I got the chance to interview J. Kowallis author of 'AfterImage'. We chat about her inspirations, how she goes about writing her novels and the self-publishing process. Plus, she has kindly given us a except of her first novel to download for free!
I'm a resident of Ogden, Utah and a graduate of Weber State University (Weber State! Weber State! Great, Great, GREAT!) I own a small little cottage-style 40s home and the best dog in the world: my mini schnauzer, Etta. I'm a lover of traveling and for the past three years I've tried to go some place new every year. So far I've seen Rome, Athens, Copenhagen, Bergen, Berlin, and Munich. All fabulous cities in their own ways!
Since I was little girl, I've had a very active imagination. My imaginary friend was named Cindy and she lived in a Billiards room at a condo in Park City. Even at the age of 25, I found myself driving down the interstate and looked in my back mirror. Like a flight of migrating birds, the semis, cars, and others behind me were in a perfect V with me at the point. The first thing that went through my mind was "Oh my gosh, I'm like the lead Transformer." True Story.
I'm an only girl in a family of four children, and I think that's one of the reasons why I had such an active imagination. I usually had to make my own fun. Books, stories, and tales were a big part of my childhood.
How did you get started on your writing journey?
I think I've always been a writer at heart. It seems to be something that runs in my family. My ancestors wrote poetry, and many of my extended family members are lovers of books and writing. I wrote my first poem based on EB White's Charlotte's Web when I was in 3rd Grade that my teacher still has to this day.
I didn't really get into writing again until I was working on my music degree. School was so stressful, I reached out to the best thing I could think of to relieve stress: writing. Over Spring Break that particular year I wrote 50,000 words. Needless to say, I found myself longing for a change in focus. My first novel I wrote was a historical fiction story, my second was an attempt at a spy/crime novel, and finally I landed on Chick-Lit my final semester. As you can see, my reading choices are varied and all over the place! It wasn't until I started writing AFTERIMAGE that I really felt like I had something that I wanted to put out into the world.
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
I think my biggest influences on my own writing have been Gerald N. Lund's The Alliance, Veronica Roth, Aldous Huxley'sBrave New World, Charlotte Bronte, and Suzanne Collins. I know it's a bit odd to have Charlotte Bronte in that list, but I love the darkness that she had in her writing. The grit. It was something that was such a stark contrast to the good in her stories that it made the good moments seem so much stronger. It was something I wanted to put into my own work. However, the authors I would say I truly love are C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Bronte, Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo, and so many others. Overall, I love stories that feature contrast. Yes, I love lighthearted rom-coms, and I'm taken in my adventure, but it's really that heavy weight of dark vs. light that I really crave.
I have two novels currently published, with the third scheduled for November. The Enertia Trials series begins with AFTERIMAGE and we're introduced to our lead character: Reggie. Reggie has dreams, but her dreams . . .aren’t dreams. Visions of the future flood her mind like shards of broken puzzles. Caged in her cell, every morning begins the same. She’s drugged, tortured, and images are torn from her memory by Public One.
Until the morning everything changes. The vision is different. The future’s never been about her, and now she knows they’re coming for her: Nomads. She has to learn to convince them to keep her alive even though Nate, their leader, doesn’t like or even trust her. To him, she’s a science experiment.
In ENCENDER, book two, we're introduced to a woman not unlike Reggie in her uniqueness. Ransley is the adopted daughter of famed street fighter Estevan Benitez, and fighting is all she knows. One hidden detail separates her from the endless string of her opponents: she can craft and influence heat and fire.
When she’s pitted against the strongest fighters at the infamous Argolla, Ransley faces something she never expected: Another man like her. Roydon can duplicate himself. When the two collide, a chain of deals turns Roydon over to Public Four and he’s taken away.
Driven by guilt and a desire to release the only person she’s ever met who’s like her, Ransley must trust a pair of strangers: a former military man known as (you guessed it) Nate, and a woman known as Reggie whose premonitions could tear them all apart.
How is the title significant?
Something only my writer's group knows, (until now) is that each title in the series is a reflection of a power or ability of each of four different characters. AFTERIMAGE, of course representative of Reggie's precognition. ENCENDER means "ignite" in Spanish, symbolizing Ransley's power of pyrokinesis. The third novel, debuting this fall is called DUALITY which, actually has a double meaning, but it's strongly indicative of Roydon's ability to replicate himself. And the fourth . . . muah ha ha . . . has not yet been revealed. So readers will have to stay tuned!
Where did inspiration for this come from?
I've really been a fan of dystopian literature for a long time. When I started rolling ideas around in my head, I have to admit I wasn't like those authors that have amazing dreams that just HAVE to be told to the world. All I knew was that I wanted to write a dystopian novel. I took bits of ideas from other books, movies, and my own ideas to create a world that I wanted to be just real enough to be frightening, and yet fantastic enough to give it some "frosting." Books like The Alliance, The Giver, A Brave New World, and others helped give me ideas. Movies like Minority Report offered other features. This novel wasn't one solid idea, but an amalgamation of different ideas that rolled around and around in my head and through other people's hands until it became what it did. Now, with ENCENDER, I had one single idea that started it all: street fighting. Maybe it came from my childhood years of playing Mortal Kombat, or some latent subconscious desire I have to rip people's heads off, but I felt like Jo in the 90s version of Little Women where she says, "I rather crave violence." :)
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
Each of my characters, in either a small or great way, are reflections of parts of me. I look at Reggie who talks to herself, yet is level headed and burdened with this great power and future, yet is still unsure of what her purpose is, and if she even deserves to have what she wants. Then, there is Nate who can get so depressed about the same thing--and different trials just seem to pile on over and over. The fact that he feels to weighted down by the world. Feelings I had years ago while in school and feeling like I would never get out from under it all. Then, with Ransley, who is an exaggeration of my passion and desire to just blow up instead of reaching for peace:) Roy, who seems to find inappropriate topics to be his comedic cup of tea, and can never really say the right thing.
It might sound like I have multiple personality disorder (oh, shoot . . . maybe I do), but it's my way of dissecting the different parts of me and exaggerating them.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
Readers who love dystopian literature like Divergent, The Hunger Games, with a touch of "Marvel" or "DC" powers like The Darkest Minds . . . but who are really ready to leave the YA genre are my main targets. The Enertia Trials is a New Adult series with characters who still have drama, but not quite so much of the angst. It's grittier, darker, and like I love . . . gives more contrast to the good to come.
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
I think my main messages differ from book to book, but the main theme is that this world isn't perfect, and we can't force it to be. Some of the worst atrocities in this world started on the path to good intentions. No one is perfect, no one has it all figured out, and we're all struggling. It's meant to be a warning and a reminder that we're all in this together no matter what we believe.
What is your writing process like?
Ha ha. It depends on the day. I will usually write "when I feel like it." At other times, I'll have to force myself to sit my butt down and put fingers to keyboard. I start with an unplanned one or two chapters, and then once I have a decent grip on my characters, I'll start making a rough map of the book--things I want to happen in each chapter, what we need to learn, etc. Most importantly: Music. I have to have it!
How do you go about editing your story?
I start off doing my own edit from beginning to end, then I start to implement the edits, suggestions, comments, and details given to me by the trusted writers and friends in my writer's group. Once that's completed, the book goes through a third edit by myself, and then . . . again, a fourth final edit by an outside party.
I work in a marketing department and one day I walked into the Graphic Designer's room and my friend and co-worker, Hayden Halvorsen, looked at me and said, "If you need a designer . . ." and pointed to himself:) That's about how easy it was.
When I was ready to have it designed, I finally contacted him and we went through multiple revisions before we ended up with the final design.
How did you go about getting published?
For about two years, I tried the traditional publishing route. Querying agents, small press publishers, and after two years, I had an agent who'd requested my work say to me, "I love the writing, but the market is so saturated in Dystopian. Publishers are really looking for something different and unique. Please contact me again when you have something new!"
Well, I didn't want to wait 20 years for dystopian to die off and maybe start to grow in popularity again. So, I started on my own.
What was your self-publishing experience like?
I initially started with Amazon's CreateSpace program. It was ideal for me, a newbie who had no idea what I was doing and had absolutely no financial backing to get started. Over time, with studying, trial and error, and new tips, I've found other sources of publishing, new resources, and I've really found that that experience of self-publishing is a journey all by itself.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Full control of your work is, I think, one of the greatest pros of self-publishing. From beginning to end, your voice has the final say. I also think the higher royalties are another big draw.
Cons, you've definitely got to be willing to pull $ out of your pockets. In addition, you've got to learn the ins and outs of promotions, marketing, publishing, and other publicity all by yourself. You don't have a big publisher sending your books out for reviews for you, getting your name out there, and it's ALL on you.
What were the surprises? Good or bad? If so, what were they?
I was surprised how close I've gotten to my book reviewers and fellow authors. It's been a very very pleasant surprise and one that I can't wait to continue. As far as a bad surprise, ha ha, I don't think I was prepared to spend as much $ as I have on promotions, but now that I'm in the middle of it all . . . I'd still say it's been worth it.
How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author?
Social Media is KING. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. You've got to get in there and get involved. This includes contacting reviewers yourself, or paying a promo company to do it for you. These reviewers utilize social media outlets to announce to the world that your book is worth taking a risk on. The publishing world is not the same as it used to be. Like other product sales, people want to know what OTHER PEOPLE think before they purchase.
In addition, your cover and design HAS to look professional. I know we all say "Don't judge a book by its cover," but in reality, the cover is your key to getting the door opened.
Is there something about the whole process you wish someone had told you before? Good or bad?
I was blessed enough to have had access to some successful self-published authors before I started, so I did receive a lot of information before I dove in. I do wish I'd had more insight into promotions and what worked and didn't work, but to be honest . . . what works for one author, might not work for another! It truly is a case of trial and error.
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self-publish?
Don't let the "stigma" of self-publishing hold you back. I did. For a long time. It was one of the reasons that I used to make sure my work looked as professional as possible (within my abilities). If being an author is something you want to do, or think you want to do, don't let the fear take over.
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
More science fiction (hello alternate universes!), some fantasy (witchcraft is a BIG interest of mine), and historical fiction novels are all in the works and I can't wait to really dig into them! In addition, just like any talent, you have to practice. Even masters do it. I study writing techniques, learn more, and use that to help my own storytelling.
- Website: jkowallisbooks.com (NEW SITE!)
- Facebook: facebook.com/author-jkowallis
- Twitter: @j_kowallis
- Instagram: @j_kowallisbooks
- Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Kowallis/e/B00YR5W0L6/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org