Ever wish you could sit down with an author over a cup of coffee or tea or hot chocolate and ask them a bunch of questions?
Well, look no further!
Once a month, I’ll be featuring an author whose published work I’ve read or who I know personally (whose unpublished work I’ve read). Every interview, I ask the same questions so that you know what to expect and so you can compare answers between authors if that’s your thing.
I ask some personal questions, a few fun ones, and then I dig into the meat – I ask about their writing. This is a great place to find some tips or tricks that might work to help you with your writing. The more I learn about how others write, the bigger my writing toolbox gets.
I read and reviewed Kimberly’s book, The Shadow, a while back. And by read, I mean I BINGED it in one night. If you go back and read the review (or if you’ve already read it), one of the things that bugged me about the book was the lightning fast romance. Well, Kimberly actually ended up reading my review, and had this to say:
I came across your blog review of the The Shadow the other night when I couldn’t sleep – thanks for sharing about it with your readers! I had to smile about the part how you can’t stand how romance novels so often have them getting together in a super quick amount of time. That’s a major pet-peeve of mine too. =) Ironic, I know. I wanted it to take longer in The Shadow but had to keep the pace going because of the suspense. But it did bug me, too.
As scary as it was to learn that the AUTHOR read my review of her book, it was also kind of an honor and to even get feedback about the review and my thoughts was pretty cool. So, anyway, she’s got some great thoughts and advice, so I won’t keep you any longer from Meeting Kimberly Rae.
- Where did you grow up and do you live around there still? What drew you to where you live now?
I’m a Navy brat so we lived in several places, but always in the South. I’ve lived overseas (Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo and Indonesia) but that wasn’t until I was an adult. We recently moved from North Carolina (love the Blue Ridge Mountains!) to Madison, Georgia, to join Source of Light, a missions organization that sends lessons all over the world.
- Dogs or cats?
Neither. I’d love a kitten, but have sensitive asthma and couldn’t handle the kitty litter. =)
- Morning person or night owl?
Definitely night. I do my best work at about 2 in the morning. Sure is hard being mommy the next day though! =)
- Coffee or apple cider or hot chocolate?
Hot chocolate, but I have to avoid sweets, so I do the sugar free version. It’s not amazing, but hey, chocolate is chocolate.
- City or country or ‘burbs?
In Bangladesh, I loved the chaos and color of the city, and in Kosovo I enjoyed being out in the country surrounded by the mountains. In North Carolina it was the perfect in-between – we were out in a neighborhood that felt like the country but I could get to Wal-Mart in less than ten minutes.
- Favorite music to write to? (or silence?)
Silence, except when it’s Christmas music season!
- Favorite movie? (It’s okay if there’s a few… I’m not sure I could narrow down to less than 10, haha!)
Pride & Prejudice
- Heels or flats?
Used to be heels but a joint disorder has put me in flats. Now I’m all about memory foam.
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
Homeschool my 2 awesome kids, deal with Addison’s disease and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, draw, design book covers, spend time with family, play the piano
- Top 3 MUST READ books?
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Phillip Yancy
Guess How Much I Love You?
Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers
If the Bible is a given, I also really liked the O’Malley series by Dee Henderson
- When did you first know you were a writer? Was there a specific moment when you thought “yes, I want to be a writer” or has it always been part of you?
My parents bought me a kiddie typewriter when I was about 10 (the featured picture). I typed up my own Nancy Drew stories on it and taped them together. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but never thought I’d be a “writer.” I feel so blessed that I get to do what I love to do, and even get to “work” in my pjs in the middle of the night!
But as far as the kinds of books I write, fighting human trafficking and teaching women about their worth in Christ, my moment was when a friend who had been abused as a child read Redeeming Love and said, “This book changed the way I see God.” I remember thinking, I want to write something like that. I want to create stories that make a difference, that matter.
- When did you decide to pursue writing as a career? How did those closest to you respond?
It started as part of mission work overseas. I wanted to write about missionaries as real people, not as super-spiritual people who never messed up. (They most certainly do! But back in the day, I guess because they wanted to present them as heroes, they were written about quite high and spiritual.) I wrote articles and stories for magazines and publications, but after about 10 years, when we had to come back to the US because of my health problems, I tossed around the idea of writing a novel. I couldn’t decide, and then my mom said, “If you could write about anything, what would you write about?” By the end of the day, I think I had several chapters of Stolen Woman, my novel about a college girl who goes to India planning to work with orphans, but she meets a 16-year-old trafficked girl and decides to rescue her. Only she doesn’t know what she’s doing, so…
- What is your general writing process?
Oh dear, it’s an odd one. I get a scene in my head and can watch it like a movie. I write that one first (it’s usually the most suspenseful part) and then write the next one that comes, etc. Eventually I have sections of the book and then have to fill in the gaps. Those are the chapters that feel like work. Then there’s the organizing of the plot, and research, and editing. I actually love editing.
- What is your general editing process? How long do you wait between finishing the first draft and starting to edit?
It’s really important to let things simmer for a while. I find that as I’m writing, I read through what I’ve recently written and edit, which gets me in rhythm for the next chapters to write, but then once the whole draft is finished, a good two weeks at least is good, and if it’s possible, a couple months is even better. The longer you go, the more the draft is new when you read it, so you’ll notice so much more.
Best editing tip ever though – read it out loud. I read my chapters to my husband and find SO much more when I’m reading aloud (pacing, errors, things that don’t make sense—or things a guy says that my husband will inform me a guy wouldn’t really say, etc.).
- Do you use alpha/beta readers? How do you find them?
Beta readers are super important. I’m not a right-brained person so tend to overlook details. And your brain tends to fix things as you read your own work, so you’ll pass over typos that other people would notice. I have developed a list of beta readers over the years that I go to with each book now.
How to find them? It started with asking those people who were enthusiastic about my first book. It seems backwards to offer the book free to them, since they’d be the ones to buy it, but it’s not. If they’re part of the process, they get even more excited, and they’ll promote it to other people. Work of mouth is the absolute best marketing there is, so the more people you get involved, the better! And it’s fun.
- How many times do you edit your manuscript before sending it off to your editor/publisher?
Oh my, lots and lots. I edit in chunks as I go along, then after it’s done do a couple read-throughs to make sure the story congeals and flows well, then let it simmer, then do another edit, then to beta readers and make the changes they note (well, not all of them, some people give lots of opinions rather than finding errors!), then simmer again, then a final edit, then off it goes! One note, if you’re self-publishing, you need to edit more and have more beta readers. One of the things that screams low quality is a book with typos and errors in it. Your story might be fantastic, but people will remember the errors.
- In The Shadow, you had a number of excellent subplots. How do you determine which subplots you want to follow?
Thanks! I think the best training I’ve had for that is watching well-crafted miniseries’, like Pride & Prejudice, North & South, Cranford, etc. They all follow a certain arc and have subplots that get you caring about the side characters even as you’re antsy to find out what happens to your main characters. I find my subplots tend to come from things people I know are going through, or things I care about. My Stolen Series deals with human trafficking, but underneath it’s really about an insecure girl trying to prove her worth. In my Broken Series, I had so much fun with the scandal of a prostitute coming to Jesus and shaking up a dying traditional church. That subplot idea came in the middle of a sermon one Sunday!
- What is your character development method?
It’s important to make your characters real. Over the years I loved studying different personality types and temperaments. Every type has positives and negatives, and their character acts according to one side or the other. I really love using the Character U. I draw a big U on paper and on one side I put the positives on one side (say they’re driven and get things done quickly), the negatives on the other (they’re stubborn and don’t take time to always think through the consequences), and the neutral things (how they look, nervous habits, things that make them unique like a love for dressing their pet poodle in matching socks). This really helps with side characters, so you can keep their actions and responses consistent with their personality.
Most important, people want your character to undergo a change throughout the book. How will they be a better person, or worse, because of what happens and how they respond?
- How do you work your writing/research? Do you write a bit first and then research? Research and then write? Some other combination?
I love research so tend to do that first, but I also like to save some to do along the way when I need a brain break.
- What is the best piece of writing advice someone gave you?
Write what you know. The first novel I wrote (age 15) was horrible. Aside from the writing being cheesy beyond words, the story was about something I didn’t know anything about, and it showed. I find the stories that mean the most are the ones that come from the deepest insecurities or struggles or hopes that I have. They make your characters relatable. I set my Stolen Series in India because I’ve lived in that culture and loved taking people on a verbal visit there. I wrote a kids book once about a visit to Haiti, but I’ve never been there, so it doesn’t have that same heart to it. Research can only go so far, especially when it comes to feelings or struggles. For example, don’t make a main character struggle with addiction unless you have, or you’re close to someone who has.
- Do you have a writing mentor? How did you find this person?
There was a woman veteran missionary who took me under wing, which was a blessing I didn’t really want at first. She told me what was wrong with my writing when I was hoping for gushing. =) But I’m so grateful for her. Because of her, I learned and grew and became better.
- What does your personal writing community look like?
I’m part of an online critique group, and that’s another huge plus. Having different perspectives is so helpful. You can find groups on facebook, or develop ones if you go to writing conferences.
- What are your go-to ways to overcome writer’s block?
Read a book that’s well-written. If I’m writing suspense, I read good suspense. If I’m writing something for teens, I read Newberry Medal winner books for teens. I usually don’t make it very far before I put the book down because I’m inspired to get back to my own!
- If you could give starting out writers a piece of advice, what would you most want to tell them?
I actually have a whole page on my website (kimberlyrae.com) just for writers, because I remember what it was like to have a pile of questions and not know where to look for advice, especially about publishing. It has several blog posts that might be helpful, but if I could only say one thing it would be KEEP WRITING!!! Just about everything gets better with practice. The more and longer you write, the better you’ll get (especially if you’re willing to ask for feedback, and develop thick enough skin to ignore the unreasonable criticisms and utilize the constructive criticism).
One more thing, expect rejections, lots of them, and keep going. When I started sending stuff to magazines, I’d wait and wait to hear back and then be devastated when I got rejected. Over time I learned to send out multiple things to multiple places, then to expect 9 out of 10 of them to get rejected. That way, when the 1 did get accepted, I was able to be excited about it, and if 2 got accepted, it was really exciting!
If God has given you something to say, then you’re the one who is supposed to say it. Learn what you can about writing well, then get your message to the world!
You can also find Kimberly Rae on Youtube.