Science fiction author J. Kowallis is a Utah native whose love of travel enables her to explore the world, and other worlds, in a whole different way. We chat to her about her about the importance of investing in professional editing, book cover and layout services, her upcoming release for The Enertia Trials series and the value of letting your writing evolve.
Please give us a brief overview of your work.
Right now I have three books published, all of which are part of The Enertia Trials series. The fourth is coming in May, and I’m super excited. It’s a New Adult Dystopian series that gets quite violent and dark, with (hopefully) a ray of sunlight at the end. I love to work on pieces that have an edge, that are a little grittier, and really play up the contrast between good and evil.
How did you begin writing?
I actually started writing in the 3rd Grade while I was working on a book report for E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I wrote a poem about the book, one that my teacher at the time asked if she could keep because she loved it so much. Whether or not she actually did, it was an act that really made an impression on me and so I dabbled in writing and poetry throughout my grade school years. But, it really wasn’t until my college/university years that I started writing heavily. I’d gotten really stressed out one semester and writing seemed to be the only thing that settled me. In one week I ended up pumping out 50,000 words. It was then that I realized that my real love wasn’t in music—which was what I’d been studying—but in Literature. So, I changed course, and it was only two years later that I started writing Afterimage.
What inspires you to write?
Two things really inspire me to write. One is that I love figuring people out. I love examining them, observing them, and analyzing the world. The chance for me to actually create my own world and people and then dive into their heads and experience a different way of thinking and a different way to live is kind of a thrill, and I love escapist literature. Experiencing a completely different world is kind of magical for me. There’s a thrill to it, and it adds a layer of color onto my already pretty amazing life. Two, I love having people respond to something I’ve written. To pour my heart and mind into a story and then have people see themselves in the characters, fall in love with them or the story, or show enthusiasm about my work is really touching. It’s an experience that’s hard to get in any other way.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
I never know how my books are going to end. I’ll usually get about halfway through the book before I realize I have no idea where I’m going. Even after I plot it out, I’ll still have this vague reference to the protagonist facing off with the villain and leave it at that. It’s not until I actually write a pansy ending that I’m able to go back and rework it into an actual ending.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
If you want to do it, just do it. As with anything in life, the only way you’ll ever accomplish something is if you pave the road for yourself. Whether it’s traditional publishing that you want, or whether it’s self-publishing, or whether you simply want to complete a full novel or book of poetry to have for yourself, take Shia LaBeouf’s angry tirade and “just do it.” It may take longer than you’d like, and it might be harder than you’d anticipated, but you’ll never know how amazing it is until you do it. Additionally, I say this every time: be open to criticism. It’s your friend, not your enemy.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
Publishers are looking for the next best thing. In my experience, they’re all looking to ride the front wave of whatever new genre is rushing forward. So, find out what that is. And if it’s not what you like to write, then just write whatever the hell it is you want to write. It just may take longer to find the right publisher for you. If you have a passion for it, odds are—someone out there has the same passion.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Like my advice to “be open to criticism” I’ve learned that bad reviews, rejections, and less-than-desirable feedback are all chances for me to improve. And, if there’s nothing to improve on, or nothing to learn . . . I’ll at least go read the 1-star reviews for New York Times best-selling authors. It always puts me in a better mood because they get rejected too!
How do you deal with isolation, as writing is an inherently private exercise?
I LOVE it. I’m a definite INFJ on the Myers-Briggs personality scale and personal time is my respite and recharge. Then, I get to meet with my writing group to satiate my introverted extroversion (it’s a real thing) and use their support and feedback to go back into my hole and write or edit. I don’t find anything really isolating or lonely about it! I have characters surrounding me all the time.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
Ugh, getting your books into hands. From a self-published perspective, it’s so hard to weave your way through the endless cloud of amazing bloggers to find the right ones who will agree to take a chance on your new book. But, the good news is that those initial bloggers end up becoming your biggest supporters! You just have to be willing to fork out the money for books, shipping, and promotions in order to get it out there. It is possible!
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
Joint Author Parties, Giveaways, and professional services. Actually, I should probably state those in reverse almost. Do NOT skimp on your book cover, layout, or editing. Do everything you can to invest in professional services in order to be competitive and attract and keep readers. I’ll admit, my first book was published while I had little but not much money to my name available for my new “business.” But it was important to me that my book reflected professionalism. It’s not perfect (in fact, spoiler: I have an updated edition coming out this year), but it was important to me. And the parties and giveaways? Not only do you make additional author buddies (another new circle of friends you’ll wonder how you ever did without), but each author brings their own fan base and it allows you to introduce them to your work and vice versa. The right giveaways can also encourage additional exposure and engage new readers.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
While momentum is good and can help you, if you’re not ready to publish, or not prepared to market, or not even ready to write the next chapter, don’t force it. Let it evolve at the speed it should and you’ll be glad you did!
You can find out more about J. Kowallis and her latest novels via her website or social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Her books are available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository.