I recently had the opportunity to interview K.M. Weiland who is just super awesome! I am a huge fan of her writing and admire the vast amount of knowledge she has to share with the writing community. Check out how she got her start as a leading author mentor and more…
K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY, NIEA, and Lyra Award-winning and internationally published author of Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.
Tell us a little about yourself:
Where are you from and what is your favorite pastime?
I’m a longtime western Nebraskan. Writing, of course, is my all-consuming passion. But I also enjoy various types of design, as well studying the psychology of personality.
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I don’t know that it was ever something I “discovered” per se. For as long as I can remember, I’ve made up stories. In fact, my earliest memory is of myself dreaming up some wild story about saving my family from some unknown catastrophe. I started writing my stories down when I was eleven or twelve, and throughout high school, I wrote, edited, and published a newsletter for horse-crazy girls. Moving on to novels was a natural progression. I guess you could say I’ve always been a storyteller; it’s just inborn; it’s who I am. But the writing—the learning of the craft, the studying to show myself approved—that was something I became.
What is the number one book you would recommend to writers and why?
Tough to pick just one! But I’m going to go with Robert McKee’s Story. Blew my mind.
What inspires you to write speculative historical fiction?
I’ve always loved history—mostly because it’s… a story! But I love exploring faraway places and times and the beauty of other cultures.
Where do you come up with your ideas?
I like to say that inspiration is everywhere—and it really is. I’ve picked ideas from such disparate places as the dust on my windowsill (I’m a terrible duster) to my pets to the grapefruit I had for breakfast. It’s really just a matter of being open to whatever you’re experiencing at the moment.
But I will say that most of my inspiration is usually the result of other people’s art. The three big ones are most definitely:
I feed off other people’s stories and glean little tidbits that inspire stories of my own. The characters and themes in books and movies and the half-answered questions in songs are endless sources of inspiration for me.
What is the main theme of your fictional writing?
I’ve always loosely defined my fiction as “blood and thunder,” but a reviewer recently described them like this: “The consistent theme in each of her books is finding the best in human relationships and coming to an understanding about who you are and what you believe.” I thought that was pretty accurate, so I adopted it!
Helping Writers Become Authors
If you haven’t discovered Katie’s award-winning blog Helping Writers Become Authors, you should take the time to visit.
You are an expert in your field and I am curious to know how and when you got started? Was your author mentoring blog an early career goal, was it strategically planned, or was it created to fulfill the needs of your growing network?
Like most newly published authors, I was looking for a way to build a platform. And, like most newly published authors, I was clueless how to start. I figured blogging about writing would be more interesting than blogging about washing dishes or walking the dog. At the time, my intent was merely to spread the word about my fiction. But, of course, it’s grown into so much more.
What do you love most about what you do? How would you describe your journey as a mentor so far and where do you see yourself in the future?
I think the reward is two-fold:
1) I’m learning right along with everyone I teach. My blog and my books are just an outgrowth of my own writing journey. Forcing myself to put my own thoughts and discoveries into a teachable format has been invaluable to me in strengthening my own conscious knowledge of writing.
2) I love helping people. It’s a joy to be able to reach out and touch others in the solitary lifestyles we pursue as writers. I’m humbled and honored that I’ve gotten to work with so many people. It always makes my day to hear that something I’ve written has helped another writer have a “light bulb” moment in their own writing.
How do you carve out enough time to manage your platforms, provide such great content, and write books?
I like to say, in all seriousness, that schedules are my secret weapon. I manage my time strictly and I’m always tweaking my daily schedule to try to get my best productivity while still balancing the need for relaxation and recharging.
I like to get my writing done first thing in the morning, while the day is still fresh. Right now, I’m experimenting with staving off email, and Internet activities until the very last thing in the work day. Blogging gets its own day, in which I take care of all the weekly blogging duties in one fell swoop.
Minimizing distractions is key, so I’m very strict with myself about wasting time on the Internet, watching videos, or even reading news sites.
What advice would you give to someone carving out their own niche in the publishing industry today on how to strategize for the greatest chance of success?
Marketing is about personality. It’s about getting your personality—your books—your brand—to as many people as possible. That starts with a platform, and the foundation for that platform is your home on the web. Start building an email list as soon as you can, since this will be your only assured direct route to dedicated readers. Give them content they care about to keep their attention: drawings, freebies, special deals, glimpses into your life. Craft your book launches with care, since Amazon’s sales algorithms will treat you right if you can prove early on that you can generate sales. And most of all—have fun! Don’t let marketing be a chore; embrace it as a challenge. Your audience will sense that attitude and respond to it.
Write Yourself a Bad Review
I recently read a guest post you did with Patrick Ross where you gave some great advice for authors in “Write Yourself a Bad Review”. In your post, you mention our inner critics and how they might actually benefit us. I liked the idea of giving these critics the chance to be heard to identify weak areas of our writing.
I love the humor you injected into this article while also offering up a specific set of areas to focus on so the bad review pays off. Your plan of action at the end is a brilliant method for going back to a manuscript with a fresh set of eyes that has looked at the writing from a fantastic perspective.
I would recommend this unique approach as a round of edits that all authors should approach because it can provide a level of assurance that they have put their best work out for publication.
I had never come across this idea before as something that could provide such a great deal of positive criticism without seeking outside help.
When did you start implementing this technique and how did you discover it?
If memory serves I think fellow author Roz Morris had written something in her great writing book Nail Your Novel that sparked the idea. I don’t use it for every book, only those that are really giving me trouble.
What are some faults it has helped you overcome as an author?
It’s a good way to really drill down to the heart of the issues that are dogging a novel—to see them objectively, instead of just flailing away at the book, knowing something is wrong.
Do you have any other suggestions that might make an impact on an author’s final product as the process of writing yourself a bad review does?
How about writing yourself a good review? 🙂 Usually, I’ll write myself both a bad review and a good review of the idealized novel I want to create. More on that in this post: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/strengthen-your-story-by-writing/
More Author Advice
Earlier I mentioned your Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. I have these books now and love them. I have found everything I learned from them extremely helpful to me as a writer. You didn’t have the boxed sets with the workbooks like you offer now, so that’s an added bonus for anyone that’s interested. You also offer a story structure database on your website that is pretty impressive.
How can writers take advantage of that?
I have a whole post, talking about how to best utilize and navigate the Story Structure Database: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/story-structure-database/
Basically, I recommend watching your favorite movies and reading your favorite books and trying to figure out the structure for yourself. Then stop by the site, look up the story, and see how it lines up with what I’ve provided. It’s a great, hands-on way to really understand how structure works and how it affects a vast array of stories.
A huge thanks to K.M. Weiland for taking the time to chat with me 🙂