June's debut novel, Dustin Time, came out earlier last year, and now the print edition has also been released. I had the pleasure of sitting down with her (in the comfort of our respective homes and cups of Joe). And here's what she had to say:
RW: How long have you been writing and have you been always writing in your current genre(s)?
JK: I only started writing seriously about 5 years ago. I had been told since the 3rd grade I would be a writer but never pursued it. I guess life always got in the way. It wasn't until things calmed down that I was able to complete my 1st novel. It's a women's fiction. I needed closure for something that happened, in my teens, to a dear friend and that was the best way I could figure to do it. After that, a single idea sparked a middle grade fantasy that I wrote for my daughter. I didn't plan on it being a series - it just happened that way. I have stopped her series at 9 books but I'm still plugging away with my women's fiction/romance novels. I have 10 of those so far and am about 1/4 way through my latest.
RW: Wow, did you just say you've written like 20 or more books in the last five years? You're a mad woman. But let's tell us something about this one that has just been released in eBook and print editions. Tell us something about it, and how you came about writing it? What inspired you, etc.
JK: 9 of them are only 30K middle grade so yes, I'm mad, but for other reasons. ;)
My novel that was published is a Paranormal Romance - time travel to be more specific. In short, the main character, Kaitlyn, wakes up on her 30th birthday and decides she should be further with her life. She wants to start thinking about a family and feels her "boy toy," Dusty, is just not the one she should be with. Fate intervenes and sends her back to her college days and into an altered future to convince her otherwise.
I wish I saved the single line that inspired this book. I jotted down a sentence that popped into my head on the way to work one day. "Woman wakes up to a baby in her house - discovers it's hers.... wakes up next day & things are normal - wonders about baby." Or something like that. I was in the middle of another novel at the time so it was a while before I got back to it. When I opened up the word document and read the sentence, I said, "What the hell is this?" then started typing. The book wrote itself from there. I honestly had no clue where I was going from one day to the next. I never outline - I just let my characters take over.
RW: When you said "the book just wrote itself" what did you mean? Did the characters come to you, or did you somehow have them in mind already? Did you use your own experiences as the blueprint of the plot? Or did you just pants it and write what came to your mind and hope it'd all come together at the end?
JK: When I'm not at my laptop, I don't think about where the plot is going. On my way home from work (and even in the shower sometimes) an idea will hit me and I have to hurry up and jot it down. Other than that, I usually just open up my document, read the last paragraph then go from there. I can never plot out what will happen because my characters are bullies. On the rare occasion I think I'm going to have it go one way, it's ended up going another. Dusty, for example. You play the piano? Seriously? That would have been helpful to know before the last few chapters of the book! I'm pretty sure it sounds insane but I believe Popeye said it best. "I yam what I yam." ;) It does come together in the end without much help from me.
As far as my experiences being blueprints, that is the case for many of my novels but this one completely stands alone. Except for Kaitlyn's profession... and the night she got snockered... and her kitty named Blue... okay dammit. Yes. Maybe not the plot but I do fit a lot of me into my novels.
RW: Do you have writer's block, or do you just get with the flow and see how it turns out? (And it turns out spectacularly with Dustin Time)
JK: I have to say *knock on wood* that I've never had writer's block. After reading a paragraph or two back, what is going to happen next just flows for me. Don't hate me. I'm sure my time will come!
RW: Other than a random thought/concept, etc. about babies and love, what drew you to the story and what made you think this might work? Basically, what do you think is different from all the other books you've written so far?
JK: Most of my novels fall somewhat into what my grandfather used to call the premise for all stories. "Boy wins girl - boy loses girl - boy wins girl back." My favorite stories have been time travel themes. Not just romantic themes - I loved the series Quantum Leap and movies like Timeline (and not just for Paul Walker ;). So I guess having that element makes it stand alone and one of my favorites.
RW: Speaking of time travel, it's one of the most hard to do-well concepts because of the paradoxes, etc. How did you keep your events and timeline all worked out and did you have to go back and plug plot holes based on the time travel stuff to make it make sense (btw, it does make sense in the novel)?
JK: Amazing even to me, I didn't have plot holes to pulg when I read it back. *ducks flying objects* There wasn’t really a method to the madness on how Kaitlyn went forward or back and she usually ended up knowing what it affected right away. The only things I remember checking were days of the week (for birthday purposes) and I thought I had her age wrong at one point and changed it but when I read back, it had been correct the 1st time. That’s what I get for interfering! I vaguely remember trying to do a time line a few chapters into it but that fell under planning and therefore wasn't working for me. I really am pleased with how things just fell into place.
RW: What has it been like with Dustin Time's release? And what are you doing with its promotion? Book signings, interviews, etc?
JK: Every stage along the way its ups and downs. "w00t - I'm accepted" is dampened quickly by "You'll be published in a year." "I'm out" is slightly squashed with "it will be "e" only and around 4 months before you see print." "I'm in print!" is squashed again when you have to search for somewhere that will take them since I'm finding big name stores and chains only shop in their warehouses and won't do any ordering of their own - even to support a local writer.
Don't get me wrong at all. I cannot be more thrilled for the shot Champagne gave me. Without them - it would be still on my laptop. But sometimes even being printed still has limitations. All I can say is I'm not giving up pushing it. I have only just begun the search since I just got the books in my hands a few days ago. So far, I have a friend with a gallery in Bemidji, MN, where we used to live, that is thrilled to host my 1st signing and the local drug store in the town that I work in was happy to order them for their shelves. It's a great start.
I'm anxious to get to other towns where I have friends waiting for me to sign books for them. It's a funny feeling having friends want you to sign something for them. I'm especially looking forward to going "home" (Maui) and doing a signing there.
RW: Yeah, the promotion thing isn't all fun and game and glamorous, but at the same time, it's thrilling because the book is out and you get to do it -- many writers won't come to that part of the business. Your Maui signing would be so cool and such a great homecoming (bring me along, please). Now that you're focusing on the release activities and promotion, are you writing any new work? If so, can you tell us what's in the pipeline, including works that are in submission?
JK: I do have another women's fiction out with an agent so once again, I'm in the biting-my-nails-waiting-to-hear stage. I did start another novel a few weeks ago but this is much slower going... and that's okay with me! I am forever editing my other novels and still need to attack that middle grade series & go agent hunting there. I dont' think I could I have any more pots on the fire right now if I tried!
RW: Sign of a prolific writer that has a strong career ahead of her! Best of luck to you. What parts of the writing/publishing process excite and please you the most and which parts you can do without? Are their any advice you can give to writers who are trying to get published?
JK: The writing part I love. From there, everything else is, in a word, "hell". Summing up your "baby" into one page query is tough. Researching agents that accept your genre isn't so much a picnic either. I tried to be very careful to make sure what they were looking for, what they wanted in the submission, and how they wanted it formatted. E-mail only? Snail mail? Query only, query + synopsis, Query, synopsis + 10 pages... etc. What font do you want? Spacing? Then check and make sure Agent Query says the same thing as their website. Then double check with Predators & Editors to make sure they are legit.... I remember spending an entire day and getting only 3 queries out...only to get rejections at lightning speed. The only advice I can offer is if you really want it, you have to hang in there. No one wants to hear "not for me, thanks" in the coldest stock rejection possible on practically a daily basis, but it is a part of the process nonetheless. I got around 80 rejections for Dustin Time. In all honesty I was ready to quit when I got the acceptance e-mail from Champagne. You'll get tired of hearing this but if getting published is your dream, don't you dare give up!
RW: Perseverance, amen! What have you learned from this process, though: from writing, editing, querying to the heartache of rejections, and finally the joy of getting published and a print copy in your own hand? Is it all worth it? Are you now convinced that this is what you want to do (some writers just want to be rich and famous and they give up writing once they realize it's not that easy)? But anyway, what lessons and wisdom you've gained through this?
JK: I knew being rich and famous wasn't part of the deal. (Unless you know someone who can slip a copy of my book into Ron Howard's hands ;) Being a part of a writer's forum and mingling with people going through every stage of this along with me has helped keep me grounded about the whole process. It is most definitely worth all the heartache I went though to get to this point. I have learned I am a lot tougher than I thought I ever was. Whodathunk? You keep kicking me and I keep getting right back up! I would rather sit through a double root canal than send out one more query. But if I don't get accepted with the agent I have a full MS out with, I know I will send out another batch immediately if not sooner. If I never get another book accepted, I will continue to write anyway because I honestly love watching my stories unfold and frankly, these bastids probably won't leave me alone.
RW: That's really great, and something to aspire to as a writer. That kind of passion. Recently you talked about your background and your happy childhood and loving parents and what that means to you as a writer (and it was a funny blog). Can you elaborate on that some more here? :)
JK: It is especially fun for me to use my parents as figures in some of my books. In Dustin Time, Kaitlyn is on on the phone talking with her mom and forgets her dad is on an extension. It's always that way when I call my parents. You get one - you get them both. In another book, the MC's mother offers her friend something to drink. He declines. The mother continues to offer more things (even to drive to the store to get him something) until he caves. That's my mom. I'm pretty sure my husband proposed to me because his father said "Meet the mother first. You'll get a feel of what she'll be like." Ha! Fooled him! Everyone loves my parents. If I get to count siblings by who calls them Mom and Dad... I have about 100. :)
My parents always embraced the "odd" that was me and encouraged me every step of the way. My mother recently mailed me some of my 3rd grade short stories. Beauties such as the assignment "Who tied the knots in my underwear?" Er... thanks, Mom.
RW: LOL, and great material for stories. Our readers may want to know, who is/are your favorite character(s) in Dustin Time? And why?
JK: Dusty of course if the obvious 1st pick. The way he loved Kaitlin through every “time” made me melt every time I read it. She tossed more than her share of flack his way, but he always saw through it and loved her with all he had. Kaitlyn was a pretty tough nut, too. I love strong female MC’s. I have to add Frank as well - just don’t ask me who he was. The geezer just showed up. The 1st comment I usually get from readers is, “You gottta tell me! Who was Frank?” I love that it leaves a little bit of mystery to the story, even for me.
RW: Frank reminds me of Chevy Chase's character in the Hot Tub Time Machine -- just don't ask who he is! Since the book is written from Kaitlin's point of view, is it harder that your other MC (Dustin) who is not a POV character (the hero) is more popular? Or does it come with the territory of a romance? Have your readers comment that they want to know more what Dustin is feeling and thinking, or do you think that came through from how he acts and treats Kaitln? [This is a POV question, I suppose]
JK: I have never seen that movie. There's a time travel one I missed?
Since it was Kaitlyn going through the traveling - it had to be in her POV for the most part but you do see snippets of Dusty's here and there. That was actually the biggest editing hurdle for me. I giggle thinking about one scene: "Dusty wrapped his arms around Kaitlyn and held her by her perfect ass." My editor wrote, "She wouldn't think her own ass is perfect." I replied, "No woman would! Sorry - POV again!" LOL!
I did have one reader comment that they didn't like that it was Dusty's POV towards the end. That surprised me since it had to be that way but I gave her "kudos" for paying such close attention and for the comment (and will probably abuse her as a beta for a book in the future). Maybe it being in Kaitlyn's and not Dusty's has helped with the number of male readers that have enjoyed it. Most men shy away when they hear "romance novel". I'm glad to hear I still have a fan base in the "hunkier" population as well.
RW: Men do shy away from romance -- that's one thing I have to keep in mind, too, as I write love stories, which is just a step away from romance. I have to have something for the guys, too. But anyway, I think it being in 3rd limited (and not 1st) helped a lot -- to put some distance between the male readers and the heroine. Are you going to write more romance/women's fiction or are you stepping out of your comfort zone in the future? And if you're staying with romance... any more paranormal romance?
JK: I guess I can't really answer that completely. I will continue to write but I can't say what they will be. The one I'm working on now is actually more "thriller-suspense" so far, but he's a hunk and she's a bi-- .....we'll call it strong willed. You know they are gonna end up in the sack! I guess I’ll just have to go where my muse takes me. We've gotten along so far with that arrangement. I'll have to leave it at that for now. ;)
RW: That's cool. Is it too soon or too hush-hush to talk about the book you're currently shopping around or writing? If that's the case, can you tell us: How many story ideas do you have at one time (or currently) and how do you choose which to tackle?
JK: It's definitely too soon to say anything on my current WIP. As far as my one out on submission, it was especially fun to write. It was my 1st real "bad guy" and hopefully not cliche' "evil twin sister". I'm keeping the rest under wraps for now. *evil grin*
I only ever have 1 story going on at a time. On the rare occasion where I get an idea for a novel when I'm in the middle of another - I jot down a note or 2 and tuck it away. Not exciting, I know. But hubby can only handle me calling out one other name at a time. ;)
RW: That's pretty much what I do (not the "calling out another name" thing -- I'm very disciplined :) ) Keeps me sane. I can't understand how some writers can write 4 novels at the same time. Well, really, best of luck with Dustin Time, and your other projects. To close this interview, please answer the following questions with the FIRST things that come to your mind (no deliberating, please):
a. How would you describe your writing style?
b. What is the coolest place you've never been to?
c. What word comes to your mind right NOW?
d. Hot hunk or strong woman?
e. What's in your purse/bag?
f. If you could do it all over again, what would be the one thing you'd change?
g. How would you get to New Orleans?
h. What makes June Bug tick?
i. What ticks off June Bug?
j. If you would never write again, what would you like to do?
a. Like everything else I do - by the seat of my tukus!
b. Always wanted to go to Greece although I can't say why.
c. Dribniff. (I believe it was from a M*A*S*H episode. Don't know why it sticks in my head.)
d. Hot hunk. duh.
e. The usual - checkbook & wallet, emergency eyeliner and mascara, an assortment of lip balms (wash your sins away red wine, butterscotch schnapps, and margarita flavors. Sense a theme there?) hand lotions, nail file, mini tape measure and multi-tool with scissors, flashlight keychain (so I don't ever take caffeine pills mistaking them for Tylenol in the dark again), gum, vitamins... you want me to keep digging? I have to move the sink out of the way if so.
f. Other than avoiding guys with psyco ex-girlfriends, I have to say I wouldn't change a thing. Who I was at every stage has made for some pretty interesting characters to read (or at least write) about. I would like to have made time for professional level writing courses though. There's a lot to be said for proper comma placement!
g. Oh... I know this one. Head south? Drive, baby. Drive! I love a good road trip. Stock up on those Mari gras beads & let's go!
h. I only do what my rice krispies tell me to.
i. Mean people. Especially rude people at airports. It's not the person at the counter's fault! Be nice!
j. You might as well ask what I'd do if I quit breathing. I don't think I could ever give up writing. My mouse pad reads "Writing is not a matter of life or death. It's much more important than that." The one thing I would love to do though and hopefully will get my fill someday is travel, travel, and do some more traveling.
RW: It's a wrap. And thanks for playing! Now go and write!
JK: Thanks for having me, Ray! This was a blast to do!
For more information on June and her projects, please visit her website.