San-Francisco based author Kathryn Berla, creator of La Casa 758 and 12 Hours in Paradise, loves to write about whatever happens to float through her mind including her dreams, on which her upcoming novel Dream Me is based. She’s an advocate of asking what if, setting daily writing goals and being courageous with your life.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
I started writing in earnest in 2012, although I’ve been writing informally ever since I was a kid and asked my mom if it was okay to embellish my diary and she said that was permissible, not realizing just how much I would take her at her word. It turns out, I was meant to write fiction.
What made you want to be a writer? How did you begin writing?
Reading made me want to write. I had the gift of wonderful English teachers in high school who inspired me to read. Writing was as natural an afterthought as breathing in and then breathing out.
When I first decided to write for the consumption of other people, I was nervous at being judged by my peers. So, I started writing essays in a blog format. I didn’t even realize that people were reading but when I skipped a week, I had a few comments asking when I’d be back. All it took were those few comments. And then the natural next step was to write a book.
What inspires you to write?
I come up with a lot of story ideas, probably too many. It isn’t a matter of having the novel plotted out in my mind. It’s more of a “what if this happened” or hearing somebody say something that gels into a larger idea. I wrote a book called Dream Me which will be out July 11 of this year and the idea for that literally came from a dream. I woke up and jotted it down before I forgot and there it was when I woke up the next morning.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
My first book was published by Penguin Random House in Spain. I don’t speak or write in Spanish and I’ve never been to Spain although I hope to go this year. My agent had strong ties to international scouts and one of them just picked it up and ran with it. So, I couldn’t even read my first published novel. It was translated for me by PRH by a wonderful translator who also translated all of John Green’s novels. But I did get to communicate (through the aid of Google Translate, my husband who speaks Spanish and a friend from Spain) with many wonderful Spanish book bloggers and also with people who read my book and reached out on social media.
It has never been published in English but that will change this October when Amberjack Publishing is bringing out the English version.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Yes. Don’t wait to have an entire book plotted out in your head or you may never write that first novel. Start with an idea and see where it takes you. And be disciplined. When I’m writing a book (which I am currently in the process of doing) I’m very regimented. One thousand words a day or I don’t go to bed at night. Sometimes it comes in 45 minutes. Sometimes it takes all day. But set aside the time to get it done and have a daily goal. At least that’s what works for me. Also, turn your brain off to your writing at night or you’ll never get any sleep. You can’t help your dreams but sometimes that works out to your benefit, as it did with me.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
Be professional and be courageous. It’s hard to put yourself out there to be judged and possibly rejected but if you don’t try, you’ll never know what might have been.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
I think regardless of whether you’re traditionally published, indie published or self-published, the biggest marketing challenge is making your name known. Very few authors are going to have the huge breakout novel with a major marketing machine behind you so it’s entirely up to you. Social media is a wonderful tool but you have to reach out to local print media and bookstores. Start building your platform now even if you don’t have a book written. Be consistent and be creative so followers look forward to your posts.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
Personally, I like getting an advanced reader copy into the hands of book bloggers who will be your biggest asset in spreading the word. Your own social media can support the attention you get from the bloggers. Of course, a review in any newspaper and a presence in bookstores are hugely important.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
I don’t care who you are, rejection hurts. But I try to remind myself that not everyone will love what I write but I’m writing for the ones who do. Even the greatest writers have had manuscripts rejected and even the greatest books will have 1-star reviews if you check Good Reads. So, I just suck it up and move on.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
Don’t. Ever. Give. Up. Keep writing. Keep learning from your past rejections and incorporate what you’ve learned in your next book. And don’t beat a dead horse. It’s an old-fashioned expression but I think it’s very apt. If you’ve tried and tried and aren’t having any luck, cut your losses and move on and write another book. You can keep that book for later. Perhaps come back to it and revise in the future.