Kieran Kramer, a former CIA employee, journalist, and English teacher, lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her family. Game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer, her motto is, “Life rewards action.” When Harry Met Molly, a lighthearted Regency-set historical, is her debut novel with St. Martin’s Press. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.kierankramerbooks.com.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Kieran. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
A: First time.
Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
A: Madeira, My Dear. It was a 60,000-word Regency I wrote when my two oldest kids (now 19 and 17) were toddlers. It wasn’t published probably because it contained a dog’s POV and lots of headhopping and an untraceable character arc for the main characters!
Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
A: For When Harry Met Molly, I specifically targeted my agent—I knew she was exactly the right fit for me, so I didn’t go through a lot of rejections. We connected immediately.
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
A: Well, I’d had rejections before When Harry Met Molly. And I overcame them at first by putting the manuscript in a drawer. I did that to Madeira, My Dear after one rejection. And then over a whole decade went by before I re-opened the idea that maybe I should send something out. I realize now I lost a lot of time, but the truth was, if I’d really wanted to make writing a career back then, I would have kept on submitting. I found myself more drawn to the rearing of my children and being a volunteer in the community. I wrote as stress relief and as a hobby. It wasn’t until my children began growing up that I felt this sweet daydream I’d always cherished—of being a published writer—blossom into a very deep craving that I felt I simply HAD to pursue. I realized I’d made that transition when it got to be painful for me to enter a Barnes and Noble or a Borders. That never used to happen.
At that point, I realized, I want this. Badly.
So in that second phase of my development as a writer, when I experienced rejections, I tried to look very objectively at what I was doing wrong. I had a few manuscripts that weren’t very marketable, plain and simple, even though I knew in my gut that my voice was. So I decided to pay much more attention to finding a high concept in my next manuscript. That, along with dedication to my own voice, paid off.
Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
A: I had always wanted to be a St. Martin’s Press author and work with Jennifer Enderlin. They’re such a classy publishing house, and I love how they have no guidelines. I grew up reading books published by them. Among my favorites were the James Herriot novels (he was the Yorkshire vet who began his writing career with All Creatures Great and Small).
I also love Janet Evanovich, Emily Giffin, Jennifer Crusie, and lots of other authors who have worked under the mentorship of Jennifer Enderlin. I had heard her speak at conferences, too. She has such a warm, energetic spirit, I was completely charmed by her. I determined that she was the editor I wanted to work with more than any editor on the planet!
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
A: It felt quite surreal to get The Call!! I was in a car driving down a country road when it came. I told my agent I needed to hang up because I was so excited, I might drive off into a corn field!! When I got home, I told all my family, who were ecstatic. I think the greatest part was being able to show my kids that persistence and sheer belief in the dream pay off. And then I ran down the street telling all my neighbors. It was such a memorable day.
Yet at the same time, I felt my life was still the same in a very basic way. My priorities hadn’t changed—family and friends were what mattered most. I guess I mean to say, I was extremely grateful for this new phase in my life, but I was still the same old person. I think sometimes we think we’ll change in fundamental ways when we hit new milestones, but that’s not necessarily so, at least in my case. I made a commitment to myself that no matter what happened with my writing life, I would be okay. I think we need to remind ourselves that it’s the trying that matters most. That shows courage and faith. We are at our very best when we try, so I would have been darned proud of myself whether or not I got published. And that’s not a load of hooey I’m throwing at you, either. I was very intentional about that.
Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?
A: Build a website.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
A: No. This is the way that’s best for me. I like being affiliated with a tried-and-true publishing house and having an agent to rely on for her expertise on the business side of things.
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
A: I’m still working on my first contract, which is for four books. I’ve completed three and am in the midst of the fourth. I think I’ve learned a lot already. It’s hard to put into one paragraph how much I’ve learned. Writing under deadline frees you up from the constant dithering I used to do, wondering if I should change this plot point to that plot point or change a character’s motivation, etc. When the clock is ticking, you have to learn to make decisions faster and imbue them with confidence. You have to learn to trust your gut. I recommend every writer without a contract write under strict deadline. What comes from your gut is better than anything else you’ll produce.
Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
A: Well, I don’t think I would have attempted to speed things up. I easily could have tried to by writing more and submitting more. But each of us develops at our own pace. I really believe there’s a season for all things, and those years when I was with my children (two of whom are still school-age) were a special time. I was nurturing the dream slowly, the way you put a bottle of wine away in the cellar and let it slowly reach its full potential. I think that a lot of the time, we feel very rushed in our lives, and we’re convinced our worth is measured simply by our outward achievements. But I firmly believe we’re totally fabulous inherently, every single one of us. And our fabulousness has nothing to do with our achievements. That gives me a certain peace. I have nothing to prove to anyone. That peace of mind, ironically, makes it easier for me to be creative.
Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
A: I’ve been thrilled with getting starred reviews from various prestigious periodicals such as Booklist, Library Journal, and RT Book Reviews magazine. But I’d have to say my greatest achievement has been balancing my writing life with my personal life. Things are never dull, and I love that.
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
A: Principal of a school or a doctor or lead singer in a great rock band.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
A: No, I wouldn’t give up being an author for any of those professions—although it might be tempting to join a great rock band!! <G>. I’m very happy where I am. I want to give back, though. I like being of service, so I hope as time goes on, I’ll figure out some ways to pay forward all the kindnesses shown me in my writing career.
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
A: Still writing and hopefully, still publishing.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
A: Yes. Make sure you’re not wasting a single second of any day pining for what you don’t have. Find the good in what you have right now. Hold onto those writing dreams, but don’t suffocate them by being anxious. Be proud of yourself for recognizing the storytelling passion inside you. Be happy that you’re moving along that road toward publication. The best stories come from people who live in the present. So have fun. Write your stories. Send them out. Celebrate every writing accomplishment. Be sad about rejections if you want to be, but after 24 hours, move on.
Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel about this writing goal of yours. Know yourself and why you want it. And then pursue it with gusto—without any fear. And if you do, you’ve already succeeded in my view.
I believe the true measure of a person’s success is whether you’re willing to step forward with no guarantees and do it with hope, with a twinkle in your eye, and a spring in your step. Success is having your glass half-full—no matter what happens to you that day. A person with that kind of attitude will have a lot more energy to pursue her writing goals and an extra layer of perseverance if she runs into obstacles along the way. I also happen to believe a writer with that sort of worldview will attract a lot more readers. Joy can’t be faked, and especially in romance novels, I believe there has to be a sense of joy. Love is a wonderful thing. And romance novelists celebrate that fact. I’m proud to be among their number.
Wow, this has been a lot of fun! Thanks for having me here on Beyond the Books. I really enjoyed answering your questions. And I hope everyone who’s read this and has the yen to write will pick up a pen today—or get on their computers and tap away until that story’s on the page!
Hugs to all,