(Photo courtesy of M. K. Williams)
To give my readers and fellow writers an insight into the processes and successes of other like-minded creatives, I'll be featuring some hardworking authors in my journal each week.
Today's author is M. K. Williams, and she's independently published.
Why do you write, MK?
I genuinely enjoy writing and creating scenarios and characters. I think that stems from growing up as an only child and having an overactive imagination. Even if I stop publishing novels and collections of short stories, I think I’ll always write because I enjoy the process.You are living in the world from your latest novel. Where are you? What is it like?
You're living in one of your worlds. Where are you and what's it like there?
I’ll answer based on my latest novel, not my latest release which was a collection of short stories. My latest novel, Nailbiters, is an apocalyptic thriller. If I were living in that world I would be in hiding and unwilling to disclose my location for fear of capture. It would be terribly lonely to be living on the run and unable to trust those around me for even the most basic interactions.
You are your most recent protagonist. Who are you? What is the first thing you do?
If I were Dora, the protagonist from Nailbiters, I would be living in seclusion and would spend my days checking the security measures in and around the shelter that I have found as well as doing daily calisthenics and training. (Note: for fans of Nailbiters who are eager to know more about what happens to Dora next, I am working on a sequel).
Who is your favourite author? Why?
At present my favorite author is Margaret Atwood. I really enjoy her dystopian literature and how she builds each story very carefully. I’ve been trying to work through her collection of novels and short stories of the past few years. Her writing is excellent and each story has a distinct message about our society, I find her ability to provide that nuanced social commentary very impressive.
Where do you get your ideas?
From some expected and unexpected places. The idea for Nailbiters came from two very different and very odd dreams.
The idea for Escaping Avila Chase, a thriller short story at the end of The Games You Cannot Win, came from a thought experiment I did after Nailbiters was released. I started to think that people who read Nailbiters must think that my husband was married to a crazy women based on the content of the novel. I thought that dynamic would make for an interesting story. Then I thought: wait, what if a man had an ex-girlfriend who wrote thrillers and he was afraid that he would be killed off in her series of books? That spawned what later became the finished story: Escaping Avila Chase.
How do you deal with bad reviews, rejection and criticism?
I think I handle them as well as can be expected. At first I always feel a slight let down, “oh no, why didn’t they like that story?” But after a few moments my wounded ego heals and I realize that criticism helps me to grow and helps me to be a better writer.
When I went the route of trying to have my original novels traditionally published I welcomed each rejection letter knowing that many great authors received dozens if not hundreds before their big break. Now that I am an indie author I find that the feedback that I do get is very genuine and it comes from a place of wanting to help. The worst reaction I could get to my work is silence; that means that person saw no value in trying to help me along. If someone has taken the time to read something I’ve written and has feedback, positive or negative, I think I owe it to them to listen to what they have to say.
What do you find difficult about writing?
Not having enough time to write everything down when I think of it. I go through periods where very little inspiration comes to me and then I’ll have periods where every few moments I want to jot an idea down or write out an entire chapter before I forget the details that are in my mind.
I’m very fortunate to have a husband who supports my passion for writing, but I still have a day-job so my writing time will always have constraints.
What do you love the most about writing?
I love that I can create something that no one else has the power to manipulate. When I first write a story I can make it as far-fetched as I would like and because I write for my own enjoyment I can run with that idea until it is exhausted. I may decide it isn’t worthy of publishing so it can just sit in my cave of old stories for me to enjoy. I like having this world of characters that I have been able to meet and get to know over the years.
Watch MK's first appearance (Mar 2017) on my podcast, The White Room!
Like this content? Please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and hitting that thumbs up for more!
Do you ever outsource (editing and cover design) your work?
Yes and yes. I am fortunate enough to know multiple graphic designers in my personal life. The cover art for Nailbiters was done by my one of my friends from high school who is a very accomplished graphic designer and is also a big fan of books. It just felt right to have her work on the cover for my first published work.
For editing I ask for the people closest to me and to the project to assist with the first revisions. I am very fortunate to have a mother-in-law who taught 2nd grade for 40 years. She has been able to help me identify grammatical errors with great precision because she used to spend most of her day teaching these rules to youngsters. It also helps that she loves to read so she can give me feedback on the plot as well as the structure of the work.
What is your opinion on the indie vs traditional publishing argument?
I don’t really take a hard line on the argument except with it comes to those who reflexively turn up their nose at indie books. I’ve read traditionally published books with weak plot lines and grammatical errors, just as I’ve read independent books that I simply couldn’t put down because I had to find out what happened next. I read a book if it catches my attention in the description.
If someone really enjoys reading it shouldn’t matter what process the manuscript had to go through in order to get to the reader, it should just matter if it entertains them or makes them think.
Talk us through your creative process from start to finish.
I carry a notebook with me all the time to write down ideas. If an idea really catches and I can think of some characters and scenarios right away I’ll start a word document for it where I can keep all of the notes for that story. Once I have enough to determine what the plot would be or where the characters would end up I create a bulleted list of plot points. This helps me determine what needs to happen and the order in which those plot points will be revealed. From there I can build out the story and expand on each point as needed. I don’t always know if something will be a novel or a longer short story until I write out those plot points. At that point I can gauge the relative final length. After that it is a matter of time sitting in front of the computer and just writing it all down.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep trying and don’t give up. It sounds basic and cliche, but it is true and the more you hear it the better off you will be. Keep writing, don’t let others discourage you, and have fun with it!
Give us your top three book marketing/ promotion tips.
Be genuine - think about the voice you are using when you are writing your promos, does it sound like you? Does it sound like someone trying to be a big-time author? I think audiences can see through someone who is trying to sound like someone they aren’t, be genuine because it will come across that way and will resonate better with people.
Be grateful - I often take the time to thank readers who have left comments and reviews for my work. Gratitude is something that everyone can appreciate, especially when it is genuine (see point 1). Even if only one person has taken the time to read your book, be grateful and say thank you.
Think outside the box - I have been lucky enough to know a lot of enterprising people. I was able to connect with a college classmate who now does NailArt on Instagram. She has thousands of followers and her designs are amazing. I reached out to see if she would want to do a design based on Nailbiters. It turned out that she loved the book so much she did a whole series of designs on it that she posted on her account. This exposed my book to a whole new audience of people that I might not have reach through traditional methods.
Would you agree a good book must withstand more than one read?
Yes, I don’t tend to re-read books often if I just like them. But the books that I really enjoy I would be willing to read multiple times over.
Watch MK's latest appearance (Jan 2018) on my podcast, The White Room!
Like this content? Please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and hitting that thumbs up for more!
What do you look for when shopping on Amazon for a Kindle book? Are any of them more important to you than others? For example, Cover / Title / Author / Price / Description / Publisher / Sample Chapter / Reviews
I’m a little different than the average reader. I make a point to get all of my books from our local library. We’re lucky enough to have a large public library that has most any book in print and access to a large network of eBooks as well.
For me, I select books based on the description, if someone has recommended it, and if it is available to check out of the library. If the cover art grabs my eye I will read the description, from there I decide if I want to read it. My decision isn’t based on the cover alone.
Do you have a favourite genre?
Hands down thrillers and mysteries are my favorite. I do enjoy books outside that genre from time to time, but I really like a book that will capture my attention away from the day-to-day stresses of my life, will make me think, and will actually surprise me.
What would it take for you to leave a book review?
If I know the person or if they have asked me to leave a review I will. I try to be supportive of other indie authors, just as I would hope that they would be supportive of me. My reviews are always honest and I try to give feedback that can help them grow as an author.
Other than that I do a lot of my review as word-of-mouth recommendations. I can’t go an entire day without recommending a book to someone based on a conversation I am having with them about politics or nutrition or any other topic of the day.
After downloading book one of a series for free or discounted on Amazon, do you ever go back and pay more for book two? If not, why?
I’ve actually grown very cautious of the books that I start now because I don’t want to get hooked into a series right now. I love a good series, but I have so many books that I want to read I worry that a series will take my time and effort away from the larger list. I was recommended a book - Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood - over a year ago. I loved it but the ending didn’t feel like there was a resolution. I found out that was because it was part of a three book series. I read all three and loved each one, but it wasn’t my intent to get drawn into a series. So, yes I will go back and read a sequel or more books in a series if I like the first one (again I go through the library), but I try to avoid series in general since I have a long list of them on my to-read list right now.
Do you ever visit an author's website? If so, what do you look at?
I do this more now than I ever did before I published. Before I didn’t really look unless I wanted to see if there was news on an upcoming release. Now I go with a different point of view, I try to see what the best authors are doing and how they are utilizing their websites to stay engaged with their readers. I try to see what they do and figure out if it is something that I can apply to my own site.
If an author offered you a free book, would you sign up to their mailing list?
Yes I would. If I loved the book I might stay on their mailing list, but if I only liked it or thought it was OK I would unsubscribe.
Do you ever enter giveaways and/ or order signed copies?
Yes, I like to read a lot and my budget is tight. If I ever actually won I would be totally surprised!
Are you more likely to buy a book if there are various formats available?
Maybe, I do want to make sure that I am supporting other indie authors and more options are better. I try to keep my household tidy so offering digital formats is what I look for the most. I can access it anywhere and it won’t take up any space in my house, just on my phone.
What are the biggest giveaways that a book is self-published?
To me the biggest giveaway is the cover art. As I mentioned earlier there are books I’ve read that are traditionally published that have the occasional spelling or grammatical error. (I actually find it very entertaining and appreciate it as a ‘even big time authors make edits too’ moment). When I am scrolling through Goodreads or Amazon, the cover art for a book can usually indicate if the book is self-published.
Thank you so much to author M. K. Williams for sharing her insights on writing and publishing books. If you would like to support MK and her work, please consider purchasing a copy of the book, The Games You Cannot Win, available on Amazon now. Check out the sample below: