Thursday, April 01, 2010

Pay It Forward: Kari Lynn Dell

Sometimes this writing business--especially the writing for publication part--is rough and bumpy. We all go through the ditches, and feel we're alone. It's easy to look at other writers and think it was easy for them, or that they have some kind of luck or talent we don't have.

This week, a whole big bunch of us are turning the spotlight on those who are almost there, writers who are agented but haven't quite got the deal yet, or writers who have sold but their books aren't quite out. Join us this week for 70 (yes 70!) success stories!

Each day this week I'm going to post an interview with one of these writers, to hopefully inspire you, provide hope along your way, and prove that you CAN succeed in this crazy business. You guys--you're going to LOVE these interviews. They were so inspirational to me!! They're doing it. You can too.

Click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura RoeckerBeth RevisLeah CliffordVictoria SchwabKirsten HubbardElana Johnson, Dawn MetcalfKim HarringtonCarrie HarrisAmy HolderKathy McCulloughSuzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Tiffany Schmidt.

Kari is my agent-sister as well as my state-sister. I love that we have both writing AND Montana quirks in common, that we can trade anecdotes about weather and towns we know. That said, her experience on a real live ranch in northern Montana and mine sitting at my desk in southwest Montana are pretty distinctly different. I love to hear Kari's Montana for Real stories just as much as the New Yorkers, so I was so pleased when she agreed to be interviewed!

1. Tell us about your current book.
My current, as yet untitled book is the story of a woman who was rodeo’s version of a child prodigy, flamed out at age twenty, and is now confronting her past and attempting to make some kind of peace. It’s set on the pro rodeo circuit, so there’s a lot of action in and out of the arena. Emotionally, it’s the most complex thing I’ve ever written, with relationships—both human and animal—that stretch back over years and encompass both the best and worst of her life.
It’s also turning out to be the sexiest thing I’ve ever written, and a whole lot of fun.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication (finding an agent and editor)?

I haven’t made it to publication in novel form…yet. I write a bi-weekly column for several newspapers. I do have an agent, Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary Management. She signed me after tolerating my very clumsy pitch at a conference, requesting a full and, in her words, “falling in love with your unique voice”.

Plus, she likes horses. ;)

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

I did stop writing almost entirely for the two years before and after my son was born. He was eleven weeks premature and even though he came through it like a champ and has no ongoing health issues, it took a lot out of us. Then we moved from Oregon to Montana and things settled down and the writing bug bit me all over again.

As for giving up entirely, yes, I think every writer who doesn’t have instant success hits that wall. In my case, I looked at my husband and said, “Do you really think I should keep doing this?” And he said, “Well, as long as you like writing it, I sure like reading it. And it doesn’t cost much.” So I kept writing.

4. How have your writing goals/dreams changed since you started the process?

I started writing on a whim, with absolutely no clue about publishing, or even writing for that matter. My only goal was to entertain myself. By the time I finished that first novel I was hooked, and went shopping for books on writing to help me figure out how it was supposed to be done. It wasn’t until the fourth book that I considered going to a conference and pitching. That was the one Janet read.

Obviously my goals have changed, but I try to retain the attitude I had when I started. Publishing is such a crap shoot, the only thing I can do is write a story I love, enjoy the process, and hope for the best.

5. These interviews will hopefully inspire those who are just beginning the writing process. What's the one piece of advice you wished you knew when you started?

Start sooner.

Just kidding. But I do wish I’d considered writing earlier in life. Still, the experiences I’ve had in my various professions definitely feed my stories, so nothing wasted.

I can’t say there’s one piece of advice that would have changed my path as a writer, or made it easier. In pretty much every part of my life I’ve been a slow starter. It took me seven years and two changes of my major to get through college. I started competing in rodeo at age eight, but didn’t get really competitive as a barrel racer until I was in my last couple years of high school. Then I switched to roping and took ten years to master that event. And let’s not even get into how long and how many false starts it took me to get ‘find a good man’ down pat.

Suffice to say, if history holds true, I’m getting to the point where I should just about have this writing thing figured out. 

Thanks, Kari!! Hopefully I'm getting there too. *Montana writer high-five*


Linda G. said...

You Montana writers are the best. :)

Kari, I really enjoy reading your blog. You DO have a unique voice, and I can't wait to see how it plays out in your novels.

Kathy McCullough said...

Great interview! It's so oddly comforting to read of the suffering of other authors along the way..."We are not alone."

Elana Johnson said...

What a great story. And more proof that conferences and pitches actually work. Thanks Kari!

Lisa and Laura said...

Great interview! I'm loving these!

Crystal Posey said...

"Publishing is such a crap shoot, the only thing I can do is write a story I love, enjoy the process, and hope for the best. "

Love that! lol