Kenley Davidson Author Interview
by Shaun Griffiths for One Stop Fiction
Kenley Davidson is a story-lover, word-nerd and incurable introvert who is most likely to be found either writing or hiding somewhere with a book. A native Oregonian, Kenley now resides in Oklahoma, where she persists in remaining a devoted pluviophile. Addictions include coffee, roller coasters, more coffee, researching random facts, and reading the dictionary (which is way more fun than it sounds). A majority of her time is spent being mom to two kids and two dogs while inventing reasons not to do laundry (most of which seem to involve books).
I had to google pluviophile—even my spell checker didn't recognize the word! So you are quite unique. Do you get a lot of rain in Oklahoma?
Actually, we don’t get nearly as much rain as I’d like! It’s one of the things I miss most about living in Oregon. The sound of rain dripping from the eaves, the squeak of windshield wipers, and the squelching of wet shoes through puddles all make me feel a little happy and a little homesick!
I've also heard tell that Joanna Penn writes to a recording of rain on a loop. What is your writing desk like? Do you write in an office or a cafe? Is it quiet or noisy with a view or just hustle and bustle?
My writing desk is most often my kitchen table, or any place else I can find room for my laptop. I’ve never been able to write well with distractions, so I have done most of my writing in my kitchen when no one else is home, or shut in my bedroom while I ignore whatever is going on in the rest of the house. I occasionally dream of having one of those little backyard office/sheds where I can go to be alone and write and be surrounded by nothing but my books and my music and the smell of coffee, but that’s probably a good few years in the future.
As a lady with responsibilities, when do you write? Are you a morning person or do you write whenever the inspiration takes you? Do you set daily goals, word counts, or write till you drop?
When my kids are in school, I try to work on my writing every day. Some days it’s new material, some days it’s editing. When I’m working on new stuff, I write as much as I can, usually anywhere from 2000 to 8000 words, but I don’t usually set goals. When the words aren’t there, there’s no amount of goal-setting that will help. One thing I do try to avoid is writing late at night. When I’m thinking about plots too close to bedtime I have a really hard time shutting down my brain for the night and generally end up waking up half a dozen times to jot down all the amazing ideas I come up with when I should be sleeping!
Your first novel Traitor's Masque is still riding high in the Amazon listing. Do you spend a lot of time promoting your work? What works for you marketing wise?
I really haven’t had as much time as I would like to work on promoting my books. I have a to-do list/marketing plan, but that will probably have to wait until the end of summer when the kids are back in school. To this point we’ve really just been trying out different advice to see what works. So far we haven’t had much luck with ads, though we did do really well with a free promotion on Traitor's Masque.
Have you found social media is a help for your author profile? Is one platform more productive than another?
I can’t say that I’ve found social media to be that much help when it comes to selling books. I occasionally hear from readers on Facebook, (which I love) and I try to follow and occasionally interact with other self-published authors on Twitter, which has been super helpful in terms of advice. Twitter also helps me remember that other writers have a lot of the same quirks and problems that I do!
Do you outsource much of the work when it comes to publishing and marketing? Do you have much input in cover design? Do you do your own formatting, uploading, promotions, for example?
I am super fortunate to have a husband who is good at technology and enjoys doing the marketing/design side of the publishing business. He has a ton of experience in graphic design and web development, so that part of it was a natural fit for him. I will freely admit that my career would have tanked before it started if I was handling any of that myself. I suppose you could say that I get all the stress-free fun of outsourcing, but I still have all the control over the cover designs and get to tweak everything as much as I want. I art-direct everything shamelessly (which my husband puts up with like a saint), so I feel like pretty much the luckiest author ever.
How do you feel about Amazon's dominance in the self publishing market? Do you feel others sources are being pushed out by the mighty one?
I haven’t spent a lot of time considering this question, honestly. Right now, the basic reality is that Amazon makes it possible for me to sell books and be visible in ways the other markets don’t. I write because I love writing and want to tell good stories, but I publish because I need to make money at it.
Right now Amazon looks like they have the best system for making that happen, but if other outlets eventually become competitive I’d love to consider them as well. Competition should theoretically make things better for all of us as authors. I’m not going to blame Amazon for the lack of competition though—they’ve simply adapted to the market better and faster than anyone else.
What do you think are the key points a romantic novel needs to have to grab interest?
I need characters I can care about and invest in. Even if a novel has an amazing plot, if the characters are boring, too perfect, two-dimensional, or huge jerks, I’m just not going to care enough to read it.
Which books do you read for pleasure? Who are your favorite authors? Which genre?
This is pretty much the hardest question you could’ve asked, as I have way too many favorites! When I’m reading for pleasure, I want to read stories with characters that stick with me and make me care about them. Some of my favorite authors are Terry Pratchett, Sharon Shinn, Jane Austen, Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, Patricia Briggs, and Ilona Andrews. Genre really doesn’t matter as much to me as character, but I do prefer books that have at least some romance in them.
What is the best advice you would offer anyone starting out on their writing career... books, courses, forums etc? What is the best piece of advice you have been given as an author?
So, I’m going to risk honesty here and say that too much advice almost stopped my writing career before it started. I went to a couple of writing conferences, which were awesome and filled with great information and fantastic people giving out great advice.
Then I read some books and followed some blogs and before too long I was overwhelmed by all of the voices insisting that there was only one specific way to be a writer. The biggest problem was, of course, that not all of them agreed.
So I went back and picked up some of my own favorite novels and began to dissect them according to all of the advice I’d absorbed, only to realize that not one of them seemed to follow all of those rules I’d been trying to utilize.
What made them magical had nothing to do with whether or not they used adverbs, or avoided verbs of being, or remembered to show instead of tell. Now, I realize I’m treading on sacred ground here, but the absolute best advice I’ve ever received and could therefore ever offer is this: read. Read as many books as you can. Read across genre and absorb stories like they are food and water and air. I’m not saying that we should ignore all rules of good writing, but when stories are in your blood, it is far easier to know when and how it’s ok to break the rules and simply tell whatever story you’re longing to tell in the way that is uniquely you.
Trystan is no fairy tale princess — she’s part of a sinister plot to overthrow the kingdom of Andar. When her betrayal endangers the man she loves, Trystan will have just one chance at redemption, and may have to choose between her kingdom and her heart. A thrilling and suspenseful reimagining of Cinderella!
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