Welcome to the four hundred and first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author Kim Dalferes. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Kim. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Kim: I came to be a writer, in part, because of my nana’s apple pie recipe. Nana made the best apple pies, but she never wrote down the recipe. Now she’s gone and no one in the family has been able to recreate her masterpiece. I came to realize that if I want my side of any story to be remembered, I better put it in writing. I’m based in Virginia and I’ve lived here for seventeen years. However, I consider myself a native Floridian, having lived the first 30 years of my life in Florida.
Morgen: That’s a new one – becoming a writer because of a recipe… I love it. And Florida, how lovely, all that sun we Brits are missing at the moment. I heard on the radio this morning that our summer will start in September… just as the school’s go back! What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Kim: I’m a non-fiction writer, mostly essays. I’ve done technical writing in my professional field (criminal and juvenile justice) for over twenty years. It’s just in the past four years that I’ve branched out a bit into essays and stories.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Kim: My first book; I Was In Love With A Short Man Once (Friesen Press) was published in November 2011. I’ve also had stories published in online literary magazines such as Hippocampus Magazine and Marco Polo Arts Magazine.
I do not write under a pseudonym. However, you will see a few references to my nickname: Kimba.
Morgen: I have. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Kim: Oh, tons! At first, when they started rolling in, it was very deflating. But after awhile I’ve come to find that rejections can be very useful. I’ve looked back over rejections from a few years ago and they were right (!); with a little perspective I can see where I needed to improve my writing and my voice.
Morgen: Second opinions are vital aren’t they, a shame when they have to come in that form but as you say, they help us grow. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Kim: My story for Hippocampus Magazine was voted most memorable by the readers for June 2011. That was a nice ego boost.
Morgen: I bet. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Kim: I would love to work with an agent. But, so far I haven’t connected with the right person. I do think that agents can vastly improve a writer’s chances of working with a top-notch publisher, especially for the new writers out there, the publishing industry can seem very daunting. That being said, there are also some great Self-Publishing or Print-On-Demand companies out there who can help you navigate the terrain. I work with Friesen Press and they have been just terrific.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks?
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Kim: Any author these days has to be willing to self-promote and market. Even if you have a great agent and an amazing publisher, you have to be willing to put yourself out there: book signings and readings and radio interviews, etc. People want to connect with the writer, so it can’t just be about selling books.
I’m considering some product development and branding to go along with the book: bumper stickers, buttons, magnets, etc. I’ve received some great feedback for a few key catch phrases. We’ll see how that goes; I think it would be kind of fun if one of the funny phrases from the book ended up on people’s cars!
Morgen: Absolutely. I’d have one. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Kim: What a fun question!
Morgen: Thank you.
Kim: Since I Was In Love With a Short Man Once is an essay collection that is written in a memoir style, it would be a bit narcissistic to say I was my own favourite character! However, I do have favourite essays or book chapters. I love Naked In a Hot Tub In Vegas because it highlights the fun I have with my favourite gal pals. Rubberbands describes my wonderful husband; so that is also a favourite. And, Zamboni is a story about my son and all-time favourite subject Jimmy, so that story would have to be included on my all-stars list. As for who would play me in the movie, I think Allison Janney would be a perfect fit.
Morgen: West Wing fans will know her well. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your book? How important do you think they are?
Kim: A wonderful cover designer, Colin Parks, designed the cover of I Was In Love With a Short Man Once, and he did a remarkable job of creating something that was whimsical and funny, without crossing over into too-cute territory. As for the title, it’s a very integral part of the book, and you have to read the final chapter of the book – PS, What’s the Deal With the Title? – to fully understand its true meaning.
Morgen: Intriguing… What are you working on at the moment / next?
Kim: I’m currently working on my second book, tentatively titled Magic Power Fishing Panties, the Continuing Tales of a Crazy Southern Irish Gal. Any agents out there; I would love to talk to you about this next book!
Morgen: Let’s hope they’re reading this. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Kim: I do manage to write most days, either for my blog, or stories for the second book, or freelancing for other publications. I also have my day job to keep up with, which requires more technical in-field writing. I don’t seem to often suffer from writer’s block; it’s more just a lack of time.
Morgen: Oh yes, I know that feeling (she says with 192 emails waiting for my attention). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Kim: I outline stories on my Blackberry at very weird moments. I’m working on one right now that is based on the notes I wrote on my Facebook status while I was trapped on a city bus for five hours during last year’s blizzard. I had been working all day as a facilitator for a client meeting in DC and then, afterwards, I was trying to get back home to Fairfax. I found myself surrounded by strangers in just the most surreal situation.
Morgen: Wow. Do you have a method for creating your characters and their names?
Kim: I actually have to sometimes change the names of those in my stories to protect the innocent (and the sober!).
Morgen: Do you write any poetry or short stories?
Kim: I would love to try fiction, but I’m just not that talented.
Morgen: Ah, how do you know? A German friend once said she couldn’t but I said that I love the not knowing what’s going to come out so maybe you could try. It’s all about practice and you write a lot anyway… I’d say the 5-hour bus blizzard would be a great place to start. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Kim: I’ve found that this method works best for me: outline, write, re-write, self-edit, walk away for at least a day, and then have someone else edit. I do find that as I progress more as a writer I need less copyediting and more content editing.
Morgen: Good plan. Do you have to do much research?
Kim: I have to do more research than you would expect. For example, for I Was In Love With a Short Man Once I had to research things such as the exact wording and word count of the Preamble (fifty-two words, by the way) and the legislation that created the Free Lunch Program.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Kim: Most of my writing is in first person.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Kim: Favourite: when a total stranger – someone not obligated to me by blood, marriage, or friendship – contacts me and tells me that they love my writing or it inspired them to do something. Least favourite: thinking a piece is completely finished, and then finding a minor typo like a misplaced period outside of a quotation mark.
Morgen: I’d agree with your favourite, although it’s right up there with the aforementioned creating something out of nothing. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kim: If possible, write for yourself. I know it is a bit of a cliché, but if it’s an important subject for you, the story will write itself. Oh, and secure yourself a good copyeditor – they are worth their weight in gold.
Morgen: You have to be happy with what you write – if you’re not then readers likely won’t be either. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Kim: Erma Bombeck, Chelsey Handler, and Mae West (did you know that Mae West was a playwright?). I would serve fabulous, decadent desserts and lots of wine.
Morgen: I didn’t know that about Mae. She was a very clever lady. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Kim: Erma Bombeck is my personal hero. Here are her words to live and write by: “Hook ‘em with the lead. Hold ‘em with laughter. Exit with a quip they won’t forget.”
Morgen: I love that. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Kim: My day job is that I work as a criminal and juvenile justice public policy consultant. I am also a crazed Estate Sale Addict. Drives my husband nuts – he equates it to scavenging through dead people’s trash. I love the hunt for a bargain and a treasure.
Morgen: We have car boot sales over here. I used to go every Sunday (sometimes to three or more in a morning) but less so this year. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Kim: Friesen Press has a terrific blog – The Fearless Self Publisher – where they offer great advice to writers. I also love the website of Duolit and I highly recommend following them on Twitter – they offer great advice and tips. I also find myself re-tweeting quite a bit of the information from Elizabeth Craig. Writers Digest chose this site as one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers” in 2011.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Kim: I find forums very valuable and I’m involved in quite a few through both LinkedIn and Writer’s Digest Community.
Morgen: I didn’t know Writer’s Digest had a community. LinkedIn is brilliant and came to my rescue when I was getting low on interviewees (hence the 192 emails and booking into January 2013!). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Kim: My website is www.kimdalferes.com and it provides a lot of useful information including upcoming events, a synopsis of my book and where it can be purchased, my blog, an About the Author, and a few other fun items such as an Author’s FAQ and Questions for Book Clubs. From my website you can also contact me and follow me on Face Book and Twitter. I also just added a Pinterest icon so you can “pin” I Was In Love With a Short Man Once to your boards. If you’re not on Pinterest, go check it out – it is crazy addictive!
Kim: Just that, in addition to my husband and son, the stories in my book were inspired by my girlfriends. All women need “get-out-of-jail” girlfriends. The type of women who will bail you out of jail, no questions asked, or be sitting right next to you in the cell. My get-out-of- jail girlfriends are my soul mates and my source of power. I also recommend that in addition to surrounding yourself with gal pals, every woman should own at least one red coat. You put on a pair of boots and a red coat and you can rule the world.
Morgen: What a wonderful image. I do indeed own a red coat so I’ll have to dig out some boots next time I wear it. Thank you, Kimba.
Kimberly “Kimba” J. Dalferes is a native Floridian, but has spent the past sixteen years pretending to be a Virginian. She is a bit worried that much of her current writing focuses on public transportation and she has no rational explanation as to why this is true. Her accomplishments have included successfully threading a sewing bobbin, landing a 35 pound Alaskan King salmon, and scoring a Chinese vase at an estate sale for $1. She recently discovered that she might be related to Princess Margaret Tudor, the sister of King Henry the VIII (on her mama’s side). A proud Florida State University graduate, she often sings the Seminole fight song out loud for no reason other than she still remembers all the words. She currently lives, works, and writes in Fairfax, Virginia with her husband Greg, dog Taz, and occasionally her son Jimmy, when he is home from college.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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