Though I didn’t meet my original goal of posting this on April Fool’s Day (joke’s on me), I figured, what better way to kick off April than by interviewing a comedic fantasy author? So I’d like to introduce you guys to Kylie Betzner, a talented author and friend of mine that I’ve known now for several years. I’ve had the privilege of working with Kylie on both of her humorous tales, and I’m excited to share her books and tips with all of you—as well as an excerpt from her latest book, so be sure to read through to the end!
What is your take on the modern-day publishing industry?
Unpredictable is the first word that comes to mind when I think of the modern-day publishing industry. With traditional publishing houses refusing to upgrade their business model and independent publishing rising in popularity, there is no way to see where this is going. One thing is for certain: the publishing industry is changing—for better or for worse. I’m interested to see where it’s going.
What made you choose self-publishing over other methods?
Most authors have a box—or filing cabinet—full of rejection letters from agents and publishers. I never actually pursued the traditional publishing route. Several writer friends of mine had published independently and really enjoyed the creative freedom that came with that route. Being a bit of a control freak, and after researching the current market, I decided the best option for me was to self-publish. Eventually, I’d like to pursue the traditional route, becoming a hybrid author, but in the meantime, I’m quite content sailing my own ship.
What was your inspiration for The Wizard’s Gambit? How long did it take from initial draft to publication?
Inspiration is a lot like lightening: it strikes at random. Inspiration for this series came during a discussion with my sister back in 2013. We were watching The Lord of the Rings and laughing at some of the absurdities of the series and fantasy genre in general. Some of the things we came up with were so funny I had to jot them down. Soon enough, I had enough material to plan a novel.
From start to finish, the novel took only took about a year and a half. Even though inspiration for the story struck in 2013, I didn’t seriously start drafting it until the spring of 2014. It was then published in the fall of 2015.
When did you decide that you wanted to become a writer? Any specific event that triggered it?
It really wasn’t a conscious decision. I was writing before I could actually write. Haha. When I was five or six I used to illustrate stories with my sister. My current writing is much better. ;)
What advice do you have to for new/young writers looking to get published for the first time? For those looking to self-publish, any important steps they should take before publishing?
My advice for new/young authors can be summed up in three parts: (1) Write what you love and only what you love. No one ever found happiness and fulfillment in prostitute writing. Don’t whore your writing skills. C’mon, guys, you’re worth more than that. (2) Hone your craft. Master all of the elements, and you can become the Avatar—wait, what? Whoops, I meant to say “skilled writer.” And (3), choose the best career path for you. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Traditional publishing or self-publishing are both fine options, but you have to do what works best for you.
If you do decide to pursue self-publishing, make sure you don’t skip the most important step—editing! And I don’t mean grammar and punctuation; I mean content. Don’t click the publish button until your story is solid. Content editors can be pricy but it’s worth it. If money is an issue do a book swap with another author—anything as long as you’re not publishing your first draft. Take your time and do it right. Invest in your dream.
You’ve done an amazing job with your first book. You did your research, took every step necessary to make it as professional as possible, and even established a social media presence/following before its release. But is there anything you would have done differently before publishing your first book?
I honestly can’t think of what I would have done differently except to have built a stronger platform earlier on. I have a decent following for as long as I’ve been at this social media thing, but I can’t help but wonder how much better I could have done if I had started a year or two earlier.
In your opinion, what is the one most important thing that you've learned from your experience as a writer?
I’ve learned that I am capable of anything I set my mind to and that opportunity is abundant anywhere and everywhere so long as I keep an open mind.
Do you think it’s important to have an online presence before being published? How has establishing one before publishing your book helped you?
Absolutely. Most of the books you sell will be online, unless you plan on attending a ton of author events. It’s important to establish an online presence BEFORE you publish your first book so you have a built-in readership and support system. My online friends have been amazing! I don’t think my first book would have done as well without them.
One word of caution: Don’t overwhelm yourself. Quality is more important than quantity. Be active on a few sites rather than nonexistent on a ton.
If you weren't a writer, what would your second desired occupation be?
Since professional cat cuddler isn’t a real occupation, I would choose to be an actress. I’ve always enjoyed the stage and playing pretend, hence why I participate in community theatre and frequent cosplay events. To have been casted in the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit films would have made my life.
Have any specific people inspired you in your career?
I was inspired by several authors: Terry Pratchett, Gerald Morris, Neil Gaiman, and Sherryl Jordan to name a few.
What types of things do you do to improve your writing skills?
I heed the advice of my editors for one, and I read books and blogs about the writer’s craft. Just because I’ve published books doesn’t mean I know everything.
Favorite quote about writing?
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It's that easy and that hard." -N.G.
What is your favorite genre to read?
Fantasy, of course, though I do read outside of my genre on occasion just to broaden my horizons.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer? What is the most rewarding?
The hardest thing about being a writer is being chained to your desk. It takes a lot of time not only to write and edit the book but to market it as well. Maintaining a social media presence takes time too. It can be exhausting and lonely sometimes.
One of the best things about being a writer is hearing back from a reader who really enjoyed your book. That makes it all worth the time.
What are your thoughts about pen names? Would you ever use one?
I don’t particularly like them, especially when a woman author is trying to hide the fact from her readers. It validates the belief that boys won’t read books by women authors, and in a way, it suggests that women authors are in some way inferior to men authors. Sorry J.K. Rowling, but I’m not a fan of your pen name.
What are your goals as a writer for 2016?
My number one goal this year is to build my readership and make more people laugh. In September I’ll be releasing the second book in my comedic fantasy series.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing—which is next to never—I’m playing a part on stage, rocking a cosplay convention, hanging out with my sister, building Lego with my nephew, or reading a book with a hot cuppa joe.
When can we expect your next book?
Book two of the Six—Er—Seven Kingdoms comedic fantasy series is due sometime in September.
Kylie Betzner is a comedian, blogger, coffee junkie, and an incurable nerd. And now, an author. The titles she is most proud of are sister, auntie, and friend.
Growing up in a small town surrounded by cornfields, Kylie had nothing better to do than fantasize about unicorns and elves. As an adult, she still refuses to grow up and spends most of her time creating stories of comedic fantasy. When she is not writing, which is hardly ever, Kylie enjoys reading, drinking coffee, and spending time with her family and friends. She also runs, although she does not enjoy it so much.
Kylie currently resides in Indiana with her sister, nephew, horde of cats, and one very silly dog.
You can find The Quest for the Holy Something Or Other and The Wizard’s Gambit (book one of The Six—Er—Seven Kingdoms series) on Amazon. You can also follow Kylie on her blog (https://litchicblog.wordpress.com/) and several other social media platforms:
Excerpt from The Wizard's Gambit
The following excerpt is copyrighted and cannot be used or reproduced without permission from the author.
Mongrel followed Margo up a winding staircase then out into a long open corridor. They passed rows and rows of columns, some of which were on the verge of tumbling over. Such a sad sight, Mongrel thought, glimpsing at the broken statues occupying the niches in the interior wall. They didn’t serve much as decoration, but at least they kept the abandoned building from getting lonely. Mongrel paused to examine one of the statues, touching and sniffing it as needed.
“Come along.” Margo walked ahead, rather stiffly as though her robes were over starched. Even so, she put a considerable distance between them. He caught up with her at the end of the hallway as she stopped before a large wooden door.
“This is your room,” she told him, pushing open the door. She moved aside, allowing him to enter first. Mongrel stepped past her and gaped. The room was huge, at least in comparison to his prior lodgings, with enough space between the furniture to perform an intricate dance if he had wanted to. There was a large bed pushed up against one wall, and on the opposite end, a door that led to a private bath. A giant doorway opened to a balcony. This was a far cry from The Moose Tavern back in Kingsbury.
“Are you pleased with your accommodations?”
He spun around. In the doorway, Margo waited for his response, her head lowered and her hands folded demurely at her stomach. What a bashful girl, he thought and tried to catch her eye. He caught it for a moment, but she looked away. He thought he saw the slightest blush on what little he could see of her pale cheeks.
“The room will do nicely,” he said, offering her a smile.
“Really?” She sounded surprised.
Apparently, the other guests had not been so easily impressed by their accommodations.
“We would have provided a room that better suited your individual needs, but seeing as you were not on the list . . .”
Mongrel raised his hand against further apology. “This suits me just fine.”
“Good,” she said, though she did not smile.
Mongrel thought to pull one from her.
“So, you’re a wizard’s apprentice?” he said. “That must be very interesting.”
“I’ll bet you know all kinds of magic,” Mongrel continued. “That’s probably neat.”
Again she shrugged.
Mongrel continued, “I’ve never met a magic user before—well, not a human one anyway. Maybe you could—”
“No,” she said quickly, and then added, “I’m not licensed yet.”
“I see,” he said, feeling embarrassed all of a sudden. It didn’t help the way she was looking at him, rather critically, with a gaze that traveled up his body from his leather boots to the wild curls atop his head. The corners of her mouth twitched as she fought off what might have been a smile.
“So, what are you supposed to be, anyway? Some kind of huntsman?”
Now it was his turn to blush. “What makes you say that?” He rubbed the back of his neck.
“Well, uh, the weapons first off,” she said. “And all the leather—”
“I do wear a lot of animal skin,” he said, talking over her.
“And your physique,” she continued a little less confidently, the volume of her voice dropping with every word. “It looks like you do a lot of running—”
“I try to stay fit,” he said, laughing nervously.
“—tight butt.” He heard the last part clearly. They both stopped talking.
Groaning, she fled behind a curtain of black hair, which could cover her face but not her embarrassment.
Mongrel chuckled nervously. “Actually, I’m not a huntsman,” he admitted, and she peeked at him through a part in her hair. He sighed. “I’m a blacksmith.”
“Oh,” she said unable to hide her disappointment, even behind her hair.
“It’s all right,” he said. “We can’t all be princes and great warriors.” He smiled again. “I’m more of an everyman.”
“Is that so?” she said, awarding Mongrel the smile he’d worked so hard for.
He rubbed his forearm self-consciously. He had to admit, for a girl so plainly dressed, she was pretty when she smiled.
“Well, if there is nothing else you need, I’ll be going,” she said. The smile was gone as quickly as it came. “Wizard White Beard looks forward to your attendance at tonight’s gathering.”
“I’m Mongrel, by the way,” he called to her as she started for the door. “Just in case you didn’t catch it in the throne room.”
She paused, thought for just a moment, and said, “Nice to meet you, Mongrel.”
“Nice to meet you too, Margo,” Mongrel said, but she fled down the hall before she could hear it. She’d left the door wide open. He smiled to himself. There was someone out there just as awkward as him.
Then, like a slap to the back of the head, he remembered why he’d come in the first place. There was a competition to win. But Margo was so pretty . . . He shook the image of her from his mind.
“Stay focused,” he told himself. “The six kingdoms are counting on you. Whether they want to or not.”