Literary Adventurer Plots Her Next Journey

With William Kent Krueger at the New England Crime Bake

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 https://mainecrimewriters.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=20794&action=edit. Dale Phillips guested with us to give advice about audio books https://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

Saba, trained to find cadavers and evidence, at the New England Crime Bake

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?

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16 Responses to Literary Adventurer Plots Her Next Journey

  1. bethc2015 says:

    And, of course, on the back burner, you have your mother’s book to complete. You are fortunate to have such versatility. You don’t have to worry about being bored. You could look at the statistics: which genre sells the most? Or you could look at satisfaction: which brings you the most joy? Or you could look at impact: which conveys the message that is most important to you? What nice options; however, I understand that sometimes it is nice to have just one path and not have to make difficult choices. I vote for whatever gives you the most pleasure. We need more joy in the world.

    Like

  2. John R. Clark says:

    Just don’t become a James Patterson.

    Like

  3. Gail Arnold says:

    I am a big fan of both Thea and Joe and would prefer you work on those for my own reading pleasure. However, I also think writing what fulfills you is important. I hope you can find a balance that brings you the inner peace you deserve.

    Like

  4. Dick Cass says:

    Kate– Applaud your willingness to be uncertain. We could all use more acknowledgment of that . . I’m reminded of what one of my mentors (National Book Award winner, ya-ya-ya) told me: “I figured no one is paying that much attention, so I might as well write what I want.” Blessings on your journey . . and all of ours.

    Like

  5. David Plimpton says:

    Thanks, Kate, for all the thought-provoking ideas about platform, genre, project priorities and management.

    It seems you are a person with incredible energy and stamina, at ease with many different types of people, being guided by intuition and receptiveness to fleeting thoughts and impressions, as opposed to exclusively rigid formulae and rational analysis. I would say it’s working well for you.

    With your energy and stamina, you may never face this, but hard-charging personalities (and I mean this in a positive sense and speak from personal experience) must beware of burnout, which can strike almost without warning. It can be surmounted, but in my experience, when it happens, there is great benefit if one steps back, recharges batteries, give oneself a break and reassesses priorities, especially as we age.

    Maybe that’s part of what your post represents.

    Like

    • MCWriTers says:

      So perceptive, David. I am working on curing burnout right now. Expect to come charging back soon. Meanwhile, I am appreciating the conversation with my thoughtful friends.

      Kate

      Like

  6. Gram says:

    I love all of them!

    Like

  7. Lea Wait says:

    Today’s (publishing) insistence on “branding” – write one type of book in one genre — is very limiting. But it’s what authors are told. Cheering you on, Kate, whatever you decide. And hoping for a more flexible industry in the future!

    Like

  8. I often feel frustrated with conventional advice about “branding.” I understand that associating an author’s name with a genre makes it an easier sell for the publisher and that some author’s names have become “brands.” That’s great when it works, but before being a “brand” we are humans with various interest and talents. I’m a published poet, but I also write children’s stories for a newspaper and blog and am almost finished writing my first mystery. That may sound too “scattershot” for some, but when I look at some of the writers I admire, many had talents in various genres (E.B. White comes to mind). I say, write what you love and success will follow.

    Like

  9. MCWriTers says:

    Valerie, stay the course. Each thing you do enriches the rest. Writing nonfiction, particularly in the public safety world, helps make Thea and Joe more real.

    Kate

    Like

  10. Ruth Nixon says:

    Read the blog, loved the blog but I read Thea but I’d be happy if you only wrote Joe Burgess’ books.

    Like

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