Kate Flora: I’ve written here before about the perplexing challenges presented to today’s writer about balancing time for writing with time for marketing, tweeting, facebooking, and generally staying visible to readers on all the various platforms. It’s exhausting. If you read Lea Wait’s blog post last week, you probably felt tired just trying to process all that she does. Earlier this year, Jen Blood did an amazing post about the platform building she did before launching her latest mystery http://mainecrimewriters.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=20794&action=edit. Dale Phillips guested with us to give advice about audio books http://mainecrimewriters.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=11395&action=edit. Maureen Milliken attended a workshop on podcasting and now she’s turning her hand (or voice) to that. The truth is that it never ends. We don’t really know what works so we try things on. And few of us dare relax for fear we’ll disappear from the screen and never be heard of again.
A while back I blogged here about platforms and branding. I had, at the time, been admonished by my agent that I needed to choose one area in which to write–fiction or nonfiction, mystery or suspense, etc.–and stick to it. In the process of evaluating what my brand might be, I took a look at what I write and came away confused.
Here’s what I write–so far–and why I am uncertain that I want to stick to one area.
Among the books I’ve written, there are eight Thea Kozak mysteries, best described, in the shorthand of the business, as “strong woman, amateur P.I.” There are five books in my Joe Burgess police procedural series. There is a stand-alone, multi-viewpoint suspense novel, Steal Away, written under the pseudonym Katharine Clark. There are two true crime books, Finding Amy and Death Dealer. Most recently, there is Roger Guay’s memoir, A Good Man with a Dog. And in the pipeline for publication in 2017, Shots Fired: The Myths, Misconceptions, and Misunderstandings about Police-Involved Shootings. This last, co-written as Finding Amy was with retired Portland Assistant Chief Joe Loughlin, is interviews with officers who have been involved in shooting events, and is very much nonfiction.
So it appears that I write women’s fiction, police fiction, true crime, memoir, and
nonfiction. I have also had around twenty short stories published, including the recently published collection, Windward, and the forthcoming collection by and about the police: Busted. The only unifying factors seem to be crime and the police. And despite my agent’s advice, the truth is that I have loved working on all of these things, been fascinated by the challenges of learning, and working in, different genres, and have met people who will be life-long friends. And some very special canines. Rather than trying to narrow my focus to one arena, I’m enjoying the adventure of exploring many, and deeply curious to see what comes next.
It’s hard, yet exciting, to be forced to see the world in new ways. It’s something I carry with me that makes me notice the colors and shapes of the world around me, as well as the characters in it.
My literary adventures come from phone calls, from casual conversations, from my perpetual habit of helping people with their writing. I never know where the next challenge will come from. But, as we enter 2017, I am taking some time off from writing to figure out where that “next” is.
Here are some of the choices, and challenges, for the next year:
I am 40,000 words into the next Thea Kozak mystery, Schooled in Death.
I have a suspense novel about a teacher accused of misconduct with a student, called Teach Her a Lesson, that needs yet one more revision. This will be the 7th or 8th, and I’ve been working on this book for ten years.
I have another book in the pipeline, Runaway, best categorized as romantic suspense, that is sitting in a drawer with a bunch of editorial suggestions waiting for me to do one last tweak.
I have the plot for the next Joe Burgess rumbling around in my head, wanting to be let out.
I have a novel about remembrance and loss, Memorial Acts, that has a saggy middle and needs a rewrite.
And Level Best has just announced a new short story anthology is open for submissions.
It is very hard to figure out which of these projects to tackle first. Or to know whether something will come sweeping in from the wings and knock everything else from the running.
Once, several years ago, I had two stories in my head, competing for my time. I decided to sit down at my computer on January 2, and see which book wanted to be written more. Joe Burgess won. This time, all the characters are screaming for my time and attention, and I can’t seem to choose.
Any thoughts, dear friends, on how to figure this out? Or shall I, as I have dubbed myself a “literary adventuress,” try something completely new?