~ Interview by Melina Kantor
It’s our pleasure to welcome award-winning author Kay Thomas to the blog! She’s here to tell us about her life as an author and to share some wonderful advice.
Welcome Kay, and thank you so much for joining us!
Q: You say you didn’t grow up “burning to be a writer.” What changed?
A: I took the long road to getting published. I didn’t start writing until after I was married with a three year old and going a little stir crazy at home. I took a fun-ed writing course, but didn’t finish any projects for several years. In 1999, I completed my first manuscript, but real life kept me quite busy, and I didn’t get serious about trying to get published until 2004. My first book, Better Than Bulletproof, was released with Harlequin Intrigue in 2009. Since then I’ve published six books. My seventh, Easy Target, releases in June from Avon Impulse.
Q: Do you have any tips for finding balance between your responsibilities as a writer and your responsibilities to your family?
A: That is always the puzzle … I hesitate to call what I do a regimen. It doesn’t feel quite that structured. But during the summer and on holidays, I write early in the morning while everyone is asleep at my house. During the school year, I write after my son goes off to school. I’m more productive on story in the mornings. I use the afternoons for email, publicity, etc. Or that’s my goal. In an attempt to manage my time better, I read a great book a few years ago called Never Answer Email in the Morning. I got some great tips, but ultimately, I’m not sure the lesson took.
I just turned a book in to my publisher that took a lot more time to complete than I expected it to. I finished on deadline, but the time required to do that was not what I had planned. Books are like that sometimes, and thankfully, my family is very understanding. My husband is a great cook and actually enjoys going to the grocery store, and my son has been doing his own laundry for a while now.
But I don’t like it when my schedule becomes so upside down that I miss a lot of time with my family … mainly because I like hanging out with them. But also because, for me from a craft viewpoint, if I’m not experiencing life around me and I’m just sitting day in and out at my computer, there’s not as much depth to inform my writing. Conversations, laughing with people I love, getting out and about—even if it’s just to the grocery store—refills that creative well for me. If I don’t take care and do that “refilling,” my writing suffers.
Q: You’ve got a strong street team. How did you go about setting it up, and how has it helped you?
A: I love my Bulletproof Babes (AKA my street team). They have been so helpful and enthusiastic in spreading the word about my work. We have a private Facebook group where we talk about book and reading related issues. I ask their opinion on a variety of things ranging from preferred gender for audio book narration to personal reading recommendations to what kind of conference swag they like best.
I didn’t know what I was doing when I first started building the street team. I’d heard a couple of authors speak at conferences about their own teams, and I took a few ideas presented in those workshops and went from there. I knew I wanted it to be casual and fun, not a “task oriented” team. I put out “a call” via my newsletter and social media outlets for the initial members. I also opened it up when I had book release parties on Facebook. It’s grown from there. If someone expresses interest, I invite them to fill out the form here to join: http://kaythomas.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ab715a89c46fad9aede95e08d&id=68bedb9ec1
Q: Please tell us a bit about your writing process. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
A: I’m a “pantser” who is trying to become more of a plotter in the interest of saving myself time and aggravation (ie – not writing myself into corners). I usually have an idea of a story before I start a project, but I generally have to just sit down and start typing before the bulk of the plot comes. There’s a magic for me about my fingers hitting the keyboard. I can’t “talk it out” in terms of plotting. I have to “write it out.”
I use a storyboard with sticky notes to keep my thoughts in order. It’s not terribly organized looking to anyone but me. Still, I can keep the pace hopping, even when I don’t know exactly where I’m headed. That’s why I’m working hard at becoming a bit more plot-oriented before I start, so I don’t write myself into that corner I was speaking of earlier!
The biggest challenge for me is keeping the story fresh. If I plot the storyline too thoroughly before I write it, that joy of the discovery isn’t there as I type, and it comes across as flat on the page. So it’s a balance for me to plot enough to have a destination, but to keep the reins loose enough so I can go wherever I need in order to still enjoy the ride.
Q: In your opinion, what is the appeal of contemporary romance?
A: I think romance readers enjoy stories containing an element of fantasy that could (however remote the possibility might be) happen to them. I love historical and paranormal romances. Some of my favorite books are from those genres. But sadly, I’ll never live in medieval-era Scotland or date a vampire. However, the idea that the guy I stand behind in line in Starbucks might be an FBI agent hunting down terrorists, a sheik travelling incognito, a lonely billionaire looking for the love of his life, or the hot fireman who lives down the street and loves puppies and babies… well, those guys are real possibilities living somewhere in the world today. And while I do realize my chances of meeting said sheik, billionaire, or FBI agent are on par with winning the lottery, still it could happen. It’s possible.
Contemporary romance involves the characters’ ordinary everyday lives (lives like yours and mine) being uprooted and turned upside down by love. (And in the case of romantic suspense, being turned inside out by danger as well.) Romance in all genres at its core is about fantasy, but contemporary romance contains the seeds of possibilities that don’t exist in paranormal or historical unless those stones in Scotland really can send me back in time or there’s a vampire living in my neighborhood that I haven’t met yet. : )
Q: What is one piece of advice you give writers just starting out or not yet published?
A: Don’t give up on your dreams. When those rejections come (and they will … it happens to everyone) send out another query or request immediately. Then go have that chocolate bar, glass of wine, long hot bath, or all of the above to soothe the hurt feelings. I’ve always thought that I got published initially because I was too stubborn to give up.
Award-winning author Kay Thomas didn’t grow up burning to be a writer. She wasn’t even much of a reader until fourth grade. That’s when her sister read THE BLACK STALLION aloud to her. For hours Kay was enthralled—shipwrecked and riding an untamed horse across desert sand. Then tragedy struck. Her sister lost her voice. But Kay couldn’t wait to hear what happened in the story—so she picked up that book, finished reading it herself, and went in search of more adventures at the local library.
Today, Kay lives in Dallas with her husband, their two children, and a shockingly spoiled Boston terrier. Her national best-selling “bulletproof” novels have been translated into multiple languages. In June 2015, look for EASY TARGET, Book 3 in her Elite Ops series from Avon Impulse.
For more information about Kay or her books, please visit her website at www.KayThomas.net