Cara: This month I had the pleasure of chatting with CR-RWA’s own K.A. Mitchell, and as usual, she had lots of interesting things to say! Read on as she takes us along her path to publication, gives us a window on her writing process (and a glimpse of her “office”), explains how CR-RWA and her critique group helped her along the way, imparts some words of wisdom (listen closely, people, she knows what she’s talking about!), and more. Welcome, K.A.!
K.A.: Hi! I’m coming at you live from my favorite place to write, what I call my summer office. (See pic) Well, actually lying on the beach is my favorite place for almost everything, but I’m not as productive there. This is a patio table with bar chairs on my 8×8 deck, under an umbrella screened in by netting. It sounds kind of tropical, but it’s just in a back yard in my city. My back yard does open on a stretch of land designated “Forever Wild” by the state, so that’s nice. I get some interesting visitors. Hello, turkey!
I’m lucky enough that this is my day job now, though it took about 14 books worth of back list to get to a living wage—being married to someone with health insurance is a huge help. For those who may have missed my loud mouth at chapter meetings, I write gay romance, usually contemporary. I’ve tried other genres before realizing that what I loved best about all genres was the relationship story. The only books I saw where people earned money were heterosexual romance, so despite always loving stories of same-sex couples (particularly two guys) I tried to write male-female romance, though I was always telling same-sex love stories on the side and all my books had gay characters in them, even if I was the only one who knew that. As for what happened next, CR-RWA played a huge part in that.
I joined a critique group formed by some other members of CR-RWA. I was working on my fourth unsold novel, had been getting close but no thanks detailed rejections, and finalling or winning chapter contests. I wrote a lot of male-male romance to keep myself happy and sane and to not give up on writing. One of my critique partners said, “By the way, you know they’re buying that genre now. My publisher has a call out for submissions for a short story anthology.” My brain, heart and soul lit up. In three weeks I’d submitted a new short story. It sold to my wonderful editor Sasha Knight at Samhain and we’ve since worked on seventeen books together. I can say I don’t think I’d be here in my summer office, lying to make a living if it wasn’t for CR-RWA and the awesome people in it.
I’ve always been a pantser. I write stories mostly to amuse myself. I always have a bedtime story to tell myself that helps me fall asleep. If I know everything about the story before I sit down to write it, I will be too bored to do it. However, if you plan to make a living with publishers, you need to get on the schedule in advance. To do that, you have to sell on proposal, and for that, you have to have a synopsis. Most of the time I’ve found that editors don’t need every detail for a selling synopsis. If you’ve proven you can tell a complete story, they are looking to see if you have enough conflict, strong characters and a beginning, middle and plausible resolution. I can keep things vague enough to keep me happy and concrete enough to sell a book. It works for this pantser. The joy of discovery is still there.
I’ve probably gone way over the limit in answering questions. I’ve never met a word count I couldn’t exceed. (That first short story had to have 5,000 words cut from it before I could submit it and meet the criteria), but I wanted to end by sharing things that have helped me. The best piece of writing advice I know is “Change your seat.” To me that means if things aren’t working, switch it up. Write long hand, write outside, inside, in your car, on the couch, in bed. Switch point of view, setting, scene order. Do something different. The writer who to me speaks to my heart and soul as a writer is Ray Bradbury. He talks about story and fiction the way it is to me. Something I have to do, something I love to do, and something that is my job to do. I highly recommend both his work as a writer and reading his views on writing. He offers my other favorite piece of writing advice, “You must stay drunk on fiction so reality cannot destroy you.” To me that’s everything about reading and writing in a nutshell. Stay drunk, my fellow word-workers.
Contact K.A. Mitchell: