Fantasy writer extraordinaire
KA: Hey R.K! Glad to be chatting with you via this lovely thing called the internet!
Thank you so much for having me! I’m honored.
KA I first heard of you through a free promo on Amazon of your novel, The Story of Awkward, an amazing, visual story. What can you tell us about that book, and was it truly your first story?
The Story of Awkward was an incredibly personal write for me. It’s a modern fantasy about a girl who fought self-image issues as a child. Bullied by her classmates, she escaped into a world of art by creating a sketchbook journal where she drew a fairytale world full of awkward characters, a place where she belonged, where differences didn’t matter. Later on, as she is leaving for college, she is drawn into this fantasy world with a man she blames for most of the bullying she received. The journey they take opens both of their eyes to a lot of things, but mostly it teaches them about who they are as people and how important it is to be comfortable in your own skin.
I, personally, fought poverty as well as bulimia and anorexia as a teenager and I was bullied heavily in junior high to the point that it got pretty scary. I withdrew, turning to the one thing I found comfort in. Writing. In my adulthood, I have embraced who I am and where my past has taken me in my future. One day, however, my oldest daughter came home from school in tears. She was in sixth grade and had been dealing with bullying the entire year both in school and outside of it. My heart broke to see her fighting the same self-confidence issues I’d fought simply because we live in a society that has taught us perfection in the ideal. That uniqueness isn’t something that should be celebrated.
So, for the first time since my own battle with bullying, I put pen to paper and I let myself go back there, back to a time where I felt scared and alone and tired, and I became Perri. I took her through the entire journey, through this need to escape, and then later this deep look at who she could be if she stopped listening to the voices of society and just startedbeing.
With The Story of Awkward, I wanted my daughter and every other young adult out there battling self-image and confidence issues to know that they weren’t alone and that it’s okay to embrace our differences, the things that make us unique and beautiful. The things that turn us into successes rather than failures. I wanted them to know that sometimes it takes being down to realize you don’t have to stay down. That you can take control of your life and yourself and be so much more than you ever imagined.
The Story of Awkward was my first book in the standalone Embrace Yourself series, but it wasn’t my first book published. I have twenty-two books in all. My first book published, not written, was Redemption, book one in a paranormal romance series.
KA: I see there is a follow up to it as well called, An Introvert's Tale?
There is! After The Story of Awkward, I was inspired to write a standalone series that celebrates different, unique things about people. I want to break down barriers and shatter stereotypes. Where the Story of Awkward is about embracing your awkward, An Introvert’s Tale is all about embracing your voice. It’s the story of a girl who has been labeled an introvert. She lives her life fulfilling everyone’s expectations but her own, and this book breaks that mold. It’s a modern fantasy where readers get to watch her break free of the labels society has given her.
This series has come to mean the world to me. There’s a wait between each book, but none of the books are connected, so they can be read alone and separately. However, for Awkward fans, there is a cameo appearance by some characters you may be acquainted with at the end of An Introvert’s Tale. *wink*
KA: I Can’t wait to read it! On The Story Of Awkward, you collaborated with an artist to bring the images alive, where can we find out more about that?
Oh my gosh, I can’t say enough wonderful things about the artist I worked with on this project. Melissa Wright is not only an amazing artist, but an amazing writer as well. She and I met in a writer’s support group online in 2011 when our first books came out, and we’ve been close friends ever since. She writes fantasy and urban fantasy. Her fantasy series is the Frey series, and if you are a fan of elves, you definitely have to check it out. We talk daily, and when we do go periods of time without talking, we still manage to pick up a conversation as if we never left it, especially when we’re working on projects. You can check her out online at
http://www.melissa-wright.com/. There is a link to another page on her website where you can check out her art. I feel like it’s incredibly important to collaborate with other artists. For me, music and art is as important as writing, and so I like to bring that into my work and, hopefully, by doing this I’m helping expose my readers to other artists, incredible artists with amazing potential. Melissa Wright also did the artwork for my In the Land of Tea and Ravens book trailer and the artwork on the cover of my book, Sex and Such. The song in the In the Land of Tea and Ravens trailer was written by me for the book and performed by artist Nicole Willard who you can find on Facebook. I’ve also worked with an incredible photographer, amazing cover artists, and wonderful models. Audrey Welch of Audrey Welch Photography has done the photography for quite a few of my books including Redemption, Ransom, Retribution, Revelation, Dancing with the Devil, and An Introvert’s Tale. All of my cover art thus far has been done by Regina Wamba of Mae I Design (The Story of Awkward, The Singing River, Hawthorne & Heathcliff, and Secrets of the Hearth), Eden Crane of Eden Crane Designs (An Introvert’s Tale, Redemption, Ransom, Retribution, Revelation, In the Land of tea and Ravens, The Acropolis, The Labyrinth, Deliverance, Cursed, Possessed, and Dancing with the Devil), Cora of Cora Graphics (City in Ruins and The Best I Could), and Frankie Rose (Mark of the Mage, Tempest, and Fist of the Furor), and Melissa Wright (Sex & Such). I’ve worked with some fabulous models. Jesse Daniels and Kimberly Hancock graced the Redemption series covers, Eric Carpenter (he is also an incredible actor who can be found on Facebook and online) and Kayla Purvis graced the cover of Dancing with the Devil, and Isabella Graham graced the cover of An Introvert’s Tale. I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with some incredible individuals. Two editors in particular have also worked hard on these projects. Melanie Bruce edited the Redemption series and Melissa Ringsted of There for You Editing has worked with me on every project I’ve done since then.
KA: You also have written many series such as Acropolis, Redemption, and City In Ruins, what do you find is different or better about writing in series versus a stand alone?
There’s a lot to remember when writing a series that you don’t have to remember when working on a standalone. I have four series out at the moment, The Redemption series, The Acropolis series, The Thorne Trilogy, and the Scribes of Medeisia series. The Redemption, Acropolis and Thorne series are all paranormal romance, and The Acropolis and Thorne Trilogy are both spin-offs from the Redemption series. The Scribes of Medeisia series is epic fantasy.
The pros of writing in a series is that I don’t have to leave the characters behind after the first book is complete. I get to revisit them over and over again, taking this massive journey with them, word and world building their way to an epic conclusion. There is nothing more exhilarating than taking a journey like that. It’s an incredible ride and high. The cons are that there is so much information and time that goes into a series as well as a ton of notes and outlines so that the story flows smoothly and so that you can keep all of the storylines and characters separate in your head. It’s a lot to undertake, but is definitely well worth every minute.
I’ve found that I love writing both series and standalones, and that when I need to step away from a series, writing a standalone helps me hone my skills as a writer and allows me to take a breather from interconnecting so many different books. With a standalone, you’ve also got to really hook a reader from the first word, keep the action going, and build your characters into something truly amazing in ONE book. I’ve actually found that harder than having a series of books in which to build and flesh out my characters.
KA: You are also a mom! I always think of that when reading your many many books. Where do you find the time, my dear?
*laugh* It’s definitely all about patience and time management. I didn’t start out working from home. I actually worked full time outside of the home, did the parenting thing, and then squeezed in the writing time during breaks at work, early in the morning when my daughter was asleep, and late at night. I came home during my second pregnancy after I started having trouble with the pregnancy and started seeing a cardiologist. To keep me sane and to keep my nerves from getting the better of me, I wrote full time until my middle daughter was born. She was early and in NICU, but she has grown into a very active and healthy eight-year-old. After she was born, I published my first book while pregnant with my third and final child. It’s been a practice in time management ever since. I work full time from home, and so I write mostly when they are in school. Before that, I wrote when I had the chance between doctor appointments, activities, and errands. I’ve actually written entire novels on the memo pad of my phone before emailing them chapter by chapter to myself to hone. It’s incredible what being passionate about something can spur you do to. I’ve been writing since I was a child, and there are all of these voices in my head fighting to get free, these stories that I have to tell, and so I get them down no matter where I’m at. Even if it means sitting in waiting rooms plugging away on my memo pad.
KA: Just how awkward and introverted would you say you are? I truly think that's a writer thing, I’ve been awkward my entire life! (laughs)
I am definitely an awkward introvert. I was actually an incredibly extroverted child, but bullying in middle school and my battle with an eating disorder changed who I was. I grew up extremely poor, too, and was also made fun of for that. It left scars that writing and time has healed. I think it’s our pasts and the things we’ve been through that have shaped us. I’m not sure if I truly see myself as awkward or an introvert. Those are titles and labels I think that society labels me with, but I’ve learned to really embrace being both. I love being around people, but I also love silence. I like that I can step away and be okay being different, doing the little things that make me who I am. I definitely agree that introversion and awkwardness are seen a lot in many writers. I think it’s this need to explore the worlds in our heads, away from everyone else, that puts us in that category.
KA: If you had to trade a so-called- normal past for not being able to write, would you?
My past, hard as it was at times, shaped me. When I was younger, I used to watch the kids I went to school with, and I’d feel envy. Envy is a terrible thing, a beast that grips us out of nowhere, ad makes us wish for things we don’t have. I was definitely guilty of that. Sitting on the playground wearing clothes that came from goodwill, my eyes on the kids who wore brand new things. But the older I got, things changed. My perspective changed. I saw how much my mother sacrificed to raise twins on her own, how hard she worked, how hard she loved, and how much she gave to others even when she had nothing at all, and I realized that’s how I wanted to be. I wanted to be that person because money and things don’t buy a good heart. With the bullying, I got a close up, terrible look at cruelty, violence, and prejudice, and I wanted nothing to do with that. In the end, that has shaped not only me, but my writing and how I look at the world. I started reading and writing because I didn’t have television and etc., and writing down everything re-invented me. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my past. Losing my mother at twenty-three was one of the most terrible things I’ve ever been through. But that, too, taught me so much. That a broken heart and grief can tear a person asunder, and yet the heart is so much stronger than we realize it is. I don’t think we discover how strong a heart is until it’s been truly broken. I’d give anything to have both of my parents back, but I wouldn’t change who they were or where I came from.
KA: As far as publishers, book covers, and editors, do you do it all solo, or do you seek services?
I do all of my own publishing. I’ve been an independent author since day one. I did the query thing in the beginning, but after a dozen or so rejections, I turned to self-publishing. I still query from time to time, but mostly I’ve taken this journey on my own with the readers, who are by far the most amazing readers in the world, and my personal assistant who joined me on this adventure a few years ago. Her name is Christina Silcox, and she is a hundred percent incredible. I don’t do my own covers and editing. I have a strong English background, as I went to college for that, but we miss things in our own work that others tend to catch. I’ve worked with both Melanie Bruce and Melissa Ringsted (There for you Editing) for editing. I also use beta readers for flow. A quick shout out to these 27 amazing women who have pretty much been with me since the beginning. You know who you are. Also, for cover art, I’ve worked with Regina Wamba of Mae I Design, Eden Crane of Eden Crane Designs, Cora of Cora Graphics, Frankie Rose, Melissa Wright, and more recently Alivia Anders of White Rabbit Designs. Also, I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with talented photographer, Audrey Welch of Audrey Welch photography.
KA: Are you your own worst critic, or do you manage to have a good mindset about your creations?
Definitely my own worst critic. Not at first though. When I’m writing, nothing else exists. It’s just me and the characters and this amazing journey. It’s after it’s finished and I’ve sent it off for editing that the nerves set in. They get me every time. I worry and stress until the feedback starts coming in, but I think that’s actually a good thing. I think the moment I stop questioning myself will be the moment that I’m no longer trying to improve, and I never want to get to that point. I will always be nervous for my characters and for me because it pushes me to the next story every time.
KA: You mentioned early about rejection letters, how would you tell up and coming writers to deal emotionally with not only those, but negative reviews?
Rejection is never easy. You have to look at it from a certain perspective. Being rejected doesn’t mean you are a bad writer, it just means you aren’t what they’re looking for at the moment. There is so much that goes into publishing, especially on the traditional side. They are looking for works that are trending, and depending on the publisher/agent, for certain genres. At the time, that may not be you. It still hurts. It’s like an arrow to the heart, but if you stack up all of your rejection letters and really look at them, most of them are the same thing, the same form letter with the same words. So, you have to ask yourself how closely they really looked at the work. If your pitch didn’t grab them from the get-go, then they aren’t interested in the manuscript. Simple as that, and in the long run, it helps to look at it that way.
As for negative reviews, it comes with the territory. You have two types of negative reviews: the critical reviews and the ugly/troll/spamming attacks. You can usually tell the difference by the way they’re written. I’ve had both, and to be honest, I really don’t mind the critical ones, even when they have a cruel bite to them. Maybe it was because I had a really critical college English professor (who I adored). She taught me how to take criticism, how to use that same criticism to make my writing better. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in a profession; every day is a new lesson. You’re constantly improving. I use the critical reviews to strengthen how I write and to teach me what readers are really looking for. If I took my first book (Redemption) and compared it with one of my recent works (Hawthorne & Heathcliff), I can see how far I’ve come. It doesn’t mean that I love my earlier works any less. Actually I think I love them more because they were my first, they were the stepping stones to where I’m at now.
The second type of bad reviews—the personal attacks and cruel DNF remarks—are harder to shake, but it’s all about perspective, too. These people don’t know you. They’re using their disposable income to buy your book, and because of that no matter how much it hurts, they have the freedom to leave those reviews. I’ve had some terrible ones, especially with earlier works, but I’ve learned to read them and to shake them off. Oh, I’ve cried and even chased the bitter taste with a glass of wine, but I think my past with bullying has taught me a lot about how to handle that kind of thing. Never engage a bad review. Ever! If it’s critical, use it to make yourself better. If it’s personal, walk away and remember that it’s not about you. It’s about them. Maybe something about the book bothered them, and that’s okay. These are your stories, and you tell them. Sometimes people will connect with the books and the characters and sometimes they won’t, but be grateful that they at least took a chance on you. That they used their disposable income to read your book in the first place.
It’s not easy being a writer. This career is like playing the stock market. One month you’re up and one month you’re down. One month you have enough to pay the bills, the next month you’re pawning things because you’re not sure you’ll make it to the next. You do what you have to do. I’ve done it all. I’ve worked full time while writing on the side, I’ve cleaned other people’s houses while hipping a baby to make ends meet while still putting books out there, I’ve given up things, and taken other jobs, to do this. This job is about passion, about loving it so much that it’s bigger than you.
I can’t beg people to read the books, and I certainly can’t expect them to like them, but I can bleed on the paper. I can put my heart and soul into every word and every sentence, and I can walk away from each project with a sense of pride because it means I did it. I accomplished something, and no harsh words or bad reviews can take that away from you.
Also, from experience, you are going to have people who don’t see this as a job. Just remember that they aren’t in your shoes, and because of that, they really don’t know what goes into it. The long days spending hours in front of the computer screen, back and neck muscles screaming at you. The days pouring eye drops in your eyes, the nights and mornings spent chugging coffee and energy drinks to meet deadlines and to stay up early or late to write when you don’t have children to attend to. The meals you miss because stopping means pulling yourself out of that ‘moment.’ The long nights not sleeping because the voices in your head are never quiet. The tears you shed while putting pen to paper because life is happening around you while you work. Since my first book was published, I’ve lost a parent, I’ve lost a grandparent, I’ve had a child in intensive care, I’ve worked second and third jobs and taken care of three children while writing and marketing and selling myself, and I’ve spent a ton of time online trying my best to reach out to every reader because they took the time to share my stories. Not every book is a success, but you have to look at your own books as personal successes. It’s like being a mother. You sacrifice things for your children to make sure they have the best chance at life. Does that mean your kids will make it into an ivy league college or that they won’t make mistakes? No, but what matters is that you worked hard to give them the best damn chance at success that you could. No matter what.
Remember all of that while shedding the tears and downing the wine. Remember that life will kick you, but it’s how you come out of that kick that matters.
KA:In the Land of Tea and Ravens. Wow! Another amazing tale. Is that going to be a stand alone, or you going to give more life to Lyric and Grayson?
In the Land of Tea and Ravens is a standalone that was actually a tribute to my grandmother. She passed away in 2013 after a long fight with Alzheimer’s. She was from the UK and came to America when she was nineteen as a war bride. She was an amazing oral storyteller, and she loved tea. She believed it healed everything. From broken hearts to colds. It didn’t matter. There was always a cup of tea waiting for me when I visited. As a child, she really cultivated both the love of tea and storytelling in me, and when she passed In the Land of Tea and Ravens grew from the grief I felt after her death. I do intend to write a follow up novel that focuses on another character in that book.
KA: I too lost a grandparent to that dreadful disease.
It’s such a horrible disease. I also have a living grandfather fighting it at the moment, and it breaks my heart.
KA: Who do you like to read, and any genres you are not a fan of?
I pretty much read everything. I think the only thing I don’t read often, but I do read, is horror. It’s not my first genre pick, but I do have favorite authors in that genre I read whenever they release. I think it surprises people when I tell them that I’m a big fan of classic literature. I love everything from Austen and Bronte to Dostoevsky and Conrad. I had some amazing English teachers who really cultivated that in me, and I’ve learned that having a strong literature background has really helped shaped my own writing.
KA: Would you ever want to see any of your books on the big screen? I'm dying for a Story of Awkward film!
Absolutely. I don’t know of anyone that I’m acquainted with that wouldn’t love to see something of theirs on the big screen. My middle daughter takes acting and I’ve learned through doing that with her how amazing the film industry can be. It’s as much an art as writing, music, and other arts. I think if I had to pick something of mine I think would transfer well to screen, it would definitely be The Story of Awkward or Hawthorne and Heathcliff. Really, I’d love to see any of them up there, both the series I’ve written and the standalones. It would be an incredible experience I hope to undertake one day.
KA: I know when I ended my first novel, I felt a sense of loss. A sadness. When you end your stories, do you ever feel that way?
I jokingly tell my husband that I have a book low, this period of depression I hit after I finish a book or a series. It’s the same feeling I imagine I’m going to feel when my daughters move out one day. Even though I’m proud of the book and the characters, there’s this heartache you feel when you set the book free. I’m losing that piece of myself.
KA: Is Hawthorne & Heathcliff your latest book, or...?
H&H is one of my recent releases, but not my latest. I have a very, very special place in my heart for Hawthorne & Heathcliff. It was actually a story that was part of my backlist, a book I had started writing after my mother passed away in 2005, and so picking it up to finish it really felt like coming home to these characters and to the emotions I was feeling at the time while writing it. It was a very beautiful journey for me. And, in the end, I dedicated it to both of my parents, who are both now sadly gone.
My most recent release was An Introvert’s Tale, and before that, The Best I Could. The Best I Could is probably my darkest and longest write, a contemporary that delves into cutting, depression, and mental illness.
KA: Can you give us a sample of what story is brewing in your head currently?
I have several brewing at the moment. I have an exclusive ARC release that I’ll be reading from at a convention in August that will release online in ebook and paperback later that same month. It’s my final contemporary for the year, after which I’m delving back into paranormal romance and fantasy. I’m really excited about this. The fantasy series takes place in the same nine kingdoms as my Scribes of Medeisia series, although it’s a completely different story, and I’m looking forward to being inside that world again, a world of magic and dragons and intrigue. The contemporary that releases in August is a love story told in the same poetic way that Hawthorne & Heathcliff is told. I also have a novella releasing with WaWa productions run by Janet Wallace and Regina Wamba. It’s part of a series of novellas set in the 1980’s. The theme is love in the 80’s, and a novella has released each month since January, each one set in a different year and written by a different author. Mine releases in July and is based in 1986. It’s Titled Why Can’t This be Love.
KA: Do you keep your children in mind when writing about certain topics, I mean, do you ever think, oh shit! they could be reading them one day?
I do think about them when I write, but I don’t limit where I go. In many ways, my children inspire what I write, such as with The Story of Awkward and An Introvert’s Tale. Also, my female main characters are strong women, even if they don’t seem strong in the beginning. They all have something about them that I want my children to look at one day and realize that no matter what they do, what they experience, or what obstacles they face, that they can come out of it stronger and wiser. That romance is beautiful, but that it doesn’t always have to be everything. That the key to being a strong woman is loving yourself before you can love someone else. That love can be this incredible journey to finding that, but that loss and heartache can teach us a lot, too. In Hawthorne & Heathcliff, Hawthorne’s Uncle Gregor tells her that the heart often needs to break in order to grow, and I truly believe that.
KA: You seem to pump book after book out pretty fast, at least faster than I could ever work, what is your trick?
I don’t know if I’d call it a trick. It’s more that I have a lot of books that I’ve worked on over time, each of them in varying stages, so by the time that I release one book that’s been finished for a while, I usually have another one that is almost finished. When I’m writing a series, I also tend to wait until the first two books are finished before I start the publishing process so that there isn’t a long wait between releases. That said, I do have some series that take longer and need more time, so there’s a longer wait with them. The Embrace Yourself series and my standalone Legend series are both in that category. There’s a lot of research and emotional investment in each project. Also, when I’m writing a story, it’s usually because I need to write that particular tale at the time because of where my heart and soul is at the moment, and so it flows really easy. I’m not an outline writer, but I have a good grasp of the characters and the plot when I start. The end always surprises me though, as much as it surprises my characters. Writing has always been a passion for me, but it’s also been an outlet to express myself and to help heal when I need it for that.
I’ve lost both of my parents and two of my grandparents in the last ten years. I’ve also almost lost one of my daughters after a terrible car accident some years back, and writing carried me through the grief. Writing became the wings I needed to fly, a tool that taught me as much about myself as it did the characters I was writing about. The Singing River, for example, was mostly written in a hospital waiting room for months while my father was in intensive care. It helped me through his passing while helping me heal after losing my mother. I never intend to sit down and ‘write with a purpose’, but it generally ends up working out that way. I’m inspired by life and the things that life throws at us. I’m inspired by this idea that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that if we look hard enough, no matter how terrible something seems at the moment, that the grass in the distance is greener. We just have to make it there.
KA: I’m so sorry for your losses. My personal losses have been my inspiration for creating, too.
Awww, thank you so much. I was checking out at the store recently when the cashier suddenly asked me, “Do you live in a fairytale? Every time I see you, you’re always smiling. Even when you’re kids are screaming and you have no makeup on. You still have a smile on your face.” The question stunned me, and after a moment I found myself saying, “I’m alive. Frowning doesn’t fix problems. Maybe smiling doesn’t either, but it certainly makes the problems feel better.” Loss is a soul crushing thing, but I think it teaches us to look at life with a smile. It helps us remember that it’s just nice to be alive, to have another day to keep trying, keep loving, and keep being.
KA: And let's get creative! Gimme a short, paragraph length story based on the words, worm, bathrobe, and cheese....
Delia Weathersby was a gifted little girl with a peculiar problem. She had a bad habit of falling asleep during the day, usually in the middle of class, and because her imagination was so very large, her dreams tended to come to life. Out of nowhere. Right there where everyone could see them. Everything, down to the whole ‘I came to school in nothing’ nightmare had all come true for her. She was the front page news in her small town, her story becoming an international headline after dreaming about a worm. Well, more specifically, it was a caterpillar. It was the worst possible dream ever. The caterpillar was the size of a human. Actually, it was, ironically, the same height and proportions as Delia’s father, which is probably why she’d dreamed about him in the first place. She’d been mad at her Dad when she had the dream, and the caterpillar was sitting in her father’s recliner when she fell asleep, the worm wearing the same ragged bathrobe her dad preferred and eating the same smelly cheese he liked on chicken-flavored crackers. Now, that the caterpillar had come to life, brought alive by her dream, she couldn’t get rid of him. Not only had he come to life, but he—the caterpillar—had moved into her house. Because where else would a dream-born worm live? He slept in her room on her floor because there was nowhere else to put him, and she battled a lawn full of reporters and tourists every morning because where else in the world would you find a human-sized caterpillar?
Her parents had started to despair of her and her dream-born talents when one day they all awoke to find that the caterpillar was gone. Completely vanished. In his place was a huge cocoon. Scientists from all over the world came to study it. Pictures of it broke viral, social media records. And then when the cocoon opened, and the overly large, beautiful butterfly that broke free of it rose up into the sky, the whole world watching, Delia realized something.
She was special. Incredibly special. She had a gift no one else had. It made her unique and a little scary. I mean, after all, no one wanted Delia to dream about a man-eating monster or a rampaging dinosaur … or did they?
KA: Whoa! I almost put the word caterpillar as well, great mind and all that. (laughs)
I love it!