Interview with KJ Klemme
I am so pleased that author KJ Klemme took the time during her debut week for this interview. KJ's novel Tourist Trapped is a fast-paced, mystery set in Cancun. Her engaging main character is a Chicago area divorce lawyer who turns into a sleuth in order to find her missing half-sister when she disappears on vacation. You're going to love the twists and turns in this story! KJ promises there's more to come from this cast of characters!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I think I’m a bit odd, Valerie. I love to read and I can’t imagine life without writing, but I also enjoy the mental gymnastics required in my job to support computer systems. Left-brained or right-brained? Um…how about “equal opportunity?”
I spent a number of years pursuing a career in journalism, but then veered into information technology. I spend my days multitasking—attending meetings, answering emails, troubleshooting system problems, and keeping pace with ever-evolving technology. Evenings and weekends, in author mode, I do a one-eighty. I can spend more than an hour ruminating over a single word in a manuscript!
When I’m not working, I enjoy puttering in the garden, downhill skiing, kayaking, and autumn walks with my pups, Callie and MacGyver. I also enjoy traveling—both exploring new spots and returning to favorite old haunts.
What inspired you to write your first novel?
I suspect the urge to write a novel grew out of my focus on analysis and logic in my profession. I think my psyche craved balance.
I don’t know the exact moment I decided to write a book, but I know when and where the adventure began: ten years ago in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, at UW-Madison’s annual School of the Arts. I moved into a little cabin in the Northwoods for a week and spent my days absorbing every precious word uttered by my instructors, who included authors Christine DeSmet and Laurel Mills. The beginnings of my first novel, Cocoon of Lies, took root.
In the fall of 2012, after eight years of work on Cocoon of Lies, I hit a wall. To replenish my creative juices, I participated in NaNoWriMo, the annual event where writers are challenged to write fifty thousand words in a month. I didn’t make my goal as I hadn’t sufficiently prepared my characters’ backstories before starting, but I cranked out twenty-five thousand words and the foundation for Tourist Trapped.
Amanda Sloane, a secondary character in Cocoon of Lies, takes over in Tourist Trapped. I started writing the manuscript around the question, “What would you do if a sibling you resented disappeared?” I set Cancun as the backdrop, infusing the story with the twist of angst in paradise.
Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to publish independently?
In my profession in IT, I watch technology advance so fast I can barely keep up. The only constant is change. In that frame of reference, it’s been fascinating for me to witness the evolution—or should I say revolution—taking place in the publishing industry.
A decade ago when I started writing, I learned the rules:
Write an exceptional book.
Compile a synopsis and query letter.
Search for agents in your genre and send out query letters.
Repeat step three until you land and agent.
No luck? Don’t give up; repeat step three.
Times have changed in recent years, thanks to new publishing options introduced by enterprises such as Amazon and Smashwords, and I’ve watched friends dip their toes into this alternate world. In 2011, Mercy Loomis self-published Scent and Shadow, and in 2013, my writing partner, Anne Rud Miller, bypassed the agent search and published Mashkiki Rapids. Both are superb books, by the way.
But I experienced my first revelation at the 2013 Writers’ Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. Teri Woods had self-published The Fixer and, based on her success, Random House picked up the book. An indie embraced by one of the Big Five!
My second great revelation has been more subtle. I’ve watched some of my friends query until they’ve worn away their fingerprints from time spent on the computer. While they’ve been querying, I’ve been writing.
Thanks to changes in the book industry, my “indie” novel is available around the world. People who have never heard of me have the opportunity to check out my work. (Hopefully they’ll like it!) If we authors chose to do so, we can bypass the traditional gatekeepers and connect directly with potential readers. What a thrill!
What has been the hardest part of indie publishing so far?
Making sure my book is good enough to publish. In the traditional world, agents, editors, etc., vet manuscripts and determine when an author’s work is ready for primetime. That safely net isn’t beneath the indie author. I have to rely on my network of mentors, beta readers, fellow authors, and editors to help me determine when my work is polished enough for publishing.
Do you have any advice for other writers who are considering Indie Publishing?
Know what you’re getting into. There’s so much to learn, and so many decisions to make. Attend seminars, talk with those who have led the way (some wonderful groups are available on Facebook, including the Indie Author Group), and read as much as you can. There are also some excellent blogs and books on the subject. I’d suggest starting with David Gaughran’s website and books.
Find others who can assist. I’ve gathered an exceptional team of mentors who offer me advice. This is not a journey I’d venture alone—especially the first time. In the world of traditional publishing the author’s role is pre-defined. In the world of indie publishing, the author determines what will be “do-it-yourself” and what services will be contracted.
I hired an editor and a graphic artist. The rest I did, including creating the PDF and ePUB files. This approach worked for me, as I have a background that includes desktop publishing and experience with HTML and CSS. I enjoyed creating the electronic output, but I can see where the process would be extremely frustrating for someone without some HTML experience.
And, finally, remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Unlike traditional publishing, you don’t have two months to prove the worth of your book. You have a lifetime.
Are you working on another novel at the moment or do you have other finished manuscripts you are planning to publish? (I’m guessing we might see more of your main characters in future novels.)
In a few weeks I’ll begin the second book in the Amanda Sloane-Chad Cooper trilogy. I think it’ll be a fun novel to write. In this book we’ll see more of the Cocoon of Lies characters, as Amanda will need the help of her friends to survive.
Someday I hope to resuscitate Cocoon of Lies, but that’s after I complete Amanda’s trilogy.
Who is your favorite author, and what do you like most about their work?
This is a tough question, as I like so many authors, but I’ll nominate Stieg Larsson for this spot because I considered his books a great deal while I wrote Tourist Trapped.
The plots in the Millennium trilogy blew me away. Each book boasted an amazing, intricate plot, and then, through them all, Larsson threaded an overarching plot. He must have developed volumes of backstory to architect so many moving pieces.
But, in my opinion, Lisbeth Salander is his crowning achievement. In her, Larsson developed a multi-layered, gritty, off-putting character who continually acted in violent and inappropriate ways. And yet, I cared about her—even rooted for her. It takes talent to make such a flawed character appealing to readers.
What book are you reading now?
My office is littered with piles of books on indie publishing, which I had been leafing through as I brought Tourist Trapped to life. Now that the rush is over, I’ll dive into Kristin Oakley’s Carpe Diem, Illinois, which has been sitting on my nightstand…waiting…
What’s your favorite crayon color? (Offbeat question which has to do with my current work in progress.)
No contest. I always loved magenta—wore it down to a stub in every box of my Crayolas.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/kjklemme
Valerie, thank you for the opportunity to connect with your readers. I am honored!