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Website of author and professional editor Rachelle M. N. Shaw. Find information about her books, her editing services, and her blog, From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing.

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From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing

From Mind to Paper is a blog for writers, editors, and those interested in the English language. It covers a multitude of writing topics, from punctuation and grammar to plot development, character development, and world building. In addition to in-depth articles about various writing topics, this blog also has a number of series posts, which are currently being transformed into a nonfiction series on writing.

Filtering by Category: Author Interviews

Comedic Fantasy at Its Best: an Interview with Kylie Betzner

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

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:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/25993393-kylie-betzner

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kbbetzner

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13735882

Email: kyliebetzner@gmail.com
 

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.”

She shrugged.

“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.”

Supernatural Introduction: Interview with April White

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

To kick off FMTP’s supernatural series, I’ll be sharing an interview with one of my favorite new authors, April White. I had the privilege of chatting with her a few weeks ago about her Immortal Descendants series, a supernatural time-travel series with a touch of romance. Not only does she do an excellent job of weaving in historical fact with fiction, but she’s also really adept at incorporating supernatural elements, especially at hinting at them early on. So I figured it was only fitting to share her pearls of wisdom and her latest book, Waging War, with all of you.

What inspired you to write about time travel, and was there any specific inspiration for this series?

Take a modern teenager who thinks she has life wired and drop her into a time and place she knows nothing about? That wasn’t a hard choice. I’ve always loved historical fiction that actually teaches the reader something factual, and the things I’ve read in those books stay with me a lot longer than history books ever have, so there was that, too.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? Are there are any routines that you follow or any specific place that you prefer to write?

My writing process begins with conversations. My husband is a filmmaker who always listens to my story ideas as though he’s watching the movie, and my editor is also a very dear friend who will happily kick plot ideas around with me during evenings while we drink wine. I take several notes in a notebook with a collaged cover full of inspiring photos I collect as I’m gathering plot ideas, and then I start writing.

There are authors who plot every chapter and know exactly what’s going to happen, precisely when. I am not one of them. My writing style tends to be more seat-of-the-pants, and I often write myself into corners, which requires extreme creativity to emerge without gaping plot holes. But some of my favorite scenes happen in those moments, and I’ve surprised myself more than a few times with characters I wasn’t expecting to create. Ringo is one of those characters who sort of invented himself and then decided he’d like to hang out awhile. I’m so glad he did, because now he’s like the moral compass and voice of reason for Saira, and he helps really humanize Archer with his friendship.

My actual physical writing takes place on my bed. I usually wake up before 5 AM to get some writing done before my kids wake up, and after they go to school, I continue writing until they get home. At that point, homework time takes whatever patience and creativity I have left. When I can entice my boys to go on long dog walks with me, they always ask about what I’ve written that day, and talking to them helps refine ideas that I’ve been toying with. Which brings everything back around to conversations again.

What was the publishing process like for you? Do you feel there are particular advantages to publishing traditionally vs. self-publishing, or vice versa?

When I was twelve, I knew I wanted to write books, but I finally got the courage up to write AND FINISH Marking Time when independent publishing moved out of the realm of vanity presses and gained traction as a viable option. I did submit it to agents, and most resulted in either silence or a form rejection. The agents who rejected me nicely were actually incredibly helpful because they told me WHY they weren’t interested in representing my book. They loved the concept and the writing, but the YA market wouldn’t support books longer than 100k words (Marking Time ultimately weighed in at 140k) because teens “just don’t read.” I disagreed with that statement so heartily that I pulled indie publishing out of my back pocket, built a cover with my husband, taught myself formatting, and published a month later.

Now, after publishing four books, I can say with total certainty that I love the freedom, the control, and the opportunities independent publishing affords authors. I say this having never been traditionally published, so I know I’m biased, but I’ve also spoken to a lot of very successful indie and hybrid authors. Nearly all prefer having control of their release dates, covers, content, and price points. The amount of marketing we ALL have to do is the same regardless of who does the publishing.

How long did it take to complete the first draft for Waging War? Is there anything you would have done differently in the process?

It took about nine months to finish the first draft of Waging War, and yes, I would have done things differently. Changing Nature took three months to write (the first draft), and it shows in the pacing. It was much easier to write quickly because I was going so fast and I still remembered all the paths I’d set in motion in the beginning. For various, personal reasons, I stalled on Waging War. Some had to do with the story I was telling, because I needed to get it just right, and some were confidence-based (which sucks, and I don’t recommend it). When I finally got my stride back, I increased my pace, so everything moved faster.

With Cheating Death (book five), I still have the pressure of getting it just right, because there are so many plotlines from the previous four books to wrap up, but the writing isn’t as hard as it was for Waging War, so I’m anticipating a faster first draft.

Do you have plans to write other genres in the future?

Yes. I’m not entirely sure I’m done with this world yet though, and some ideas for spin-off series have been percolating.

When did you decide that you wanted to become a writer? Any specific event that triggered it?

My dad took me with him to trek in the Himalayas when I was twelve years old, and my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Chandler, handed me a little black journal before I left. My only homework for the six weeks I was gone was to write in that journal every day. Because I knew my words would be read, I took extra care to add as many sights and sounds and smells and flavors as I could to my writing, and from the moment she handed the journal back to me with a heartfelt “thank you for sharing your journey with me,” I was hooked on storytelling.

We’ve seen all the characters in The Immortal Descendants series grow throughout the books, but Ringo stuck out in my mind in particular. Can you tell us about the process of writing him? Did you know the events he would face when you first started writing the series?

Ringo was an accident. My favorite accident, to be sure, but completely accidental nonetheless. When his role grew as Saira returned to 1888, I had to go back and add him to earlier scenes so he didn’t just appear from nowhere. Then, when readers reviewed Marking Time and talked about how much they loved Ringo, I realized I needed to carry him throughout the series.

Now he’s my favorite character to write because he gets to say all the cool stuff.

Is there anything you found particularly challenging about writing this book compared to the rest of the series?

I actively dislike cliffhangers, and yet I knew this book had to have one. I also have a real issue with characters who aren’t allowed to grow into themselves in what would be an organic way if they were real people, so I had to create a realistic progression for Saira and Archer’s relationship. So yes, those two things were challenging to write in Waging War.

At the end of Waging War, we see at least one major character’s life at stake. Are there any planned deaths in the next book?

Yes. Someone has to die.

Who are your favorite characters in the series and why?

I love Saira’s fierceness and fearlessness, and Archer’s honor and passion. I love Ringo’s wit and wisdom and the cheek he brings to the table when Saira gets too serious. Bas, the Moorish Vampire, makes me happy with his centuries-long studies of the world’s religions, and Millicent surprised me with her vulnerability and affection. Connor, the Wolf, is wise beyond his years and can still be a kid, and his little brother, Logan, is who Ringo would have been had he grown up with a family and Descendant skills.

Were there any characters who were annoying to write?

No. That would have been foolish. My rule as I read/edit every book is that if I find myself skipping over or skimming any scene or section, it’s gone. Because if I’m bored, readers will be too.

What was the easiest scene to write in Waging War? The hardest?

The easiest scene to write was the conversation Millicent had with Saira and Claire in the garden about the man she met after the war. I’m not sure why that was so easy to write—maybe because Millicent as a caring human being is such fun to explore after her previous beastliness.

The hardest scenes to write were Tom’s. He struggles with so much self-loathing, and it’s hard to keep him sympathetic when I just want to shake him and tell him to snap out of it.

You did an amazing job with researching your books and weaving in fact with fiction. What were your main methods of conducting research, and were there any unexpected facts you came across in the process?

Thank you—I love the real history in the books. My primary source for research is the Internet, and the rabbit holes to disappear into are endless. My favorite things to find are the historical tidbits that either aren’t corroborated anywhere else, or are contradicted in other works. Those become the mysteries that time travel exposes.

One of my favorite contradictions was in Tempting Fate—the place in the Tower of London where Lady Elizabeth Tudor was kept prisoner. The more I looked into it (even poking around as much as possible in person), the more it seemed like historian laziness to say her room was in the Bell Tower. It made much more historical sense that she would have been held in her mother’s apartments in the Royal Residence, especially given that Lady Jane Grey had just occupied those rooms, and she had much less status than Elizabeth had. It seems like such a little thing to obsess over, but because I was using blueprints, photos, and maps to determine the geography that Saira, Archer, and Ringo would have to navigate, it mattered.

In your opinion, what is the one most important thing that you've learned from your experience as a writer?

Marketing is vital, relationships are key, editors are as necessary as breathing, but it’s ALL ABOUT THE WRITING. Write what you want to read, and write the best book you can, because you WILL read it a hundred times (okay, maybe just twenty) before it goes to publication.

What advice do you have to for new/young writers looking to get published for the first time?

Read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read things other people recommend. Find your style. Find your voice. Then pick a point of view, choose third person or first according to the story you want to tell, sit down, and write. And for the practical piece of advice—end your day’s writing on a cliffhanger in the plot, or in the middle of a scene if you know how it ends. It’ll be much easier to turn on the computer the next day and pick up where you left off.

How has having an online presence has made a difference in the success of your series?

I have had the great fortune to have become friends with some amazing authors, and in the independent community in particular, the support among authors and readers is pretty spectacular. Social media is key to that equation, and far more effective than doing one’s own marketing is sharing other authors’ works. Ad money can’t buy that kind of cross-promotion because it comes from a place of genuine admiration and friendship. So, that’s a long way of saying that an online presence is very important—but it should be a genuine, interactive presence rather than something designed to just push ads about books.

If you weren't a writer, what other occupation would you choose and why?

I’ve fallen into some pretty amazing jobs in my life, and I always tell students I talk to about reading and writing that every job is an opportunity to find a story, or meet characters you want to write about. If I had the skill to be a visual artist, I’d love to create beautiful things, or if I’d chosen a different educational/vocational path, I could have been an awesome archeologist. But all the roads I’ve traveled led to this, and I’m doing exactly what I love to do.

Have any specific people inspired you in your career?

My mom came to the U.S. from Germany with the equivalent of an 8th grade education, and she finished law school when I was thirteen. From that, I’ve always known I could do anything I set out to do.

What types of things do you do to improve your writing skills?

Read good books. There are times when I have to put down a book club selection because the writing isn’t great, or the characters are weak, because they negatively affect my own writing. And then there are those books that make you want to step up your game. Neil Gaiman writes those kinds of books.

What is your 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.” –Neil Gaiman

What is the hardest thing about being a writer? What is the most rewarding?

Writing is the hardest thing about being a writer—actually sitting down and making myself do it. That’s why early morning writing is so good for me; I don’t want to wake my family up, so I do all the work-avoidance tasks later in the day. The most rewarding thing about being a writer is when a reader cries, laughs out loud, or throws the book and immediately scrambles to pick it up so they can find out what happens next. The most rewarding thing is telling a story that matters.

What are your goals as an author for 2016?

I will publish Cheating Death, which means I will finish the Immortal Descendants series. And then I will plot the thing that comes next. My goals are all work goals, because those are the only things I really have control over.

What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?

Travel with my family; take long walks with my dog and kids; take photos of interesting things; have my friends over for food, wine, and deep conversations; and read great books.

When can we expect your next book?

I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve finished the first draft because, as Patrick Rothfuss said about rushing the work, “It’ll only be late once, but it’ll suck forever.”

 

April White has been a film producer, private investigator, bouncer, teacher, and screenwriter. She has climbed in the Himalayas, survived a shipwreck, and lived on a gold mine in the Yukon. She and her husband share their home in Southern California with two extraordinary boys and a lifetime collection of books.

All four books in the Immortal Descendants series are on the Amazon Top 100 lists in Time Travel Romance and Historical Fantasy.

You can find Waging War and the rest of the Immortal Descendants series on Amazon (by the way, the first one is FREE on Kindle!), and you can also follow April on her blog (http://aprilwhitebooks.com/) and several other social media platforms:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6570694.April_White

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ahwhite

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/April-White-Books-379521265456528/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aprilwhitebooks/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/aprilwhitebooks/


New Authors in the Modern-Day Publishing Industry: An Exclusive Interview with K.M. Detton

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

There is no doubt that today's publishing industry isn't the same as it was 100 years ago or even just decade ago. As in most other industries, technology has taken hold and transformed it. Anyone now has the opportunity to be published, and there are a number of methods for publishing one's work, including self-publication. With this opportunity that has arisen for all new authors looking to get published, I decided to get in a touch with a good friend of mine about her journey as an author in pursuit of being published for the first time, so that she could share her experiences and hopefully help other new authors out there trying to get their foot in the door. Kayla (http://scribbledwriting.tumblr.com/) has been writing for as long as she can remember, a common interest that we share. She told me that there really wasn't anything specific that triggered it; it was something she had just always wanted to do. However, her grandmother was a big support to her writing pursuit in her early years. In the interview, Kayla said, "I wrote my first story, called 'The Dancing Flowers,' while visiting my Grandma. She bound it and lamented it for me, and gave me the biggest push when it came to deciding that writing is what I wanted to do." She gets most of her inspiration from books, songs, and movies, but it can come from anywhere, even something small, such as a conversation.

I first asked Kayla what her general take on the modern-day publishing industry was, to which she replied, "The modern-day publishing industry does the best that they can to ensure that new literary works are exposed but they are also a company, and companies need to make money. So, unfortunately, they take on what they believe will sell." Holding a similar view on the matter, I told her that I rather agreed. I then asked more specifically how the effect of technology on the publishing industry has changed her view of it. Her second response was a bit different: "With the internet right at our fingertips, and with sites like FictionPress and Young Writer's Society, it gives the illusion and the false sense of security that anyone can become a published writer...[But] the publishing industry has gotten a lot more strict with what they accept."

At first, the seemingly contradictory response caught me off guard. However, I pondered her response for some time and realized that Kayla made a really valid point: because of the ease of self-publishing, traditional publishing companies are forced to take a closer look at the work that they receive from authors, making them pickier about whom and what they choose to publish. This is both good news and bad news to new authors out there. The good news is that if you get published by a traditional publisher, you know your writing is probably pretty high quality, and it will likely sell well. The bad news is that along with being pickier, many traditional publishers now shy away from accepting new authors without an agent. Why? It's higher risk for them. They have to make sure that the book will sell, and let's face it: most new authors aren't going to become best-sellers overnight or with their first book.

Kayla was faced with this fact in one of the rejection letters she received. However, she maintained a positive attitude about it: "It's unfair, but again, it's the way it is with any career that you seek. New actors and new singers are always having to try and break the mold. Writing is no different." Her optimism and perseverance are certainly something to be admired. And her insight to the matter is quite brilliant. No matter what career you choose, if you're picking one in the arts, there will be some fierce competition.

This led me to a series of follow-up questions about her writing. How did she make her writing stand out from others'? Was there any particular method to her writing? What types of things did she do to improve her writing skills?

While Kayla didn't have any set routine, there were a few tools and tricks that she used to improve her writing and keep it at its best: "I read a lot of writing articles about grammar and common mistakes. If I don't know a word, or if I'm not certain that the meaning of the word will fit with[in] the context of the sentence, I look it up first. The biggest thing I've noticed that has helped improve my writing skills is to work with others and listen to their feedback." Kayla also keeps a log of specific descriptions of characters and uses guidelines to help pan out her stories. She works closely with her editor to make her work the best that it can be, a process that is "definitely a learning experience." She said that when she gets the pieces back from her editor, the number of markings on them can be overwhelming at first, but helpful in the long run. "It makes you a better writer, and it shows that they care to help you make something worth reading."

As far as writer's block goes, Kayla had a few cures of her own, in addition to the typical taking a break from a piece: "I am a sole believer that when writing you learn a lot more from reading other books. You learn other styles, techniques, new words, new phrases, things that you wouldn't just come up with on your own. I also have a horrid habit though of writing a bunch of other stories on the side. So, if nothing works and all else fails, I switch over to another story that I'm working on."

With only a few last questions lingering, I asked her what the hardest thing about being a writer was. She stated that the rejection letters and self-doubt that one can incur in the publishing process were the most difficult for her, but that the most rewarding part of it all was sometimes "hearing from someone whom you don't even know about how much they love your story and can't wait to read more; it keeps you going." Her passion for being a writer stems from the fact that she just loves to create things that her readers enjoy. For her, "reading the comments of others' opinions and seeing how much they love what they read is one of the best feelings in the world."

Her advice to new authors looking to get published? "You're going to get A LOT of rejection. Don't give up. There will be times when you will question your ability [as a writer] and [wonder] if you should just quit, but persevere and keep your head up."