Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Kim Cleary writes fantasy for anyone who longs to discover they are extraordinary. She writes about hopefulness and determination, and about heroes who push through extraordinary situations and obstacles, one step at a time. Magical friends and gorgeous guys help—or hinder—in one adventure after another.
Kim grew up in Birmingham in the UK, studied medieval history and psychology at Adelaide University in South Australia, and has worked all over Australia and in London. She now lives with her husband, an adorable Cocker Spaniel, and a crazy Moodle, in Melbourne. She is a member of Writers Victoria, Romance Writers of Australia, The Alliance of Independent Authors, and a certified chocoholic.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
Four years ago I started writing a short story when I was diagnosed with MS. It caused severe pain, and eventually permanent damage in my hands, which stopped me from typing. I had to teach myself how to use voice software and a good friend gave me an opening line to get me started on a short story.
I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction and found myself gravitating to it. I shared pieces of the story with my sister and a small number of friends, received positive feedback and encouragement, and I just kept going with it. By the time I had to leave full-time employment, I had 35,000 words written and several ideas on how to take it to novel length!
The short story morphed and became my debut novel, Path Unchosen.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I decided to go the indie route, but it was before the first draft of Path Unchosen was finished. I did consider trying the traditional route. I researched agents and publishers, read widely, and studied publishing trends.
In the end, I didn’t contact any agent or publisher. That way felt old-fashioned, too removed from how and why readers are selecting books to read. I indie-published Path Unchosen, the first in a paranormal suspense series, am in the final stages of editing Truth Unveiled, the second in the series, and have a novella in the same series plotted.
Path Unchosen won a book award a few months ago. Feedback from readers had been mostly positive, but that external validation added a zing to my step!
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I work from home. My desk is at a window overlooking the garden. I love watching the birds and enjoying the afternoon sun in winter. I use Scrivener and love the way it lets me create an outline, use cards to summarise scenes, and work on the text at the same time.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
Normally I work best in the morning. But I tend to work for short periods, collapse with fatigue and rest, then try and work a bit more! Like many writers, I get ideas, snippets of conversation; an emotion or setting that feels brilliant at 4 AM in the morning. I always go to bed with my iPad so I can record anything that comes to mind—even if a lot of the thoughts don’t look quite as brilliant in the light of day.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
First, I write a brief outline of the main plot points. I’m a pantster by nature so I just jot down very brief points to be certain I have a story worth telling. Then I write my first draft. I can’t write from beginning to end; instead, I write as much as I can in a linear fashion. I might jump ahead to write a scene that’s fighting to come out, then I might jump backwards and forwards as it feels right. Once a first draft is done, I edit it myself as much as I can before sending it to a professional editor for a structural edit first, then a line edit.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
My very first story was inspired by Ratty and Mole, and their adventures in Wind in the Willows. I wrote a short piece of fan-fiction at age seven, my English teacher asked me to read it aloud to the class, and I was in heaven!
I loved my career as a professional marketer in large corporations, but I can no longer do that work. Writing is filling the hole left by a challenging full-time profession, and satisfying my creative urge at the same time.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My heroine was always going to be a necromancer. I’m not sure I can explain why! Even as a child, I was interested in the culture of death and the dead. I’ve also always been a bit contrary, so perhaps I just wanted to go against the norm. I tried to paint Meagan as a compassionate character from the start of the story, and to show her own conflict with her power over the dead. Meagan accepts that she has a responsibility for the dead. She not only speaks to them, she cares for them as well.
Meagan’s father plays a small but critical role in the story, and he’s based on my dad. I lost him to cancer a few years ago, and I still miss him every day. If I could call his spirit and sit with him in his shed while he tinkered with this or that, I would do it in a heartbeat.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
The one thing I struggle with—rather embarrassingly as I was a career marketer before sickness forced me to leave full-time employment—is self-branding and book-marketing!
I decided at the start to limit marketing until I had more than one book to sell. I did try one book blog tour with Path Unchosen, just to test it out, and was very pleased with the visibility and reviews it achieved.
It’s now time to get serious about marketing my books and myself. So, I’m studying book-marketing, branding, and visibility to try and make sure I have a solid marketing plan that delivers awareness and eventually sales.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
I thought I understood the ins and outs of publishing and marketing in the new digital age, but this route has been enormously harder than I imagined.
The workload is overwhelming at times. The need to wear so many hats at once can leave me paralysed with indecision. But I’m persevering, and the question is … why?
I love having complete control over all aspects of the design. I work with a group of friendly professionals: cover designer Andrew Brown of Design for Writers, book designer Jane Smith, and editor Marcy Kennedy. I always planned on publishing with professional support, and do not recommend any other way.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
The best writing advice I was ever given is: write, rewrite, and ship the finished product. I can’t work very quickly, but I write every day, and I employ the best professionals I can afford to make sure the book design is good and my writing is as polished as it can be.
My goals are: to complete my Daughter of Ravenswood Series, to overcome my fear of self-branding and self-marketing, and to make a success of my career as a writer. One day I’d also like to build my publishing company so I can help publish other writers.
I advise all fledging writers to keep writing. To be brave, and to share your work with other writers in writing groups and online forums. To be resilient and listen to feedback that will help you, and shrug off criticism that won’t. And most importantly: stop tinkering and finish the book!
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
I’m currently addicted to historical mystery and absolutely loving:
The Victorian San Francisco Mysteries by M. Louisa Locke
The Captain Lacey series by Ashley Gardner
The Lady Darby Mysteries by Anna Lee Huber
Thank you, Kim Cleary!
— Nicole Melanson
NB: This is the first of three features in our Indie Week 2. Check in again for more from Nina Miller and Virginia King!
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