I’m originally from St. Joseph, Missouri, but my family relocated a lot. By graduation, I lived in 8 states and attended 14 schools. Now I live in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m a bass guitarist and play on worship teams and for solo artists. My husband (singer/songwriter John Martin Keith) and I frequently perform and tour together. When I’m not writing stories or playing bass, I enjoy dancing, having coffee with friends, and sifting through vintage books at antique stores.
What inspires you to write?
I write fiction because my imagination is constantly coming up with ways to make every situation and setting and detail in life more adventurous or funny or risky. I thrive on taking those what-ifs and weaving them into stories. I love the challenge of writing original stories that not only give the reader a this-could-happen feeling, but also provide an entertaining escape. I’m inspired by people and relationships and the exquisite torment of new adult life, so I like to let my characters work through the usual coming-of-age struggles but in speculative settings with complications we don’t encounter everyday.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m a mix of plotter and pantster. I can easily outline a novel in one day, but then the ideas for details and scenes and dialogue and mood and characters pop into my head faster than I can write. Not only do I write fiction about 40-50 hours a week, I’m also a working musician and a homeschool mom, so I have pens and notebooks and sticky notes in every room of the house. When I get to sit at the computer, I compile all those notes into my outline and start the first draft. While writing the story I’ll get more ideas and the story may go in a new and better direction than I first imagined. Sometimes, I’ll wake up at 4AM and my first thought is a plot twist that ends up defining the story.
The first draft is simply me telling myself the story. I try not to get bogged down in research at that point. My first drafts usually end up being 70% of the final word count. Next, I’ll go through the story, do the research, and fill in all the details to bring it to life. After 4-5 more times through the story, I’ll send it to a couple beta readers. When I get their feedback, I’ll revise, edit, tweak, edit some more, and then send it to a few more beta readers. And while that story is out to my betas, I work on something else so that when I revisit it, I can see it more clearly. Then I edit using a stack of editing checklists I’ve compiled from books and blogs on writing and my editors’ notes. Finally, I’ll give it a couple more read-throughs and when I simply cannot stand to look at it one more time, I know it’s ready for my editor.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I imagine my characters and how they would act and react and interact because of their personalities and experiences, but they aren’t my imaginary friends. Maybe I’m missing something by being grounded in reality 🙂
What advice would you give other writers?
Read as much as you write. Decide whether you’re writing for yourself or for others and if you are truly writing for others, listen to feedback.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
After completing my first book, The Land Uncharted, several friends convinced me to try to get published. A friend of mine who used to be a literary agent kindly explained to me what a query letter was and how to approach agents. Two months into querying, I pitched my book during a Twitter pitch contest and that lead to a publishing deal. As soon as I signed, the publisher sent instructions on how to start promoting my book. I did all the things they said to do, which I’m now grateful for, however, a few months later they cancelled most of their contracts, including mine.
At first, I was mortified, but I don’t really enjoying wallowing, so I brushed myself off and started querying again. I soon had an inbox full of requests. But instead of biting my nails while I waited for responses, I read everything I could about publishing. I quickly realized I wanted control over my books—the very control that I was trying so hard to give to another publisher.
I ended up getting multiple offers, and while I was completely humbled that they wanted to invest in my book, by then, I knew too much. I knew how I wanted my book to be marketed, when it should be released, how it should be distributed, what my cover should look like, when the sequels should be released, and I had the ability to make it happen. So I hired an editor, a designer, and pros to do the things that should be left to the pros, and in October my debut novel The Land Uncharted will be released.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I am not qualified to speculate the future of an industry.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print
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