Get to know your characters so well, you can predict their every move. Get to know them like a family member. That is what author Kelli Klampe believes is the secret to writing a good story.
That's why having a good writing environment that allows her to spend time with her characters is key for writing her books. She needs that time and space to get to know them.
Kelli is a sucker for history and so her other love is researching. And now she shares her research in her books. What better way to share her passion with others? But like any author, she worries how her books will be received. The trick is getting past it and writing despite those fears. Read more about her writing and publishing process in her Author Interview below.
Learn more about Kelli and her books here:
1. How many books have you published and when (month/year)?
The Succession of England’s Kings
Cavaliers Publishing, 2014
Cavaliers Publishing, 2015
Scandal in a King’s Court
Cavaliers Publishing, 2015
Secrets of a Princess (Part of the Steel & Lace anthology)
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?
I started writing Secrets of a Princess in 1999. I was fascinated by a story I had read by Anita Davidson about “The Lost Princess.” Her story was mysterious and tragic and I began doing research about the Princess Elizabeth Stuart.
Since then, Anita and I have become friends and even published an anthology together—that was a dream come true for me, and made me feel for the first time that I was an actual author and equally respected by my idols! Amazing feeling!
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
I think the hardest part about writing my first book was that it terrified me to share it! I had put years of work into it, loved my characters and honestly, I was terrified that someone would say, “This sucks.”
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
I sent it off to some amazing authors that I had become friends with, they marked it up and critiqued it in several different ways. Overall, they all thought that it was a great story. I was given some wonderful advice and I was thankful for all of it.
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
Editing is horrible for an author. It is like having your fingernails ripped out slowly one by one—at least that is how I feel. I hate being told to delete this or that. I can always find mistakes, or a way to add to a final manuscript. I find it very difficult to say, “Ok, I am done, I am not making any more changes.” Editing is horrible, I love editors and I need them desperately, I just wish I could be knocked out for that process…
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
I hand write my books. So the re-writing is entering the draft. I usually will add more detail at that point. I describe drafts to my authors like this: “Your first draft is your skeleton, the bare bones, the idea and basic plot. Your second, third drafts is the skin and the clothes of your manuscript. You start filling in the detail, the personalities of your characters. Then we get into the hair and make-up. We dress it up and make it presentable and ready for the world.”
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?
Yes and I think it is wonderful to have a group of book lovers, who can talk to each other, and find all the little mistakes you did not. They are amazing! With Jayes, I actually asked them to let me know when they sat the book down. I wanted to know when I started to bore the reader. They did and I have been told more often than anything else, “I read that book in a day!” and “I could not put the book down!”
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
I was very adamant on my covers. I know exactly what I want. For instance, the cover of Jayes actually is the picture of an actual whipping scene in the book. I just knew what, when and how I wanted my covers when I was done with the book, and I was not going to give that to anyone else to be in charge of. Covers are the face of the hundreds of hours we spent creating the interior, why allow someone else to be in charge of something so important when NO ONE else is as intimate with the book as the author?
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
I published through Cavaliers Publishing, which I now own. Cavaliers is an author-operated publishing company, NOT a vanity house. We offer discounts to self publishing authors for professional assistance, and we do not keep any of the royalties. I honestly believe that authors have been taken advantage of for far too long. They spend hundreds of sleepless and lonely hours creating a world of entertainment and benefit the LEAST from their work. That is wrong, and Cavaliers is changing that.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
Social Media is an amazing marketing tool. I also have done radio interviews about my books, book signings and write historical articles every month about the 17th century.
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
They have been okay. They would be better if I could stop giving books away and actually sell them!
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
I think it is kind of 50/50. I do think it is important to have both! People like digital and some like to have a book in their hand.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
I do, and I do sales research on books similar to the book we are releasing. I think it is better to go on the lower price side; however, print and distribution costs and fees have a large influence on the price range. I like to keep Kindle books around $2.99.
15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?
I have gotten a bit more self esteem when it comes to writing. I do not worry as much. There is always going to be someone who hates your book. I know that, fortunately, there are many more that love my books. The one thing that always bothers me is reviews. I still get nervous even though there are always going to be a few negative ones. I do give a lot of books away and the only thing I ask is for people to please write a review. Unfortunately, 1% of the people will actually do that.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
It gets easier every time!
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
When my favorite authors and people that I was in AWE of my entire life, considered me an equal and we became friends… I am actually still a bit shocked about that!
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
ENVIORMENT! Quiet, Isolation and escaping to a place where my characters are talking to me.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
Plot, outlines and that kind of thing. I can honestly say, there is no right or wrong way. If it works for you, that is the right way. I “jig-saw” my books. I have about thirty or forty “future scenes” written down all the time. Most do make it into the book. If I think of something or a scene, I write it. If I am in a horrible mood, I will write a depressing scene or a massacre that day. That works for me. It does not mean that will work for you.
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
The best advice that I have given is KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS! DO NOT FORCE DIALOGUE.
Example: Christmas morning. You and your entire family are up and ready to open Christmas presents. Grandma walks in with a tray of hot cocoa. She trips over the dog, cocoa goes flying. Your mom runs into the kitchen to grab a towel, grandpa runs to check on granny and your little brother sneaks a gift from under the tree. Can you picture that? You know your family well enough that you know who is going to laugh, who is going to gasp and you can just imagine the scenario.
You need to KNOW every character just like they are a family member. You can imagine them in any scene and you will know what they say, how they move their hands and what they will do. You CANNOT force personality into characters and make them believable. That is my best advice.