Friday, December 28, 2007

Author, Kristen Collier, shares insights into her writing

I am pleased to introduce novelist and children's book author, Kristen Collier, to my readers. Ms. Collier is from Grand Haven, Michigan where she lives with her husband, Kevin.

Kristen is the writer in the family and Kevin illustrates the book. A great combination that works very well for this dynamic duo.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m married to author/illustrator Kevin Collier, which is great. It’s fun working on books together and watching him draw. He’s so wonderful and is my biggest fan. We spend just about all of our spare time on book stuff, hoping that one day it’ll become a full time gig. I started writing about five years ago, and it took that long just to find a publisher for my children’s picture book. So to all aspiring writers out there—never give up!

We live in Grand Haven, MI, with our son, Jarod. Grand Haven is a sleepy little bedroom town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Western Michigan is very Christian, a great place to raise a family, so we’re really sheltered here. The people are very relaxed, and very happy, so it’s just an all around nice place to live.

Kevy works a day job at the local newspaper, and I’m working in retail right now, but am training to substitute as a librarian at the local schools, which is a blast! Next year some people are retiring, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get in at one of the schools next fall. It’s so exciting being around all those children’s books that I grew up with and loved as a kid—such great memories! And working with the kids in this laid-back town is so nice—they’re sooooo sweet. So hopefully in August I’ll be able to substitute or get a full time librarian job. And then maybe down the road one day I’ll be able to be a full time writer.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I’m originally from Ohio. One night, five years ago, I was in the Broadview Heights, Ohio library, waiting to take a test for a job. I’d heard that if you write your goals down you’re more likely to achieve them, so I pulled out the only piece of paper in my purse—an envelope—and wrote down on the back of it my goals: a horse farm, a godly husband, even what kind of bridle and saddle I wanted. The next day the story for “King of Glory” came to me, complete, in my head. It was like God was saying to me, “I’m going to help you make your dreams come true, but you’re going to have to work for it.”

I wrote the whole thing in under a month, and have been writing ever since.

How many books have you written?
Two that are published, but about six or so manuscripts.

How do you decide on their topic?
The first one came to me, and the second, a picture book called “The Day Jarod Met Jesus,” (a picture book about the Second Coming as told through a child’s eyes), I don’t remember how that one came to me. Most of the other manuscripts I wrote with Kevy. He came up with the ideas for them. There are a few manuscripts that I’ve done on my own, but I always run them past him and he helps me either fine-tune the writing, or add to them in some way.

What works best to keep you focused and on track?
For now, our agent is sitting on a pile of manuscripts that he’s shopping, so I’m mostly doing promotional stuff. And I get bored if I don’t move forward, so that keeps me focused. Plus, Kevin has been lining up a bunch of interviews and short stories for various online magazines for my “Joy the Jellyfish” picture book, so that keeps me working on that series.

Do you write to make money or for the love of writing?
Sometimes it’s both. I’m not one of those people who’ve always wanted to be a writer. In fact, that’s one of my pet peeves about “writers,” because I personally feel that the people who’ve always wanted to be writers are really boring people. They live to write—they haven’t lived. I think, how can you have anything interesting to say unless you’ve lived life? If their whole focus is writing, they don’t have many life experiences.

There are some writers who spend 8 to 12 hours a day writing! I say, “When are you living if you’re spending that much time writing??” When are you taking care of your family? When are you going out and having fun? When are you learning a new skill or sharing your life with someone? It’s those sorts of life experiences that make you an interesting person. So a “writer” often ends up being a boring person, because it’s all in their imagination. They don’t have the emotional depth because they’ve never really lived.

Enough about that. So, yes, I write sometimes for the money, but it’s one of those things that when I’m doing it I enjoy it, although it’s work. I’m not a natural writer—I didn’t even start until my early thirties—but I’ve been working to improve my skill for five years now, and am getting some good comments, so my hard work is paying off. I don’t write for enjoyment, but I enjoy it when I’m doing it. It’s pleasing when I can see that I’ve honed my skill. That’s rewarding. And my end goal is to create a story that the reader enjoys. That’s rewarding also. It’s, I guess, the proverbial definition of a labor of love: it’s hard work for me, it doesn’t come natural, but while I’m doing it I enjoy it.

One type of writing that I didn’t enjoy that much was writing articles for papers. I always did articles that pertained in some way to my interests—such as a religion column I used to write. But the fiction stories are much more fun to write.

What are some traditional methods of marketing you have used to gain visibility for you and your book(s)?
Hmmmm—basically we do a lot online. I’m not sure what you mean by traditional, as marketing has really shifted to online sales for much of everything these days. Most books are sold online now. But I’ve read “Joy the Jellyfish” to some classes in local schools, and that has helped. But most has been online, however. Reviews are always great, so I’m really happy that they’re starting to come out now. The reviews are online, though.

What are some unique methods?
Because I’m married to my illustrator, he’s created a website that has some great free downloads for kids. When I did the book readings in schools, he did a coloring page that I handed out (which the children were thrilled to have!), and that had the website listed on it. The hits on the site went up a lot during that week I was in the schools, so that helped a lot. And along with the coloring page, there are some other activities, such as dot-to-dots, mazes, word searches, etc., all free, so the kids will want to come back to the site. And there are links to the interviews and some online stories as well, so if the kids like the book, they can go online and read some free short stories about Joy.

There is even a trailer, with music, that a guy in CA did for the book, so that’s cool. An author that Kevin illustrated a book for is in commercials, so he did that for us. And Kevin did some animations. So, between the animations, activities, interviews, and online stories, there are a lot of fun things for interested kids to do on the site. And they’re all free, so that’s a great way to spread the word. One more thing—there are links to real pictures of the undersea creatures in the story, so there is an educational aspect to the site also. Kids can click on the picture of the real sea creature and they’re taken to the Wikpedia page that teaches them about the real creature. I wanted it to have educational aspects as well as entertainment, to make it a well-rounded website.

Do you sell through a website?
There’s a button to click on to take you to the page on Amazon in which you can purchase it.

Do you plan on writing additional books?

Yep, there are some other manuscripts in various stages of completion, and the publisher for “Joy the Jellyfish” wants a sequel sometime in the future, so that’ll be fun. For now, though, I’m focusing on the marketing, and online stories for Joy. There will be one coming out in Jan. that will be on some online magazines. In Feb. another story is going to be the cover of an online children’s magazine, so if the kids like Joy, there are a few online stories in which they can read about her and her undersea friends.


Anonymous said...

Kristin's story is truly inspirational -- and very motivational! Kristin's love for what she does is so evident. And that is the secret!

Thanks Kathleen for allowing us to read it.

Best wishes

Kathleen Gage said...

You are most welcome. Kristin is definitely an inspiration.

Kathleen Gage
The Street Smarts Marketer