dirtywhitecandy: Phew, brilliant questions, Kim! Thanks so much for hosting me and I’m really flattered to be your hundredth post! You’re such a creative dynamo you definitely deserve a telegram from the Queen.
A pic or two is enclosed, with a different interview hat…
dirtywhitecandy:I’ve ghostwritten eight bestselling novels which I can’t name because
they’re a trade secret. I freelance edit, mentoring other writers to help
them shape up their novels to a state where they can be presented to the
market, and I’m coming out from under the ghostly sheet with novels of my
own. I’m represented by Jane Conway-Gordon in London. The rest of the time I
work as a freelance magazine editor – and occasionally as a movie extra!
Not really. I’ve always been very creative and when I was a child I liked making up music and drawing comics. But the thing I enjoyed most was writing. It didn’t really matter what it was – stories, school essays… I had a number of pen friends and they got very long letters! I’ve always had a feeling that when I put words on a page it is more important than writing, it is a performance. I can never dash off even a short email, it has to be ‘right’.
So, to answer your question, I have always been a writer really.
dirtywhitecandy:Good writing. Any beautifully executed novel makes me want to get at my desk and make something!
girl with a quill: Where do you do write?
A lot of my writing goes on in my head – pacing about, or out running, or driving with the radio on. I also scribble a lot of notes to work out story problems. Thinking time is crucial for me. But when I’m getting the words down I have two official places. There’s my study, which has the whizzy internet computer and all my pictures, music, and all you intensely interesting people out on Twitter and blogs. Sometimes, though, I need to get away from all that. For those occasions I have a tiny laptop that folds into a handbag. I take it to a room in the house where none of those things will tempt me, and snuggle down with my manuscript.
I would say they’re story driven at the moment. I’m most inspired by people doing odd things. I then ask myself who would do it, and why, and where it might go, and who they might draw in. So the story comes first – and then I seek the people who need it.
girl with a quill: An interesting fact about you is that you have successfully ghostwritten 11 books for other people…What led you into this form of writing?
I got into it by a lucky break. I was doing a full-time job on a medical magazine and in my spare time was writing short stories and attempting a novel. My husband is a full-time writer and he had a commission that had gone wrong – the publisher changed their mind about the brief and wanted him to rewrite. He had other commitments so he gave the job to me and I wrote an entirely new novel for them. It was accepted and once I’d done that I was on their list of useful writers. The ghostwriting followed on from there.
Most ghosting jobs are circulated around people who publishers know and my name must have landed on the right desk at the right time!
girl with a quill: I know you cannot divulge who you ghosted for but can you tell us a little about the process? How does ghost-writing differ from your own writing?
Ghosting is writing a book pretending to be somebody else – mostly celebrities. Perhaps they’ve already published their memoirs (possibly also ghosted) and have branched out into novels – but need help with the craft of fiction writing. And they’re not always non-writers. Sometimes the megabrand established novelists use ghosts, outsourcing some of their early draft work to keep up with demand. And if a mega-selling author dies, a publisher might hire a ghostwriter to keep their brand alive beyond the grave.Ghostwriting is a colloboration. The actual details vary from project to project, but when I ghost I’m writing a book that is someone else’s idea, to please their readers – who wouldn’t necessarily be the same readers who would like my own work. I can’t use my own voice I have to develop a voice and style that is appropriate for the author I am ghosting. Also I can’t always take a story in the direction I want it to go, and if I have a blinding blast of inspiration I may not be able to use it. Also, if the ‘author’ (the person whose name is on the cover) doesn’t like what I’ve done, it’s their book and I have to rewrite it. That’s not to say that I can’t put something of myself into the book, but I must always remember the book is not mine.
dirtywhitecandy:I had to learn different ways to write. A journalism story is detached, as though it’s written by a machine. It condenses when a fiction writer should expand and draw you into a scene. I’ve always been quite sensitive to styles and narrative voices so I didn’t find it difficult, but you raise a good question because many journalists find it hard to slip off their analytical, detached voice. They find it particularly hard to inhabit a flawed character or be an unreliable narrator. I still do some journalism and switching back is amusing sometimes. If I’m editing a news story I often get the urge to spice up the interviewees’ quotes (and call them ‘dialogue’…)And by contrast, when fiction writers have to include a news story in their narrative, they can’t get the tone right. I’m sure you must have noticed that, Kim!But journalism has helped too. Journalism lives by deadlines – you find something to write and you get the words down. That’s great discipline for any writer. I don’t have to worry about grammar and punctuation because they’re ingrained. Also I’ve been a sub-editor, editing and proofing for press, so I can proof and copy-edit my own material to a professional standard (and often do this for others).
girl with a quill: Journalism and Fiction Writing are two different sides of a coin. One could almost say they directly oppose one another. Did being a journalist first help or hinder your fiction writing? How?
(See above, sorry, answered 2 questions in one go!)
girl with a quill: You have a fantastic website called Nailyournovel
This is where most people get to know you.
Can you tell us what the phrase “Nail your novel” means to you?
Great question! Novel-writing is complex. To do it well is a life-long process of learning. I believe in learning as much as I can about how stories work and how they are derailed, so that I can throw together a narrative that will do exactly what I want it to do.That may sound like it’s churning out predictable stories according to formulae, but in fact it is not. Story rules are like laws of physics; they are a natural order derived from the way we all make sense of the world. Humans see patterns, and that is where stories come from. The more deeply we understand this process, the more inventive, creative and daring we can be with the stories we create. Novel-writing as an intensely practical craft learned from the nuts and bolts of the world around us. I regard everything I see as potential storytelling tools, hence the rather practical name of the blog!The short answer is this: I’m trying to nail my novels – so I reckoned other people might be too!
dirtywhitecandy: So many people start a novel and drizzle to a stop. it’s a job that can get the better of you. Most of the beginner writers I talk to need to know how to organise all that business of characters, plot, using research and so on.Also a lot of the writers who come to me for editing help struggle with revising a novel. Because of this, they also can’t assess their novel’s structure – which is essential to whether it works or not – and they don’t dare to make major changes because it all looks too complicated. I disembowel my drafts quite blithely because I’ve developed ways to take control of my manuscripts. So I thought the most helpful thing I could do for people was to write a book about how I do that. Its full title is Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. Rather a mouthful, but that’s what it does!
You can read an excerpt from Nail Your Novel here – http://bit.ly/9uS40x
You can buy it from Lulu here – http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/nail-your-novel/5301103
I do have it on Amazon but my printer, Lulu, has mistakenly deleted my Amazon page. While I wrangle with them to get it back I have salvaged my reviews and you can read them here – http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/nail-your-novel-%E2%80%93-why-writers-abandon-books-and-how-you-can-draft-fix-and-finish-with-confidence/amazon-reviews-of-nail-your-novel/
girl with a quill: Along with your website, you also have a twitter account. Many people in the know in the publishing industry push how important it is to build a public platform through social media tools. As a published writer, would you agree that a public platform is necessary for pre-published and published writers alike?
It is absolutely, one-hundred per cent essential. Books only sell if they are publicised. But that doesn’t mean ramming your book down everyone’s throat. When you buy a book it’s usually because you want to spend time with the author. When you build a platform you are reaching out to find people who might want to spend time with what you write. It’s a slow process, as it is if you get to know anyone in the real world. When you build your platform that’s what you’re doing – being yourself and finding the people who enjoy your company.
Also, social media is a two-way street. You find the people whose company you enjoy too. Before I started blogging and chatting on Twitter and Facebook, I was holed up in my study, bashing away in isolation. Now I have the camaraderie of thousands of other writers out there. They’re writing posts and sharing links. If I need advice, I can send out a tweet and someone will tell me what I need to know. It’s like having a brilliant set of colleagues – we’re all writing, and we’re all in touch. More than that, I have made many genuine friends through Twitter, Facebook and my blog. In short, it’s great fun.
girl with a quill: What would be 3 pieces of advice that you would share with pre-published writers? Maybe even things you wished you had known as a young writer?
1 You will believe your first novel idea is brilliant and unique. It will probably not be. But when you learn what is wrong with it you will write a much better one.2 Find critique partners you trust and who understand the kind of novels you want to write
3 Even if you write a brilliant novel, that doesn’t mean you will find a conventional publisher. Mainstream publishing is governed by marketing departments and what is in fashion.
girl with a quill: Share a little of your writing process with us. Are you a plotter or a pantster? and Why?
Plotter, definitely. I have to know where I’m going, and also I find it very creative to make a detailed plan. The structure of the story is just as important as the moment-by-moment words.
girl with a quill: They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. A little bird told me that you are an exhibited artist as well as a published author. What type of artist are you and where have you exhibited?
(Laughs, very loudly…) Hardly. I took part in a self-portrait experiment at the rather smart Twentytwenty Gallery in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. Purely as a laugh, because I can never make pens do what I want them to do. I had a few goes in rough first. The first one came out far too small and squished in the corner, but at least there was room for more.
After some time I had managed several versions of myself if played by Ruby Wax, Matt Damon or someone with the wrong nose and a beard. Finally I ran out of space and stamina, so handed in the rough with a title: A Writer’s Quest for Control Over Hand and Pen. Not sure what the gallery made of it…
If you want to see it, it’s here… http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/seven-things/
girl with a quill: As both a writer and an artist, which statement is more true for you.
A picture is worth a thousand words. (Napoleon Bonaparte) (or)
It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it. (Anais Nin)
Both! But I can’t do pictures, so I tend to use the 1,000 words.
I’d have Tracey Emin, because she’s so self-absorbed. Who would think anyone would want to see her old bed? But she does, which means she’s very different from me, and I’d like to chat to her to see what makes her tick. Incidentally a friend of mine went to a ball with her boyfriend, and it turns out Ms Emin likes some of my ghosted books. So maybe we would have something in common…As for authors, I’d have Ian Fleming. He has such a sense of the extraordinary and the flamboyant. Plus I think he’d know what wine to order.I’d have to have him separately from Tracey Emin as I want to see each of them one on one, not watch how they mixed, rivaled or networked. That’s a thing about writers; in their books you have them to yourself, so that’s how I would most enjoy them.
dirtywhitecandy:Everyone I read influences me. I have to be terribly careful who I read when I’m writing particular books as piece of their style or their way of seeing the world can easily derail me!
girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself as a young writer?
You will never feel you write well enough!
girl with a quill: What in the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself 10 years from now?
Look back and see how far you’ve come!
girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy as a writer to be?
I want to make books that people love. I’ve had that with some of my ghosted books. I’ve seen forums where people have discussed my books and there are readers who write, in great bold letters, ‘I LOVE these books and these characters’. When I see that, it hardly matters that someone else’s name was on the cover.
The quill is swifter than the rapier,ink imbrues deeper than blood …© All rights reserved Kim Koning.