“Satan’s Garden” is Kit Lyman’s debut novel, which she self-published in March of 2014. A 2011 graduate from Cornell University, she has prior experience in screenwriting and script coverage. She previously worked in LA as a production assistant on a daytime talk show and a script reader for a literary management company. Her former work as an SEO and web strategist has given her a competitive edge as a self-publisher, but she still believes in the role traditional publishers play in today’s market.
What inspires you to write?
I’m inspired by possibility. Stories can be anything, in any shape or form. They have the capacity to leave an impact on a universal scale. This kind of opportunity is a major reason why I write. Even though writing is a solitary activity, I don’t necessarily do it for myself or out of the pure enjoyment in creating. I do it because I believe storytelling can be a conversation. Since releasing my debut novel, the best part for me has been hearing feedback from my readers. It has shown me that the last two and a half years were worth it.
Although I originally pursued comedy as a screenwriter, I have always been drawn to the thriller genre and its evolution over the years. Psycho-thrillers are challenging to write and exciting to imagine, and their authors have been pushing the boundaries more and more. Desensitization is a concern for writers because it creates this plaguing pressure to be more shocking than the next, to be darker and more twisted. I was inspired to take a step back and not give in to that pressure. “Satan’s Garden” does capture the horrors and devastation that we may come across in life, but those parts aren’t what I hope to leave behind.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m a writer who likes to know where she is going, but I don’t need to storyboard every scene. Carrying over some of my habits from screenwriting, I do outline the story arcs as well as the main turning points, but I like to keep the process as organic as possible. I’m a chronological writer because I like to experience it as the characters do. This enables them to take on a mind of their own, which allows me to relinquish full control of how the story unfolds.
I have found a great number of valuable writing tools, which I keep stored on my iPhone and iPad. Most of my outlining happens on the go, so I like to keep my apps on hand. The general organizational apps I use are Evernote, vJournal, and SimpleMind+. I’m a big analogies person, so anytime I think of one, that’s where it will go. SimpleMind+ is a mind map app, which allows me to organize story lines and character relationships. As for inspiration and idea creation, I mainly use the apps “Spice” and “Writer Lists.”
In terms of the actual writing process, I like to sit down for long periods of time instead of spreading the work out into smaller chunks. I’ve heard some writers say that it takes them a while to “get into the mood,” but I truly believe that there is no such thing as “writer’s block” when music and red wine exist in this world. Every word found in “Satan’s Garden” had music playing when it was written. I’ve found that music is a writer’s ultimate catalyst.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Since I’m a character-driven writer, I have pictures of all my major players. I scour Google Images, poring through countless pictures by using obscure and generic keywords. I have learned that if you search anything having to do with “blonde” and “boy,” you are pretty much guaranteed to get the guy from One Direction. You might get Draco Malfoy if you mention anything about thinness, but it looks like Niall Horan has monopolized that entire demographic.
Over the course of my novel, I pulled up pictures of all the characters in each specific chapter. I found that if I can see my characters as I write, chapter for chapter, scene for scene, it frees me from the writing process. They no longer belonged to me, which gave them the power to have a say in their story. There were many times that my characters did something unexpected that wasn’t in the original plan, but I welcomed it. In the end, I realized that it was their story instead of mine.
What advice would you give other writers?
The biggest thing that makes someone a writer is dedication. Getting into a routine is probably the greatest obstacle you will face in the beginning. There are so many distractions and things in life that pull you in all different directions, and I found my routine by making myself accountable. The app that pretty much got me to this point was WordTyrant. It’s a motivator and tracks your progress on your projects. You set the monthly word limit, and it lets you know when you’re falling behind or, hopefully, getting ahead.
Another realization I’ve had came at the end. When I was officially “done” with my book—torn apart, proofread, edited, and proofread again—I had to be willing to abandon it. No story is ever truly finished, and you can drive yourself mad trying to prove that wrong. Every sentence can be restructured, rewritten, or taken out completely. You have to reach a point where you are confident with the story you have told, and then, just let it be.
In the end, the greatest advice I can give a fellow writer is to give yourself a chance. You will be surprised by just how great of a story you can come up with.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Self-publishing has a certain stigma. It is often looked at as a “last resort” or an “only option” for authors. “It’s a quality issue,” they say. “Bad content is clogging the system.” While I think there is some truth to that, my overall belief is that the lasting stories will find their way to the top of the pile one way or another. It isn’t so much about how much bad content is out there, but rather, it has more to do with the growing number of good content that is working its way into the system. Competition is becoming thicker as more people are vying for those top spots, but I believe there has never been a better time to be a writer.
I didn’t send out any queries for “Satan’s Garden.” I didn’t print out a manuscript and mail it off to dozens of agents and publishers. It wasn’t because I don’t believe in the traditional process, because I do, very strongly. Writing is and always will be a collaborative process, and traditional publishing provides that constant creative network and support system. Nevertheless, I wanted to use the resources and team I have in my corner and show the world what I am made of, without a big house behind me at the start.
Being a writer never has a guarantee. There is no promise at the end that it will work out or if it will all be worth it. Over the last twenty years, there has been a transition towards this idea that everyone gets a trophy, everyone gets a reward. It reinforces the idea that people will find success if they follow a certain path. Self-publishing defies this. It has shown that people can create their own way, on their own terms. If this has become the new social stigma, then I’m happy to be a part of it.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Today’s publishing landscape is in the writer’s favor. The platforms available to us puts the cards back in our hands. It allows us to create our own worth, to earn our spot. Self-publishing was my first resort because I believe that in order to prove myself, I have to be my greatest advocate. However, I also think it is hard to make a living as a self-publisher. The main way to make a serious profit is to write a lot of books and fast! The more titles, it seems, the more likely you are to see success.
So where does that leave the people who don’t want to pump out a new book every six months? I’m in the belief that stories take time to nurture and that it tends to be a longer process. There is also the concern about burnout, especially for younger writers. Some have said that they believe traditional publishers will slowly die out and assume the role of book marketers and promoters, but I don’t fully agree. I think that self-publishing won’t go away the same way that traditional publishing is here to stay. There is a substantial benefit to having a creative team behind you for all stages of the writing/publishing process. Traditional publishers have shown their capacity to reach universal audiences outright, while self-publishing is, in essence, starting from the ground up.
What’s the future of book publishing? Well, I think that there are going to be even more options. Self-publishers are going to become more tech-savvy, and their community of resources will only continue to grow. Between independent presses and large publishing houses, there will be a growing number of quality writers for them to choose from and an even larger market to sell to. Even though brick and mortar bookstores are unfortunately starting to close down as consumers spend more time online, quality books will never die. In the end, the low-quality books will still make their way to the back, and the good ones will continue finding a way to the front. The reading community will get better at sifting through the ever-growing number of titles, using social communities like Goodreads and Shelfari to cancel out the noise. Books will depend more on word of mouth and honest recommendations than purely on a ranking. It will be better for everyone—writers, creators, publishers, and readers alike.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Coming-of-age
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print