Welcome Kristy, When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?
I’ve always had the desire to write. I composed my first book in the second grade.
Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?
I have an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California in Journalism and a Master of Professional Writing Fiction also from USC. I am a working online content writer specializing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) content (such as blogs, website copy, social media messaging and eBooks) for companies in a wide variety of industries.
How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?
From start to finish 4 years.
Do you always write in the same genre?
Ha Ha! No. My first book was a novel – a ghost story set against the backdrop of Minnesota’s I35W Bridge collapse in 2007. My second which has just debuted is a children’s picture book about a homeless cat searching for a name and a forever family – opposite ends of the spectrum!
Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?
The Ghosted Bridge shows up on a number of shelves. Paranormal, fiction, I’ve even seen it in fantasy. Of course in Minnesota it also appears on local author shelves. You can even find it at the USC bookstore in the Alumni Authors section.
For Finding Home you’ll hopefully find it cover front out on a shelf in the Children’s section surrounded by loads of happy kids sitting on the floor with the book in their laps!”
Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?
Yes, both of my books were published by a small regional press. I did many query letters to agents and publishing houses to no avail. This publisher – North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc. – was looking specifically for Minnesota topics and Minnesota authors. I scored on both fronts for both books.
Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?
I did try to change one of my books from 3rd person to 1st person after I read Angela’s Ashes but it didn’t work for my story.
Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?
I think the topic of Voice is quite interesting. The main thing I know is that my writing voice is sometimes quite different from my out loud voice. For me the writing lets the real Kristy Abbott come out to play without judgment.
Author, Jennie Nash was quoted on Writer Unboxed that she reads other novels to study structure. Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s?
I actually write the type of structure I like to read and that means shifting back and forth between characters as the story progresses. This includes jumping back and forth in time because I like to explore generational themes – i.e., the ghost in my book is actually the relative of someone living and both story lines happen concurrently.
I purposely used this tactic to build suspense in The Ghosted Bridge and actually sped up the pacing of the character shifts to heighten the reader’s captivation as I got closer to the climax. I think it worked quite well. Nearly every reader I’ve talked with brings that up and says, “You captured me. I couldn’t put it down.” I’m happy to have contributed to some sleepless nights!
What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?
A few things were difficult, the query process is very disheartening. You feel like your work doesn’t warrant an agent or publisher’s interest when you send dozens of letters out without feedback. However, I have learned that there are LOTS of small publishing houses that are looking for niche books so I don’t feel discouraged anymore. I’d tell any hopeful writer to acquaint themselves with publishers who might be interested in your theme or subject.
I also found it challenging to make my characters believable. It’s easy to have a strong picture of them when they live in your head but you’ve got to make them solid for readers, too. My main character in The Ghosted Bridge is a psychic and I had to really believe that she had these gifts to make her real. Interestingly, the psychic goes through the book questioning her own abilities and is validated at the end.
It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?
Well this is the biggest thing I’ve learned about having a book published. It doesn’t matter who you are, when you become an author, the hard work is just beginning. I wrote a post on my blog called, Get out Of Your Longsuffering Writer’s Chair, You Are an Author Now, about the transition from being a writer to being an author. The writer is the artist who creates the work, the author is the marketer who sells it.
Today’s authors have to be committed to a nearly full-time effort toward marketing. You’ve got to have a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Goodreads and Amazon profile, and a big email list. I am good at some things and not so much at others but I’m doing everything I can think of – including getting television, radio and print interviews to get the word out about my books.
Are you a pantser or a planner?
I think I am a combination. In terms of marketing, I go in stints and try to stay committed for the long haul. In terms of writing, I let the story come out when it wants to.
What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
I say allow the story to be born without judgment. I have author friends who write a few pages, maybe a chapter and then they go back and edit it before moving forward. I feel like this completely stalls my process. I don’t allow the editing policeman in the room until I’m pretty sure the characters are done telling their tale.
What is the biggest thing you didn’t know about being an author?
I never realized how terrifying it can be to do a book signing with the prospect of no one showing up. We’ve all had to do events at independent book stores or Barnes & Nobles never knowing if the advanced preparation of getting the word out worked. On those days it didn’t it can be discouraging but as an author you can’t let that derail you.
What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?
I’m encouraging people to check out both of my books. My novel, The Ghosted Bridge, is a fun paranormal mystery for adults. The children’s book, Finding Home, is the heartwarming tale of second chances for lucky creatures for kids of all ages.
Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet our appetite?
Attached chapter from The Ghosted Bridge. In these paragraphs, Sedona psychic Madison Morgan is visited by a mysterious ghost for the first time, setting off a search to determine who the ghost is and what she’s trying to communicate.
Madison didn’t notice it at first. The psychic was having so many readings a day that her tablet pages covered with numbers were filling up fast. She made a note to go to the office supply store and get another. She looked at her watch and then contemplated the rest of the day, one more reading, and then off to yoga at 5:30. The phone rang.
“Yup, I’m coming.” She told the perpetually crabby Miriam. As she trotted down the stairs she realized that the heaviness that had been hanging around her had lifted a bit. Mercury was leaving retrograde, she guessed.
Fifteen minutes later she was just warming up her new client (an eight of diamonds – business expertise extraordinaire) in a session on opportunities coming down the pike, when a peculiar vibration filled the room. Immediately, Madison’s hands went cold and her hair stood on end, but she was so intent on the young woman in front of her that for a minute, she didn’t even see the older woman standing in the corner. With the ghost’s entrance, she got a stronger shiver that told her someone from the other side was about and she lifted her eyes to meet the measured grey stare from the woman by the door.
“Holy shit,” Madison squeaked.
“What?” The young woman sat up straight in her chair.
“Nothing, just, just…shut up for a minute.”
The girl sat back quickly with a look of shock.
Madison turned her attention to the woman in the corner. She looked older and was dressed in a plain pastel dress. The woman’s skin shimmered as her visible molecules filled the space where she stood. Madison sat fascinated. She knew from experience that these people didn’t typically speak in words. In fact, they rarely made themselves seen. They used pictures instead. This woman’s ability to crystallize impressed her.
The ghost stood in the corner silently. Madison realized that this amount of energy was a huge effort. She whispered softly to the woman.
“You have a word for this girl?” Madison pointed at the silent girl whose face still registered confusion. The girl looked over her left shoulder. Seeing nothing, she looked back to Madison, eyes wider than before.
The woman gave no trace of response. Madison tried again. “You need something from this girl?” The woman’s quiet presence entranced her.
“Is your mother still alive?” Madison asked the girl quietly.
“Yes.” The girl was brimming with prickling curiosity. “Is there somebody here?”
Of course there is somebody here, Madison’s internal dialog snapped. What are you an idiot? Do you think I’m making this up? But the voice that left her lips was soft and gentle. “Yes, we have a visitor here. Do you know an older woman who has passed?”
The girl brought a ragged fingernail to her mouth and began furiously chewing.
Madison breathed deeply and spoke from inside herself. “Who are you here for?” It seemed as though the presence would not respond but then ever so faintly, the woman moved her head slightly toward the door. It was a subtle gesture but one that effectively told Madison this visitor wasn’t attached to the girl in the chair.
“I can’t think of…I don’t really know anybody….”
“That’s ok.” Madison cut her off. “Just remember it. Maybe it will come to you later.”
Madison looked back at the door. The corner was empty. She felt unbearably tired all of a sudden. This typically happened when spirits spent that much effort to connect with her. It was as if they tapped her energy to create a link. She felt the weariness settle about her shoulders. She passed her hand across her face and turned her attention back to the reading. A familiar tingle rose behind her eyes. The sensation was a sign she’d get when she realized a heightened sensory connection. She hadn’t felt this way in a long time. It took nearly all her concentration to finish the reading.
Thank you, Kristy, for being one Writing Under Fire’s Author Interview Friday. Where can readers go to buy your books?
My website: www.KristyAbbott.com where you can read more about me, purchase my books and leave comments. I encourage you to check it out.