Saturday, November 20, 2010

Author Interview: Kieran Kramer



Please welcome Kieran Kramer, debut author of the Regency historical romance WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY. In the two weeks since its release, her book has already reached the USA Today Bestseller list, and after reading the book I understand why. I met Kieran in Orlando at RWA10, and was immediately struck by her friendly, upbeat attitude. We kept in touch, and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions for today’s post.

Here’s a quick bio:
Kieran Kramer, a former CIA employee, journalist, and English teacher, lives in the Lowcountry of SC with her family. Game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer, her motto is, "Life rewards action." Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.kierankramerbooks.com.

GH: Tell us a little about the Impossible Bachelors series.

KK: Four Regency gentlemen who are experts at avoiding the marriage altar wind up falling in love! The series is light, funny, sweet, sexy, and even poignant in places. My goal when writing the series was to have fun as I wrote. I dearly hope you, my readers, will have fun as you read them.

GH: I loved the premise for Molly and Harry’s story. It’s not always easy to say where our ideas come from, but was there any particular inspiration for their story that
you’d like to share? Or maybe a spark of a scene or character that got it started?

KK: I knew that I wanted to have a beauty pageant of some sort back in the Regency era. That was where the whole idea started. So how could I pull that off? I came up with the idea of a competition between mistresses, and I knew that one of them had to be a fish out of water, like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality.

GH: Your books are chock full of fun, and that’s reflected in the titles. Did you get to choose them, or help?

KK: When I submitted my proposal to my agent and then to my editor, I had come up with some very unusual titles. I wanted them to be sassy and fun and fresh. We wound up keeping one out of
four of the originals, which was WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY. The rest we came up with together. We throw ideas back and forth and have a lot of fun. It's a great feeling when we find a title we all love!

GH: What element of writing do you feel you struggle with most, and how do you overcome it?

KK: Plotting. I spend hours and hours thinking and getting nowhere because I have too many ideas. And then I'll walk myself into corners and give up and start over the next day. The only thing that has made plotting palatable to me is Blake Snyder's book series, SAVE THE CAT. That adds a huge dimension of fun to plotting. I like it, and it helps me a lot to use his 40-scene structure storyboard.

But in the end, it's really just me and my imagination, feeling lonely, scared, and frustrated, not knowing what I'm going to do next.

GH: So I’m not the only one! I’m reading SAVE THE CAT right now and already wishing I’d picked it up a long time ago. You obviously managed to plot a winner with WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY. Did your editor request any major changes before publishing the book?

KK: Oh, sure. I had a mistress contest or two that I had to either tweak or drop because I wrote this book WAY long!

GH: Did anything surprise you about the publishing process?

KK: Definitely. I knew nothing about what went on behind the scenes. I've learned it takes a great team to publish a book, and I'm super grateful for mine at St. Martin's Press.

GH: You have such an interesting background. Former CIA agent--is agent the right word?--game show winner, journalist, bar maid in Scotland. Do you have any idea what influenced your decision to write romance, and specifically historical?

KK: Good question about the CIA. At the real CIA, no one is called a CIA agent. That's movie talk. James Bond, if he worked for the CIA, would be called a case officer. I was hired as a career trainee (CT), which was a big honor—you're basically selected for specialized training that very few people at the CIA receive. I was in the same CT class as Valerie Plame. We slogged through trenches together at the Farm and slept in the same quonset hut for a couple months. Incidentally, I can't believe she's having a movie made about her. I can't wait to see it. She was very together…very confident. I'm NEVER that girl. I'm always the one who trips over her feet or says the wrong thing. I often did that in the CIA, and you know what? I love that goofy younger version of myself. I was fully involved in everything I did there. I tried. I was adventurous. I occasionally embarrassed myself. But that's okay. I like that I'm all right with stepping out and messing up and starting over again.

Looking back on the other stuff—game show winner, journalist, bar maid (and college student) in Scotland—I don't think any of that influenced my decision to write historical romance. What influenced me most was my love of reading, my love of books.

A lot of my sense that life offers endless possibilities comes from my immersion, as a kid, in the world of story. The irony is, I applied that principle of believing in endless possiblilities to the pursuit of a career in story, specifically in writing romance novels.

GH: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

KK: Yes. Start from a strong foundation. By that, I think it's important that you know yourself and like yourself before you write a story. Why? Because if you don't believe in yourself—if you think you're unworthy in some way—what you write won't be a good story as much as it will be either a strained attempt to prove yourself to the world or an apology of some sort. The best stories are those that don't exercise your demons. The best ones are those that come from a solid Truth that you know, from a place inside you that's deep and protected from the whims of the moment, or the viccisitudes of life.

Yes, you need your brain to help you put your story's plot together, but you need your gut more than your head—and so you need to be able to trust yourself. This is essential. Trust your instincts. Embrace who you are and be excited about shining your unique light on the world. That sort of enthusiasm is interesting and attractive. That will win you an audience.

Another way to say this is, don't be your own worst enemy. If you are constantly sabotaging yourself, become aware of your patterns—work at emphasizing the positive and releasing the negative until you come to an honest acceptance of who you are. Be gentle with yourself while you try to alleviate or work around your weaknesses—and be proud of your strengths.

When you approach writing with this attitude, you can't help but write strong. Powerful words, powerful stories—whether they're humorous, dark, complex, or simple—flow from the minds of people who claim their place in the world. Imagine thinking along these lines: "I'm here, and I have no need to prove anything to anyone—I'm much more interested in noticing these cool/interesting/poignant/funny/dark things about the world that I want to share with you because I can. I want to interact, to share, to participate in life!"

Writing stories is living. It's living in the moment and living to the fullest. It means we're here right now and we're engaging, being a part of the world. So pat yourself on the back for taking that extra step forward, for daring to put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and writing. You're brave. You're reaching out. You're trying to connect. So many people don't even attempt that. So believe in the rightness of your purpose. Write your stories. They're important. All the stories we write connect us to each other, and there's no higher purpose than that.

Thanks so much for joining us Kieran!
---
We have a copy of WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY, and an ARC of DUKES TO THE LEFT OF ME, PRINCES TO THE RIGHT to give away, so be sure to leave a comment before Monday at midnight EST! Kieran will try to check in periodically if anyone has questions.

Look for WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY on bookshelves now, and DUKES TO THE LEFT OF ME, PRINCES TO THE RIGHT coming November 30th. To learn more, visit www.kierankramerbooks.com.

23 comments:

Steph said...

A very Zen approach to writing, but I get it. It is the infamous Zone. When I am painting and all that is there is me and the canvas, that will work as a piece. No zone = doubt= crappy painting. I imagine it is much the same in books.
Love to enter. THanks for the contest.
Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust
email: steph@fangswandsandfairydust.com
Twitter: @fangswandsfairy

Donna Cummings said...

Kieran, congrats on your success! I'm looking forward to reading your books since I've heard so many great things about them. :)

And your advice really resonated--it IS so important to trust yourself and your instincts when writing a story. Thanks for sharing that. :)

Heather said...

Kieran, I am looking forward to reading your books. This was a fantastic interview!

Anne Gallagher said...

Kieran, I won WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY two weeks ago when you were at Christine's blog. (Digging out of Distraction) I tore it open as soon as I got it and LOVED it!

I'm squeeing to think I could win the arc of DUKES TO THE LEFT OF ME, PRINCES TO THE RIGHT (love that title).

I wish you continued success on your writing journey. It's a long row to hoe, but I think you've got what it takes to deliver. Especially after reading your debut. Great job!

piedmontwriter@gmail.com

Jeanie said...

Kieran, can't wait to read your book. I love fun, light and sexy, so I know I will love WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY. And thanks so much for the wonderful, inspiring, WISE words on writing. I love what you said so much that I'm printing this blog out and posting it next to my computer so I won't forget. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the process and on the craft. You've made my day!

Linda Henderson said...

I really enjoyed your interview and I can't wait to read your books. I've heard great things about When Harry Met Molly.

seriousreader at live dot com

Curtis said...

Kieran, thank you your remarks.

Plotting seems to be both the problem and the way to the solution. How much of a structure do you have in place before you start writing?

Personally, I would rather see a CIA movie about your style of CIAing. :-) Did you just give me an idea for a book? Thank you.

Clare2e said...

I read the sample after seeing everyone talking about it-- that construction works online!-- and I really liked the interview. I'm a sucker for earnest and upbeat, because it seems to get harder to keep over time, and it's what I value more in myself than the cynic.

Life rewards action is a great motto, too! Wonder if I can figure out the Latin for a crest? I'd have a cup of coffee rampant, I think, and a boot aimed squarely toward a seat modeled suspiciously after my own.

Thanks for the contest *fingers crossed*

Kieran Kramer said...

Wow, thanks for all the supportive comments about my books!!! It's great to be here and make new writing/reading friends!!! That's been the best part of stepping out into the writing world for me--the personal connections.

At the Orlando RWA conference, I met some of my Twitter friends for the first time, and it was great--I remember feeling my heart kind of leap when I connected the name to my Twitter life--and I couldn't help feeling excited and happy to meet people I've shared time and true camraderie with over the internet.

So hurrah for blogs like Romance Magicians, where we can tawk about what we all love--writing AND reading great books!!

And I'm so glad some of my observations about the writing life resonated with you. I do get a little bit Zen; I've always been an odd combo of deep thinker and total ditz. Somehow it works for me! I think a lot of the ditz factor is that I'm always thinking at a deeper level at the same time that I'm talking. I guess writers in general tend to do that--we're observers even as we're living in the moment.

Steph, Donna, Heather, Anne, Jeanie, Linda, Curtis, & Clare2e, thank you for stopping by today. I look forward to chatting with you maybe on my Facebook page or at my website!!

Hugs,

Kieran :>) P.S. I almost forgot to answer Curtis's question! I often have only a couple scenes in mind when I begin, but I faithfully create a story board with 36-40 scenes on it based on the Blake Snyder SAVE THE CAT method, and when I get stuck--I go to the Board and see where the kinks are. Often I can come up with only 10 or so scenes on the Board when I start writing. I'll fill the rest in as I go. When I'm done, I go back and look to see if I've hit the "beats" Blake refers to in his book. But this is an arduous process for me, and often, when the book is DONE, I look at my Board and I still haven't filled in some scenes. I do so as an afterthought to say, "See? I can plot!"

Raven99 said...

I love your advice to aspiring authors. I agree wholeheartedly on the importance of trusting your instincts and embracing who you are.

I am looking forward to reading When Harry Met Molly. I have read so many great reviews that mentioned how much fun the book is. Thanks for this interview.

Lady Leigh said...

I can't wait to read WHMM. And great advice to aspiring authors! I need to print that out and put it next to my computer.

leigh@leighlavalle.com

ClaudiGC said...

Thank you for the graet interview! I'm really lokking forward to reading your books!

Christine said...

The book was fabulous. I just finished it myself. Your debut novel is off to a great start and I can't wait to read book number 2! Dukes to the Left of Me.

:-)

Kieran Kramer said...

Leigh, ClaudiGC, Christine, and Raven99...

Thanks for your kind comments, ladies!

Hey, a second ago I announced my $100 B & N or Borders gift card contest--it's ON! I hope you'll stop by my website to check it out. But you can't enter unless you're a Spinster with a capital S.

I am--and I've been married 21 years!

:>)

Who's going out tonight? Anyone? Anyone?

Jen Teal said...

I love your approach to writing. And after reading When Harry Met Molly it shows it works. Cant wait for the rest of the series!

Louisa Cornell said...

What a great interview! And some truly amazing and much needed insight on the heart and soul part of writing. I really needed to hear it this week, so thanks!

I have When Harry Met Molly on my TBR stack (at the top actually) but I am TRYING to make myself wait until I hit page 50 of my current WIP before I snatch it up and devour it! I've heard lots of great stuff about this book - including some kudos from your editor when I attended a St. Martins spotlight in Orlando!

SO glad to hear that I'm not the only one who plots herself into a corner or worse up against a brick wall or off a cliff! I actually haven't read Save the Cat. Need to pick that up and add it to the TBR stack but NOT ahead of When Harry Met Molly!

How cool that you were with the CIA !! I have to laugh at your assessment of your performance. My cousin is an evidence clerk for the FBI. She says when the packages come packed in dry ice the evidence is NOT going to be pleasant. Made me shudder!

Do you have a set word count that you try for every day. Do you write every day? And do you have a routine or set of triggers to get you in the right frame of mind to write?

And I would LOVE that ARC so I could perhaps spend a Sunday afternoon having a Kieran Kramer fest!

Kieran Kramer said...

Thanks for the compliment, Jen! I so appreciate it. And Louisa, I love your questions. I TRY to write every day, but being the mother of three (two still at home and one a freshman in college) some days it's impossible to do. I know there are some mom writers out there who can write through power failures and sickness and whatever other crises can strike at home, but I'm not one of them.

:>)

I do my best to write every day, but if it doesn't happen, it just doesn't. And I don't beat myself up about it.

However, don't think that means I don't push myself on deadline! I've done plenty of 10-12 hour days, two to three weeks in a row with maybe a short break here and there and then if I have to, another push at that pace for several more weeks. Life becomes a blur then, but my family is supportive and somehow, I still manage to enjoy myself. It's a natural high for me to work so much and so hard, and at the end of a crazy-long day, I plop down on the sofa and watch a funny show with the kids & my husband or read--

But I never go to the movies. That's my one weirdness during the intense writing of the book. I stay away from the movies because...that's my BIG TREAT!

I save a good movie at the theater--with buttered popcorn and a Coke--for when the book's done.

As for the right frame of mind for me when it comes to writing, having all my Facebook/Twitter/website/email correspondence out of the way is essential, even though now it NEVER seems to end (that, um, worries me just a tad!!)

Once the Facebook/Twitter/email's done, the sheer act of opening the lid on my Mac laptop gets me in the mood to write (I do most business correspondence on my Dell desktop at a desk in the kitchen & write my stories on my Mac).

I also like the cats to be lounging nearby when I start the story and the window shades to be just right, as well as the pillows behind my back--I invent all sorts of delays before I actually settle in to write. LOL!!

In the end, my focus is on outcome, not process. I find if I focus too much on process, the outcome suffers. I think that's what Nike meant with their JUST DO IT campaign.

Hope that explains a bit about how I work. But we're all different, so any way you can get yourself to write is a GOOD thing!!

Kieran :>)

Kieran Kramer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danielle Gorman said...

Hi there Kieran. I can't wait to get my hands on your books.

I am so jealous that you got to be on Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud. That is awesome.

Thanks for the great giveaway!

Lisa D. said...

What a great interview! I'm looking forward to picking up the books.

Kieran Kramer said...

Thanks, Lisa and Danielle, for stopping by and being so supportive! Danielle, the game show experiences were awesome, but it's hard for me to watch WHEEL now. It was so INTENSE being there...watching it now brings back the big adrenaline rush I felt when I was on the set. LOL!

Have a great Monday, ladies!

Kieran :>)

Jami Gold said...

I've heard so many good things about this book, and now that I know about the author behind it? Wow. What a background. No wonder Kieran was able to come up with such a unique premise. Love it!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Giveaway winners!!

Sorry, everyone, I got a bit behind on things, but I finally used a random number generator to choose the winners this morning. They are:

Jami Gold: When Harry Met Molly
Louisa Cornell: ARC of Dukes to the Left of Me...

Congratulations, ladies! Send me your snail mail addresses and I will pass them on to Kieran. Thanks!

gwen@gwenhernandez.com