read and reviewed a debut novel, Love in Mid Air - a story of American housewives that can best be classified as “chick lit”. I began corresponding with author Kim Wright because her follow-up book had nothing to do with that genre, but rather with the path authors must take in order to get their books published. As an aspiring novelist I have been following Kim’s advice for some time, and I’ve watched as her writing has gone off in new directions. I interviewed Kim to learn about her books and her plans for the future.
ES: You’ve been writing non-fiction articles and books about travel, food, and wine, for more than 25 years. When did you begin to write fiction?
KW: I’ve always written fiction “on the side,” like I think a lot of nonfiction writers do. I love them both in totally different ways.
ES: How long did it take you to write your debut novel, Love in Mid Air?
KW: That’s a surprisingly hard question to answer. I worked on it for two years part time then set it aside. I was in the middle of getting divorced myself and my own story kept bleeding into the fiction. Sometimes you can be too close to a situation to write about it objectively. So I took a two year break from the book and then went back to it and finished it in about a year. So I never know if I should say five years or three years. Does the break count?
ES: Describe your path to publication for Love in Mid Air: Did you query for an agent and/or publisher? How difficult and long was this journey?
KW: It was very hard for me to get an agent. In fact, I queried for two years with no success. Finally a writing friend introduced me to her agent and we clicked immediately. This isn’t uncommon – most writers find their agents through referrals. Once I had an agent, he sold the book pretty quickly. I think it took about two months.
ES: When Love in Mid Air was published, did you realize how much its success depended on your marketing efforts?
KW: No, not at first. This is a part of the publishing industry that is changing fast. Writers are expected to do much of their own publicity work now, even if they publish with a large, “Big Six” house like I did for Love in Mid Air. Two years ago when that book came out I did have a couple of great publicists helping me and one of them, the online specialist, taught me a lot about blog tours. Now, two years later, writers are expected to do even more of it on their own. I consider myself lucky that I had her to mentor me through it at all because I’ve used what she taught me to publicize subsequent books.
ES: How big is the chick-lit market? Is a sequel to Love in Mid Air in the works?
KW: Chick lit is declared dead every year or two but it keeps on plugging along. Most female writers don’t really like the term, which can be pretty dismissive, especially when male publishers use it. But if you mean women’s fiction, that’s a huge part of the market. Women buy the vast majority of novels. I have the rough draft to a sequel of Love in Mid Air, this time told by the point of view of Kelly, who is the sidekick/best friend to the hero in the first book. But, following the same pattern of Love in Mid Air, I wrote a draft and I’ve now put it aside. I’ll pick it back up and polish it later.
The real world of publishing
ES: What were your goals in writing Your Path to Publication? How easy was it to get this book published? Does the book also deal with self-publishing options?
KW: My goal with Your Path to Publication is to tell readers exactly what I wish I’d known when I started this whole journey to publication years ago. And that includes a chapter on self-publishing which is growing part of the publishing world and much more viable option than it used to be. This time it was easy to get the book published, partly because I went with a small press. I met the publisher at an MFA graduation party and we started chatting about how even MFA graduates don’t know much about the real world of publishing – the nuts and bolts like agents, contracts, foreign rights, etc. So the idea for the book was born.
ES: Tell us about the Wish Granters books: Who writes them and who published them?
KW: I’m co-writing the Wish Granters series with a friend. She’s a self-publishing maven and she convinced me to give it a try. The books are about two people who are trapped between life and death – sort of like angels except that they have the option of earning their way back to earth by helping people. So they’re assigned a series of women who have wishes, and of course it all gets very complicated because sometimes what people wish for isn’t what they really want. Or they get the wish and unseen complications come along with it.
ES: Is there a significant advantage to self-publishing and marketing a number of books in a series?
KW: The biggest advantages of self-publishing is that no one can tell you “no” and that, as a writer, you keep a bigger percentage of the profit on each copy you sell. The biggest disadvantage is that you do ALL the marketing yourself and it can be hard to find an audience. The writers who are most successful almost always have a series. That way they’re just reaching out for that reader once and selling multiple books, since most people who like a series will read all the way through it, and thus buy multiple copies.
The first forensics unit at Scotland Yard
ES: Your latest book is City of Darkness. What’s that about, and what brought you to write in a completely different genre?
KW: It’s not really much of a departure because I’ve always loved both mysteries and history. The book is about the famously unsolved case of Jack the Ripper and the founding of the first forensics unit at Scotland Yard. It’s a nice juicy, bloody, action-filled story!
ES: Did you try to traditionally publish City of Darkness? Has something changed in the publishing industry?
KW: Yes, my agent did show it to four editors, which isn’t very many. He came back to me and said it was just a hard time to be selling anything, which it is. It’s no secret the whole global economy is a mess and, as an industry, publishing is being especially hard-hit. So I had a decision to make – sit on the book and wait for conditions to improve in the market, or self-publish. I went with the latter.
ES: There is already mention of a sequel to City of Darkness. What other future writing plans do you have?
KW: I’m almost finished with the sequel, City of Light, which is set in Paris and am researching City of Silence, which will be in St. Petersburg. Now that I have my team of forensic specialists assembled I plan to send them all over the world, investigating high-profile cases.
Advice for aspiring writers
ES: What advice can you give to an aspiring writer today? Should he/she pursue traditional publishing options, or has the industry changed so much that self-publishing is the way to go?
KW: I’d say try both options….there’s really no reason not to and nobody knows what direction the industry will ultimately take. For example, you could self publish genre fiction while pursuing an agent for your more literary work, or self publish short stories or novelettes and try to traditionally publish your full novels. People are doing it all sorts of ways and I know a lot of writers who are saying it’s not a matter of either/or, it’s more a matter of both/and.
ES: One last question. I understand that there’s another published writer in your family?
KW: Absolutely! My daughter Leigh is the author of a self-published alternative history series called The Six Lives of Henry VIII and it imagines how history would have been changed if just one event had gone differently in each of Henry’s six marriages. Catherine the Inquisitor and Anne the Saint are already available on Amazon and she has the third book, Jane the Spy, almost ready to go.