In case you haven’t figured it out yet, being a published author is my dream job. Ten years ago, when I first started writing, authors were my rock stars. I read their bios with devotion, pored over their acknowledgements hoping to find a tidbit more of their personality, and pretty much daydreamed like a gushing fan girl about meeting one someday. Ten years later, I still squee on the inside, but I’m way better at taming my idol-worship into a poker face. I’ve also met a few. Turns out, they’re a lot like you and me. At the beginning of my brave year, I noodled the idea of a six-week series interviewing authors. Fun, right? The rest is history. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
Today, I’m interviewing Kristin Miller. I met Kristin a few months ago through a mutual writing friend (shout-out Deb Lee!). For me, it was love at first Facebook stalk. Since then Kristin has freely shared her industry knowledge, writing advice, and given so much of her time to answer my questions and listen to my crazy. I truly cannot thank her enough!
Kristin: Hi Rachelle! Thanks so much for having me on your lovely blog today! I’m happy to be here.
Rachelle: And I’m so excited to have you here today too! Tell everyone a little about yourself.
Kristin: Well, my official bio will tell you that I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy paranormal romance and sweet contemporary romance, but really, I’m just a big ole nerd from northern California who loves chocolate, werewolves, and Deadliest Catch. I’m married with two children, and am beyond blessed that I get to write for a living.
Rachelle: When you told me about your agent finding strategy, it blew me away. Tell us about your strategy and how it has worked for you.
Kristin: I jokingly tell writers to “stalk” agents, but on paper, that sounds sketchy . . . and illegal. What I mean is, do your research. Join Publishers Marketplace, and see who the dealmakers are in your genre. Make a list. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook. (Do not pitch—that’s not the place for it.) Check out their websites one by one, see if they’re acquiring what you write, and query! (Don’t know how to write a query letter? Easy solution: Google “successful query letters” or check out Writers Digest.) If you don’t want to subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace, that’s okay. I have another stalker-ish solution for you. Check out the top-selling books in your genre (or your favorites) on Amazon, and make a list of those. Using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, where you can glimpse the first few pages of a book, peek inside each one and read the acknowledgments pages. Authors generally thank their agents in those pages. Write those names down, follow on Twitter and Facebook, check their websites, query, lather, rinse, repeat.
Rachelle: Such genius advice! Tell me a little about the series that hit the NYT and USA Today’s best seller lists. How did it feel when you heard the news?
Kristin: I make it a point to study the NYT and USA Today bestseller lists each week. I pay attention to what’s hitting. The first time I noticed an e-book boxed set (a group of books by various authors compiled into one digital file for download), I knew things had changed. Why wouldn’t a reader want five books by their favorite authors for 99 cents? I watched as another boxed set hit, and then another. These were boxed by genre, and I had a feeling the next step would be books bundled by the type of hero. (Bad boys, SEALs, Alphas, Doctors, Playboys, Vampires, etc.) I happen to mention this while writing with a friend, and she suggested bundling books written by national or international bestselling authors. The theory was that it would give the set more credibility. Lucky 7 Bad Boys was born. I got together with six of my favorite bestselling authors to compile the set. My contribution was CRAZY IN LOVE, the first full-length novel in my sassy small-town contemporary series.
At the end of release week, we knew our sales numbers were high, but we weren’t sure what it would take to hit NYT or USA Today, since the bar changes every week. Two other authors in the set (and a great writing friend) met up at Panera near Sacramento that morning to await the news. My husband showed up a little while later. We tried to work on other things, but watched the clock and refreshed the NYT list a thousand times. Liz Pelletier (my editor from Entangled at the time) was actually the one who broke the news to us first. We screamed and laughed and cried and hugged each other. My husband disappeared during the commotion, and came back inside with a bouquet of flowers for each of us, a bottle of my favorite champagne, and three glass flutes to cheers! He said he’d known all along that we were going to hit (he had faith), and had the flowers and champagne in the car. (He brought an ice chest in the trunk to keep the champagne cold, and buckets of water to hold the flowers and keep them fresh. Amazing, right?)
After hearing the news and drying our tears, we celebrated over lunch at a nice place on the Sacramento River.
Rachelle: Awwwww! Super amazing guy. He’s a keeper. Which is a good segue into the next question. Why did you first start writing?
Kristin: In 2009, I walked for hours through my local Barnes & Noble, searching for a certain book. It didn’t exist. When I came home that day, my husband suggested I write it. After looking at him as if he were crazy, I sat down while my kids napped, and pecked away at the keyboard. Three months later, a piece of garbage was born. No, seriously. It was my “learning project” book that will never see the light of day. But it taught me that I truly loved the process of writing, and after that first idea, another one came, and then another…
Rachelle: Tell me a bit about that process from blank screen to published work.
Kristin: I write straight through, from “Chapter One” to “The End”. I don’t write scenes out of order. When I’m finished, I let a dear friend (and avid reader) read the book. After hearing her feedback, I tweak things or rewrite as needed. After that, the book goes to my editor, where we usually do two rounds of content edits. Then, copy edits come back. I go through the book fine-tuning things at the copy-editor’s suggestion. At that point, the book becomes a “galley”, or a file that appears exactly like the final copy. That’s my last chance to “touch” the book, to weed out any errors that might’ve sneaked in. I read the book AGAIN, just to be sure, and then send it back to my editor and wait for release day. That’s it!
Rachelle: Has your writing process changed over the years?
Kristin: When I first started writing in 2008, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to plot, or in what direction a book “should” go, so I simply jotted notes down on paper and flew by the seat of my pants! It was a mess. Over time, I learned about story structure, and acts, black moments, and false climaxes. Now, to make sure my book is headed in the right place, I draw up a skeletal structure of the book before I begin. Depending on the story, that structure may change, but the bones are the same. Sometimes I take out a sheet of binder paper, and list the chapters out line-by-line, and write the major thing that must happen in each phase of the book. Other times, that’s not detailed enough, and I need more notes. I’ll use index cards for scene breakdowns, or large sheets of paper ripped out of a notebook. Basically, whatever it takes for me to see the story in my head play out like a movie. When I’ve reached that point, I feel as if the book really writes itself.
Rachelle: What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you started? Or what advice would you give your beginner writer self?
Kristin: Hmm…great question. I think the advice would be to follow your gut. Over the years, I’ve had feelings that the market was going to shift in different directions and rather than jump in with both feet, trusting my instincts, I continued down the path I was on, thinking others knew what was best for me and my career. My hesitations meant I was buried beneath the waves rather than riding them. I’m still learning, but that would’ve helped earlier on.
Rachelle: What keeps you inspired?
Kristin: Each time I finish a book, I get the feeling that my creative well is dry. I’ve just used up every interesting word in my head, and now there’s nothing left. I take a month break between books to recharge and let the well fill up again. I watch as many movies as I can. (Sometimes one each day. Last night, I watched The Dressmaker with Kate Winslet. Sooooo good!) I listen to all kinds of music from rap to metal to country and jazz. Soon, for no reason I can pinpoint at all, something will click. Usually it’s an image of a black moment or a quote that’s interesting, or a high-concept situation. After that, I start plotting, and the book is rolling a few weeks later.
Rachelle: What quirk does the greater public not know about you?
Hmm…let’s see. Well, I eat a Chewy Chocolate Chip granola bar every single morning for breakfast. Not quirky enough for you? What if I told you I’ve eaten one of those for breakfast since 2002. That’s fifteen years straight. Yup. Now we’re in the weird zone.
Rachelle: LOL! Not so weird, you just know what you like! Let’s do a rapid fire favorite round. Answer with one word. What’s your favorite:
Vacation spot: Beach
Favorite writing spot: Café
Thank you, Kristin! It’s been so much fun getting to know you more and learning about your writing journey. So inspiring.
After Facebook stalking Kristin, I immediately downloaded the first book in her Seattle Wolf Pack series, Gone with the Wolf. Loved the story and it made me blush. If you like sexy paranormal romance, I highly recommend starting with Gone With the Wolf. Here’s everywhere you can stalk her too: