Friday, June 27, 2014

Guest Post: author Karen K Brees (nonfiction and mystery)

How/why did you start to write?

I think the nicest words in any language are “Tell me a story.” Stories shape our youth and give us heroes to root for, villains to hate, values to hitch our stars too. I guess, when it comes down to the crux of the matter, I started to write because I loved to read, and, as Toni Morrison said, "If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."

How did you become an author?

Becoming an author was a long, long process. I always wanted to write, but it seemed a frivolous thing. Not as important as working at a “real job”, but then, one day while we were on vacation in Idaho, I sat down on a log and wrote a story about a fawn’s first venture out into the meadow. It was a children’s story and fun to write. I decided if I were going to write, then I needed to make time for it without apologies. 

What was your first published piece, where was it published and how long ago?

My first published piece was a reporting gig for my 3rd grade newspaper – about our class visit to the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Connecticut. Made the front page – although, as I recall, the paper was only one page.

After that, there was a long dry spell until The Everything Health Guide to Depression hit the stands. I’d started attending writers conferences and met my nonfiction agent, Andrea Hurst at one. We struck up a friendship and a few weeks later, she emailed me, asking if I’d be interested in writing that book. I said yes, and went on to write about 6 titles in the health and general interest field. The last one was The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Preserving Food. It’s doing well.

I moved on to fiction and wrote Headwind: The Intrepid Adventures of OSS Agent Katrin Nissen and now The Esposito Caper. I like writing fiction

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

Before I started writing, I was a bookmobile librarian, then a classroom teacher, and finally a university professor. I taught history and English. I got paid to read!

What inspires you?

Inspiration comes from some funky places: Strong coffee. Cheap red wine. Snippets of conversations I overhear. Places I’ve been and places I hope to visit. Google Earth is probably the greatest asset to a writer trying to be somewhere she’s never been.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

It’s true that social media is essential to any writer’s success these days. If you’re not represented by a big house and one of their top writers, you’re going to have to do it all on your own. Grow your Facebook friend list – find other writers, agents, publishers, book reviewers. Do the same for Twitter and LinkedIn.  Post often but don’t forget to comment on others’ sites, too. Encourage others, share your successes and roadblocks.
Offer something – and I don’t mean free giveaways. Offer advice, tips, and encouragement. The best way to sell books is still word of mouth. Write something worth reading and then devote part of your day to telling the world about it.

Parting words

Winston Churchill, one of my heroes, said, “Never, never, ever give up.” If you’re a writer, you’ve got to develop a thick skin. But don’t get angry when you receive criticism. Count to ten and then find the kernel of truth in what ruffled your pinfeathers. You’ll become a better writer for it.