Today I am joined by New Adult Author and SCBWI RA Kim Briggs.
Kim once smashed into a tree while skiing. The accident led to a concussion, a cracked sternum, temporary notoriety as a sixth grader returned from the dead, and the realization that fictionalized accounts are way more interesting than just slipping on the ice.
An unhealthy obsession with conspiracy theories combined with a love of travel and happily ever afters led Kim to write her YA novel, Starr Fall, where a secret organization decides 17 year old Starr Bishop is not only the model student, but the ideal assassin. While in hiding, Starr meets dark, moody, and dead sexy Christian Evergood. Cue the swoon worthy music. But it’s not all happily ever afters for Kim. Her NA novel, And Then He, explores the dark and scary corners of the human psyche. Following a night of innocent flirting with a handsome stranger, Tiffani finds herself in the midst of a nightmare she can’t escape. And Then He is available now through Amazon and other major book retailers. Starr Fall, Book One, will debut November 2016 with Inkspell Publishing.
When she’s not doing something writerly, Kim can be found jumping into snow drifts with her three kids, husband, and dog. She’s careful to avoid trees.
When did you decide to become an author?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve written stories on scrap pieces of paper, the back of notebooks, napkins, and sometimes I went so far as to record them in a journal, but it never occurred to me that I should be a writer or that I wanted to be a writer. Then I went to college to double major in Environmental Planning and Environmental Studies with a minor in Geography—far, far away from anything writerly. In a required English Lit class, I read Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. One class period when the professor was espousing about literary devices or something, I zoned off into space and wrote my first picture book. I’ll spare you the details of that story but the Writer Seed was planted.
I graduated, got a job as a surveyor and spent a lot of time in the woods running water tests. Hours and hours were spent hanging out at the test site all alone, so I read and wrote short stories on the covers of magazines and on napkins. I got to the point that the moment I stepped into the woods inspiration for another story struck and it wouldn’t get ‘unstuck’ until I wrote it down. Soon the stories were following me home and haunting me into the night, but still, I never considered adding writer as a job description.
I got married, spent a little time working on that picture book idea from college, bought the Writer’s Market, figuring that maybe I could send something in to get published, but I wasn’t serious about it. I didn’t envision myself as a writer, so I never sent out a single story. Instead I went back to school to get my English teaching certificate and a Masters in Secondary Education with a specialization in Creative Writing because I liked to read…and you guessed right, it still didn’t occur to me that what I really wanted to become was a writer.
Then I had a few kids, and while my youngest was a baby, I read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I became obsessed with the book and needed to buy the rest of the series. I went to Borders (RIP), rushed to the Twilight section and noticed the sign: Young Adult. I thought to myself, “How can these books I love so much be Young Adult when I am not a Young Adult?” I didn’t ponder the wonder of this category for long, because I had books to read and reread. Unbeknownst to me, the Writer Seed took root.
After my second pass through the series, (which was over much too soon I might add), I had a choice between becoming a completely obsessed fangirl and rereading the series for a 3rd time or move on. I moved on to Googling Stephenie Meyer. (Okay, so maybe I was a little obsessed.) I discovered that she had three kids about my kids’ age, and I finally had my “A-HA!!!!!!” moment. The Writer Seed sprouted.
Shortly after, the inspiration for Starr Fall, my YA contemporary hit me. I worked through the storyline in my head, broke it into three maybe four books, and scribbled notes in a journal. My husband bought me a laptop the night before Thanksgiving, and so began my writing journey. I haven’t stopped, I haven’t looked back, and I am nowhere near finished. I do however need a Kim clone or two to help me finish writing all the books impatiently waiting their turn in my arsenal.
Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?
My journey from book to publication is very typical. No overnight success here, and I’d like to note overnight successes are not, in fact, overnight. Years were spent by the writer, reading and writing and preparing for the moment his or her story grew wings. Anyone can come up with one, two, or a dozen brilliant book ideas, but writing a story whether it’s 1,500 words or 150,000 words, takes time. Hours upon hours, days upon days, weeks upon weeks, and usually months upon months, and sometimes even years upon years. Overnight success is a common misnomer.
I wrote the entire storyline of Starr Fall over five months—and when I say storyline I mean the entire 150,000 word arc of the series. Words poured out of me and my fingers tried to keep up. After I finished writing the story, I broke it down into three books, did some minor edits of Book One and queried it in June with some top agents, got some nice rejections, if you want to call a rejection nice, ate some chocolate, there might have been a tear or two or three, and then I decided to revise Starr Fall. I was an English teacher, who preached revisions yet, I didn’t revise my first draft past grammar and spelling. Yep, I committed Query Cardinal Sin #1: submitting work before its ready.
After the 2nd revision, a little better than my first version but not much, I queried again. Got some more nice rejections, ate some more chocolate, cried but not as much, and went back to work. I decided to set Starr Fall aside, read some more YA novels, and write a YA paranormal romance, because I love paranormal romances. Four months and a revision or two later, I attended my first SCBWI conference, actually my first writing conference EVER. I planned to network, learn a lot, get an “in” with the agents, and sign my six figure book deal by the end of the conference. **INSERT HYSTERICAL LAUGHTER HERE.** I did meet a load of people, many of whom I am still great friends with and learned more than I ever thought possible about writing, the writing process, and the ins and outs of manuscript submission. I did not get a six figure book contract, but I did meet my critique group INK Sister, Alison Green Myers, at the SCBWI Saturday night social. We began meeting on a bi-weekly basis with another writer, and once the first and second date chitters disappeared, our writing ability exploded—and we both finally found the courage to call ourselves writers.
Later that spring, I attended a Highlights Foundation workshop with Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson called Kids Book Revision Retreat. Harold gave me the tough love I needed to hear: my standalone YA Paranormal needed to be three.
Ahhh, what?!?! But he was right, and it will be three books (at least) but Starr Fall kept calling to me so I pulled it from the drawer, changed it to first person, present tense, and workshopped it with my critique group (we weren’t the INK Sisters yet). I worked on my writing craft, attended more writing conferences with Alison, first the Unicorn Writer Conference and then the SCBWI Eastern PA Pocono Retreat where we met Donna Boock, and voila’ the INK Sisters were born and we’ve been meeting more or less biweekly ever since.
During that same spring, I was cybersurfing and discovered a new category called New Adult. Authors were self-publishing their books to Amazon, and audiences were exploding overnight. I had this story idea about a reunion I had always wanted to write but I didn’t want to write an adult book. The characters and parameters of the story fit perfectly with New Adult, and so, AND THEN HE, was born. From the very beginning, it was my intention to self-pub AND THEN HE, and on my birthday, October 15, 2015, I took the plunge, and I am so glad I did.
Meanwhile, several agents and editors had the full manuscript of Starr Fall. Requests for fulls ignites writer courage—you know you’re on the right track when agents start requesting fulls. At the end of December, Inkspell Publishing offered me a contract. My husband and I talked through my options and decided that Inkspell Publishing offered me everything I wanted in a publisher. Starr Fall, Book One is scheduled for release November 2016.
And Then He is a New Adult book. What makes it New Adult instead of YA or adult?
Young Adult books cover protagonists between 14-18. Adult ranges from post-college, 20 somethings to 110 (well 110, unless you’re a wizard or writing sci-fi). New Adult fills that niche between teenager and adulthood. The main characters are between 18-24, and either college students, recently graduated or decided college wasn’t for them. The content is much more racy than Young Adult. There’s alcohol, sex, and an edgier feel to the writing. **There are YA books out there that also contain these elements, but I consider myself a gatekeeper. I do not add these elements to my YA novels.
These characters are on the precipice of adulthood. They make mistakes. They’re flawed. They fall in and out of love. They are human.
Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?
Sure, the poison of self-doubt surfaces far too often, but that’s common among all writers, and creative types in general. Our art is our greatest love and our Achilles heel.
A typical writer day resembles something like this:
At 7:23 am, you read the paragraph you just typed, and it’s awesome, pure genius.
7:24 am, you delete the paragraph because it’s garbage.
7:25 am, you rewrite the paragraph and impress yourself with your word choice.
7:26 am, you grab chocolate to celebrate and continue writing.
8:00 am, delete and start over.
AND so on, and so forth.
The key to successful writing is to keep writing, stop doubting yourself, and don’t hit the delete button. If you’re having a REALLY miserable day, read a book, go for a walk, call your critique group and let them talk you off the writing ledge, or contact me and I’ll walk you through it.
Is there anything about being a published author that has surprised you?
Other than being a published author and holding my book in my hands? (I still pinch myself.)
I love getting new ratings and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. These reviews pump me up and fill me with inspiration. It’s weird to have fangirls and fanboys Googling me, but it’s reassuring that I made the write choice;)
Being a published author is a lot of work, more work than pre-published, because you not only need to keep ‘selling’ your book until the end of time, but you have to write new books, keep up to date with the industry trends, dabble in social media (which is really fun), read and review books, take care of your family, try to function (mostly) in the non-writing world, and find time to go to the store and buy chocolate and other food.
Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?
1. Be stubborn and persistent.
2. Work harder than anyone else you know.
At my first writing conference, I heard that it takes 10 years to get a book published. Be ready to go the distance by putting in countless hours reading, writing, and developing your craft. Say goodbye to full nights of sleep.
3. Join a critique group. Do it. They’ll help you through the highs and lows. Check your local SCBWI for contact information.
4. Join SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators). The cost of membership pales in comparison to all the benefits you can reap if you’re willing to put the time in.
3. Call yourself a writer. You’re worth it. And if you ever doubt yourself, contact me through my website or twitter @kimbriggs_write I’ll walk you through it, cheer you on, and send you cyber chocolate.
Is there anything else about you or And Then He that you would like to tell us?
And Then He is free if you have Amazon Prime or Amazon Unlimited. You can download a sample to see if you like it. At $2.99, And Then He is a fabulous deal!!
And let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you!!
Thank you so much for joining me today, Kim. Good luck to you with both of your books. For more information about Kim and her books visit her website and sign up for updates: Chat with her on Twitter: @KimBriggs_Write