Friday, January 27, 2012

Guest Post: mystery author Debra Purdy Kong

How/why did you start to write?

I started to write because it was the best way I had of expressing myself. It began with journal entries, though I have to say that writing book reports in school was the only thing I really enjoyed and did well. After obtaining a diploma in criminology, I sold my car and left for Europe to figure out what I wanted to do back in 1979. I continued journal writing and wrote letters home, and then tried my hand at a short story. I also wound up sharing an apartment with an aspiring singer/actress who loved my stories and encouraged me to keep going. I loved the process of writing and editing so much that I took her advice.

How did you become an author?

I became an author after writing many drafts of my first mystery, Taxed to Death, and deciding to self-publish in 1995. It was a terrific learning experience. By the time I signed a contract with a traditional publisher for The Opposite of Dark, I’d had plenty of promotion and marketing experience, and had written three more mysteries.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

There were a number of reasons. Seventeen years ago, my sister had breast cancer. It was a difficult year, but one of the things I learned was not to wait for a lifelong dream to fall in one’s lap, but rather to make it happen, if possible. Who knows when any of us run out of time? Also, my husband was looking to start a small business on the side and liked the idea of publishing, so he financed the project while I learned how to do the layout, and so forth. I wanted to learn about book production and the business of publishing and promotion.

What was your first published piece?

My first published piece was a personal essay called “A Dancer’s Foot”. It was about my years of ballet study from age eight to sixteen. I didn’t enjoy the experience that much, and hated it by the time my mother let me quit.

Where was it published?

It was published in 1982, in a glossy little magazine from Ontario that was just starting out. They paid me $90 and I was thrilled. I thought, how hard could it be to write and earn money? Three years passed before any of my stories or essays were again accepted for publication. Two more years passed before I was actually paid anything, and I think that was in American stamps.

How did you find your traditional publisher?

It took over ten years to find a traditional publisher, (including two years spent with an American agent) and thirty-five submissions to publishers. One day, someone told me about a BC publisher who was interested in mysteries set in the pacific northwest, so I submitted The Opposite of Dark to her. A year later, I had a contract.

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

Before writing, I worked as a secretary for a firm of chartered accountants, which was where I met my future husband, and where I came up with the idea of writing about a young, overly enthusiastic tax auditor for Taxed to Death and Fatal Encryption. I never did use my diploma for career purposes, but the some of practicum and volunteer experiences have appeared in my novels and stories.

What inspires you?

Great writing inspires me!

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

One of my successful marketing techniques was to join a forum for independently published authors on amazon and get to know people. They’ve given me some great marketing tips, but they’ve also bought my books and have reviewed them, which is always a surprise because I’d never ask anyone to do this. Happily, these efforts resulted in sales. So, I pay it forward and support indie authors when I can.

Parting words

When it comes to writing, success is a really hard thing to define. Sometimes, I’m not sure we should even try. For some, it’s publication credits, for others, success is determined by royalty cheques, or awards. For me, success is about tenacity and becoming a better writer; learning to listen to those who are trying to help. 80% of the one hundred stories, essays, and articles I’ve had published were initially rejected by editors who took the time to offer helpful comments. For me, writing is always about learning. It always will be.