Welcome to the seventy-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with suspense / fantasy author Darren Kirby. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hi Darren. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Darren: I always like to give people a laugh and tell them that I’m weird and proud of it!
Morgen: Weird is great, I love weird. 🙂
Darren: I think normal is good sometimes, but being abnormal from time to time is good. And it works really well if you want to be a writer! I’ve dreamt about being a writer for years, since I was just a boy. Unfortunately, I was too afraid to do anything about it – too afraid that I couldn’t do it, or that no-one would like what I wrote. Eventually, the dream got the best of me, and here I am working feverishly on my first novel, “Coordinates For Murder”.
Morgen: I was going to say that you’re lucky, knowing what you wanted to do from an early age but that may be more frustrating than, like me, only realising a few years ago what I wanted to do with my life, and now live and breathe it. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Darren: I don’t think that I have a specific genre yet that I prefer to write in. Right now, my first novel will be in the Suspense category, but I’ve also got an idea for a Fantasy series as well as a series based on a popular television series. I would love to explore other genres, even if I’m the only one who read what I wrote. Probably would avoid romance, but one should never say never!
Morgen: Romance is popular but really an author should only write what he or she wants to (otherwise it’s bound to come across in their writing). I’d toyed with the idea of doing Mills & Boons (as many authors probably have, it being seen as ‘easy’, which it really isn’t) but I’m not that kind of writer. I was recently told by an agent that I’m “a crime writer and should write crime”. With a definitive dark side, I didn’t need to be told twice. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Darren: Presently, I’m just marketing myself and my forthcoming novel. I’ve got the usual suspects for online marketing: Facebook, Twitter, blog, Goodreads, etc. Additionally, I’ll be doing some “real world” marketing, at least locally.
Morgen: Ooh great. I hope that goes well. A tip I heard a while back from an author was if you spot one doing a book signing go up and chat to them even if you don’t want to buy their book. They’d rather be talked to than left alone, although think twice if all you want to do is ask the way to the toilet as I know one has been asked at a conference! I mentioned agents a moment ago, do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Darren: Agents are one of those things that are in major flux right now in the publishing industry. The traditional agent model is going to be a dwindling set, in my opinion. Instead, the new agent model will be one that addresses the author more than ever, seeking to maximize the author’s potential in a variety of formats, not just books. I think the vitality question is answered on a case-by-case basis, as what works for me may not work for the next person. And that’s as it should be – nobody wants cookie-cutter books, right?
Morgen: Unless you’re a chef. 🙂 Will your books be available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Darren: I am planning to offer my books as ebooks first, with print books next in line, followed by audiobook versions as well. Wearing my marketing hat, it only makes sense to hit the largest potential audience that I can. I know people that read ebooks and love them, others that still love the print book, and still others who listen to audiobooks the vast majority of the time. Why would I choose to alienate a segment of my readership, especially since it’s so easy to hit all of these relatively easily? I highly recommend that an author go through the process of getting their ebook/pbook/abook together at least once, just so they understand the process. Once you know that, you’ll know what is possible and what isn’t, and at that point you can effectively partner with someone else who can handle those aspects, if you want to go that route.
Morgen: I love audiobooks. They’re great for when I walk the dog / to work and have waded through the writing-related podcasts I subscribe to. I have one book ready to go as an eBook but have often heard that you shouldn’t just put one up (although this is a writing workbook rather than fiction) because if someone likes it and there’s nothing else for them to buy, they’ll move on. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Darren: I’m presently working on my first novel, “Coordinates For Murder”. I’ve already got the sequel in the works, as well as book #3 in the series. Also, I’m slowly putting together a unique world for my Fantasy series. Did I mention that I have ZERO problems coming up with story ideas? Pages and pages of them! I love my brain!
Morgen: Me too. I love my brain, that is… and have more ideas than time (helped by over a dozen display books filled with newspaper cuttings). Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Darren: No, and I’m such a slouch! I need to be writing nearly every day, but lately I haven’t been – life has been getting in the way. I’ve managed to crank out pages of material in hours, but I don’t like the quality. I need things to stew a bit in my brain before they live on paper, and this is before I put on my editors cap.
Morgen: Ah but you’re getting it down/out. As the saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page and you never know if you come back to it later it may not be as bad as you think (or it might be but by then you’ll have forgotten the meaning behind it and it’ll be easier to pull apart). What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Darren: Some days I think it’s a myth, other days I think it’s managed to wrestle me to the floor and handcuff me!
Morgen: I like that image. 🙂
Darren: The thing that seems to work for me is just to get writing the first sentence, then the next one, and then the words start to flow a little more freely. I guess that’s the “push through” method! LOL
Morgen: One of the exercises I often set for our Monday night writing workshop are sentence beginnings (I’ve posted loads at http://twitter.com/sentencestarts – sorry, quick plug :)) and whilst they work for me, one of my writers, Denny, said they’re her least favourite task and that struggles with them, although she usually comes out with a great end result! Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Darren: Up until tackling my first novel, I never plotted out my stories, which were all short stories. Then I tried doing my novel for a first-go-round like this, and things quickly got bogged down. I’ve since tried using the Snowflake Method for handling a novel, and I think I’ve fallen in love with it!
Morgen: I interviewed poet Chris Ringrose recently (for my podcast – details at https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/bwt-podcast) and he mentioned the Snowflake Method which I’d not heard of before and I’ve been hearing it a lot since then. 🙂 I’ve gone the route you’ve gone, short stories then novels and whilst I’ve enjoyed doing them (three for http://nanowrimo.org and one and a half in between) and plan to do NaNoWriMo every November I can, I’ve gone back to my first love and plan to put anthologies out as eBooks before / instead of the novels. We’ll see how that goes. Anyway, I’m rambling. You were talking about the Snowflake Method.
Darren: It has helped me tremendously with developing better characters, making sure that my story line doesn’t get too off topic, etc. In fact, I’m blogging about each of the steps on my blog, http://darrenkirby.blogspot.com. I really think that there is some great information with the method, even if you only use part of the ideas Randy offers.
Morgen: You mentioned characters, how do you create your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Darren: What makes a really believable character is understanding as much about them as possible. If you, as the writer, know everything there is to know about them, then you can write them as authentic, real, believable, three dimensional people.
Morgen: I totally agree.
Darren: For example, in my first novel, I know my characters’ parents, what they do, where they went to school, if they have any significant others (or not), what they like, love, dislike, loath, what their current job is, what aspirations they have, and so on. This is what makes great characters, the nuances. It’s what makes people different from each other – the nuances!
Morgen: Very thorough. 🙂 Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Darren: Well, I think it will probably be my wife. She’s waiting until I finish the whole novel before she reads it, but the little bit that she’s read so far she really likes. After that, I’ve got a few people that will read it for errors, continuity, etc., so those would be next. After that, it’s out to the world!
Morgen: Continuity; the joy of the novel. And the joining of threads by the end. That’s what I love about the short form… less of it! 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Darren: I do some editing along the way as I write, but I definitely need at least a second run-through to clean up more things. I don’t anticipate that this will change, although it would be nice if the editing portion took less and less time, as that would mean that I’m getting better and better at working things out in my head first.
Morgen: I think two edits is pretty good going. I do about four on average but a recent interviewee put his in the twenties! What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Darren: Lots and lots of mental energy expended! Plus, a lot of pre-writing: plotting, character development, different story lines/threads. After putting in hours on these things, then it’s time to make things live on paper.
Morgen: And the fun starts. 🙂 Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Darren: Absolutely the computer. I think I would quit being a writer after a day if I had to use paper. Too many mistakes!
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Darren: Probably. However, you can never know. I guess it depends on how dark/weird/bad the piece is. Again, never say never.
Morgen: That sounds then like you have nothing so far that you’ve not done something with, that’s promising. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Darren: I absolutely love coming up with ideas to explore! I mentioned earlier that I have pages of ideas, and that keeps growing each week. I will have no shortage of story ideas to keep me busy for more than my one lifetime. This is definitely the most enjoyable part. I’m least happy with my lack of time spent in the chair – actually sitting and writing the dang thing. At least I’ve got control over that one, which is nice.
Morgen: You have but as you said, I think we all know how ‘life’ takes over. If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Darren: The biggest surprise has been that others actually like what I’m writing about. It’s really a neat kick to know that someone else could identify and enjoy what I wrote. It’s a special connection that is really cool.
Morgen: Isn’t it just. My writing group have said that my writing’s the best it’s ever been and I do feel that I’m at a stage know where I know what I’m doing which is great, but I just need to get “writing the dang things” and sending them out again. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Darren: Write, write, and then write some more. And definitely read, especially genres and authors that are outside your comfort zone. Also, find more local authors – these are gems just waiting to be found. Some of the best books I’ve ever read were done by authors that live within 2 hours of me! Who would have thought that possible?
Morgen: That’s great! I know a few local authors and have enjoyed what they’ve written and it does make it special to be able to discuss it with them face-to-face. What do you like to read?
Darren: Plenty of different things: suspense, thrillers, techno/sci-fi, mystery, some non-fiction as well. I’ve even read a chick-lit book! And I’m not ashamed to say that I liked it. Okay, maybe a little embarrased, but it was a fun read!
Morgen: Chick lit’s fun. And I think it’s important to have a mix of light and dark (I read crime too) to keep yourself balanced. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Darren: I live in the United States, in the state of Wisconsin. Living here I think is a double-edged sword – we’ve got technology up the whazoo…
Morgen: I like that. 🙂
Darren: …but that just makes it harder to connect with my target audience. Marketing is a thankless, never-ending job.
Morgen: It can be, yes, but necessary and rewarding when it goes somewhere. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Darren: You can read about me and my upcoming novel at my blog site: http://darrenkirby.blogspot.com.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Darren: Writers today have so many options available to them that weren’t possible just 10 years ago. Now is the time to take advantage of things! We will see more and more people making a successful career out of writing, no matter where in the world they are. It used to be that one would be concerned with just their home country, but now I can have sales of my novel in the U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia, and a host of other countries. Authors can truly be international bestsellers, and they can do it easier and faster than ever. It’s an exciting time to be an author!
Morgen: I totally agree and it’s got agents and publishers on the hop, which makes a change for the authors to have more control (which definitely suits me). Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Darren: I can’t wait to publish my first novel, and I hope that I can do this full-time very soon. It’s just so much fun!
Morgen: Isn’t it great! I don’t think there’s anything quite like it, for me anyway, and yes, I’d love to write full-time but bank manager wouldn’t approve just at this moment. 🙂 Thanks Darren for taking part and do let me know how it all goes.
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