Ep 15 Ask questions to writers, what writers really earn, why you need Canva, and meet split personality author Kim Wilkins/Kimberley Freeman.

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In Episode 15 of So you want to be a writer, take a break to write, Goodreads launches ‘ask the author’ section, old writer’s notebooks, author earnings: established vs debut, Amazon and Hachette to decide future of book publishing and what this means for you, the comprehensive book blogger list, Writer in Residence Dr. Kim Wilkins (aka Kimberley Freeman), why you need Canva in your life and those famous last words: “I’ll write when…”

Click play below to listen to the podcast. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher Radio. Or add the podcast RSS feed manually to your favourite podcast app.

Show Notes

Atwood and Hosseini on Goodreads ‘Ask the Author’

Writers’ notebooks: ‘A junkyard of the mind’

The Tenured vs. Debut Author Report

Amazon’s Hachette Dispute Foreshadows What’s Next for Indie Authors

Writers Feel an Amazon-Hachette Spat

The Book Blogger List

Writer in Residence

Kimberley FreemanKimberley has written for as long as she can remember and she is proud to write in many genres. She is an award-winning writer in children’s, historical and speculative fiction under her birth name Kim Wilkins. She adopted the pen name Kimberley Freeman for her commercial women’s fiction novels Duet and Gold Dust to honour her maternal grandmother and to try and capture the spirit of the page-turning novels she has always loved to read. Kim has an Honours degree, a Masters degree and a PhD from The University of Queensland where she is also a lecturer. She lives in Brisbane with her young family.

http://kimberleyfreeman.com/
Kim’s TEDxUQ Talk

Web Pick

Canva

Working Writer’s Tip

Do you need to go away to write?

Writers’ Centre Pinterest
Pink Fibro Bookclub
Writers’ Centre Facebook

Your hosts:

Allison Tait
Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter:

@altait
@valeriekhoo

Transcript

Allison

Dr. Kim Wilkins is a senior lecturer in writing, editing and publishing at the University of Queensland, and the author of more than 20 novels for adults and children. She writes across genres under two names: Kim Wilkins for award-winning children’s historical and speculative fiction, and the pen name Kimberley Freeman for her hugely popular women’s fiction and maintains two blogs/websites; one for each.

Kim has two books out this year, one for each of her personalities, Kim Wilkins is bringing out Daughters of the Storm in November, and Kimberley Freeman has Evergreen Falls coming out in September.

Welcome, Kim!

Kim
Hi!

Allison
I’m exhausted after just reading that, let alone doing any of it.

Kim
Yeah, I’m a little exhausted too.

Allison
The first question I have to ask you is how do you fit it all in? As well as lecturing and writing under two names you also have a young family, where do you find the time for all of this?

Kim
Well, I don’t watch television, maybe that’s it.

I’m the only person in the Western world who’s never seen Breaking Bad.

Allison
No, you’re not because I haven’t either.

Kim
OK, nor do I watch Game of Thrones, which people think is incredibly weird. I don’t watch television.

I actually don’t know how I do it all. I think one of the things that I would say though is that my writing is my hobby, it’s the thing I like to do best in the world. It’s not sort of another thing to fit into my day, it’s, “I’ve had a really crap day, so I’m going to go write for awhile and that will sort me out.” Maybe it’s just that. Maybe it’s simply that little shift of perspective. Obviously, I have a lot of crap days because I write a lot.

Allison
I was fixing to say, you certainly do.

Do you write everyday? Are you a habitual writer in the sense of do you get up at five o’clock every morning and do your hour?

Kim
Do you know what? I used to do that. I used to be five o’clock, up I’d get. I’d do my thousand words and I would have my breakfast, but then I had kids.

Allison
Yeah, it doesn’t work any more.

Kim
No, that doesn’t work. I just write when I can. I make time to write when I can.

I am a habitual writer when I’m working on a project. I’m not working on a project at the moment. I’m not putting words down on a project at the moment, I’m in the sort of research and planning phase of a project. But, when I am writing I will do it in chunks. I’ve got this fabulous program called Freedom, which locks you out of the internet.

Allison
Yep.

Kim
I’ll put that on and I’ll say, “I’m going to write for two hours,” and I’ll put it on for two hours and write as much as I can in that two hours. It’s usually a significant amount. That’s kind of how I do it, by locking myself out of the internet.

Allison
And not watching television – there you go, the secrets to writing success: don’t watch TV or look at the internet.

Kim
I got Foxtel earlier this year, what a waste of money that was.

Allison
How did you come to publish your first book, which is The Infernal back in 1997? How did that come about for you?

Kim
I know – 1997, so long ago now.

Allison
It is a long time, isn’t it?

Kim
Well, I’ve been writing for a long time, so The Infernal wasn’t the first book I wrote, it was just the first book that I published. I think I have about 10 unpublished manuscripts. I’ve been writing since I was a child. And so it was just kind of this process of getting slightly closer and slightly closer to the goal. I think in the mid-90s I had a book nearly accepted for a young adult series and then the series folded. That kind of gave me the juice to keep going. I’m glad now that I didn’t get that first book published, because I think that would have set my career up in quite a different way.

The method I got published was a fairly tried and true one, I kept writing until I was good enough and then I met someone who was a good contact and created goodwill within that network, and then an agent who knew that person picked up my work and liked and sold it on. It’s a very common theme, you know? Do your best work, maintain good relationships and that’s how you get published.

Allison
We’re talking 17 years, approximately, if my maths is any good, which it’s not.

Kim
And clearly I was only 11 at the time.

Allison
Clearly, I mean you were so young – a child prodigy.

How much has publishing changed for you over that time, because it’s been a fairly turbulent and hectic time in publishing in that period that you’ve been published. Has it affected you in the sense of you’ve rethought how you do things, or anything like that?

Kim
Yeah. I think the publishing industry and what it goes through is one aspect of it, but, you know, every author’s career also goes through peaks and troughs, and mine has certainly been through that. I’ve been adaptable in terms of when the market hasn’t supported my work, I’ve changed the work that I do. The Kimberley Freeman books were born of the fact that I felt that I said all I could say in the other genre I was writing in, at least for awhile. I sort of pitched this book to my agent and she loved it, and she, “Well, contemporary women’s fiction is doing very well, I think it would be a smart choice”, as well as something that I wanted to do. And so Kimberley Freeman basically reinvigorated my career and kept me going for several more years until I could get another fantasy book published.

Allison
Do you love equally writing those genres?

Kim
Oh yeah. I love writing, full-stop. When it’s flowing it’s the best fun you can have by yourself, there’s no doubt about it. I’m making up the stories and my fingers are flying across the keyboard and people are doing stuff and saying things, and climbing mountains and falling down. It’s happening and it’s unfolding in front of my eyes, and I’m sort of putting it all down as quickly as I can. The actual act of writing I love no matter what fiction I’m writing, I find non-fiction kind of boring.

In the research phase I certainly do prefer the fantasy, because I’m borderline obsessed with Anglo-Saxons and mythology. When I said I find writing non-fiction boring I mostly read non-fiction, I read much more non-fiction than fiction.

Allison
That’s really interesting, but you don’t enjoy writing it?

Kim
No.

Allison
“Write what you know,” they say, well, maybe not.

Kim
Yeah. Know all about what you write, that’s where all the reading the non-fiction comes in.

Allison
Yeah, fair enough.

You’ve also written children’s fiction in the past, is that something that you will go back to as well?

Kim
Maybe. I don’t have time at the moment. I’ve got a really good idea for a children’s book at the back of my mind, for a book for a girl who’s about eight, which is my daughter’s age. I occasionally get incredible mother guilt thinking, “If you were a really good mother you would write this book for your child who’s eight while she’s still eight,” because if I leave it until I’m out of contract I won’t write it until she’s 12 and then she won’t be interested in it, and it will have to be longer.

Allison
Oh, no.

Kim
But, generally speaking, I don’t write for children. There are a few reasons for that. I guess writing for children I do feel a little bit that I have to put the brakes on.

Allison
Right, yeah.

Kim
People can’t swear and have sex and kill each other with, you know, broken glass.

Allison
Gusto?

Kim
Yeah, or gusto. Or both.

Allison
Tell us about the books that you have coming out this year. What can we expect?

Kim
Evergreen Falls comes out in September, and this is a Kimberley Freeman book. I pitched it to my agent as The Shining without the supernatural in the 1920s.

Allison
Nice.

Kim
It’s about a group of people who go up to a posh hotel, a very, very posh expensive hotel in the Blue Mountains in 1926. The main character is a waitress who is based on my grandmother who worked in posh hotels in the 1920s. She’s up there as well.

A really heavy snowfall comes in, they get cut off while there’s just a few of them left, there’s only, I think, six or seven of the guests left. While they’re cut off something horrible happens, and when they come back down nobody ever speaks of it again.

That’s the main sort of story, and wrapped around that is the story of a young woman who comes to the Blue Mountains in the present who’s dealing with her own sort of family mystery.

Allison
It sounds great.

Kim
It’s all family mysteries and forbidden love and stuff like that – and frocks, 1920s frocks.

I’ll tell you my grandma wrote her memoir before she died, she didn’t publish it, she just wrote it for us, and that section of her time working at the big posh hotel in the 1920s, I have read it now so many times, and every dress that’s described in the book comes out of grandma’s memoir.

Allison
Oh, wow. How exciting!

Kim
Yep, word for word. I didn’t have to go look up the costume guide, I just took it out of grandma’s book. So, if anyone says, “That’s historically inaccurate,” well, I can tell them get bent.

Allison
Thanks, Grandma.

Kim
I should tell you about my other book, sorry.

Allison
Yes, you should. Yes.

Kim
In November I have a fantasy novel coming out, it’s sort of like historical fantasy set in a kind of alternative version of Anglo-Saxon England. It’s about five daughters of a chieftain, a king. Something bad happens to the king and the five daughters have to sort it out. They’re all really interesting. There’s a really cool warrior princess, and there’s a Viking king and there’s a magic sword – just that kind of stuff.

Allison
All good stuff.

Kim
I love it so much. It’s so cool. I love that book so much, I can’t wait for people to read it.

Allison
Fantastic.

Kim
And I don’t care if only five people buy it, as long as those five people love it as much as I loved writing it.

Allison
There you go. Well, I’m lining up for it, sounds great, like my kind of thing.

Kim
Thank you.

Allison
Let’s talk about your publishing schedule, how do you organise it when you’ve got the two coming out quite close together here. Do you plan a book a year for each name? Is it all haphazard? How does it work?

Kim
It’s somewhere in between those two. If somebody offers me a contract, I don’t say no. I mean why would I? I would be insane to say ‘no’ to book contracts. I take them and I try to sort of work out where they’re going to fit. One of the problems has been that with Kimberley Freeman the last three Christmases I have had a book due in February. I’ve got my kids with me on school holidays and I’m trying to finish a book on a tight deadline, and it’s been slightly unpleasant.

Allison
Yeah, that’s not fun.

Kim
I’m trying to be a bit wiser this time and see if I can get a different due date. It doesn’t take me long to write a book. I think that’s really the key, and I think this answers your first question as well.

Allison
Yes.

Kim
The books that are coming out this year are number 25 and number 26, and you’d think by number 26 I would probably know how to do this with a minimum of fuss. And that is the case, it’s like anything that you’ve done heaps, you just get better at it. The first time you make a lasagna it’s a huge mess and it takes you two hours, by the 50th time you’ve made it you’re a finely honed machine. I’m entering the finely honed machine phase.

If you’ve got people out there who are writers, which I presume you do, you may well want to be asking, “Am I a plotter or am I a pantser?”. Well, I’m a plotter, that’s how a book is written quickly and that’s how they come out the right shape, they don’t require much structural feedback, and you can just get on with the line edit and publish the damn thing.

Allison
When you say you’re a plotter, you’re a spreadsheet kind of plotter, like every scene, every – etcetera?

Kim
Spreadsheets are awful! No, no, no. I think the problem is these terms, plotter and pantser, and for those who don’t know pantser means flying by the seat of your pants, sort of making it up as you go along, they’re – it’s a false dichotomy. I don’t think they’re the opposite of each other. I think they exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, and everyone is sort of on that spectrum somewhere. People will say they’re pantsers, but if you say to them, “Do you have any ideas for any key scenes?”, they have, they kind of know where the book’s going.

Allison
Right.

Kim
There are people who are right at the other end of the plotting spectrum who really do, they need to dot point every scene and spreadsheet it and so on.

I have a general idea of how the story is going to flow from beginning to end, like where the major transition points are, where the beginning becomes the middle, where the middle becomes the end, that kind of thing. And then I sort of divide it up and sort of brainstorm ideas and sort of put them in some kind of order. From that maybe I will brainstorm the beginning with a bunch of scenes, or brainstorm part of the middle, and then I plot maybe two chapters ahead, in quite a lot of detail. And that means that when I sit down to write, when I turn off the internet and have my two hours, I look at my notebook and I go, “OK, well, I’ve got to write a scene where Sam and Violet meet in secret and they go and dance in the empty ballroom while the snow falls” – that kind of thing.

I even go as far as to before I sit down at my computer I work out the first line and the last line of the scene. That means that I never sit down at my computer and I’m unable to write.

Allison
Right, you know exactly where you’re going, basically.

Kim
Yeah, I’m pretty efficient. I’m pretty efficient.

Allison
With your two books that you’ve got coming out this year, for example, did you work on them at the same time or do you have quite clear delineations?

Kim
No, I have never worked on two books at the same time. In fact, what happened was Daughters of the Storm I wrote in 2010 and I finished and I didn’t feel like it was right, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. So, I put it aside for a year and wrote a Kimberley Freeman book and then pulled it out, brushed it off, tried to edit it. I still didn’t feel like it was right. Sent it away for some feedback to someone who I really trust, got some great feedback on it, and then I just didn’t get time to work on it again until last year. Then as soon as it was finished, I had to rewrite the whole middle, and as soon as it was finished it was accepted for publication. It was worth doing that extra work on it.

Allison
Wow, OK.

Do you feel that the teaching that you do, like it’s obviously fairly high-level and quite time-consuming as well I would imagine, but do you feel that helps with your own writing?

Kim
No. No, it doesn’t. I think one of the things about you being a lecturer at university that people don’t understand is that less than half of your job is teaching, and a lot of that teaching is actually made up of supervising post-graduates and so on.

Allison
Yep.

Kim
In terms of supervising post-graduates, yes, you absolutely do learn so much from working on other people’s manuscripts, where you go, “Oh, wow, look they’re doing that… mental note: never do that.” Or if they’re fantastic – I have a lot of fantastic post-graduates. I’ve got a lot of post-graduate students who are multiple published authors, you’ll read what they do and just get so inspired by it. In terms of sort of teaching undergraduates and grading papers and stuff like that, no, it’s just a huge pain in the ass.

Allison
OK, fair enough. That makes sense.

Kim
But, I don’t do a great deal of it, you know? I mean as I said, half the job is sort of writing reports and writing research papers on sort of esoteric topics that no one ever reads.

Allison
Great. Maybe that’s why you don’t like non-fiction very much.

Kim
Yeah. No, I think that’s probably exactly why I don’t like writing non-fiction.

Allison
All right, so let’s talk a little bit about the idea of the of the author platform because you have been doing this, as you say, for quite a long time. What are your thoughts on this business of author platforms, because it is something that we’ve seen – it’s become very much a buzz term in the last few years. How important is it do you think?

Kim
Oh, wow. I just did a 20-minute TED talk on this in March, and it’s just gone up on YouTube. If people want to look on YouTube for ‘Kim Wilkins TEDxUQ’…

Allison
I’ll put a link in the show notes. I’ll find it.

Kim
… I talk about this at length. We are encouraged to be on as many sort of social media as we can, and have as much sort of digital author platform as we can. When I say ‘encouraged’, it’s not really voluntary.

Allison
No.

Kim
It’s pretty much mandatory. That’s all well and good and it is a lovely way to get in touch with people. My sort of social media poison of choice is Facebook. It’s been wonderful to connect with my readers and everything on Facebook, but it does represent a huge potential time sink and energy sink too, I might add. We really do have to balance the need to be – the creative nature, what you need to do to be creative you have to balance those needs against your need for constant shallow affirmation, which is what social media gives you.

So you have to be in control of it, you need to use it for good instead of evil, and that’s really, really important. What happens is if you’ve ever found yourself waiting for five minutes somewhere, just five minutes, just say you’re waiting at the gate for your kids to come out of school, what do you do? You pull your phone out of your pocket and you go on Facebook or you check your email, whereas ten years ago you would have just looked at the trees. I think we need to do more looking at trees, you know? We need to do more sort of reflection, just quiet reflection and we need to just wait, because when you’re waiting and reflecting the ideas come.

Allison
Yep, that’s very true. When your mind is busy – with life and things.

Kim
Mine is busy all of the time. You know what happens when you’re busy all the time or when you’ve got that feeling of busyness upon you all the time life just flies past, it flies past at a rate of knots and you find yourself saying things like, “Oh goodness, February is almost over, and gosh, I’m so busy.” You say to people, people say, “How are you?” and you say, “I’m busy.”

Allison
Yeah, yeah. No, it’s so true.

Kim
We’re not busy. We’re not that bloody busy.

Allison
No, but our heads are busy, aren’t they? That’s the problem.

Kim
Step away from the internet. Exactly.

Allison
Yep.

Kim
If you can just focus even a little bit, even if you can’t make the big holistic change in life and do the yoga, make your own yoghurt and everything. I think it’s really, really important just to make time for reflection, to be present in the moment. Yeah, the next time you get that urge, that twitch reflex to get out your phone and go on Facebook, don’t. Look at a tree, and I swear to you you’ll do that more often, your life improves, time slows down, you have better relationships and you write better.

Allison
Given that’s coming from you, who sounds like one of the busiest people in the world I will take that advice on board.

Speaking of advice let’s talk about your three main pieces of advice for people who want to be writers.

Kim
Yep, no problem… who want to be writers. OK, I’m not going to talk about craft, I’m going to talk about sort of personal disposition – is that OK?

Allison
That’s fantastic, yep.

Kim
OK, then. I’ve actually spoken about them all in this interview. The first one is have good work habits. Have excellent work habits, don’t go and check the internet all of the time. Make sure you make time to write, make it a priority, and sort of maintain good writing hygiene.

The second one is build and maintain good relationships, because goodwill in the industry is one of the most important things that you can have.

And the third one is be prepared to diversify. Don’t say, “All I ever want to write is paranormal romance for teenagers,” and never vary from that. Be prepared to diversify and explore other aspects of your craft and your creativity, and you’ve kind of got more of a chance of writing success.

Allison
Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time today, we really, really appreciate it. You’ve given us a huge amount of fantastic information there. Very best of luck with both of your books coming out later this year.

Kim
Thank you.

Allison
OK, see you later.

Kim
Bye.


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