Friday, March 20, 2009

Meet Kristin Callender, Debut Author

Not only is Kristin Callender a busy wife, mom and avid traveler, she can officially don the author cape. With us she celebrates the November 2008 release of her debut novel, The Truth Lies In the Dark, a book about a woman coming to terms with a past she can no longer trust.

Join in as she talks about her novel, the craft of writing and how she makes it all work.

Kristin, welcome!

First, why don’t you tell us how your interest in writing fiction began. And how did it parlay into novels?

I have a very active imagination and writing has been a great outlet for it. The characters and their stories come to life in my head as I write, like a movie. When I stop writing it is almost like I have pushed pause and the story stops there until I get back to it. I have wanted to write a book for a long time, but my busy life and self doubt kept me thinking it couldn't be done. I am happy to have proved myself wrong.

Your idea for The Truth Lies In the Dark took form a few years prior to its completion, and sat on the back burner as life got busy. What made you sit up and say, “I have to finish this book”?

I was graduating from college (patting myself on the back) and getting ready to apply as a substitute teacher and I kept thinking about the book. When I started dreaming about it I knew that I had to try to finish it before I added another commitment to my list. I gave myself a six month deadline to finish it or forget it...

You say on your website that, once you gave yourself that permission to get serious, it took just three months to complete the manuscript… and then the hard part began. Tell us about that process for you.

I had no idea what to do with this manuscript (250+ rough edited pages). I started researching, bought a copy of Writer's Market and studied it until I found a list of publishers who might be interested. The hardest part of the whole process for me is waiting for responses. This is when an active imagination is not a good thing to have. I was so anxious to hear from a publisher that everything would stop when it was time for the mailman to arrive. After a lot of waiting, and a lot of rejections, I was offered a contract. While I was waiting for it I would meet the mailman out at the road before he could reach my lawn. Then he started looking at me funny, like he thought I was interested in more than the mail. Needless to say I no longer run out to get the mail, I just peek from the window until he gets to my neighbor's house (just kidding). Now I am in the marketing part; which has its own challenges. I am amazed with how much I have and continue to learn about writing and publishing.

Given the competitive nature of the publishing business, what drove you to keep at it until you succeeded?

Pure stubbornness and the fact that I did not really grasp how competitive it was until I was already knee deep in it. From everything I read and advice I had received from other authors, I knew to expect a lot of rejection and a lot of hard work before I would see any success. My family and friends are also very supportive and help me get through the frustrating times.

With the publication of this, your first novel, how have demands on you changed? How have your own expectations been altered?

Since The Truth Lies in the Dark has been published I have been very focused on marketing, which has become a full-time job in itself. It is difficult to step away from it some days to get back to being mom and all that comes along with that. My life has always been demanding (with 4 kids, husband, house, job...), marketing a book and planning tours online and in real life adds to that but is also exciting.

As you're seeking representation and/or publication for your second novel and write your third, can you give us an idea as to your long-term writerly goals?

I know I will continue writing. I have so many stories going through my head that will keep me busy for a long time. I would also love to do a non-fiction about traveling with children by train. We took a train trip from Connecticut to California. There is so much to see and so many funny stories to share.

The premise of The Truth – that a woman’s true identity has been hidden from her – is fascinating. How did this idea originate?

I thought is was interesting to have a grown woman not know anything about her past. The way we were brought up and our life experiences are what makes us who we are as adults. Then the idea that everyone she loved and trusted all knew something about her mysterious past made me wonder how anyone would react if it were them. This is what I was thinking as I wrote and why I chose to portray Amanda the way I did.

In the book, Amanda begins a personal journey of discovery as she follows her husband on a business trip. How did your love for travel play into this aspect of the manuscript?

I do love to travel and wish I could do it more, but I chose the locations for the story to show the great lengths and miles her grandparents went to separate Amanda from her past.

What other parts of you appear, in some form, in the book?

I like to believe that my characters are all completely fictional, but every once in a while something slips in from real life. Just simple things that I thought would make them real, like how Nick always pours the cream first then the coffee so he doesn't waste a spoon. My friends laughed because that is my husband. A very big part of me is on the book though. My oldest son painted the portrait that was used for my cover. I am always proud to share that.

The craft often causes writers to do a little soul-searching. What have you learned about yourself through this journey?

When I am writing I can get lost in the story; sometimes the whole day goes by before I realize that I didn't even stop for lunch. The public part is more difficult for me. I like meeting people and am always quick to find the humor in life, but being up in front of everyone is very different. I just had my first Meet the Author/ signing and I was a nervous wreck. I did survive it and even sold some copies of my book, so I know there is hope that I will be able to relax and enjoy public appearances someday.

What themes and messages, if any, make continual appearances in your works?

I don't think that I have written enough books to have a theme yet, but I am working on another mystery about a woman suffering memory loss. This one is drug induced and it is the present that the woman can not remember. I think the way the brain works and fails is interesting, and of course I think love can overcome anything.

How do you balance writing with family life? And what kind of writing routine have you found yourself able to stick to?

I write the best when I am home alone, which does not happen often in my house. An ideal writing day is, as soon as everyone leaves for school and work I grab my laptop and a comfortable pillow and settle into the couch and write. I do not have Internet access on my laptop because I get easily distracted, especially when the words don't come out so easily. If I need to go online I have to go upstairs and use the family computer. I love the Internet, but there is so much to do and so many great people to chat with that it can suck up all of my writing time.

Oh my gosh, I know that to be the truth!

What’s the best writing advice you were ever given, and then, what advice would you yourself give to aspiring writers?

The best advice I have been given came from a college teacher. He had written a book and had submitted it to publishers and shared some of his rejections from them. He was so open and honest about them and said that they were a natural part of the process. I remember thinking, wow, I would never show anyone those. We are all programmed to think that rejections are somehow a personal reflection on ourselves instead of what they really are; just someone else's opinion. So I have kept every one of my own rejections and maybe one day I will share them with other aspiring writers. I would pass on the same advice, that they are a natural part of the publishing process. Don't let them stop you from writing, but also be willing to learn from them to make your writing better.

Very wise words. Kristin, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us. It's been a pleasure! And best of luck in all your endeavors.

For more details on Kristin or her novel, you can visit her site, Kristin Callender Books. Or, follow her Book Blog Tour.

The Truth Lies In the Dark is available in paperback at Amazon, or through her publisher, Blue Water Press.


Jody Hedlund said...

Thank you for the interview! It is always so encouraging to hear that others persevered through rejections, kept writing, and eventually "made it." Keeps the hope alive!

Lori said...

Great interview. Insightful questions and thought provoking answers.

misterreereeder said...

It was a good interview. And it was great learning more of your experience. Lots of time it is when I am in bed that I have my ideas for my book review blog. Then I lose parts when I sit down to write. It is interesting you are able to pause and hold those thoughts.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

Great interview! Good luck to Kristin!

Beth said...

Such a great interview! I agree with Jody, it does help keep the hope alive!

Janna Leadbetter said...

Jody - Those are certainly great things to take away from stories like this. :)

Lori - Glad you liked it!

mistereereeder - Welcome! Thanks for coming to see the interview. I, too, am envious of Kristin's "pause" button. ;)

Melanie - Yes, indeed. Good luck, Kristin!

Beth - I agree. Love these kinds of thoughts that spur our hope!

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Enjoyed the interview and learned so many interesting things about the author and writing! I am writing her book on my list of books to buy.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Great job, both of you! Kristin, where can I get a pause button? :)

Anonymous said...

Janna, that was a fabulous interview! I definitely want to read the book now.

Thank you.

Joanne said...

Thank you Kristin and Janna for the interview, there's nothing like reading the wisdom of others who are on the same path. I especially like the idea of that train trip from Connecticut to California. Now that seems like a book in itself, the ideas that could rise from that journey. Best wishes Kristin, and happy writing!

Janna Leadbetter said...

Donna - Be sure to let us know once you've read it! We'll expect a full report. ;)

Angie - I know, right? They need to manufacture such buttons. :)

FringeGirl - It sounds awesome, doesn't it?

Joanne - You're welcome! And thanks, too. ;)

Tana said...

Congrats Kristen! I have four kids as well and yes I stalk the mailman for the exact same reasons lol! This interview has filled me with hope and inspiration! Thank's!

Anonymous said...

Thank You Judy. I am glad that my story inspired some hope for other writers.

Thanks to you also Lori. I thought the same thing when Janna sent them. She is great and now I am a fan of hers :)

Thanks again misterreereeder. You have been a constant support on this tour and I appreciate that so much :D I am glad you like my pause button, although for me there is no shut off. That is not always a good thing :)

Thanks Melanie for your interest and your wishes of luck. It was nice of you :)

Hi Beth. I am glad that my story had helped. That was my reason for sharing so much of my challenges. Thank you :)

Thanks Donna for your interest. I hope that if you do read The Truth Lies in the Dark you will let me know what you think :)

Angie, hi and thanks. Having characters running around rampant in your head until you can finish a book is not always fun. It can be a distraction :D

Thank you Fringegirl. I hope that you also let me know what you think of it if you choose to read it :)

Joanne you are right. There are many funny stories and great experiences that I would love to put in a book. At least those characters would not get stuck in my head, since they are running around rampantly in my real life :D

T.Anne I wish you all of the luck and patience you will need (for the kids and the writing) Thank you for your interest and if you need any advice on the mailman stalking let me know ;)

And of course I have to thank Janna. She has been a great host and deserves the sincere following she so obviously has.

Thanks Again to everyone and keep on writing and reading!

Kristin Callender

Stonefox said...

Great interview, Janna. The book sounds interesting and I love hearing about the author behind the story. Thanks!

Jenni James said...

Wow! This is fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing Janna it was a wonderful interview. I love learning how other authors are able to do it all. And I loved the paused button too, I feel like that also! Jenni

Terri Tiffany said...

Great interview! I loved her advice about sharing our rejections!

JLC said...

Nice interview! And now I can hear your voice when I read your questions. ;)

Janna Leadbetter said...

T. Anne and Kristin - I commend you for having four kids each. Bless you both!

And Kristin, thanks for doing this interview. :)

Heidi - I'm really glad you liked it!

Jenni - It helps, doesn't it, getting other writers' behind-the-scenes details?

Terri - I think it would serve to make each of us stronger.

Turkey - Just as I'd hoped! ;)