Interview with Kyoko M

Published 2013-08-29.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
In West Philadelphia, born and raised--wait, no, sorry, wrong story. I grew up in a metro-Atlanta, Georgia city called Riverdale. No relation to the one from 'Archie', trust me. My childhood, unfortunately, contributed a lot to my writing. Even from a young age, I found myself often alienated from my classmates due to my love of reading. I used to walk down the hallway between classes with my nose in a book, dreaming of fantastic landscapes and handsome heroes. I began writing at the tender age of six or seven, mostly just diaries, and then I got into fanfiction as I grew older. My life was unspectacular, and that was why I wrote so much. I wanted to imagine somewhere without the limitations of the real world. I wanted adventure. So I wrote my own.
When did you first start writing?
Around first grade or so. It started out with just diary entries of my thoughts about school. I was actually a lot like Harriet the Spy, before I even read the novel. I was a bit of an oddball kid so I felt recording my thoughts would be important because I wanted to remember everything the way it happened. All through my childhood, I only considered my writing to be a hobby, never something I could do for a living because of the "starving artist" stigma. I didn't realize until years later that it wasn't something everyone did, or had the ability to do.
What's the story behind your latest book?
'The Black Parade' came out of a weird explosion of concepts. I took the premise from the 2005 film 'Constantine,' smashed it together with John Milton's 'Paradise Lost,' and then sprinkled some of my own snarky preferences on top. I've been watching science fiction and fantasy films my entire life, but so few of them have a black female protagonist that I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring. I wanted to show that race isn't a limitation to a genre. Everyone is mixed into these great stories and I wanted more people to recognize the black female nerd demographic. I still do, in fact. So I wrote a story that I'd love to read. At the end of the day, that's what I strive to do with all of my fiction.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Rejection, quite frankly. I started out like every other author does--writing query letter after query letter, incessantly checking my email to see if I got a response, and lying facedown on the bed in depression when I got rejected. I did it for roughly two years before I started considering self-publishing. At the time, self-pub still had a bad rap and publishers were turning their noses up at it, so I took things slow. I rewrote my first novel for those two years and then my father convinced me that I could do this on my own without the help of an agent. Granted, I am not against traditional publishing. I actually hope that my book(s) sell someday and a publisher offers to sign with me, but until then, I've been toughing it out on my own. It's a lot of work. A lot of headaches and loneliness and frustration, but it also means that if I make it, I will get the credit for the work I've put into it. The rewards are few and far between in self-publishing, but they are still worth it in the end.
What have you learned so far as an indie author?
It's not a cakewalk. There is a lot of stuff they don't tell you going into self-publishing a novel that I wish I'd have known about a year ago. It's ten times the work and 1/10th of the reward when you're on your own. I wouldn't have made it this far without the tiny gathering of supporters that I have now. I believe that is what all upcoming authors should be taught: to find someone to help them as soon as possible.

There is also so much research involved with self-publishing that it can swallow you whole. I had to teach myself to limit the time I spent fact-checking and looking for marketing strategies. It's very easy to get sucked into that rather than the actual novel writing. Discipline has more to do with being an indie author than anything else. You have to learn how to make your own deadlines. It's grueling, but necessary.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Freedom. In real life, I'm just a nerdy awkward girl with a loud laugh and way too many Batman DVDs. My writing allows me to show my true colors. I can control anything. I can be anything. I can create anything. There is nothing off limits in writing--no matter how bizarre or twisted. Everything can find its place in writing. I love creating new characters and working out their quirks. I love writing dialogue between love interests, or dialogue between the hero(ine) and the villain(ness). I love researching places I've never been. I love researching other cultures and integrating them into the story. I love getting a new idea for a novel and jotting it down with excitement so I can get to it later. I just plain ole love writing in general.
What do your fans mean to you?
In the Acknowledgments of my debut novel, The Black Parade, I wrote, "I'd be nothing without your support. You are my bones. I'd have no legs to stand on without you. Thanks for hanging in there with my spastic ass." That is just as true now as when I wrote it. I'm constantly humbled by the kindness my readers have shown me. They didn't have to take a chance on me, but they did. Anyone can write a novel. But it takes someone special to read that novel, especially in an age where sometimes it seems like literature and language itself are dying. I can only hope that I continue to do right by the fans as I continue writing, and that they are as proud of me as I am of them. Y'know, all two of them.
What are you working on next?
I've got three things on the stove now. First, The Black Parade is not a stand alone book: it is part one of a trilogy. I am currently finishing the third novel as we speak. (No, really. I've got a Microsoft Word document open right now and it's kicking my skinny butt.) The second novel, She Who Fights Monsters, will debut sometimes next year, probably in the summer. The third novel is slated for release in 2015.

Secondly, I'm writing a YA high fantasy novel. It's untitled at the moment, but I've been describing it to people as "Avatar: The Last Airbender" meets the X-Men, with a dash of 'Firefly.'" Are you drooling yet? You should be. It's been incredibly challenging to write because it's outside of my normal genre, but I adore the story and I can't wait to finish it and publish it for the masses.

Thirdly, I have story and character notes for another urban fantasy novel about a girl and her widower father who slay dragons in an alternate version of Earth. I won't be able to start it until I finish the other two books I'm working on, but I'm already excited for that one too. I've been kicking around titles so far, and the one I like the most is Empire of Dirt, inspired by the song "Hurt."
Who are your favorite authors?
Hoo boy. You swing for the fence with these questions, huh?

My current favorite is Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files. I had heard of the series in passing, but I didn't start reading it until earlier this year. I almost punched myself in the face. How was I not reading this all my life? His novels are incredible. So rich and detailed and awesome. And don't get me started on Harry Dresden. I haven't had a crush on a literary character until I met him. He's the most charming hero I could have ever found and I devoured over half the series within a couple of months. It's to die for, frankly.

I'm also a big fan of the late great Brian Jacques' 'Redwall' series. I grew up reading them and I still love them to this very day. He is also another author with fantastic world-building skills and wonderfully creative characters of all types. His writing taught me the wonder and whimsy of writing and I am so sad that he passed away recently.

Also have to throw in the obligatory shout out to J.K. Rowling. I was never a die hard Harry Potter fan, but I admit that I still adore her work for its detail and scope and influence over my generation. She taught millions of kids to love reading and writing and I can't thank her enough for it.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Richard Castle. Wait, let me clarify--the dream of one day becoming the female Richard Castle. If you've never seen the show (on ABC, Mondays at 10pm EST!), Castle is about a rich, gorgeous best selling mystery novelist who follows around a smokin' hot homicide detective. This show is my north star. I dream of one day becoming an absurdly wealthy novelist who has the freedom to do what she loves to do. I crawl out of bed at the thought of being able to live where I want to live, write what I want to write, and love who I want to love. No more menial day jobs, no more sacrificing my time for something I don't love. My dream is to be able to sustain myself on my writing. I have a very, very, VERY long way to go, but Castle will always remind me of where I'm headed, for better or for worse.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Being a huge nerd. Goodness. It's embarrassing. If I'm not writing, I'm on Tumblr, or Twitter, and if I'm not on one of those two websites, I'm doing something else equally dorky. I watch The Nostalgia Critic, Linkara, Spoony, and Todd in the Shadows from That Guy with the Glasses. I watch Rooster Teeth's Rage Quit. I watch Two Best Friends Play. I watch "Hi, I'm a Marvel and I'm a DC." To summarize, I am totally addicted to Internet reviewers and comedians.

However, my non-computer related hobbies include watching movies (I spend at least $150/year at the theaters, to be honest.), watching my favorite TV shows, reading, drawing (and sucking at it), and occasionally hanging out with a friend or two in that thing people call 'outdoors.'

I didn't choose the nerd life. It chose me. Live long and prosper. Or, y'know, something similar.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first novel I attempted to write was this incredibly bizarre high fantasy novel about a world of people who had cat and dog tails/ears. It was called Yukimi. I wrote it in middle school. It's still on my laptop, and I am deathly afraid of attempting to read it as an adult and published author. However, I have the curiosity of a certain mammal so I might venture forth to read it someday. Y'know, in an attempt to humble myself.

It bears mentioning that my second attempt at a novel was also in middle school and early high school. It was a blatant Anita Blake rip off, though, and I am so very glad I never tried to publish it. I'd have gotten my pants sued off me. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that jazz.
What is your writing process?
Some ideas come to me in a dream. Some hit me when I'm out and about. Afterwards, I scribble down the thoughts I have about the story in a Word document, let it marinate over night, and then decide if it's worth going after.

I almost always start with a title. I don't know why. I simply cannot write an untitled work for some reason. After that's done, I simply dump all my thoughts and scene/character ideas into the manuscript until the well dries up. Then I let it marinate for one or two days. I check back. If the idea isn't idiotic, I continue.

Depending on the subject matter, I also stop in between chapters for research. Especially if it's urban fantasy. I like realism, and I know that people will call me out if I don't do the research anyway.

After the first draft is done, I tend to edit in chunks. I never try to do the whole thing at once because it often means I miss things. My editing process is anywhere between six to eight months, but it's gotten shorter now that I have written four novels total.

Then I send it to either my editor or a beta reader to make sure it's not super-dumb. I read all the comments and give my reactions to them and edit again. And again. Until I hate my own story. That's when I know it's ready for mass consumption.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle Fire. It was a college graduation gift. I'm an old codger when it comes to e-readers--I tend to like paperbacks more than e-Books--but my Kindle has enough nifty features that I don't mind eBooks as much as I used to. It's cool to have a library that can fit in my hand, instead of the overflowing trunk of books that sits in the corner of my room like an overstuffed teddy bear.

The best thing about the KF is that it's got such a sleek, pretty interface and most of its features are easy to use. The only drawbacks are the short battery life (when the Wi-Fi is on) and the Internet browsing can sometimes make me want to pull my hair out. Otherwise, it's convenient and awful pretty to look at.
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Books by This Author

Of Dawn and Embers
Series: Of Cinder and Bone, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 117,370. Language: English. Published: October 8, 2019 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Two MIT scientists are asked by the government to break up vicious underground dragon-fighting rings.
Of Blood and Ashes
Series: Of Cinder and Bone, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 99,250. Language: English. Published: October 4, 2019 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
The world's deadliest dragon, Baba Yaga, is loose in the Suicide Forest of Japan, and it's up to two MIT scientists and a team of dragon experts to bring her back alive, or die trying.
The Holy Dark
Series: The Black Parade, Book 3. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 176,930. Language: American English. Published: November 17, 2018 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Romance » Paranormal » General
Seer Jordan Amador and her estranged husband the archangel Michael reunite to find the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas Iscariot and stop the archdemon of War, Moloch, from wiping out mankind.
She Who Fights Monsters
Series: The Black Parade, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 141,720. Language: American English. Published: November 17, 2018 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Romance » Paranormal » General
Seer Jordan Amador and her husband the archangel Michael hunt down a serial killer and prevent him from starting the Apocalypse.
Of Cinder and Bone
Series: Of Cinder and Bone, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 139,580. Language: English. Published: December 15, 2016 . Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Mashups
Two MIT scientists create a dragon and the yakuza steal it so they can clone more.
The Black Parade
Series: The Black Parade, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 103,100. Language: English. Published: July 24, 2013 . Categories: Fiction » Romance » Paranormal » General, Fiction » Romance » Fantasy
New-Yorker Jordan Amador was just a waitress before she accidentally shot and killed a Seer--someone who can see and hear ghosts, angels, and demons. As penance, God gives her two years to help 100 souls with unfinished business cross over to the afterlife or her soul is bound for hell. At the end of her deadline, Jordan meets Michael the poltergeist. And her life gets ten times worse.