Realize that being a “great author” is subjective. As a writer, some readers will resonate with your work and others will not. I have been lucky to find a wide selection of readers who have provided feedback during the first and last revisions. It’s useful to get feedback from people who are drawn to the type of work I tend to do, and from those who would never choose my book unless I asked them. This is useful when dealing with inevitable rejection, too.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewingKimberly Moore.
Kimberly Moore is a writer and educator from Tennessee with all the degrees educators are required to have. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have been published in several literary journals. Her first novel, “Illuminare” is part of a genre-bending trilogy.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil, and I grew up in a family that valued books and creativity. At first, it was an escape. Later, I found others were entertained or otherwise affected by my words. In high school, I was hired occasionally to ghostwrite love letters but by college, I became uncomfortable playing Cyrano to so many tragic love affairs and began to concentrate on learning the rules of writing. Since then, I’ve been un-learning those rules and adapting them to my own inspiration, for better or worse.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
It’s a recurring story. I have found when working on any writing project, once inspiration strikes, the coincidences that show up are astounding. Anyone interested in proving the law of attraction should write a novel and watch it write itself. “Illuminare” has been gestating in my head since 2006. Once I began putting words on paper, help has continued to show up. COVID, as terrible as it has been, gave me the gift of time. Research presented itself to me. The right music appeared. Plot holes were filled in dreams. I feel as if all I’ve had to do is show up. While it’s true in one sense that writing a series of novels is difficult, it is also true that something else seems to carry the weight of the labor.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
The biggest challenge to a new writer (or anyone) is fear. At first, it’s fear of rejection and criticism, which seem to be unavoidable. After that, it’s fear of wasting time. The cure for fear is to return to the original reason for writing. As a child, I didn’t write to please anyone but myself, and that has saved me as a mature writer. If the act of writing isn’t fulfilling in itself, it’s not worth doing. It has taken me a long, long time to reach the point of not being attached to how my writing is received by others, but it has made the process peaceful and as fun as it was when I first learned to write. I hope for the best reception; I’m happy, regardless.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I suppose I was like many new writers. I expected fast responses to my submissions and I sent queries when what I believed to be a sufficient amount of time had passed. I’ve learned to relax and understand that once I send something into the void, I’m likely to forget it exists before I hear from the recipient. It’s best to move on to the next project and forget about what is circulating.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have just finished the third book in the trilogy of “Illuminare” and based on feedback from several of my beta readers, I am looking into writing the story as a script. I’ve never written in that format so I have a lot to learn. I’ve also explored some genres of short fiction that are new for me as a writer, such as science fiction and fantasy. The surprise is that they are being well-received and even published. Unfortunately, I still do not do well with poetry but I enjoy trying.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
Different readers have responded with different answers to that question. For me, it is how a person stripped of autonomy and power manages to overturn a corrupt system. Although the main character is sheltered in many ways when she is abducted, she was a prisoner to the predestination of her family dynasty before she was made a prisoner by her family’s enemy. Her transformation from passive acceptance of her environment to demanding freedom within her destiny is the most interesting story of my book. The element of magical realism — the family’s ancient ceremonies with the presence of the spirits of ancestors and their power of “uplighting” — complicates how this family clings to tradition, making it more imperative that she take action one way or another.
Some readers became more invested in familial relationships and the transformation from a patriarchal family saga to a more equal system. Of course, there is always the allure of forbidden love to keep pages turning.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
You create your own life. The novel is full of characters who feel controlled — by fate, by other people, by their careers, and relationships — and they either find ways to create freedom within the confines of their expectations or break free of them altogether.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
First, realize that being a “great author” is subjective. As a writer, some readers will resonate with your work and others will not. I have been lucky to find a wide selection of readers who have provided feedback during the first and last revisions. It’s useful to get feedback from people who are drawn to the type of work I tend to do, and from those who would never choose my book unless I asked them. This is useful when dealing with inevitable rejection, too.
Second, it is worth the time and effort to get organized. Writing a complex novel becomes confusing. I recommend software designed for novelists, such as Scrivener. I learned this the hard way, and I was fairly stubborn in my belief that I could keep up with my story using a complicated file system. It took time and money to learn Scrivener, but the time it saves me now makes it worth the effort. If you don’t want to learn new software, take the time to develop a filing system with a standard for naming your documents. Writing a long work can become so perplexing that lack of organization can hold you back, or stop a project from being finished.
Third, find a schedule that works for you, but make sure it’s a schedule. If it’s not a priority, you’ll find excuses. For me, writing every day is a necessity now. I’m not prolific every day, and some days nothing I write is useful, but I write every day. Some writers write when inspiration strikes, and some have daily word goals. Whatever keeps you writing is right for you, and no one can know that but you.
Fourth, allow for inspiration, even if you believe you don’t need it. I have experienced writing ideas and epiphanies in dreams, in meditation, while driving, and talking to random people. It has occurred so often that I expect it now. When I get stuck, I don’t worry anymore. I just relax and look for signs. I had a dream once that was an entire short story. I wrote it, and it sold. If you receive an impulse to do something, go somewhere or talk to someone, follow the impulse.
Finally, write something you would enjoy reading, even if it defies genre classification or typical structures. It’s important to learn to write correctly while remembering not to take rules too seriously. I was recently in a webinar with someone presenting a list of rules for a particular genre and the chat panel for attendees was filling with examples of successful writers who had broken those rules. Think of rules as suggestions supported by trends. Trends, like fashions, change. Write to please yourself first; your readers are out there somewhere and they will understand you.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
I stopped thinking of writing as something to do when I had more time. I was never going to have more time. I had to make it a priority. Once I made a habit of writing every day, it became something I wanted to do every day. My ideal block of writing time is three or four hours, but if I have to, I can accomplish something in thirty minutes when time is scarce.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
Probably sixty percent of books I read are literary and published within the last forty years. I admire the skill of literary authors in the use of unique words and descriptions and the depth of characterization the genre allows. I feel I have the most to learn from literary fiction. However, I love finding a series of plot-driven novels that I can lose myself in for months or years, too. Nothing wrong with humorous novels, either — I’ll read whatever interests me on impulse.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I believe if we taught children to meditate in whatever style they preferred, the world would be a much calmer place within a generation. In my opinion, a dose of tranquility would benefit the world. There has been some research that children who meditate suffer less from anxiety, demonstrate greater power of concentration and focus, and have greater empathy for others. It could be worth the time to add that to curricula.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!