“Wednesday Writer” – Kate Palmer

Kate Palmer is the mother of six and lives on a farm in the country, but in her spare time she’s taken to writing and her first novel, THE GUY NEXT DOOR, was published in September, 2012. But that’s a bare bones blurb. I like to go deeper.

kate-authorME:  Where did you grow up and did it prepare you for farm living? If so, how? (I’d love to post a photo of you as a child.)

KATE:  I grew up in Logan, Utah. We had a huge garden, but that’s pretty much all in the way of farm preparation I got. It taught me that the weeding and picking had to be done no matter how I felt. However, farming is a whole other level of hard work. My in-laws work really hard and very long hours. They are happy, not at all grumpy about it, but you finish the job rain or shine. And you learn that you can’t control the weather and a lot of other things and how those circumstances affect your yield. You learn patience and do the best you can regardless. You learn that children are a big help. We couldn’t run the farm without them.

Also, dirt is everywhere. You will get dirty, and it’s okay.

(Personally, I believe farming is what made our country great. That kind of work builds character and binds families closer, as I think you’ve made clear.)

ME: I know your favorite children’s book was Squanto and the Pilgrims. Can you explain the fascination and tell us what your second favorite was?

Squanto and the pilgrimsKATE:  I’ve always loved history and learning about other people and different cultures. (Me too!) I liked reading about Squanto helping the pilgrims. Raising crops is similar to the huge garden I had and my family hunts a lot. I think it was relatable to me. I was only in second grade. My second favorite book was Georgie and the Robbers. I had a record (Yes, I’m that old!) of the story that went with the book. I listened to it over and over again.

ME:  I understand you never thought about being a writer until four years ago, but did you have a knack for English in school? What extracurricular activities were you involved with in high school? (And I’d love a picture of you during those years, preferably engaged in one of those activities.)

KATE:  Drama was pretty much the only extracurricular activity I did. I was in the school play my junior and senior years. The Seminary Council also took up a lot my time, and was super fun.

(Yet another writer with a theater background. It makes perfect sense, of course.)

KateActing(That’s Kate on the right, I believe, in a school play)

ME:  What made you go into teaching and how has the profession changed over the years? Has it helped you in any way in your writing?

KATE:  Teaching has always been my first love. I held summer school for my little brothers. My mom thought I was crazy. I liked helping kids in my class who didn’t understand their assignments. I love learning and I wanted children to enjoy the discovery of learning, not look at it as drudgery.

I quit teaching seventeen years ago so I’ve been out of the loop for a long time. However, from my perspective, it seems like there is so much pressure on the classroom teacher to make sure she spends the correct number of minutes on each subject, and there is so much more testing and teacher training going on. I often wonder how the teachers have time to implement all the training they receive. (You make a lot of valid points based on my own daughter’s experience…I think it’s become a much more stressful profession.) It’s a lot and I think that pressure to perform is passed on to the students. For most children, that’s not a positive learning atmosphere. I see that teaching has changed from being child-centered learning to performance based learning. The joy of learning can be lost if the teacher isn’t paying attention.

ME:  Now four years ago, you’ve said in an interview, you read a book that completely transported you into its world. What book was that and why do you think it succeeded where other books had failed? Also, how has that particular book affected your own writing?

KATE:  Twilight by Stephanie Meyer completely transported me into its world which was weird because it’s not a book I would have picked out for myself. (I had suspected that was the book.) In fact, it was on my desk for three months before I read it. I only read it then because I had run a half marathon the Saturday before Labor Day and by Labor Day morning my muscles didn’t want to get out of bed. I jokingly told my daughter to make breakfast for me and she agreed. I told her I needed something to do if I were going to stay in bed so she brought me the book off my desk. I unwillingly began to read. By the end of September, I’d read the entire series.


I wanted to know how Stephanie Meyer had transported me so I began studying how to write. (This would be my love for learning showing itself.) I analyzed Meyer’s work and determined it was the emotion that enveloped me. I think that’s her strength. She did a lot of other things right structurally, as well, but she’s superb at creating emotion within the reader.

I try really hard to make that emotional connection with my readers, as well. Scene and sequel was another big lesson I found in her work. Everything is happening in real time in her books. The reader experiences it with the character. There isn’t a lot of summary. That led me to study Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham. That has revolutionized my writing.

Scene and StructureME:  Living on a farm as you do, what has been the most outlandish experience you’ve had, and have you ever thought about writing something set on a farm or using some of your farm experiences (such as finding manure in your laundry) in your fiction? (And please provide a photo of you and your family on the farm.)

KATE:  Finding manure in my laundry was pretty shocking, but I’ve found it other places in my house unfortunately.


My brother-in-law AI-ed (Articficially Inseminated) our milk cow one year. I wasn’t home at the time. Instead of going to his house to clean up, he stopped at mine. I’m pretty sure he was clean because it—you know the stuff—was all over my sink and towels.

(Double yuck!)

I’d have to say the most outlandish experience has been butchering our own chickens. We did it for three years. I DO NOT recommend it. (Yeah, but maybe you should think about auditioning for “Survivor.”)

I definitely want to use my farm experiences in future works. My current work in progress is set on a working cattle ranch. I want to show people what it’s really like to live on a ranch—particularly the amount of work involved. That’s missing in so much western and historical fiction.

IMG_9445(And here’s a photo of life on the farm)

In the photo: My sister-in-law and I hold a rogue calf while my father-in-law teaches my son how to brand. We have a squeeze chute, but this calf slipped under the fence just before her turn. It was easier to catch her in the corral and brand her than feed her back through the corrals and squeeze chute again.

ME:  Tell us how you came up with the idea for your debut novel, THE GUY NEXT DOOR, and what was your writing process?

Guy-Next-Door_COVER-WEBKATE:  My Great-Grandfather died from the effects of being a coal miner. He left behind a wife and thirteen children. The banker wanted to marry my Great-Grandmother, but didn’t want her children. She used to sit up nights on the front porch with the shotgun to keep him away. I could never understand how that banker could think my grandmother would leave her children and how she could love him if he didn’t love her children. I wanted to take that story of a man loving a woman, but not her children and make it a modern story.

I had read that I needed to combine two different story ideas to make an effective novel. So I began thinking what else I could write about. Then I remembered an especially vivid dream I’d had in college. In the dream, I was being chased through the woods holding a baby that wasn’t really mine.

Okay, that wasn’t really so much of a different idea. It was more along the lines of the first idea so I kept thinking. My husband runs the local cable channel. One October morning he got a call from the local police about a marijuana farm that had been found in the mountains above Ephraim. He went with the police and filmed the DEA agents (feet only to protect their identity) going through the site. It was unusual for two reasons. First marijuana doesn’t usually grow at that high of an elevation. Secondly, an irrigation system had been rigged up with black tubing to take water from Ephraim city’s irrigation water.

That’s the kind of second idea I needed. I put those three things together, came up with three disasters and an ending and began writing.

ME:  It appears to be a mix of thriller and romance. Which genre do you lean more toward and why?

KATE:  I describe my work as romance with a dash of suspense. I’m always drawn to the romance in a story—it’s what keeps me coming back.

ME:  What are you working on now, and how would you describe your writing space? (I must have a photo of said space, whether it’s an office, the barn, or a simple recliner.)

KATE:  I’m working on a children’s chapter book (editing it now), a children’s picture book series (Seasons on the Farm), and another romantic suspense. The romantic suspense is a contemporary western and is really fun to write. (I’ll look forward to it.)

When we built our house, my husband was working from home so we planned an office for him. He no longer works from home, and I am very fortunate to have that office as my writing space. (Yay!) It has the all-important door that can be closed. Actually, when I wrote THE GUY NEXT DOOR, I wrote it at the desk in our dining room so I really appreciate the office I have now. I recently started homeschooling one of my children so the office is really a mess right now while I figure out where to house everything.

photo(Great office!)

You can learn a lot more about Kate and all her interests on her website. Her book, THE GUY NEXT DOOR, is available on Amazon, Seagull, and Deseret Book.

And next week I’ll be talking with Alysia Ricks, author of Sweet Romantic Suspense, YA, and Adventure, who writes under the pen name Alysia S. Knight.

Alysia Ricks


Originally posted 2014-04-23 22:08:26.

“Wednesday Writer” – David Farland

I’m interviewing David Farland this week as part of a blog tour featuring his new YA fantasy novel, NIGHTINGALE.

First, a bit about the book and its author:

The multi-award winning novel, NIGHTINGALE, by best-selling author, David Farland, is available in hardback, ebook, and now in a special iPad enhanced version. This young-adult fantasy novel has already been turning heads.

Grand Prize Winner of the Hollywood Book Festival, placed first in all genres, all categories. 

Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year!

Finalist in the Global Ebook Awards.

Some people sing at night to drive back the darkness.  Others sing to summon it. . . .

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth. Thrown into foster care, he was rejected by one family after another, until he met Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognized him for what he really was–what her people call a “nightingale.”

But Bron isn’t ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know.  Bron’s secret may be the most dangerous of all.

In his remarkable young adult fantasy debut, David Farland shows why critics have called his work “compelling,” “engrossing,” “powerful,” “profound,” and “ultimately life-changing.”

“Superb worldbuilding, strong characters, and Dave’s characteristic excellent prose.” – (Brandon Sanderson, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author)

“A wonderful tale of a young man trying to find his humanity, even though he’s not quite human.  One of Farland’s very best!” – (#1 International Bestseller, Kevin J. Anderson)

The enhanced version creates an amazing reading experience complete with illustrations from several talented artists and a sample of a soundtrack that coincides with the story. Published by East India Press, a publishing company that takes e-books in a whole new direction with enhanced multimedia–soundtracks, movie clips, author interviews and more.

Farland has plans for three more books in the series: Dream Assassin, Draghoul, and Shadow Lord.

Now, let’s get to know the author a little better.

Me:  Do you recall any details about the first story you ever wrote, or at least the earliest one you can remember?

Dave:  Of course. It was called The Island of the Lost Dinosaur. I wrote it when I was five. I even drew a picture of the island and the dinosaur. I think that just about every child will do that. I also think that a disproportionate number of those stories are about lost dinosaurs. In my case, the entire title was inappropriate, since it wasn’t the dinosaur that was lost, but the island. Although, one could maintain that if the island is lost, then the dinosaur is, too. (True.) My mother just couldn’t quite understand my logic on that one.

Here is a picture of the budding author at age five, in his larvael pre-sentient state (Doesn’t that sound just like a science fiction/fantasy writer? :D), shortly before attempting his first story, a literary flop that even a mother couldn’t love.

(See those cheekbones? He hasn’t changed a bit.)

Me:  Where did you grow up and what was it about your childhood that most affected your fiction?

Dave:  I grew up in Oregon, in a little town called Monroe, population about 300 (each sign on different ends of the town had varying numbers). We had a nice river that ran near our home, 32 acres of fields and streams, and if you wanted, you could take off hiking up the creek and not cross a road for days as you traveled into forests of Douglas fir. We had lots of wildlife near our farm–deer, pheasants, ducks, cougars, beaver, and so on.

So I fell in love with nature when I was young. If you read my fiction looking for big, beautiful cities, you won’t find them.

(Okay, does anyone else feel like camping now? I do, and I don’t usually like to camp!)

Me:  Science fiction, as opposed to fantasy, generally requires a rudimentary understanding of the way the universe works, and it certainly requires a visionary kind of mindset. What kind of background, in terms of both education and books read, gave you the wherewithal to attempt science fiction from the outset?

Dave:  As a child, I only read science texts. I ran through all of our local libraries by the time  that I was about twelve. I didn’t read fiction at all, until I was forced to at about the age of thirteen.

As a teen, I wrote my first book–a text on the mustiledae family of mammals (weasels, minks, and so on). I followed it that same year with a book on the history of the development of nuclear weaponry in the United States. I also studied oceanography and forestry. That naturally led to a love for the biological sciences, including medicine, and most of my stories revolve around ideas that deal with biology in one way or another.

The first science fiction novel that I read felt rather like an Aesop’s fable–a little heavy on the moralization. From it, though, I recognized that fiction could have some intellectual value, and I began to read a little of it. I didn’t really learn to love science fiction, though, until I read Dune(Hear, hear!) Between that, Star Wars and a few other choice novels, I began really getting interested in science fiction.

But as I said, when I was young, I loved science. Once, when I was a child of about eight or nine, a neighbor asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I knew that our genome designated what kind of organism we would be, and I knew that I loved paleontology, so I said, “I want to be a paleo . . . genetic . . . engineer!”

(Talk about precocious!)

“Oh,” she said, “those are very big words. And what do those people do?”

“Build dinosaurs,” I told her. “Of course we can’t do it now, but someday we will.” (You see? He had that visionary thing going even then.)

So I went to college initially and majored in premedical microbiology, with an eye toward research in genetic engineering.

But I kept finding that I wanted to write, and paint. I imagined that I would be a doctor who wrote on the side. Then one day I realized that the desire to write was too strong–so I decided to be a writer who doctored on the side.

Me:  Which is harder? Science fiction or fantasy?

Dave:  They’re the same. Let me put it this way: you learn to write best what you love best. If you love both equally, you’ll write both with the same enthusiasm.

Never convince yourself that writing in an unfamiliar genre is easy. A couple of years ago, I thought that I would “dash off” a historical novel in a few weeks. After all, since it was based on historical accounts, it would be easy, right? That book, In the Company of Angels, was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. (And it’s great! You can take my word for it.) I won an award for it (Whitney Award: Best Novel of the Year), and it did well in sales, but it taught me a lesson. Writing anything well is hard work.

Me:  Where did you set the Guinness Record for the world’s largest book signing and for what book? And how surprised were you at the turnout? (If you happen to have a picture from that event, I’d love to post it.)

Dave:  I wrote a comic science fiction novel called A Very Strange Trip back in 1999. It was based on a screenplay by L. Ron Hubbard, and involved a moonshiner from West Virginia who has to carry a time machine across the country. The problem is, every time his truck hits a bump, the machine goes off. On his first stop, he goes back in time and meets up with a beautiful Cherokee squaw, and they keep moving further back with each trip.

Since my grandfather was a moonshiner from West Virginia, and since my grandmother was Cherokee, and since I loved paleontology, I thought it would be a hoot write. (And it sounds like a hoot to read, too.)

In any case, my publisher held a huge party down in Hollywood, with movie stars, a band, and free root beer floats. There are a lot of Scientologists in the area, so I wasn’t at all surprised that we drew a nice crowd. 

I’m thinking that next time, we’ll just use beer in the floats. That will bring in the crowds!

(Dave is the little bald guy in the center, slaving under the hot lights while thousands line up for the book signing on July 3, 1999. Note: His description, not mine. If you click on the picture, you can see a slightly larger version and make out Dave in the middle.)

Me:  Do you have plans to try any more historical fiction like IN THE COMPANY OF ANGELS?

Dave:  I don’t know. I’m fascinated by history, and I think I’d like to write another. I have an ancestor, a German boy of 12 named George Johann Wunderlicht, who was sold into slavery back in the 1700s. I’ve often thought that his family saga was worth a novel. George worked for a ship’s captain, and there is speculation that the captain became a privateer for a while, and then went to Africa to transport slaves. Though, as a Quaker, George was committed to a life of nonviolence, it’s said that he went to battle in the Civil War, even though he was in his 80s, and got shot something like three days after enlistment. So he died to help put an end to slavery. (You’re right. That would make for a fascinating story.)

I’ve often felt that a book about his life would be a great memorial, but there’s so little that I know, it would have to be more fiction than fact. (And, speaking for readers, I think we’d be okay with that.)

Me:  Tell us about your new publishing company and your current novel, NIGHTINGALE.

Dave:  East India Press is a company that I started with Miles Romney, a cousin to Mitt Romney. We hope to publish novels in multiple formats: as hardcovers, audiobooks, e-books, and most importantly as enhanced novels.

So we’ve put out NIGHTINGALE in each of those formats. Back in 1989, I was hired by IBM to work for a think-tank that would develop novels for reading on the computer. We were too far ahead of our time.

But I’ve been thinking about the possibilities for decades, and with NIGHTINGALE, we wanted to make it an experience. With the enhanced novel, we combined graphics, text, animations, and our own soundtrack with a few other features–such as author interviews.

I think that we’re closing in on what I’d like, but it can be so much better. For example, our soundtrack is really great, but it deserves to be heard in high-fidelity, and most people who read it aren’t going to bother putting on headphones when they’re reading from their iPad.

Still, I think that we created a much more immersive experience for the book.

In any case, NIGHTINGALE is a young adult novel about a young man, Bron Jones, who is abandoned at birth. He’s raised in foster care and kicked from home to home because his families find him to be “too strange.” Finally, at the age of sixteen, he meets a teacher who recognizes that he’s not even human. He’s what she calls a “nightingale,” a member of an ancient species that only looks human.

So Bron begins a remarkable journey to discover where he came from, what he is, and who he is.

(Excuse me a moment while I go order something on my iPad.)

The novel has won four awards so far this year, including the Hollywood Book Festival for Best Book of the Year, and the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year.

(I thought I’d post the cover again in case you’ve forgotten what it looks like.)

Me:  What prompted this particular story? Did this book start with a dream like your first work, On My Way to Paradise, or was it something else?

Dave:  Something else. When I was young, I was well aware that humans and Neanderthals had existed together for hundreds of thousands of years before the Neanderthals became extinct. I used to imagine how cool it would be if we found a tribe of them living in Siberia or the mountains of Tibet.

So that was one idea for a novel. But of course we know now that even a hundred thousand years ago, there were at least four humanoid species living together, and I’ve wondered about some of our lesser-known cousins.

Then there is a strange thing in the New Testament. It tells us that “Wise Men” came to visit Jesus at his birth and that they showered gifts on him. The word used for “wise men” or “wizards” (chakam) probably denoted a caste of court magicians similar to the ones that Moses battled with in Pharaoh’s Court. Most likely, these wise men came searching for the new “King of the Jews” because they were looking for jobs. (Okay, I’ll have to admit I haven’t heard that assumption before. Interesting.)

In any case, one day I got to fantasizing about what they might be. Could it be that they were something more than astrologers and soothsayers? Could they be something outside of humanity, creatures with real super intelligence? And so the ideas for NIGHTINGALE were born.

A couple of years later, I was talking to one of my writing students about how to approach a contemporary fantasy, and realized that I really did want to put this one on the front burner. But I had so many novels to write for the Runelords series, I had to put it on the back. The student–Stephenie Meyer–went on to do well, and I kept thinking, “I really need to get that novel out.” It’s taken a while.

Me:  I have a thing for writer’s spaces or work areas. How would you describe yours and could you provide a picture?

Dave:  My top-secret writing space (Oh, well . . . I guess that means no picture) is an over-stuffed recliner that we keep in a quiet corner of our master bedroom. My advice to writers is: make yourself as comfortable as possible. It makes it easy to write for 14 hours a day if you’re comfortable. So avoid dirty, cramped, uncomfortable, unhealthy, and nasty spaces. Also avoid places with evil vibes, war zones, or places cursed by ancient shamans. (Gotcha! And my office is in my master bedroom, too. Now I just need to talk to my husband about a nice, comfy recliner. :D)

I sometimes go to write in Mexico. I like to greet the dawn on the beach down in Baja, sitting out while the sun rises in shades of pink over the sand. (Hmmm…something else to discuss with my husband.)

Me:  Finally, how on earth do you manage to produce “David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants” every day and STILL have time for your own writing?

Dave:  I did it every day, mostly, for the first couple of years. Now I only write the advice column a couple of times a week. Originally, I thought that the column might run for a year or so, and that I would use the ideas for my book on writing. That hasn’t worked out very well. My book, Storytelling as a Fine Art, could probably be finished in a month if I pulled all of my material together. Right now, I have thousands of pages of Daily Kicks.

But the truth is, I enjoy writing the articles, and every so often I look at my ideas for new articles and realize that there is just more that needs to be said.

Well, as you’ve read here, Dave is a veritable fountain of knowledge and I love that he’s so good about sharing all he knows, whether it’s here on blogs like mine or at writers conferences like the one put on each spring by LDStorymakers, or at his own Writer’s Death Camp (which I am bound and determined to attend next year). If the Death Camp isn’t your style, he offers plenty of other workshops, as well.

Besides buying his latest book, I urge you to check out his website where you, too, can sign up to receive his Daily Kick! 

Originally posted 2012-10-24 06:00:11.

Whether to go “big” or “small”

Present word count:  28,073

Husband’s home, cat’s healthy, I’m writing. YAY!

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

7. Think really hard before you spend a year trying to please one person in New York to get your book published by a ‘real’ publisher. You give up a lot of time. You give up a lot of the upside. You give up control over what your book reads like and feels like and how it’s promoted. Of course, a contract from Knopf and a seat on Jon Stewart’s couch are great things, but so is being the Queen of England. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to you. Far more likely is that you discover how to efficiently publish (either electronically or using POD or a small run press) a brilliant book that spreads like wildfire among a select group of people.

Okay, I actually have to quibble with a lot of this, although I kind of agree with the gist of what he’s saying.

Actually, given such online sites as QueryTracker, you’re spending a year trying to please A LOT of different people in New York (and some in Colorado or the West Coast), hoping that AT LEAST ONE will want to represent you and get you a traditional contract. Besides, if you’re doing things right, you’re not spending ALL of that year trying to achieve that…you’re also continuing to write more stories.

I don’t think, if you do it right, you give up a lot of time. Let’s say you’ll devote a couple of hours each Friday afternoon to queries. That’s not a lot of time.

As for giving up control over what your book reads or feels like, that may be a good thing! You may really need an editor. Hopefully not, but you may. I’m just saying.

And the promotion point is kind of moot, unless you’re going to be the next J.K Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, etc. Why? Because big publishers don’t really do much promotion anymore unless they think you’re going to be that big a success. So, in 99% of the cases, the promotion’s pretty much up to you, anyway. You’re controlling it (hopefully).

I guess Jon Stewart is the new Oprah (and Godin told us not to bother with her in his last point), but, yeah, I’d take a seat in his studio any time. He is sooo funny (except when he swears or is a bit vulgar). But who says it’s great being the Queen of England? I’d rather be Oprah. Kate Middleton can have all those garden parties and laying of wreaths. I’d rather write, thank you very much.

Finally, if he means my family and close friends when he’s talking about my book spreading “like wildfire among a select group of people,” well…I can’t quibble with that.

My conclusion: if I think I have a “big” concept, I’ll go “big.” Otherwise, I’ll probably be content with a smaller press.

Originally posted 2012-02-06 17:14:24.