Welcome Kristan L Cannon, my first interview on the Summer Splash Book Blog Tour.
Kristan was born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario and educated in North Bay and Toronto. She is a staunch supporter of literacy, reading, and young writer’s programs. She also holds a current membership with The Indie Writer’s Network and is a member of the NaNoWriMo Ambassador’s program.
When not researching or writing, Kristan exists for sailing her classic wooden sailboat with her…cat, friends, and family… or for video games and books when snow and ice have the boat locked in its slip and she can’t get away.
Thank you Kristan for joining me today. I am looking forward to sharing your writing journey and insights with my readers.
I asked Kristan several questions from four categories. The categories, I thought, would give a deeper insight into the creative mind of a writer and what it actually entails.
Like other artists, writers have their own method to their madness. Even though we all consider ourselves writers; how we create, what inspires us to create, and the journey we are on is very different from each other. Writing is not just about publishing a well edited manuscript. Creating a story, in itself, is a journey. It takes the writer down a path that they have never traveled on before, for each story is always different. There are always new characters to meet, new places to explore, and a new tale to write about.
I hope you enjoy Kristan’s writing journey, and will support her endeavors by linking onto her work at the end of the interview.
Enjoy the journey!
Kristan’s insights on writing:
How long have you been writing?
A really long time. Sometimes dabbling in fan fiction, sometimes being paid for original short fiction. Sometimes just writing and not letting what I’ve written be seen in the light of day. There is quite a bit of the latter.
What genre do you write in?
Speculative fiction, mostly. But I do love edgy urban fantasy and hard science fiction.
Do you hand-write or use a laptop/PC when creating.
I use anything I can get my hands on. After Oil was written on a computer (a very temperamental laptop, actually…), The Last Iron Horse was almost entirely written on my BlackBerry Q10, and so was much of Between Silence and Fire and the fourth book, Ghostwalker. I upload what I have written into Scrivener, and then do all the hard editing and early revisions on computer, although, if I was stuck in an area where I couldn’t pull out my computer the BlackBerry had to suffice again… just to bang out a scene while the idea is fresh in my mind.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
That’s a really difficult question to answer, especially when I don’t know the answer to that question yet. I think the ability to tell a story and weave words into something halfway coherent is one reason I like writing. The other reason is, as a reader, I love being able to contribute something. I guess I want something that means something to be left behind… something people will remember me for after I’m gone.
Do you have a favorite time of day to write?
Either really early in the morning or late at night… or even when pulling an all-nighter. I prefer to do my writing in peace and quiet when I’m least likely to be disturbed or funny questions be asked about my tendency to pace and walk while trying to pull my thoughts together. When others are around, and I start pacing, I get asked what I’m doing quite a bit and I find that jarring—it pulls me right out of my writing zone and breaks whatever train of thought I had going.
Do you have a planned schedule for writing?
I’d really like to, but I don’t.
Do you have any advice to share about writing?
Absolutely. Don’t worry about what that first draft looks like right now. Just get it out on whatever medium you are using to get it out on. You can revise it later. If you worry too much about editing and what that first line should be… or even about agents or publishing deals… you’ll be too paralyzed by all that to write. Ignore it all. Push it out of your head and just concentrate on getting that draft done. Once that first step is done, worry about making into the story you thought you were writing but now need to revise until it is. The rest will come in its due time.
Kristan’s insights on character development:
How in depth are you when you create your characters e.g.; background stories, favorite foods, genealogy?
Very. I know every single detail about my characters down to what they eat for breakfast every morning and how they take their coffee.
Who is your favorite character to write for e.g.; protagonist, villain, sidekick etc.
Yes. For some reason I find writing Derek particularly easy. He’s one of the characters I created to be based off of a friend, but in many ways he, as a character in my book, has ceased to be only that.
When creating your characters what influences attribute to their make-up e.g.; past experiences with real people, political and or religious views, your perspective on what makes a good protagonist, villain and/or sidekick.
I pull quite a bit from my past experiences. Much of that experience is wrapped up in metaphor, even if unintentionally, or is used somehow. I am very much one of those writers who thoroughly believe in “writing what you know”, which is why most of my writing takes place in settings I am comfortable and familiar with.
I also pull much of what I write from my life growing up. I was raised mostly by my grandparents, and those grandparents were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I may not be of the same religion, but much of my morality and sense of right and wrong comes from that. However, there was much I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, agree with so there’s a lot of wandering in my tales. A lot of trying to find where that place is once the rug is ripped out from under you and the core of what made you—your beliefs, your view on the world and your place in it—are suddenly called into question.
Do you have a favorite character that you have created, and why is she/he/it your favorite?
Not really, no. Some I find easier to write (prime example would be Derek), but I don’t actually have a real favorite.
If you could be any character from your book/s who would it be and why?
In many ways, Sheridan is who I wanted to be in life but never was able to be. There is quite a bit of me, and “the me” I’d like to be, in her.
If you could meet any character from your book/s who would it be and why?
Most of them are based directly off people I do actually know, so you could say I already have. However, who they become because of the experiences they have in the series does change them at their core. However, of the ones that were created out of thin air, I think I’d like to meet Gina the most.
Do you have any advice to share about character development?
Hmm, not to sound clichéd, but the old adage of knowing your characters inside and out isn’t just a cliché. It’s true. If you know, and I mean know—you’ve crawled through their head and know exactly what makes them tick and what their deepest, darkest fears and secrets are—you know how they will react and change with each situation. At that point their development almost takes form in front of you. They become living and breathing people… even if you’ve based them off people you know… they are their own separate, and distinct, individuals. They will grow and do things you didn’t expect, but they will make your writing richer for it. Your readers will feel like they are living and breathing too—and that will make them lose themselves in anything you write.
With the Indie Author movement on the rise, writers are not just writers. We often wear several hats that include, but are not limited to; publisher, publicists, agent, reporter and banker. Where we have gained control over our sales and ultimately our bank roll, we have forfeited some of the time needed to write, because we are so busy doing all the things a traditional publisher would have taken care of. But, like any other entrepreneur it is to be expected. I suppose that is why we became Indie Authors, because we are all entrepreneurs at heart. The next set of questions are about the business side of being a writer, and what that looks like in today’s market.
Kristan’s insight on publishing:
Are you a self-published author or are you represented by a traditional publisher?
A mix of both. All my old stuff is traditionally published, even if by small houses (now either out of business or bought up by larger ones). After Oil was supposed to be self-published (the first edition is actually listed as from Createspace), but was picked up by KCE, which is a non-profit indie house/cooperative of other indie writers. Now everything I have (so far) is through them.
Do you have E-books and/or hardcopies?
Both. When new books are first released they are available in all the major e-book formats and in hardcover. After awhile, the paperback follows.
Do you have any advice to share on publishing?
Make sure you go through all the steps, including the editing process, even if you intend on being published traditionally. Take that time to make your book shine. It’s well worth the time.
DO NOT PAY ONE CENT TO ANY “PUBLISHER” that claims to be a publisher. You do not pay money, up front, to be published. Not even on a “payment” plan. If a publisher asks for money, run away. That goes for any self-publishing firms/providers as well. The only exception would be IngramSpark, and if you look into them you’ll understand why.
On the payment thing… the only people you should be paying any money to, at all, is a good freelance editor (not one at your publisher—they should be covering that!), and a reputable publicist. No agent is ever going to ask for money up front. They are only ever paid on commission. They make money when you do. However, an editor, obviously, has to put in the time and effort—and the hours—to make your book shine. The publicist is the same, but make sure they are reputable.
Kristan’s insight on promotion & merchandising
Besides your books, do you have merchandise that readers can purchase?
I have bookmarks, but I rarely sell them. They usually are given away at signings.
If you have merchandise where did you have them made?
Locally, unless it’s a big print order for bookmarks or other stuff. Still gets handled by a local firm, though.
Do you think it is important to have merchandise, (besides your books) at promotional events?
Yes, but don’t break your bank doing it. Bookmarks and “sell sheets” to hand out are sufficient, as is some way to make your table stand out a bit. Buy a nice tablecloth in a colour that both matches the tone of your writing, and doesn’t distract from you or the books. Neutrals work best. If needed, have extra table clothes to create a “wall” behind your chair so that it stops a person’s eyes from wandering behind you. Again, a neutral colour works best.
Do you have future merchandising ideas that you would like to share?
Someday I would like mugs made, but that’s because I love coffee and I know readers are big on coffee and tea, and other stuff like that. I don’t know how many I will have made, but I will make sure that I have a company that can create them on demand have the design so I can have them made when needed. I already have sell sheets and a table runner for doing trade shows/conventions & signings. I don’t think anyone really needs more than that unless they have such a huge following that people are wanting stuff from the book. If I ever get to that point, I have a feeling people are going to want the bracelet that Sheridan gave Derek in The Last Iron Horse. I’ve already had a few people ask me what it looks like and how to make it for Etsy…
In a short paragraph tell us about your book. If it is a series tell us about each book.
The Kingdom of Walden is about a post-apocalyptic Sudbury (Ontario, Canada) and how a few enclaves of survivors are fighting for their survival in a new and hostile world. Civilization has fallen, and while some still cling to the rule of law—and fight to protect it—there are others who want to take over and stamp out not only all trace of the old world but to take it for themselves and to hell with anyone who would stop them. But, the series focuses on only a few of the people who fight to protect the last bastion of civilization—one that created itself anew out of the ashes of the old while still guarding what the better part of the old held sacred. Freedom of choice, speech, and general control over their own future. A safe haven built from people who came together with whatever they could find to recreate what made their society before good. Each book starts and builds on this overall arc. They’re fighting to be free from slavery (which has reared its ugly head again) on one side and a tyrannical dictator who rewards disobedience, even just disagreement in his rule, with death.
In the first book, After Oil, the straw that has broken the camel’s back (civilization as we know it) is a hard and brutal winter as the last reserves of fossil fuel run out and the economy grinds to a halt in a Second Great Depression. Unlike the first one, once there’s no money to be had anywhere, civilization devolves into utter chaos and people die from the violence, or the Siberian-like Canadian winter itself finishes the job. Only one spark remains, and that’s in the hands of Dr. Sheridan Wither, who lives in the middle of nowhere and is heavily into historical re-enactment. This massive advantage, and strength, attracts others to use her home and her Manor as a base of operations… and a new nation is soon born with that as the seat of power.
They just have to hold onto it (the big arc through the series is the constant back and forth between the three major factions).
In The Last Iron Horse, Derek, who is Sheridan’s “Ranger”, runs into the second major faction, which is the slavers to their west. The reality of what being Ranger means hits him fully, both literally and figuratively. Sheridan also realizes that her life has changed forever as she deals with the weight of a Kingdom on her shoulders… and the political intrigue that attracts.
The third book, which is due out this fall, is Between Silence and Fire. Colonel Harnet to Sheridan’s east pushes to take over allies of the Kingdom of Walden, and even has the gall to send his people to rile up the Rangers of Walden. Add to it the looming threat of forest fire threatening the entire area and the rising tensions break into full on warfare.
Ghostwalker will finish the arc regarding Colonel Harnet, and end the war.
What is up next for you e.g. up and coming events, another book/series, movie deal.
I do have plans for more books in this series, but they don’t have titles or definite plots yet. I can tell you that after Ghostwalker Derek will retire as the Master Ranger of Walden, but I can’t tell you the exact reason why or the circumstances that lead to the decision… but he will still be around the Manor for a long time. I also have plans to finally start releasing the books I have been promising for years, which is the Karasa series, but that will have to wait until at least Ghostwalker is out to finalize. I do have the first few books written, though. I also have another standalone book that I wrote when I lived in Toronto, but it’s sitting on the back burner for now.
Thank you again Kristan for joining me today. Your answers were indeed insightful. It was a pleasure interviewing you. Please provide our readers with your contact information and links to your work.