This giveaway is now closed but I’ve left the comments open for anyone who’d like to comment on the interview. Congratulations to Suzanne for winning Pieces of Sky! Enjoy!
I won Kaki Warner’s debut novel, a historical Western romance novel called Pieces of Sky, just over a year ago and was so blown away by it that I did something I’d never done before: I contacted an author and gushed about her book.
Kaki’s response amazed me. She was encouraging and funny (as you’ll see in her interview below), and became the very first follower of this blog. Since then I’ve read and reviewed all of her books. Each time I cracked open a new one, I got a little nervous. What if it sucked? What would I say?
Kaki saved me from that awkwardness by writing three stunning books. Seriously, I can’t say enough about the Blood Rose Trilogy.
The final book in the trilogy, Chasing the Sun, was released last week.
Kaki’s generously giving away one of her novels to someone who comments on this post. She’s also taken the time to answer my nosy questions about her first year as a published author.
How long were you working on your debut novel before you got an agent? And how long between signing with your agent and selling your novel?
(Gads. I get this question all the time and I hate it because my answer makes me look like such a loser.)
Twenty-five years. There, I said it. (I think there’s a medical condition for that kind of fixation. If not, there should be). Years ago I read a truly awful book. Naturally I thought I could do better (any sentient being could have). So I wrote the first draft of what was later named PIECES OF SKY. But it wasn’t right, so I wrote it again. And again, and again, etc. Then life interfered so I put the ms in storage. About fifteen years later I dug it out, read it over, and realized it had some potential. After making changes, I sent it to contests for feedback, made more changes, then got off the pot (so to speak), and mass-queried the thirty-five most-likely-to-respond agents listed in my 2008 Guide to Literary Agents. While I was preparing my next massive mail-out, Nancy Coffey requested the full ms. A week after I shipped it out, she called. Within six-weeks, she had it sold (as a trilogy) to Berkley, and I was suddenly a twenty-five year overnight success. HA!
How did you celebrate when you found out Berkley wanted to publish your series?
Celebrate? You mean like squeal and shriek and terrorize the dog by hopping around in wild hysteria? I’m not much of a squealer. Besides, I had guests at the time. Plus, I had been expecting the phone to ring. (Nancy said she could sell it and I believed her). So when the call came, I listened politely, made semi-appropriate responses (I think), then hung up, turned to my guests and said, “Well, it’s about (deleted) time.” It had been twenty-five years, after all.
(By the way, Kaki censored herself there. I’d never dream of deleting an expletive.) Did you do anything as an unpublished writer that helped prepare you for the rigors of being a published author (like establishing a daily writing time, or developing a support network of other writers)?
Nope. I had taken writing classes years ago, and had done my stint in critique groups and at conferences, etc. But when I finally got serious a few years ago, it was just me and the computer. I knew the story I wanted to write. It just took me twenty-five years to figure out how to do that. Some of us are slow learners.
(Hey, you can’t rush perfection.) What’s surprised you most about being a published author?
How slow the business is—from contract, to revisions, to copy-editing, to publication, to payment. No other business could get away with it. But the best—the very best of it all—are the connections I’ve made along the way with other writers, bloggers, reviewers, readers, and so on. I’ve gotten the most astounding emails—and I can promise you there’s nothing like feedback from a satisfied reader. So far, no hate mail. But there’s still time.
What was your best moment of the last year?
Holding my first finished copy of PIECES OF SKY, and realizing that it had truly happened. In my hands was proof that I was a writer. Even if the publisher decided to withdraw every other copy from the shelves and start a bonfire, I had the one in my hands—my book, with my name on it. It was beautiful.
Do you do anything special to mark your release dates?
I live a mile past where God buried his socks, so there’s not a lot going on around here. For PIECES OF SKY, I went to the local bookstore, signed some books, then went out to lunch with friends. When OPEN COUNTRY came out, I had dinner with the “ladies”. For CHASING THE SUN, my husband fixed me eggs benedict while I sat at my computer in my jammies. See what I mean? Looooser.
What two things do you wish you’d known before you were published?
That I would actually BE published. Knowing that ahead of time would have saved me a lot of fretting. But mostly, I wish I’d had more faith in my work and hadn’t allowed myself to get discouraged and distracted. Writing is a lonely business, and it’s easy to forget there are people pulling for you. So here’s what I wish for you, Katrina, and any other aspiring writers reading this: when you feel like you’re beating your head against a brick wall, and self-doubts are climbing all over you, and nothing you do seems to come out right, remember there are people like me just waiting to read your book.
But first, you have to finish it.
Even if it takes twenty-five years.
(Message coming through loud and clear, Kaki. Loud and clear.) Are you approaching your second year as a nearly-semi-almost-famous writer any differently than your first?
I’m a little less awed by the process, and a lot less impressed with myself. I realize how lucky I am to have broken through that pub barrier. But I didn’t do it alone—I had a lot of help along the way, and a lot of help this year. There are many excellent writers who are still unpubbed because of market dynamics, fads, the poor economy, global warming, whatever. I got lucky. But hey…twenty-five years? Wasn’t it about time?
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Finishing this second trilogy, then starting on a “big” book. One that spans fifty or sixty years, several continents, and a big cast of characters. Or not. We’ll see. It’s been a fun, sometimes frustrating, sometimes euphoric, always enlightening journey. I’m grateful I got a ticket to ride, even if it all stops tomorrow.
Leave a comment below for a chance to win one of the books in the Blood Rose trilogy. If you’re a published author, maybe you want to answer one of the questions above. If you’re unpublished, what do you most look forward to about being published? If you’ve been lured here by the offer of free stuff, feel free to gush about Kaki’s books or just say hi. I’ll randomly choose one person on Monday January 17.
Make sure to mention which of her three novels you’d like if you win. I suggest reading them in order. Blurbs below.
Pieces of Sky (read my review)
Pregnant and burdened with a terrible secret, Jessica has left England for the American West in search of a new life.
Brady, a hard-bitten rancher haunted by the violence of his past, is desperate to protect his land and family from a blood feud that has already claimed one brother.
She’s fancy hats and pamphlets on deportment. He’s rough manners and twenty years of blood on his hands. An improbable pair. But after their stagecoach crashes and Jessica is stranded at his high mountain ranch until she gives birth, antipathy slowly becomes attraction. He teaches her to trust and laugh again—she helps him find the joy he’d lost.
Faced with hard choices and unspeakable loss, they draw strength from each other to overcome the horrors of their pasts, and in the process find redemption, forgiveness, and ultimately love.
Open Country (Read my review)
Molly McFarlane is as desperate as a woman can get–even one alone on the frontier. Forced to flee with her late sister’s children, she must provide for her wards while outrunning the relentless tracker the children’s vicious stepfather has set on their trail. Out of money and with no other options, she marries a man badly injured in a train derailment, assuming when he dies, his insurance settlement will provide the money they need to keep moving West. But there is one small problem. The man doesn’t die.
Hank Wilkins doesn’t remember the accident he barely survived-and he certainly doesn’t remember marrying Molly. Confused and hoping his memory will soon return, he takes her home to his ranch, where Molly and the children are quickly caught up in the boisterous Wilkins family. Molly might be a gifted healer, but she knows little about caring for children, and even less about caring for a healthy man–especially a silent, brooding type like Hank.
As Molly and Hank begin to discover each other, the threat of the past seems distant and the idea of a real marriage takes hold…until Hank’s memory returns and he realizes he’s been betrayed by his own brother and the woman he thought was his wife, and that fragile trust is shattered. Then the tracker
follows Molly to the ranch, and as Hank struggles to open his wounded mind and battered heart to forgiveness, Molly rides out into a blizzard to face down a killer in a frantic attempt to protect the man and family she has grown to love.
Chasing the Sun (Read my review)
Daisy Etheridge always dreamed of singing on a real stage, rather than in a smoky San Francisco saloon. But along the way she fell in love, had her heart broken, and bore a child to a man who loved another. Now she has a second chance to develop her singing talent. With no other way to get the money she needs to support herself and her child during her training, she and her daughter travel to New Mexico Territory to seek help from the wealthy family of the man who abandoned her.
Jack Wilkins, a carefree adventurer, has always wanted to travel the world, rather than stay home to work the family ranch with his brothers. He thought he’d escaped three years ago when he followed his childhood love to San Francisco, only to find that his devotion wasn’t enough to keep her. Now, he’s back, trying one last time to win her-when out of the blue a woman from his past shows up with a baby who has eyes
Caught between his feelings for his old flame, his attraction to Daisy, and his new role as a father, Jack does the honorable thing and offers marriage. But Daisy refuses. Although she has never stopped loving Jack, she’s unwilling to risk her dream for a man who might still love another, or who would rather chase the sun west than settle down with her.
But Jack won’t give up. As spring drifts into summer, tensions build, and the Wilkins family is strained to the breaking point when old enemies and financial ruin threaten the ranch. Then a violent storm brings everything to a head, forcing Daisy and Jack to make hard choices about which dreams are worth fighting for, and what they want out of their lives-and out of each other.
Hi Kat – great interview.
Kaki – I’m so glad I stopped by! 25 years is a long time, but your hard work and perserverance is an inspiration. Too many of us decide things aren’t happening fast enough and hang up the writing dream. Congratulations!
Thanks, Ava! Glad you liked it. Kaki’s definitely inspirational. And I can’t tell you how many times she’s encouraged me over the last year when I was frustrated with my story. Seriously, she’s tenacious.
Great interview, Kaki & Kat (hey, you sound like a girl band). The books sound terrific. The slowness of everything has been my biggest learning experience as well. Publishing moves at the speed of a glacier.
Ha! I’ve always wanted to be in a girl band (though I’d have preferred to be the only girl in a boy band). Kaki – what d’ya say? Should we break out the miniskirts and tube tops at Nationals? (I’m happy to say I have no idea what girl bands really wear, but I have an image of cheap hookers in my head.)
Ava, I’m glad you came by, too. Kat has done a wonderful job with her website (love the new look!) and I’m delighted to be here. And thanks for the kind comments, although I have to smile at the “insipration” part–it’s probably more a case of stubbornness. But if it keeps you writing, take it however you want. Just keep writing.
Hi Suzanne. With global warming, glaciers may even move faster. But why should they improve when they have an endless well of talent to draw from? (or should I say, “from which to draw”???) Glad you came by, and good luck with your books.
Cheap hookers, Kat? Tube tops? Mini skirts? Maybe in MY generation. Yours would be tats, piercings, purple hair, chains–oh wait. That’s Adam Lambert. I get so confused. Suffice to say I do most of my singing in the nude. In the shower. By myself, and accompanied by a howling coon hound on the other side of the shower curtain. Such a life I lead.
Shows how long it’s been since I’ve gone out with a cheap hooker…
Hi! This was a very enjoyable interview. And I was lured here by the chance of winning one of Kaki’s books. 🙂 If I’m chosen, I would like Open Country. Kaki mentioned a second trilogy. Will this be set in New Mexico also?
Good luck, Laura! Open Country is fantastic.
Hi Laura, thanks for coming by. The second trilogy is set in the Colorado Rockies, although there are tie-ins to Louisiana, England, New York, and Scotland. It’s about four women heading west to start new lives, who end up in Heartbreak Creek, a dying mining town. This series is a little “lighter” than the other, with slightly more humor and a slightly lower body count. So far. Good luck on winning OC. Hank and Molly are a fun couple.
Great interview, girls! So 25 years, huh, Kaki? Does that mean you really had to focus and churn out Open Country and Chasing the Sun or were they finished years ago as well? BTW, I have really had to force myself to only read a few pages at a time of CTS…I don’t want this series to end. Will there be a lonnnnng drought until the next series! (please don’t say 25 years) I hope not! Thanks!
Shannon, I felt exactly the same about Chasing the Sun. I was so engrossed in the story, and so sad it had to end. Thank God Kaki can write quickly!
LOL, Shannon. When I decided to send out queries for POS, I thought, Hey, why not market it as book 1 of a trilogy? Publishers seem to like that. When it sold, all I had was 50 pages on OC, and only a vague plot idea for CTS. From then on, I was under the gun–three months to have OC ready, and 6 months after that to get CTS finished. The new trilogy is on the same six month schedule. Book 1, HEARTBREAK CREEK, will be out this summer, then Book 2, in Jan or Feb, and book 3, the summer of 2012. Book 1 is done, but I’m already behind on Book 2. Time does seem to get away from me, doesn’t it?
OK, Summer I can do. Honestly, I am already looking forward to it….I’m a June baby, so I shall just think of it as a birthday present to myself! All joking aside, I admire your ability to put out books under pressure.
Thanks for the interview, Kat and Kaki! I’ll admit I am stalking Kaki from blog to Twitter to here and back in hopes of winning Chasing the Sun, so I’d say you’re well on your way to fame already, Kaki, with your very own cyber stalker. No worries though…I am the non-creeper kind. 😛 Just wanted to say I’ve read the first two in the series, Open Country is on my keeper shelf, and Heartbreak Creek is on my wish-list. Keep them coming!
You’re the kind of cyber-stalker I like, Rosie. I’m also really eager for Heartbreak Creek to come out. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with the giveaway!
Hey ladies! Great interview, and the books sound fantastic! Right now, I’m at the other end of the slow publishing spectrum – my first novel’s release date has been moved up from May to the end of this month, I think – not too sure about those details yet but already I am behind in any promo I could do!
Congratulations, Kaki, for picking up that novel after all those years and finishing it, polishing it, and sending it out into the world. It doesn’t make you a loser – on the contrary, it makes you most decidedly a winner! I haven’t read any of your novels yet, but I’m putting Pieces of Sky on my buy list for the next time I hit up Amazon.
Best of luck to both of you ladies!
Congrats to you, Christine, on the upcoming release of your debut novel! I wish you the best of luck with it.