I have an exciting treat today, folks! Recently I thought to reach out to someone very special and see if she’d give me the privilege of interviewing her. With high hopes and fidgeting fingers, I awaited her response to my request. Turns out, she agreed! If you haven’t heard of Kristen Kieffer before (which I’m sure you have) then you’ll soon not stop hearing about her!
I can often be found pinning writing articles on Pinterest. One day I paid attention to the source of some of my pins, and I discovered they were from a website called She’s Novel. Thus was the first time I realized how much I loved Kristen! She is a wonderful friend, encourager, and inspiration. You won’t be able to walk away from this interview without some sort of uplifting feeling and creative juices flowing!
Without further delay, please welcome… Kristen Kieffer! Thanks for joining us, Kristen.
1. First question, what was it that made you realize you are a writer? How did you decide to pursue that path?
Hey, Hannah! First things first, thank you so much for having me on your blog. I’m thrilled to be here!
Growing up, I was much more of a reader than a writer. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I discovered a story idea that really grew my passion for writing. However, I still didn’t consider myself a writer for several years.
In fact, the realization came out of crisis. You see, when I headed off to college, I didn’t have a clue what degree I wanted to pursue. I knew I wanted a career fueled by passion, but I didn’t consider myself a writer yet, so I spent a semester working towards a business degree instead.
It was after this semester that I sort of ended up at a fork in the road; I had to decide whether I was going to pursue a conventional career or if I had enough courage to give my ever-growing dream of becoming an author a shot. I chose the latter, started calling myself a writer even though I didn’t feel like one (Hey! Fake it ‘til ya make it, right?), and never looked back.
2. So what inspired She’s Novel?
After a few years of working a soul-sucking day job and struggling to figure out my novel in the evenings, I decided that I needed to get serious about actually learning the ins and outs of writing fiction. I threw myself into this endeavor, but finding the right resources was difficult.
The more I learned from this website and that book and that podcast, the more I thought about how great it would be to have all of the best writing tips and techniques in one place. No fluff. No filler. Just great content and accessible resources for writers.
And of course, the more I thought about this, the more I wanted to make it a reality. Before I knew it, I’d thrown myself full-speed ahead into the creation of She’s Novel and bada-bing, bada-boom! I launched my website in January 2015 after just 2 ½ months of research, planning, and designing.
3. Now, I remember reading about your decision to take writing to the extreme and go full time, am I “write” (excuse my corniness)? What made you take the plunge?
Yes! I’m actually a full-time non-fiction writer at the moment. My novels are still in editing mode (with hopes to publish in the coming year), but in June 2015, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to leave my crappy day job and start running She’s Novel full-time.
If I’m being honest, the biggest reason I took the plunge was because my day job was a living hell. Haha! I worked at a popular coffee chain installment on the busiest highway between Washington D.C. and New York City, so we served thousands of angry, tired, and road-raged customers each and every day. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting–and it didn’t pay very well, either.
So as soon as I had saved up a nice little nest egg, I quit my job and gave myself six months to start making a full-time income as a small business owner. Thankfully, it all worked out for the best, and I’m still running She’s Novel full-time today!
4. How do you manage to write full time? What is your routine?
Before quitting my job, being a small business owner sounded like a dream. Getting to do what you love all day, every day…and make money from it, too? Heaven.
Turns out there’s a little more to writing full-time than just that. Whether you’re a fiction or nonfiction author, if you’re planning to grow your business, you’ll have to play more than just the role of writer. You’re also your own website developer, content creator, marketing team, customer service, graphic designer, photographer, accountant, etc.
Well, to be fair, you can outsource some of those jobs if you have the cash, but I’m far too stubborn. Haha!
As for my routine, I actually try not to stick to one too closely. Instead, I work according to my energy peaks. Most days, this means relaxing in the morning, completing perfunctory tasks in the afternoon, and working in-depth on both She’s Novel projects and my fiction writing in the evening and into the night.
As a full-time author, my biggest challenge is definitely finding that balance between self-discipline and passionate creation, but thankfully it has become easier over time.
5. Now, you’ve been working on this novel of your very own, “The Dark Between”, for quite sometime. I must say I’ve been ramped up and ready to read it! When was this idea birthed? What inspired “The Dark Between”?
Yes, The Dark Between is a mammoth of an idea, and it’s been with me for quite some time now. I’m so excited that you’re pumped to read it someday, Hannah!
The initial idea for TDB was the very same idea that ignited my passion for writing back in May 2012. I dreamed up a very specific scene between two characters as I was falling asleep one night, and I woke up the next morning completely intoxicated by its memory.
I can’t share the scene in question without spoilers, but I can say that I immediately started exploring who these two characters were and where they came from. Soon they had backgrounds and stories. Families and dreams. Struggles and regrets and hopes and fears.
Over the next 2 ½ years, I struggled to write a first draft of this story–which had already expanded into a series–because of how much I kept learning about writing and adding to the plot. Finally, I got my act together and finished the first draft between November 2014 and May 2015. I’m now working on the third draft edit, with one more draft planned, before submitting to agents and publishers for publication.
6. Any inside sneak peeks you want to give us? A bit about the main character, the world?
Sure thing! The Dark Between takes place in the medieval fantasy land of Maveryn and features four point-of-view characters. I often tell interested readers to think of it as a young adult A Game of Thrones when I’m short on time, though the two books are vastly different in plot.
While each character–a healer’s apprentice, a newly ennobled knight, a lady-in-waiting, and a High Lord’s illegitimate son–faces their own struggles, The Dark Between explores how each of them must overcome the sins of their fathers in order to find their place in the world.
Here’s the official story blurb from my author website:
“Thea has lived her entire life in the shadows. Born with extraordinary yet disdained abilities, she has spent years learning how to control her powers and remain inconspicuous. But when a brooding young knight suspects her of witchcraft, Thea is suddenly thrust into the precarious light of the public eye, and her well-kept secrets are bound to follow.
As the illegitimate son of a High Lord, Cim Ryter never expected to find favor at royal court. But as he comes to understand just how much influence his family name compels, Cim learns of an alarming secret that could send several men – including himself – to the hangman’s noose. And it’s not long before someone else knows his secret, too.
With their very lives at stake, trusting their intuitions may be the only hope remaining for Thea and Cim’s survival. But doing so could also be the last mistake either of them ever makes…”
7. My current topic here on my blog is the pursuit of publishing a novel for the first time. What method have you chosen to publish? Traditional or self? Why?
Great question! I’m actually considering both methods. I definitely plan to publish The Dark Between traditionally. It’s my passion project, and I’d love to see it on shelves worldwide.
I am, however, working on a second novel called Dreamworld. This novel began as an exercise in technical fiction writing (whereas The Dark Between breaks so many “rules” and genre standards), but it’s since grown into a secondary passion of mine.
I’ve been thinking of self-publishing this project in order to gain the experience needed to help She’s Novel readers do the same.
8. When can we hope to see “The Dark Between” on shelves?
Well, this will depend largely on how long it takes for a publishing house to accept the manuscript and how long their publishing queue is, but with any luck, readers should see The Dark Between in 2018 or 2019. That does seem a while away, but the traditionally publishing journey is a long one and I don’t plan to begin submitting queries until late 2016 or early 2017, so we’ll all just have to be patient. Haha!
9. As much as your blog is such a good help for new and learning writers, what is a quick tip you can give to all our readers to help them out a bit with their own writing?
My biggest tip? Stop thinking you aren’t good enough. Writing is much more a skill than a talent, and skills take time to refine. Just like learning to play the piano or training for a marathon, it’s going to take years for you to master your fiction writing skills–and that’s okay!
Keep reading novels. Keep diving into writing blogs and books. And most of all, keep writing. It’s the very best practice you can get.
10. Now, we all grow and gain more experience, whether it’s through mistakes or through a teacher. Who is someone who has helped or inspired you along the way?
There are so many writers who have helped shape me through their blogs and books (special shout-out to Jenny Bravo, Kaitlin Hillerich, K.M. Weiland, Faye Kirwin, and Eva Deverell), but one of the most impactful mentorship experiences I’ve ever had was actually confined to a single moment. Two written sentences, to be exact.
In my senior year of highschool, I took an advanced-placement English class taught by a fantastic teacher. When the final week of classes came, I asked her to sign my yearbook for me, and she did. It wasn’t until I read through my yearbook later that discovered her incredible note. To paraphrase, it said, “Thanks for being a fabulous student, Kristen. I can’t wait to read your novels someday.”
And let me tell you, I’m not a cryer, but I cried at this. Why? Because I had never written a lick of fiction for this teacher. Not one line. In fact, no one at this time even knew I was working on a novel–not even my friends and family.
To have my teacher recognize a passion and skill in me that I was only just beginning to see for myself was one of the most impactful moments of my writing life. It gave me so much confidence to pursue my dream, so I’m forever grateful for those two simple sentences.
11. We all love writing, but what is the hardest thing about writing for you?
The prose. Oh gosh, the prose! I’m a firm believer that there are three types of authors: the writers, the storytellers, and those lucky few who are blessed to be skilled in both.
I am, by far, much more a storyteller than a writer. I love characters and plotting, daydreaming and brainstorming story ideas, etc. But when it comes to actually making those stories read like a novel–a well-written novel… Well, let’s just say it’s a struggle that I work to overcome every day.
12. Have you heard the recent flurry that paper books are making a comeback against ebooks? Your thoughts (sorry, I had to ask! I’m passionate about this one…)?
I ADORE paper books. Absolutely adore them. I do have a Kindle and read some novels there, but I am a huge fan of the classic paperback for several reasons. First, I spend all day in front of my computer writing for She’s Novel and working on my manuscripts, so it’s nice to look at something other than a screen for once.
But also, I just love the smell and feel and look of paper books. I love organizing them on my shelf until they’re juuust right and collecting pretty copies of my favorite ones for sheer aesthetical pleasure. There’s just something so finite and real about a paper book, as though it emanates some sort of mystical, magical power that e-books can’t even begin to create.
13. Anyways, with your writing career being a pretty serious thing to you, where would you like to see yourself in five years?
Oh, five years. I have so many dreams and plans I’d like to put in place, but I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty and hand over the Reader’s Digest version instead. Haha!
In five years, I’d like to be a full-time fiction author in the midst of writing The Dark Between series.
Of course, writing fiction full-time will mean giving up much of the time I now devote to She’s Novel, so I’m hoping in the meantime to build up an incredible arsenal of blog posts, workshops, courses, ebooks, and other resources for writers, so that I can maintain the site in the future while focusing on my fiction.
Aaand, that’s the super-condensed version. For the ultra-detailed, crazy-planner-lady version, you know who to ask. *wink*
14. What are you doing, currently, to reach that goal?
At the moment, I’m juggling two big responsibilities to help me achieve my five-year plan. The first is finishing up the third draft of The Dark Between. This is my final developmental draft and the first draft in which I’m trying to iron out the prose, which basically means that I’m still months and months away from finishing this monster.
My other huge task is to build out my offerings for She’s Novel. In 2016, I plan to expand my character, plot, and author platform blog series; introduce new ebooks and video workshops on pre-writing, editing, and building an author brand; and create two free courses on utilizing the Scrivener writing program and using Squarespace to create an author website.
15. Finally, anything to add that I may have missed? It’s been so fantastic learning the depths of Kristen Kieffer!
Aw! Thank you so much for having me, Hannah. I can’t think of anything to add–your questions were fantastic!
If anyone would like to learn more about my novels, you can visit my author website at kristenakieffer.com. Writers can also check out She’s Novel to learn how to craft books that will endear readers, excite publishers, and launch your writing career.
Thanks again for inviting me to your blog, Hannah. It was such a pleasure to pop by for a visit!
We are so glad you could pop by in all your busyness!
There you have it, folks! I couldn’t tell you how many more questions I could have drowned Kristen with, but I’d say she leaves us pretty fulfilled nonetheless. If you haven’t already become a follower of hers, trust me when I say it is well worth it!
I hope this interview has inspired you, encouraged you, and stirred creative thinking! Now, go scour her website. You’ll find endless resources there. When you’re done, I hope you’ll return here for future posts and other special goodies! If you haven’t subscribed already, the opportunity awaits you!