Karen Docter interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Dec 1, 2016 1:30:10 PM
Karen Docter interview with David Alan Binder
Bio from her website: Amazon Bestselling Author Karen/K.L. Docter writes two different kinds of romance novels…
Contemporary Romance w/a Karen Docter: Romance…With a Kick! Amazon Author Page
Romantic Suspense w/a K.L. Docter: Women hunted by killers…men who’d die to protect them. Amazon Author Page
Karen’s contemporaries are delightful, spicy romances. She loves writing about real men and women with dreams and goals that don’t allow for a relationship just so she can throw them in each other’s path.
Her romantic suspense novels (as K.L. Docter) are also filled with romance, although the dangers the hero and heroine face are intense, usually because a serial killer is bent on ending one or both of their lives before they can fall in love.
Karen/K.L.’s an award-winning author, a four-time Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist, and won the coveted Kiss of Death Romance Writers Daphne du Maurier Award Category (Series) Romantic Mystery Unpublished division.
Facebook Author Page/Karen Docter: https://www.facebook.com/Karen-Docter-Author-112017712223396/
Facebook Author Page/K.L. Docter: https://www.facebook.com/kldocter/
Book Bench for Romance Lovers FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/281099382014548/
1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)?
My last name is pronounced like a medical doctor, just different spelling. Yes, there have been doctors in my family, in which case they were called Doctor Docter. And, yes, jokes ensue. J
2. Where are you currently living?
I live in the metro Denver area of Colorado
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
I’ve learned to never give up, never stop learning and never compare what I do with what everyone else does. Writing is a solitary journey and we all approach it a different way. Different doesn’t mean “bad”. It just means “different.” There are readers out there for everyone.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
I often write out of sequence. Once I have my general plotting done (I use the “W” plotting technique which I have been teaching for over 15 years), I know approximately where scenes belong. If I wake up wanting to write the scene in Chapter 15 but I’m working in sequence on Chapter 3, I will jump to the Chapter 15. It’s the only way I can get my creativity (my pantser—writing by the seat of my pants) to work with my need to do some plotting to keep me on track. It works for me!
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I’m an Indie author and publish my own work. I tried to break into the traditional romance publishing world for over 20 years. I had success getting editors interested in my work. I just couldn’t get the right project on the right desk at the right time. At the time, there wasn’t a good digital business model that had the distribution capabilities of the traditional publishers so I refused to step into the world of digital publishing. That all changed with the advent of Amazon’s distribution model. (I was in business for over 30 years…can you tell? J ) In 2012, I decided to plunge into the digital world as an Indie with my first novel and I haven’t looked back.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
As an Indie, I love the ability to control every aspect of my story. I choose my own book titles and story lines. It’s actually freed me up to write the stories I want to write. I didn’t realize that writing for “lines” was hamstringing my writing on such a deeply creative level. Of course, writing for myself means I have to find ways to force myself to write every day, a challenge when life events and health issues come up and smack me down.
I publish both digital and print books. I do print books through Createspace mostly for signing purposes. I’m still “old school” enough to want a print book in my hand, too, although most of my sales are digital. I probably would skip the print books if Amazon and Createspace didn’t make it so easy to publish print books and it cost me something to have it available. As it is, it’s free to upload and I don’t have to deal with inventory or publication expense.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
I wish there were secret tips about getting published! If there are any, I never found them. J I do think it’s important to figure out exactly what you want to accomplish with your book. With Amazon and other digital venues, you don’t have to wait for a publisher to buy your manuscript. Just keep in mind that publishing your own book is hard work. I tell myself that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is so much about “getting published” that you need to do, whether you write for the traditional market or as an Indie, that it can be overwhelming and very few people “make it big” on the first try. I think perseverance is the key.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
I had an agent in the last years I was trying to get into the traditional publishing houses. I never actually decided to get one though. I “fell” into my agent’s lap. We met at a Romance Writers of America conference and I’d been nominated for my 4th Golden Heart Award, so she asked to see the story up for the award that year. Upon reading it, she offered representation.
I have to admit; it was wonderful having someone in the industry who believed in me enough to want to help me get onto the right editorial desks. I wasn’t looking for an agent at the time because everyone knew there wasn’t much an agent could do against the boilerplate contracts at the publishing house I was targeting. (I’m not sure that has changed if you’re aiming for the traditional romance publishers.) But, to be honest, all of her hard work didn’t get me where I wanted to be either. I had one manuscript at Harlequin/Silhouette through four senior editors who liked it. I rewrote it four times in different ways and for different lines over two years. Ultimately, every time an editor changed or a line shut down, I’d start over. The fourth time the “line” I was aiming for shut down, my book was sent back for possible revisions for another “line”, my agent closed her doors, I was dealing with serious health issues, and I was so dispirited I quit writing for a while. When I picked up my career again, I decided to go Indie and there was no reason to go looking for another agent.
That said, I’d suggest writers look for a specific reason why they might want an agent. Some traditional publishers require them. Some do not. You need to decide what you want an agent to do for you. Do you just want him/her to be your “front man” and submit manuscripts for you? Do you want editorial help? Do you need someone to run the “business” end of publishing for you? Decide what you want and need. Then, start approaching agents who can fulfill those needs for you. Don’t settle for just anyone. You’re hiring your representative, not the other way around. They work for you. Run as fast as you can from someone who treats you like you’re there to work for them. Research them. Ask your peers if they have any experience with this agent or that one. Then, when you decide to pursue one, send him/her a professional email or letter (they will have submission requirements on their websites).
In all honesty, getting an agent is probably harder than getting an editor. Figure out if you need one, what you want them to do for you, then approach one with a professional query. Good luck!
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Never stop learning!!! Figure out where your weaknesses are, your strengths. Can’t spell or have grammar problems? Have problems with plot development? Need a cover artist? Take classes. Take lots of classes! You can find them online but also look for writing groups in your area and attend meetings. Get to know others in your genre. Pick their brains. Join critique groups. Be sure that you’re putting out a quality product. That’s the part of this capricious industry that you can control.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
Take the time to research, research, RESEARCH!!
It’s funny now but when I first started, I had it in my head that fiction was fiction. I could write anything my creative heart desired. Not so! I wrote two books before I joined Romance Writers of America and the local chapter where I lived back in the day. I found a couple of critique partners nearby and we started to meet.
One night they were reading a portion of a book I was trying to figure out why I couldn’t sell it. Both looked at me and said, “You can’t do this.” They were referring to the way I’d set up a will that affected the characters. I was devastated, crushed, bummed beyond belief. “But it’s fiction!” I replied. Their response was, “But it’s not real and that will tick off readers.”
I hadn’t really thought about how ticked I got at writers who wrote scenes that I KNEW were portrayed wrong. I remember throwing a book across the room when an author had a businesswoman doing something completely stupid and wrong when I knew how it was done because I was in the business world 30 years. So when I evaluated the book I’d written with their comments in mind, I knew exactly why my book could never sell. It was based on an erroneous premise that I could never fix. That book will remain forever in the “black hole” where I tossed it.
That early experience taught me to respect my readers. They’re smart and educated and have no patience with creative license for creative license sake. Now, I research everything I’m not intimately involved with and, even though I may not use all of that research, I am taking a deeper look at my characters and their problems and that’s enriched my writing.
11. How many books have you written?
Not counting the one I wrote 8 times for different lines? J I’ve written five books and currently working on two more (one in each of the two series I’m developing.
12. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
Find a plotting technique that helps you to develop your stories. I was a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants) for two stories and ended up in years of revision and angst until I discovered the “W”, the only plotting technique that worked for me. I love it because it traces each major player in the story from start to finish and I no longer face those sagging middles. It has made my writing tighter and, of course, allows me creative license to skip around my story. There are a number of plotting methods out there. Unless you’re a stream of consciousness writer and don’t care how quickly you produce a book, learning a plotting technique can help you write faster. And in this business, releasing only a book every year or two isn’t going to keep you in sight for the readers.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
In conjunction with the “W” class I teach, I have the students complete a character worksheet I created with specific questions I discovered I needed to know before I truly understood the characters. I know! I know! I dreaded doing character worksheets, too, for the longest time. But, what I’ve found is that the deeper I dig into the characters, the more I got to know them, the more ideas THEY gave me for twists in their story. I create “real” people with their own quirks and traits and they always approach a “scene” in their lives with a different perspective. I occasionally teach characterization to high school students. I have them create a handful of characters with their own traits and quirks. Then I take those characters and throw them into an elevator in a burning building and then ask them, “What is YOUR character going to do?” It’s amazing at how effective the following dialogue is to firming in the students’ minds how important their characterization is in developing story elements and finding twists.
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
I love to write real people and I think my characters stand out because they’re just like you and me. By the time I’m done, they’re my neighbors, my friends, my family members. Then I throw them into the hot seat (like the figurative burning elevator) and see how they react. I also love humor, not the slapstick humor but everyday things that make you smile. My contemporary romance has funny scenes because they’re so relatable, like the Italian mama trying to get her cop son to marry the woman of HER choice. I even have a certain element of humor in my romantic suspense. It helps to lighten the darkness that comes with having a serial killer after you. I also think my romantic suspense has a more equal balance of both romance and suspense, about 50/50. Not all romantic suspense spends as much time on the romance.
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I have a website/blog which I’ve blended for both of my genres. You can find all of my work there. Contemporary Romance on the left. Romantic Suspense on the right. Karen’s Killer Book Bench (On Friday’s, it’s Karen’s Killer Fixin’s, recipes) runs down the middle so that readers see all of my work every time they come to read my blogs. I blog for other writers, across the genres. Spotlights. Interviews. Recipes. Etc. It’s an organic way for me to promote my work.
I also have three FB pages. One personal, and one for each of my personas, Karen Docter and K.L. Docter. I open up FB every morning and leave it open all day so I can dip in to talk to my friends, fans and readers. Again, another organic way to promote my work.
I have a Twitter account and a mailing list through MailChimp. I do occasional ads in reader magazines. I send promotional goodies like pens and flashlights to conferences and luncheons. I’ve tried FB ads and boosts and can’t say I’ll be doing them again in the near future. They simply don’t work for me. I’ve built a small reviewers list where I send my books upon release so they can post reviews. I have a small Street Team who helps me get special information out. I did Goodreads Giveaways with three of my books that went well, too. I use my Pinterest boards to promote my books, the series, the pictures I use for character development, etc. I’m also a member of Triberr and have a suspense tribe of my own and belong to several other tribes for a possible 1.2 million readers (if everyone re-shared all of my blogs, which we know doesn’t happen, but it gets my blog out there.)
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful critique partners and we share everything we learn with each other. We’ve been together 16 years and we’ve learned a lot over the years. I can’t say what I’d do differently now beyond find a way to write faster. I’m a plodding writer. Too much of a perfectionist (you have noticed how long this interview is, right? J ). I’m not sure I’d do anything differently since my writing journey has taught me so much.
17. What saying or mantra do you live by?
I have a quote on my About/Bio on my website that says:
“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the lines between work and play.” ~ Arnold Toynbee
My writing is as important to me as breathing. It’s a skill, a job, and a joy all rolled up into one. I cannot NOT write, even if I never published another book.
Thanks so much for asking such thought-provoking questions, David. I haven’t thought about the answers to some of these in a long time. I wish your readers the best of luck with their writing careers. Happy Writing!