My Writing Life: Kristen James
Kristen James has written over twenty books and ranked in the top 100 Bestsellers in Kindle US, UK and Canada, #1 in ten different categories, #1 in Movers & Shakers, and #1 free rankings.
And now, the fun stuff– I was born in a tiny town in western Oregon and lived there until after my high school graduation. (I guess that’s where I get my love of small town settings!) I discovered writing in the 4th grade. My school published one of my short stories, and I realized other people might like to read what I wrote. I saved up and bought my own typewriter, and soon I was tapping out books over summer break. I wrote several “practice” novels and I continued writing though the next ten years. I got married, started a family, moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, back to Portland, Oregon and several other towns before landing in the country by Roseburg, Oregon, almost where I started out.
When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?
I actually had a rough start in school and was behind in reading. I usually picked short, easy books to read, but I ordered a book based on its cover from our book order pamphlet. A big novel arrived. It took me four times reading it to understand the story in The Secret Garden, but it changed my life. I loved reading and spending time in the library after that, searching through back corners.
My fourth grade teacher, introduced me to writing. My class wrote short stories, and she chose mine for a publication and I read it at a school assembly. I was hooked! I decided to be an author, and within a couple of years I had my own typewriter so I could write novels during summer vacation.
Where do you get your story ideas?
I love to explore and experience new things, and then ideas will slam into my head and bug me until I start writing. After watching snowboarding in the 2014 Winter Olympics, I suddenly wondered what would happen if the voice of one of those snowboarders popped into a normal girl’s head. And what if he didn’t remember where he came from? Many of my novels are different from the rest, and a bit off beat. I could try to plan out my novels to fall into the same sub-genre of romance, but I just can’t ignore a great idea.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Start with conflict and build from there.
As a very young writer, I focused on the adventure and the trouble that started the story. It’s easy to lose sight of that as an adult, because you’re thinking about so many craft things like story arc, chapters, and different characters. We can learn so much that we ignore our naturally ingrained storytelling ability.
Sometimes I hear newer authors talk about a story idea, and it’s convoluted and layered with unrelated things. There isn’t a clear central problem driving the story. If you start with a clear idea that causes havoc and forces change, then you have a story base to build from.
Do you believe in Writer’s Block?
If I actually feel blocked, that means I need to go for a bike ride, hike or take a day to have fun and get a different perspective. I think “writer’s block” might be our own self telling us the story is not exciting enough or plotted out correctly, or has some other issue. I’ve fiddled with ideas for a while only to realize it’s not the idea for me to write. It could be a great idea, but it’s just not going to happen. So I consider it practice, where I get to work on something in my head but know I’m not quite the right writer for it.
If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?
I absolutely love meeting other authors and discussing writing! I learn something from each one I talk to. If I could meet anyone, the first two would be Jojo Moyes and Catherine Ryan Hyde because they write very memorable characters and moving stories, with quite a few point of view characters so we can experience the story from many angles.
What made you decide to self-publish?
I was first published in a short story journal in 2006, and when I received my author copy and looked it over, I realized I could do it too. I researched online and began publishing paperbacks and my own quarterly journal, and then eBooks came along. I love the entire process of creating a book, from idea, writing, polishing, formatting and then producing a finished product to share.
Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?
I try to connect instead of promote. Connecting with a reader makes my day, but chasing numbers can be frustrating and feel me feeling empty.
My “rules of craft” are: always learn, grow with each book, and to push myself to offer something new and different with each story.
How would you classify your writing, and what do you want to write in the future?
Many of my earlier stories fall into romance while my more recent work is romantic women’s fiction. I especially love to take something that doesn’t seem like a romance and make it into one, such as married romance, or falling for a voice in your head. I’m always striving to make my writing deeper and stronger. I want to grow so that my books are more general fiction with romance in them, which is what I read. There are so many genre elements that I want to explore and play with, and I love how self-publishing gives me the freedom to do write my unique kind of story. I know when I’m excited about a story that shows through to readers.
You can also find Kristen:
On her website: http://writerkristenjames.com/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/writerkristenj
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterKristenJames