will be days where no matter what you do, you just can't get anything out. And that's okay.
I mostly get out of bed because I want to be productive. If that means writing, then that's wonderful. If that means running a ton of errands or working on a freelance job, then that's what I have to do. If that means making plushies (which I do as a side business... go check out Dragons by Kris on Etsy or Facebook if your intrigued enough to see them), then that's what I'll do. If that means shamelessly self-promoting my side business through a parenthetical insert, I'll do that and then go find something else to do. Whatever I'm doing, I try not to look at the creative processes as jobs. There's the common knowledge that whenever something becomes work, it's no longer fun, so I do what I can to keep things enjoyable for myself. It also helps that I don't enjoy naps, I suppose.
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