Monday, December 12, 2016

Interview with K.L. Going + Winner of SECRETS IN THE SNOW

Dear Readers,

I know you're eager to learn the winner of Michaela MacColl's exciting novel, Secrets in the Snow, but THIS week the winner will be announced at the end of the blog!

First, please welcome award winning author, K.L. Going, in this special, unannounced interview. Kelly and I are co-faculty for an upcoming workshop, Novel Beginnings, from March 16-19 for Highlights Foundation with special guest editor, Andrea Tompa from Candlewick Press.
And NOW, here's K.L.!! 

Author K.L. Going and her FAVORITE distraction
Q. What makes the start of a novel so challenging?
K.L. - Whenever I'm writing a new novel, the section I read and reread the most is the opening chapter. There is so much that has to be introduced right away, and all of it has to be done in an artful way so that readers don't feel like they're receiving an information dump. Key features of the characters and plot must *pop* enough to be memorable, but they're competing with every other element that needs to be established from page one -- like setting, tone, and the most important feature of the plot: what does this character want or need? That's no small order, right?

Meanwhile, an author is also dealing with that feeling in the pit of the stomach that happens when you think about all of the blank pages ahead that haven't been written yet. Ha. Suddenly, the great idea that seemed so amazing before you sat down to actually write it, can begin to feel like maybe it's not so great after all. Especially when you read your first draft.

My solution? Recognize right from the start that the opening of your novel is going to take multiple revisions in order to get it right. It's going to take work. Editing. Taking the time to think through those fundamental decisions about what makes your character and plot tick will make your book so much stronger later on. Planning pays off, and expectations matter.

Q. What do you know now that you wish you'd known at the start of your career?

K.L. - Marketing. Groan. Many authors feel like this is the bane of our existence. I'd rather just write books. That's what I'm good at. BUT... marketing has become an indispensable part of an author's job. I wish that ten years ago I'd understood the importance of gathering names and e-mail addresses for a mailing list, but at that time having a website felt like an achievement.

Q. What is one common mistake you see when critiquing new writers?
K.L. - One of the most common mistakes I see is that the plot of the novel feels episodic. You can have a strong character, a compelling idea, and clean prose, but if the through line of your plot isn't strong and fails to connect each and every event in a meaningful way, the story will feel like a collection of events and it will fail to have that snowball effect which keeps a reader turning the pages because the story is building towards a conclusion, gaining speed and urgency as it goes along.
Q. What are you most looking forward to about our upcoming Highlights Foundation workshop, Novel Beginnings?

K.L. - Having a span of time removed from the demands of my daily life (child care, laundry, grocery shopping!) to focus on writing. Even as a teacher, I always come away feeling rejuvenated and inspired to write more. Write better! I always learn new things. A friend of mine, Lisa Grace Byrne, founder of Well Grounded Life, talks about giving yourself permission and graces. Attending a workshop means I'm giving myself permission to pursue my passion, and the grace to try something new, even if that means making mistakes or taking risks. If I've given myself permissions and graces, I can enjoy focused, quality writing-centered time without judgement, and that is such an amazing gift!

Learn about our upcoming workshop by clicking on the link: Novel Beginnings: Building Strong Foundations for Your Novel and Your Career 2017

Our workshop is perfect for advanced beginners. Kelly and I will review up to 50 pages of a w-i-p, give authors detailed feedback, and meet with them one-on-one. We will also be presenting several workshops on craft and career!

The WINNER of Michaela MacColl's novel, Secrets in the Snow, chosen by is: 
Congratulations, Sue!
(Please e-mail me with your mailing address and how you'd like the book personalized by Michaela.)
Thanks again, dear readers, for your continued support of BOOKS and AUTHORS! May your days be merry and bright!

Warmest wishes, Clara


  1. Congratulations, Sue! And thanks, Clara and K.L. for the dialogue. I needed to be reminded about that email list. Have a terrific time at Highlights!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Joyce! Yes, the reminder about an email list is one I needed, too!

  3. Ah, that whole marketing thing rears its ugly head once again. But I guess it's a fact of life, isn't it? Your workshop sounds fabulous! Have fun with it!

    1. Thanks, Jilanne, for stopping by, and for your good wishes!

  4. So nice to hear that the teachers and mentors enjoy their time at Highlights as much as the attendees! It's such a special place.

    1. It is a special place! What's not to love about being with writers and book lovers? Write on, Tina! :-)

  5. Sounds like a great workshop. Wish I could take it! As a teacher, I have to wait for summer.

    I agree, novel beginnings demand so much. I love the wording of "episodic" vs. "snowball effect."

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Theresa. We'd love to have you join us, but we certainly understand how truly important your work is.