I’m so pleased to introduce my latest interviewee, Carol McKibben, author of Riding Through It, Luke’s Tale, and the newly released, Snow Blood. As an avid advocate for animals, and a special love for dogs, Carol’s latest books are written from the dog’s POV. Weaving tales of unconditional love, commitment, and the bonds that form our closest relationships, Carol reminds us of the valuable lessons we can all learn from the animals who share our lives. With 30+ years of experience in publishing, marketing, public relations, business management, education, and project management, Carol also brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her writing. Join me in welcoming Carol McKibben!
Interviewer: Debbie McClure
Q: Who has been the greatest mentor in your life on a personal or business level and why?
A: It’s impossible for me to just pick one. I’ve had so many. My daddy, brother and husband Mark have all had equal parts of encouraging me to be independent, strong and true to myself. But, three others particularly stick out in my mind. The first was G. Glenn Cliff. He was the editor of the Kentucky Historical Society and one of my early bosses. He encouraged my writing talent and pushed me to go back to college and complete my education. The second was another boss, a dean at Rollins College. He encouraged me to get my Master’s Degree. The third is my publisher, Stephanie at Troll River Publications. She has encouraged and supported my writing for years. The loveliest part of that relationship is that she also happens to be my daughter. And while we’re on that topic – she’s my harshest critic. So, when she finally likes something I write, I know I’m in good shape!
Q: Dogs and humans have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship for eons, which is seldom replicated between other species. What would you say dogs and people give each other, and why has this bond held true for so long?
A: The reason the bond has held true for so long is that dogs give humans unconditional love as only a dog can. No other human will love you, no matter your mood, your circumstances or the amount of attention you pay to them like dogs will. All dogs are descended from wolves. Man gave wolves food and warmth, and they evolved to be our companions and give us what we needed in return – unconditional love.
Q: You obviously have an interest in the paranormal, as evidenced in your last book, Snow Blood, about a vampire dog. Have you ever experienced anything of a paranormal nature in your own life, and if so, what was it?
A: I haven’t personally had a paranormal experience, but I have observed them in my family. Both my mother and my daughter are what I call “sensitives.” They are open to things that others can’t see. When my brother was thrown from a horse, he was unconscious for three weeks. My mother never left his side until my father forced her to go home and refresh herself. As she stretched across the bed, she felt a weight next to her and a hand touching her forehead. She looked up into her father’s blue eyes and his voice telling her that everything would be all right. Her father had passed away one month before my brother was born! At that moment, my father called to tell her that my brother was out of the coma. Years later, when my brother was in a car accident, I was sitting next to my mother who kept rubbing her leg, saying that she was in pain. When the phone rang to tell her that my brother had been in an accident and was in the hospital, she didn’t even say “hello.” The first words out of her mouth were: “I know my son has been in a horrible accident. Where is he?”
My daughter has that same uncanny ability.
Q: As a writer who has vast (30+) years of experience in publishing and editing, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out on this journey?
A: Use your passion to fuel your writing. Write about things that you love. Write every day. Hemingway believed that the only way to become a great writer was to practice, practice, practice every day. The more you write, the better you become. And understand that if you want to get published, that the writing is just a quarter of the effort you’ll need to make. Getting the book published and then marketed will be the majority of your effort.
Q: What has your writing journey taught you about yourself?
A: Most of my career, I wrote non-fiction for business purposes. After finishing my memoir, Riding Through It, I approached writing a novel for the first time with a bit of fear. I knew that I had an active imagination, but I had never written pure fiction. To my amazement, my stories just seemed to pour out of me onto the keyboard. What has amazed me after almost three novels (Snow Blood Season 2 will be out this summer) is how my main character leads the way. William Faulkner said, “It almost always starts with a character. Once he stands up and starts to move, it’s all I can do to run along behind him jotting down everything that he says and does.” And this is so true for me. So, my writing journey has taught me to trust myself.
Q: What would you say are your personal strengths and weaknesses, and why?
A: My strengths that are beneficial to being a writer: I’m organized; I’m persistent and stick to a schedule. I enjoy the time alone to write. I write every day. My weaknesses: I’m a bit selfish with my time – I need to get over that. Bad reviews still bother me, even though I try not to show it. (I’m a writer, so I’m insecure!)
Q: How have you used your strengths and weaknesses to good advantage in your writing?
A: Organization, persistence and enjoying, no loving, what I do allow me the luxury of being creative and getting a lot written. Being selfish with my time means again that I get more done as a writer. Because I am sensitive to what others say about my writing, it makes me strive harder to be better.
Q: What are your thoughts on traditional vs self-publishing in today’s writing landscape?
A: I co-authored a business book back in 1996, and it was traditionally published (by a very well-known publishing house). I didn’t feel that the publisher did much to promote the book. My writing partner and I were the ones that went out and got all the sales. Then, I self-published Riding Through It. Again, I had to market and sell it myself, but I didn’t have to give up so much of the revenue like I did with a traditional publisher. (Minus distribution, printing, etc.) For Luke’s Tale and the Snow Blood Series, I am working with a boutique publishing house that really produces for its authors – marketing plans, actual marketing, covers, editorial support, etc. And, I feel like the commission TRP takes is fair for the work they do. Let’s face it, unless you are John Irving, Stephen King, or one of the big name authors, you won’t get that type of attention from a big publishing company. And now, there are lots of companies out there that will work with authors to self-publish. I think there’s room for both. Much of it depends upon whether you want to hold your new book in your hands in a short time span (self-publishing) or if you don’t mind going through a longer process (traditional publishing.) Then there’s the boutique publishing option, for which I’ve opted.
Q: Writing and publishing take a great deal of time, more than most people can imagine, and tenacity. How do you structure your day to fit in everything you need to accomplish?
A: I spend 50% of my day working with my clients (other authors and companies that require my writing/editing/marketing skills.)
I spend 25% of my day writing for myself, and another 25% marketing my books.
I use a DayTimer, schedule my work by degree of importance, and work through it until everything gets done. Please keep in mind that I don’t work an 8-hour day! It’s more like 12-14 hours.
Q: What would you say are the three most common mistakes new writers make when starting out?
- Lack of Editing. The best writers re-write and re-write. New writers tend to think that editing merely means a brief read through for typos and spelling errors. That’s the very last thing to do. New writers tend to want to submit a first draft if they have an editor. Don’t do it. Put it aside for a week, then go back to it and rewrite. The first draft of a story needs to be sharpened, reworded, and it needs a professional editor when you have given it your all. I usually am up to Draft 6 or 7 before it goes to my editor.
- Poor Dialogue Skills. Dialogue in fiction isn’t real but it must sound real. It has to be sharp. No long confessional speeches. Engage your characters with each other. Reveal plot through dialogue and action. Use it to provide essential information and above all to show character. It’s critical to “show” and not “tell” and the proper balance of dialogue and action does that.
- No attention to Language. Too many writers are so busy telling a story that they don’t choose their words carefully enough. Writing should always be clear. Use intriguing language in new ways. The wind doesn’t only blow, it whips, rips, roars … really wordsmith … go over your draft for that specific purpose.
Other things newbies do are: include irrelevant detail; they rely on clichés and don’t use imagery; they don’t “set the stage” and leave out the details of the setting. They leave out taste, smell, etc. They also don’t have structure or know how to pace a story – when to give and when to withhold information, how to create tension, speed up or slow things down. This is all done by choosing the right words and the length of syllables. They sometimes shift point of view, without carefully introducing it. Finally, lack of technical knowledge (grammatical errors.) They need to learn the reasons behind the rules. Only when you know the rules can you break them! How do you learn them? By reading published fiction.
Q: What has been your most difficult lesson to learn in life so far, and why?
A: That everything changes. I tend to want to pre-plan and control my environment, my life, my situation. Change is inevitable. It always happens. Being the organizational, slightly OCD person that I am, it takes me a few minutes to warm up to changes!
Q: Rescue dogs are a lot like foster children. They often come with a whole host of emotional and physical scars. What can people who are considering taking in a rescue dog (or any animal for that matter) do to help ensure their home is the best fit for themselves and the dog?
A: I work with a great organization, LA Animal Rescue (LAAR). I suggest approaching a reputable rescue like LAAR and letting them work their magic. They take in to consideration your lifestyle, your living situation, your comfort levels and the needs of the dog. If you are a runner who wants a dog that you can take out on the trails, or a couch potato who wants a cuddle buddy, you need to be paired with the right dog. Organizations like LAAR put emotionally and physically scared dogs with fosters who will work to help them overcome their issues. They won’t pair a dog with issues to someone not willing or capable of working with them, and they never place a dangerous animal.
Q: What’s next on your plate, Carol?
A: I’m working with my editor to complete Snow Blood Season 2. I hope to have it out by this summer. (We’ve been editing since before Christmas, so you can see how important editing is to me!) After that, I plan to do the third installment in the Snow Blood Series. Then, I hope to write a novel based on quirky characters who love each other unconditionally. This is inspired by my author idol, John Irving.
Where to find Carol McKibben:
Amazon Link to Snow Blood Season 1: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Blood-Episodes-Carol-McKibben-ebook/dp/B00JOWG05O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423619241&sr=8-2&keywords=Carol+McKibben
Amazon Link to Riding Through It: Paperback version: http://www.amazon.com/Riding-Through-Memoir-Carol-McKibben/dp/1598009419/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1423619241&sr=8-13&keywords=Carol+McKibben