If you’ve been enjoying our series of author interviews, then you’ll definitely want to read on for my one-on-one with our very own Kim Briggs! Kim is often behind the scenes working her magic for the SCBWI Eastern PA chapter, but today she’s answering my questions about writing, time management, and her path to publication. First, here’s some background:
Kim Briggs once smashed into a tree while skiing. The accident led to a concussion, a cracked sternum, temporary notoriety as a sixth grader returned from the dead, and the realization that fictionalized accounts are way more interesting than just slipping on the ice.
An unhealthy obsession with conspiracy theories combined with a love of travel and happily ever afters led Kim to write her YA novel, Starr Fall, where a secret organization decides 17 year old Starr Bishop is not only the model student, but the ideal assassin. While in hiding, Starr meets dark, moody, and dead sexy Christian Evergood. Cue the swoon worthy music. But it’s not all happily ever afters for Kim. Her NA novel, And Then He, explores the dark and scary corners of the human psyche. Following a night of innocent flirting with a handsome stranger, Tiffani finds herself in the midst of a nightmare she can’t escape. And Then He is available through Amazon and other major book retailers. Starr Fall released November 2016 with Inkspell Publishing, followed by Starr Lost in January 2017 and Starr Gone in June 2017. Her novella, Avalanche is part of the Valentine Kisses Anthology and released February 14, 2017. Kim is one of the Co-Regional Advisors of the Eastern PA SCBWI Chapter. She’s a writing coach and offers manuscript critiques from picture book to adult fiction and nonfiction.
Hi Kim! We’re super excited that you’re not only planning the Pocono Retreat this year, but you’re also on the faculty!
There’s so much I want to ask, but first, let me welcome you to the virtual Eastern Penn Points café…what can we get you to drink?
Hi, it’s strange being on this side of the desk, but I think I like it…Yes, I think I could get used to it. I’ll take a chai latte with soymilk—that’ll settle me down a bit.
And we know you love your chocolate, so what type of treat would you like on the side?
I do love me some dark chocolate. Today, I’ll take a scone with chocolate chips and cherries.
That sounds amazing, so I’m having one too!
Now, let’s get down to business! You blog on your site INKSisters Write. How did this site come about and how did you decide to use the letter-writing style as a format for your posts?
Great question! INKSisters Write began as All Things YA & NA in 2014. I blogged a few days a week for five or six months, but by July, I burned out. I took an eight-month hiatus with no real intentions of returning to blogging, but one cold February night in 2015, everything changed. I was cruising around cyberspace and for some reason I decided to check the blog. I went into the stat page (I’m a stat geek) and discovered that even though I wasn’t adding new blog posts, my existing posts were getting hits. A lot of hits. I was surprised that people actually read my posts. I was flattered too, and I realized I owed it to my readers to create new content. The blog was also a means to promote And Then He, my New Adult Psychological Thriller, but I hated being me, Me, ME all the time.
In December of 2015, I decided to change the name to All Things Writing in order to reflect my interest in picture books and writing in general. It seemed like a good idea at the time—I had loads of picture book and middle grade author friends I could talk about, but something was still lacking for me. I loved writing blog posts but it felt like work and took time away from my other writing. I needed help. I wanted to have fun. Alison Green Myers and I have been critique group partners since 2012, so I asked her if she’d like to join me on the blog, and she said, “YES!!” Around that same time, I had finished Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (one of my all time favs by the way). I told her about the letter format of the book, and we thought it would be fun to write them to each other.
Writing a letter to your bestie doesn’t feel like work. It’s like we’re back in eighth grade passing notes to each other without the risk of getting caught by the teacher. Only now we profess our undying love for our latest book crush. INKSisters Write is all about sharing the writer love.
Our growing viewership loves the letter format too. After all, the letters are for them too! We try to post on Mondays and Thursdays, but sometimes life gets in the way and other times, we have special book news, cover reveals, blog tours, or book releases on another day, so we roll with it.
In the age of social media, a letter is a gift. We send each other these gifts every week. I love it!
It sounds like you found a way to fit blogging into your schedule. Which brings me to my next question. On Twitter, you participate in #5amwritersclub…did this arise from your need to fit writing into your busy life?
Yes, life is busy. When I’m teaching, 5 am is the only time I can write or work on my social media. A writer’s life is about balance and I’m doing my best to juggle everything—I’m a Libra so it’s part of my DNA. Plus, the #5amwritersclub is the most supportive writers’ group I’ve come across on Twitter. We wave good morning to each other usually through a Gif, pass out donuts, toast with our morning beverage of choice, and get to work. I actually can’t think of a better way to start my morning. My house certainly isn’t that cheery in the morning…even my dogs roll their eyes sometimes.
As part of your many talents, you offer manuscript critique services…can you share what you look for in particular when critiquing and what type of feedback clients can expect?
I’ve never been described as having many talents. I had one bad experience during a seventh grade talent show performance—tap shoes, a leotard, and a room full of high school boys (and yes, there was glitter and a tutu). Let’s just say I haven’t recovered yet, so I’m a little “talent” shy.
I love critiquing manuscripts. (I know. I’m weird.) I enjoy reading other writers’ work. I think because I’m a writer, I’m more sympathetic to the intimacy of the writing to the person but also aware that I’m not helping that person if I just give fluff. I provide a detailed letter with focus on Big Picture, Plot, Story Arc, and Character Arc. I emphasize everything the writer does well and what he or she needs to work on. Because I know how important the work is to the person, I also guarantee a fast turn-around, typically a week or two after our free 15 minute consult, because who wants to wait months and months for a response? I sure don’t!
That is a fast turn-around! Additionally, writers can also employ your coaching services. Can you share an inspiring success story from your work?
Go. Write. Win.
That would be a great chant for my writing coach clients, except I would never put that type of pressure on any creative person. I don’t like pressure situations—actually as a rule, I dislike impromptu writing exercises because I feel like my brain freezes and I’m writing in a language I don’t even understand, so while I give impromptu writing exercises in a workshop, I never put people on the spot. (Or try not to anyway.)
But to answer your question, I don’t have one client success story. I consider all my clients successes, and here’s why…
- They were brave enough to start writing—Instant success!
- They were brave enough to realize that they might need someone to either guide them step by step through their writing process either through deadlines or assignments or they needed someone to help them take their writing to the next level—Instant Success!
- They contacted me, trusted me with their work, hired me as their writing coach—BINGO! They’ve hit the success jackpot!
Writers place too much pressure on themselves. They measure their success by a final product (a book, a contract, a review) rather than celebrating each step of the journey. I believe in recognizing and applauding each stage of the writing process. That’s where true success lies.
Great advice! And that leads me to wonder about your writing process and the Starr Fall series, which is published with Inkspell Publishing. How did this partnership begin?
Starr’s been a part of my life since I sat my butt in the chair and started writing the night before Thanksgiving 2009. Whenever I hit a wall with Starr Fall, (a pile of rejections), I’d put the book away and work on something else, but Starr’s stubborn and persistent. She often tugged (yanked) on my arm, and she’d say, “Kim, writing is hard. I get that. Submission is even harder. I get that too. Rejection, the worst of all. Get over it. I want my book in the hands of readers.”
So, I’d revise, rework, submit, and repeat. Eventually, I began to receive full manuscripts requests, and I knew I was onto something. Starr would cheer, “See? See! I told you!” I usually sent Starr Fall to agents, but in the fall of 2015 I decided to send it directly to a few publishers. The day after Christmas, I received an offer of publication with Inkspell Publishing. As an indie, they have a much faster turnaround than traditional publishers, and I was ready to dive into book publication. Eleven months later, Starr Fall released, followed by Starr Lost in January, and Starr Gone in June. It’s been a wild ride since!
Starr Fall also features a GORGEOUS cover! Did you work with a cover designer for the final product?
Thank you! I love it too. Najla, from Najla Qamber Designs, was the cover designer. Together we selected the image, discussed colors, but the covers and layouts are all Najla. She’s a cover wizard. My theory is that she attended a Hogwart’s type school of design or is a mind-reader because she takes what’s in my brain and makes it a reality.
Najla lives in Behrain. There’s about a twelve-hour time difference. During cover appointments, we’d email images and layouts back and forth in the early morning. The best part of the cover design process was waking up to an email from Najla, clicking open the attachment and seeing the cover for the first time. Starr Gone’s cover reveal is May 4. I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
The biggest problem I have is deciding which cover I like best! What do you think?
If I have to choose, I’d say Starr Fall is my favorite…only because I like a little romance in a book cover!
As you mentioned, Starr Gone’s cover reveal is next month. When can we expect the book to release?
Starr Gone releases June 4, 2017. There will be at least one more book, but the outline is shaping up as two more. I’m obsessed with my current WIP, but I plan to write the fourth book in the summer. The release depends on Inkspell Publishing’s book schedule, but Book Four probably won’t be out until 2018. (I’m sorry fans, but you’ll love the book I’m working on.)
And lastly, when you first started out, did you ever think you’d come this far in your publishing career?
When I began writing I assumed I would wind up with a published book. READ: naïve and stupid. As I continued my journey, I realized how difficult it was to get a book published.
The writing world is filled with talented writers, but only the most persistent writers succeed. (Persistent sounds so much better than stubborn, doesn’t it?) A writer must also be open to suggestion. Agents, editors, other authors, and writers want you to succeed—they really do. The biggest complaint I hear from the pros is that many writers don’t open themselves up to suggestion. Not that a writer should listen to every piece of advice and make every change mentioned (because they shouldn’t), but if they keep hearing the same comment over and over again, they need to listen. As a teacher, I was taught to give the students what they need, not what they want. The same holds true for writing.
Okay, stepping off my soapbox…I never thought I’d have five books to my name. I’m overwhelmed and often pinch myself—I have the bruises to prove it. Writing is hard, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to interview me! I love you all to pieces!
Thanks so much, Kim! It’s been great getting to know more about you and your writing journey!