Highlights

  • The difference between being distracted and writing production.
  • What book reviews really mean.
  • The importance of editing and knowing what to look for in an editor.

Distraction is self-imposed and as with anything that is self imposed, it is also self-rectified.

Welcome to the forty-second episode of Interviews from the Void, where I interview writers about their writing process, discussing the mechanics and physicality of the craft.

In this episode, I chat with Suspense and Contemporary Women’s Fiction writer, K.E. (Kathy) Garvey.

Arthur: You have a great article on your blog about distraction. I’m very interested in how writers focus. In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport talks about how focus and deep work are essential to “creating” something new, like a novel. How do you avoid the distractions of phones and the internet during a writing session? Did you always have honed focus, or did you have to exercise it and improve it over the course of your writing career?

Kathy: I may catch a little heat for what I’m about to say, but I think distraction is self-imposed, and as with anything that is self-imposed it is also self-rectified. You can’t be distracted unless you want to, and are willing to, be distracted. I don’t believe it is surfing the internet that keeps us from producing, I think it is lack of production that causes us to surf, read, shop, watch TV, etc. Like anyone else, I have my days. On those days, I simply don’t feel like working, so I do everything but work. When I want to sit down to a productive writing session, I don’t allow anything to get in the way of that. Yes, it was a lesson in exercise and discipline, but even more, mind over matter.

Arthur: Writers often find it difficult to get reviews on their books. Many readers buy their books and love them, but the extra step of having them write a review can be a difficult next step. How do you get reviews on your books?

Kathy: Quite honestly, I don’t. I agree with your statement 100% and I used to attempt to solicit readers to leave reviews, but I no longer do that. I’ve studied trends and it seems people are willing to leave a review for several reasons, but those reasons don’t apply to all books. One reason, the book was written by someone they know whether well, or a long-standing acquaintance. Another reason, the reader received an ARC in exchange for their review and honor their promise. A third reason, the book is written by a well-known author with a large following (celebrity syndrome). Yet another reason, the indie author’s book was either incredibly and/or surprisingly good/bad, which provokes the reader into sharing that surprise with others. The average indie-written book does not receive many reviews, but as you said, it does not mean it wasn’t well-received by those who read it.

It was a lesson in exercise and discipline, but even more, mind over matter.

Arthur: Tell me about your writing journey. How have you developed you writing voice and prose?

Kathy: The writing journey is a long one, for sure. Trouble is, unless you reach the end you have no idea how long the journey will be. My writing has improved ten-fold over the years, but how much more room for improvement it has, there is no way to tell. I’ll continue to trudge, one foot in front of the other.

Arthur: Are there successes and failures you learned from? How did you – and how do you continue – to hone your writing craft?

Kathy: The journey is all about successes and failures, and I’ve had my fair share of both. There are so many aspects of “honing” the craft: reading, listening, observing, writing, editing, discipline, etc., and learning to become better at each of those skills, especially the ones you find more difficult, helps to improve your writing. I continue to be mindful of that and don’t allow myself to think I’ve reached a point where I no longer need to practice any of those things.

I don’t allow myself to think I’ve reached a point where I no longer need to practice.

Arthur: Do you have any specific writing techniques you employ to hone your craft?

Kathy: I don’t think I would call anything I do a “technique” although I do have a few living practices I follow rigidly. I say living because like my writing over the years, my practices have changed as I’ve grown.

Arthur: What are a few of the biggest things you’ve learned as part of the editing process for your books?

Kathy: Above all else – how very important it is. I believe not realizing the importance of having a good editor is the number one mistake made by new writers. Also, knowing what to look for in an editor. There are so many people on the internet selling themselves as freelance editors who have virtually no experience other than they read books regularly. It’s akin to watching a gall bladder removal on YouTube and believing that you can now perform one.

Not realizing the importance of having a good editor is the number one mistake made by new writers.

Arthur: How do you determine what your primary conflict will be for a new book? Do you have a conflict and ending mapped out before you start writing the story?

Kathy: Absolutely! I usually get my initial idea while writing the book before it. I may jot down notes, but I don’t really dig in until the previous book releases. Then, I spend roughly a month taking copious notes, and another putting them in order in Scrivener (corkboard view). Once I have a rather detailed outline, I begin to write. There are always changes to the outline as I go, but they’re minimal because I plotted it out beforehand. I am both intrigued and confused by pantsters.

Arthur: How have you promoted your work? What has been the largest return on your investment (time or otherwise) for marketing and promotion?

Kathy: Marketing is my weak link. I hate it as much as I’m terrible at it. I throw out the occasional tweet, and blog of my new releases, but that’s about as much effort as I put into it. Fortunately for me, continuing to write isn’t contingent on selling books. I mean, who doesn’t want to sell what they create, right? But if I never sold another book, I would continue to write. I am at peace when I am writing, so the return on my time is irrelevant.

I read my work start to finish no fewer than ten times.

Arthur: How many drafts do you usually complete before starting the publishing process? Do you have beta readers? How do you find them?

Kathy: Drafting is a little like brushing your hair. No one counts how many strokes it takes to get all of the tangles out, they just brush until it’s smooth. They say write first, edit later. I don’t do that – exactly. I write what I can for the day (always in the morning), but that doesn’t mean I’m finished for the day. After lunch I go back and re-read what I wrote earlier and tweak it. By the time I get to the end, I’m probably on my second or third draft. In total, I probably read my work start to finish no fewer than ten times, and write, tweak, revise, edit, etc., no fewer than a dozen.

I do use beta readers, and always will. I have been fortunate and have three readers who have been with me through my last three books, and several who participate when able. I appreciate their individual perspectives, but it is their unified opinions that mean the most to me. When one person tells you that your main character is flat, it might be true. But when six beta readers tell you that your main character is flat, you can count on it to be true.

Several of my beta readers came by way of recommendations from friends. They had used them and been satisfied with their feedback. If a beta comes back with all positives and compliments, I don’t use them again. I’d rather have someone who picks my work apart and makes me see it through their eyes, because even if they spare me from hearing the negatives, readers won’t.

Arthur: In a previous interview, writer Katherine Karch and I discuss engaging our readers. Do you have any specific techniques for engaging your readers through your prose or otherwise?

Kathy: Good question. I really don’t, but I should. I see that many authors include a question/answer at the end of their books. I’ve thought about doing that, but haven’t to date. I’m not sure why. Maybe it falls on the fact I’m painfully introverted and I find the thought of engaging beyond my comfort zone mind-numbing. I know writers who live for ‘the circuit’ and the thought of that freaks me out. Definitely something I need to work on.

When one person tells you that your main character is flat, it might be true. When six beta readers tell you that your main character is flat, you can count on it to be true.

Arthur: Christopher Ryan, in my interview with him, talks about our writing living forever. What do you hope people will find in your notebooks and writings in the future? What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind in your writing?

Kathy: I agree with Christopher, in part. I believe our writing lives for as long as someone still wants to read it. It dies the day the last person puts it down and it is never picked up again. For the future, I suppose I hope that even once I’m gone, people will still read one of my books and enjoy it. That’s all I want while I’m here. As for a legacy… I’m good at a number of things: I’m a good mother/grandmother, I’m a good cook, I have an eye for decorating, I’m kind; so, when being remembered once I’m gone, I hope that writing is one of the things people remember me as being good at.

K.E. Garvey: Mother, Writer, Humanitarian.

Arthur, thank you so much for having me. My latest release, Dead Enemies, released on November 23rd. Available in paperback and for Kindle. If there is anything else I can provide, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Thank you, Kathy for sharing your wisdom with the writing community.