Spotlight; Kristen Duvall

Spotlight

Here’s what Spotlight is about; it’s an interview that promotes you! It will feature questions that are formatted to your needs. Questions will be focused on your work, upcoming work and some personal [but not intrusive] questions for your fans to get to know you more!

Today features

Kristen Duvall

 

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Tell us about yourself

I’m 30 years old, but a child at heart. I’m a curvy redhead and I like long walks on the beach… oh wait, wrong profile? Oops. Sorry.

I’m a writer of tales both real and make-believe. I prefer writing stories that feature worlds unlike our own. Magic and ghosts and demons make the world a better place, or at least a more interesting one. Dystopian worlds? I love them like a kid loves Disneyland. I know they’re overdone, yet I can’t get enough. My favorite books have long been set in these types of worlds, from “Running Man” to “The Hunger Games”, this is a weakness I may never get over. It’s like peanut butter. It’s who I am and I’m not ashamed.

I’m the type of girl who makes cannibal jokes at the dinner table, but who may wear purple frilly dresses and pigtails while doing so. I love horror movies and violence, but not if animals are harmed. People? Fine. Animals? Not cool man, not cool. I’m socially awkward and have very few friends in real life, but the internet seems to love me and I love it right back. So it all evens out, I suppose.

I’m an anti-Virgo (it barely fits me) and an INFJ (that one is spot on). I’m a dog person who also likes cats, and anyone who doesn’t like animals gets a side-eye from me. I’m an adrenaline junkie like no other and will ride any roller coaster, anywhere if I could. My dream is to go on The Amazing Race or Survivor because I love a good challenge.

Even though I have a sick sense of humor and write scary tales, I promise I have a heart of gold. Seeing people or animals in pain bothers me on such a deep level. So don’t worry,  my empathy keeps me from being a serial killer (kidding…)I can’t kill a spider without feeling guilty for days.

 

 

About your writing;

When did you start writing?

I don’t really remember. I remember telling my mom stories and she would draw the pictures and write the words for me, and then we’d staple the pages together to make a book. The first story I remember featured a cat sitting on top of the fridge and asking for ketchup, but the human didn’t understand him. I wrote short stories in elementary school and always made up characters in my head. In high school, I took creative writing and shortly after that, I started writing a novel that I never finished, but may one day revisit the idea since I still think it’s a good one. It was paranormal romance involving vampires (long before “Twilight” was a thing), but I’m almost afraid that ship has sailed. Dangit, had I only wrote it sooner. I could be famous.

What inspires you to write?

I don’t really know… I just enjoy it a lot. My dreams inspire a lot of my stories. “The Caged Girl”  was  based on a dream I had a few years ago, and many of the short stories were dreams as well. I have very interesting nightmares to say the least. My real life insecurities show up in my writing a lot too. I sometimes don’t even realize it until I read the story later and go “that’s me”.

How has writing change you as a person?

When I was a kid, I struggled with being bullied. There were times I would slip into the bathroom between classes to hide and cry. I wanted out so badly… but I couldn’t change schools (small town) and my family couldn’t homeschool me. I escaped to my make-believe worlds to shut out the bad things. The role playing in my head also helped me become stronger and  to eventually stand up to those who were tearing me down. Today, I still write about fictional scenarios that mirror my real life. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it until I’m finished.

Adding some fun;

If you spend the rest of your life in a novel or novel series, what novel would it be and why?

I mostly read dark, dystopian pieces. The kinds of worlds I specifically wouldn’t want to live in… But if I had to choose, I read the Meredith Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton  awhile back and it’s set in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Being a fairy and living in the Cahokia Mounds? That could be pretty sweet. Without everyone trying to kill me or get me pregnant, that is.

Share a couple of your favorite things and or things you like?

Great Danes (and animals in general), the beach, being outdoors, playing on the playground, acting like a kid again, Christmas with the family and peanut butter (I have an obsession with peanut butter. I eat it every day).

What couldn’t you live without?

My loved ones, including my family, my boyfriend and my pets.

In the literacy world who do you think is a misunderstood character and why?

This is hard to say. I know when I read Catcher in the Rye in high school, I saw Holden as being like me and my friends. Yes, we were annoying and whiny and we acted like teens. I thought the character was done well and he made me laugh at times. Today, I see all the hatred for the character and have to wonder if I read the book again, would I still feel the same way? Or would I find him annoying like those who read him as an adult seem to do? Part of me doesn’t want to read the book again to see. I worry that maybe I wouldn’t like him the way my obnoxious teen self did back in the day.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about writing?

This might get people hating me… but I read “Beautiful Creatures” and didn’t like it. However, it made me realize that I’m being too hard on myself. I’m very harsh when it comes to my own writing and tend to think I suck. I grew up reading the classics and I was a bit of a literary snob for awhile there. I couldn’t live up to the incredibly high standards I set for myself. But then I read “Beautiful Creatures” and realized… if that can get published and made into a movie, there’s a possibility I could too. It felt flawed, but people loved it. It wasn’t perfect and to many people, that was okay because they liked the characters, they liked the plot and they just wanted to escape. I read it while writing my novel and it gave me the confidence to say “it’s okay to not be perfect. I just want people to enjoy what I’m writing and maybe they will, even if I don’t think it’s perfect”. Honestly, I will never think anything I write is perfect. People enjoy my writing, they’ve told me as much. I should always strive to be better, sure… But I don’t to be perfect to be a writer people enjoy reading.

Then I read some Neil Gaiman and realized crap, I have a long way to go. That man is pretty amazing.

Is there a character that annoys you in the literacy world? Or even one of your own?

I can’t answer this or I risk total annihilation in the writing community. People will hate me 🙂

Advice;

What do you look for in a publishing company as they will end up representing your work?

I own a small publishing company (www.feypublishing.com). I acquired it in May and still have a lot of work to do with it. But I’m seeing things from a different perspective than before. I’m researching what different publishers offer, what they do… and some of it appalls me. Here are some of my thoughts.

1) Royalties are king. Yes, some people believe you shouldn’t sign with a house unless you get an advance, but I disagree (and I disagreed before I owned a publishing house). An advance is an advance on royalties. If you do not make up the advance, you may not get another contract or the next one will be much smaller than the first. Negotiate higher royalties, though don’t be surprised at how low many of the houses offer (especially on your first book). Some offer it off the cover price, others offer it off “net” which means you get paid a percentage of profits. This can be tricky… if you go for a “net” contract, make sure you know what costs are coming out of that before you get paid. Some contracts can be very tricky and slimy.

2) A writer should not pay to be published by a publishing house. Did you read that carefully? Let me state it again. A writer should not pay the publisher to publish them. Ever. If a company asks you to pay them, walk away. Vanity presses are out there. You pay money for them to publish you and it looks legit and not like you’re self-published, sure. However many professionals know a vanity press when they see them and you are likely better off self publishing in my opinion.

3) Remember, you will likely have to market yourself even with a publisher. Most publishing houses require it in the contracts, even the big names. Learn the ins and outs, start a FB page, and get your name out there. And even with all that, you may not sell many books on your first go round. I’ve seen many first time writers assume they’ll sell thousands or tens of thousands of books. And then they sell 30 or 40, or even less. It stings. But you have to keep marketing yourself, keep trying to get your name out there, you will succeed with or without a publishing house to back you.

4) Know the publishing company. Read the submissions page carefully. Memorize the heck out of it. And make sure you do everything exactly as they ask. Make sure you are submitting work that fits with what they put out. Otherwise, you’re not only wasting the publisher’s time, you’re wasting your time. It almost always leads to rejection when you don’t follow directions or submit to houses not looking for what you’re offering.

How do you stay confident in yourself especially by putting yourself out there in the internet world?

I used to play an online writing game and I did extremely well all three years I played. However, even with all that, I had people who would put me down and say some pretty nasty things. I used to let it crush me. Then I realized I can’t please everyone. I focus on those who like my work. I listen to feedback and criticism, but if it’s just a troll being mean? I toss it aside. I only pay attention to honest criticism so I may improve. I know it’s easier said than done, but I realized I either needed to quit writing or develop a thicker skin. I’m obviously still writing, so… Yeah. It’s pretty obvious what I chose to do instead.

There are mean people out there who seek to tear others down to make themselves feel better. Those people? They suck and aren’t worth your time. Even if you have to fake it at first, learn to laugh it off and roll your eyes. Rant to someone who you trust. Downplay what those jerks have to say. Because they aren’t worth it. Eventually you realize you’re not faking it anymore and honestly couldn’t care less what they have to say.

Some people won’t like your writing. Even the most beloved writers have people who think they’re terrible. And guess what? I’m sure they don’t mind once those fat royalty checks come in and they top yet another best seller list. Sure, our success is on a smaller scale (for now), but always remember those who do like your work while giving less weight to those who don’t.

How do you handle rejection? What advice can you offer to moving past it?

Rejection is part of being a writer. That’s what I remind myself day after day after day. Even J.K Rowling was rejected countless times and look at what she’s achieved. Writing is subjective. One editor might love something, another might hate it and someone else might think it’s just okay. Sometimes it isn’t even about the writing, but perhaps the piece isn’t in a genre they enjoy. Or perhaps they have another alien vampire erotica piece signed on and think two would be too many. There are countless reasons for rejection, and many of those don’t have to be because you suck as a writer. Just remembering that helps a lot.

I entered a writing contest where you could win publication in an anthology. I wrote my heart out and loved my story. It got rave reviews. However, there were 900 other entries, if not more. I realized then and there that out of 900 entries, there was probably at least one person who was better than me. I’d bet my life on there being a lot of writers in that large group that could be better than me or had a more unique idea… or anything.

And I’m okay with that. Someone else being better doesn’t mean I suck. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrible writer. It doesn’t mean my piece wasn’t any good. People loved it, it connected with readers. In the end, isn’t that all that really matters?

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

1) Develop a tough skin. Period.

2) Have a few good beta readers on hand at all times. And by good, I mean honest ones who won’t just stroke your ego.

3) Don’t have too many beta readers otherwise you will be stuck in editing hell forever. Remember, writing is subjective. What works for one person may not work for someone else. Stay true to yourself in situations like that.

4) Ask for ways you can improve. And be prepared for honest answers. No matter how amazing a writer is, there is always room for improvement.

5) Get used to talking about your writing in a positive light. Even if you have to fake confidence at first, never diss your own writing in public. Why would I want to read a book if the author of the book doesn’t think it’s any good? Limit those insecurities to personal discussions with people you trust, not potential customers. They don’t belong on a FB page, public blog or anywhere your readers might find them.  You’re not alone in thinking every word you write is horrible. We all do it.

6) Read. Read books you love, read books you hate. Take the books you hate and think of what you’d change about them if you could. Discuss these things often to learn more about what works and what doesn’t.

 

 

Featuring your work and or upcoming work;

Tell us about your book [s]

“Femmes du Chaos” is a book of short stories with one common theme: female characters who seem to have a knack for trouble. They’re all strong, ambitious girls and women. Some will use those skills for good, others for evil. You have bounty hunters alongside schoolgirls alongside indentured servants from the future all in one place and with a story to tell. This book should be out at the beginning of August.

I have a novella that will be coming out within the next year hopefully… “The Devil is in the Details” is about a man who loses his job and is hired by a devilish woman. He starts off being her right hand man, doing the deeds that need to be done sometimes through unethical business practices. But what happens when he’s tired of being the devil’s advocate and wants a promotion to the top spot? Let’s just say, it isn’t pretty.

“The Caged Girl” (working title, it may change) is a novel that is finished, but needs some editing. It’s likely the first in a series. It follows Bethany, a teen girl who’s not been outside since her mother was killed. Her father shelters her from everything. A childhood friend named Sean is trying to prove himself worthy, but he just comes off as weak. In a world full of starvation, drought, cannibalism and other freaky things… Sean has to do something drastic to prove he can protect Bethany after her father is gone. And believe me, he does.

And finally, this one doesn’t have a name… It’s tentatively called “The Princess and the Piper” but that is not the final name (it’s a cheesy pun). It’s set in a utopian future where genetic engineering allows you to be anyone you want to be. Clones of celebrities and other beautiful people walk the earth, but one girl, a Hollywood starlet, is not okay with that. This is a lesbian love story and likely considered New Adult.

Who is your favorite character and why? [If you can share without spoiling your work]

I don’t know if I have a favorite exactly… In “Femmes du Chaos”, I love Sylvia. She’s a bounty hunter hellbent on revenge after the justice system let her down. She’s fierce and is in a traditionally male role (when I first started the story, she was going to be a male, but it didn’t work for me. Making her a female made the story what it is). I also love Vanessa from “The Princess and the Piper” because she’s not the girl I thought she would be. I had no idea she was a lesbian, I discovered it about the same time she did. She continually surprises me the more I write her.

What character do you hope readers understand?

Vanessa. It’s hard writing her because she’s genetically engineered to be perfect. But no one likes a perfect character (I despise them). She’s also grown up very privileged and sheltered, so being out in the real world was a shock to her at first. But deep down she has a good heart and only wants what the rest of us wants… happiness. Piper in the same novel is another character I hope people understand. She’s a damaged girl who’s been through a lot. She’s the exact opposite of Vanessa in every way except she wants to be happy. Neither girl really has any idea what that means for them, and likely won’t find out for awhile.

 

Do you have a favorite part of your own book (s) ?

Choosing a character or even yourself, can you give us a sample playlist of music that would follow said person?

While writing “The Caged Girl”, specifically the darker sections featuring Sean through his transformation from innocent boy to a ruthless killer of a man, I listened to a lot of Slipknot, Tool and Stone Sour.

Have you had trouble writing about any of your characters?

Claire Hansen in “Femmes du Chaos” is a sociopath. I wrote this piece for a writing contest years ago and I struggled with her because I didn’t want to make her character seem unrealistic, but then again… she seduces a teenage boy to kill her husband, she can’t be too nice of a person, can she? Finding that balance between good and evil is harder when working with a villain. It’s too easy to make them all bad when everyone has a little good inside them. Finding that balance is hard sometimes. Not to mention, she took this piece is a direction that I know will make readers squirm a bit, but it had to be done. Still, I worry how people will respond to it and whether I went too far into the darkness.

What would you like readers to get from your book (s) ?

I’d like people to be entertained. I want them to walk away happy that they read my book. I don’t write uplifting or happy stories often, but my characters (often female) are always strong and fierce. I hope I can empower girls and women through my writing.

In your book (s) what had been the hardest challenge you’ve faced so far?

What I mentioned above about Claire fits the bill. Also, creating dynamic characters. In short stories, you only see them for a tiny bit of time. How can I make them stand out? In my novels, you have continuity to worry about, making sure all your character’s actions make sense for the person you created.

How is this world a better place because of your books?

Hopefully I show readers that even woman can write dark fiction just as good as any guy can.

If you could meet any of your own characters, who would (they / it) be?

Sylvia, without a doubt. I love that girl. Yes, she’s brutal and knows how to make a man bleed… but she stands up for those she loves. I can’t spoil the ending, but what she stands up for is something very near and dear to my heart. Don’t worry, I won’t murder people… even if I agree they deserve it 😉

If you had to write a scene for a character of your choice that would put them in an awkward situation how would it go?

Liz (one of the characters from “Femmes du Chaos”) realizes Soylent Green is more than just something made up for a movie and thinks she might have run into Hannibal Lector on the street, but couldn’t be sure.

What do you to for marketing?

I have a website, a blog, Twitter and Facebook. I don’t go crazy talking about my book and I won’t push people to buy it once it’s out. That’s just crazy and your advertising gets lost in the sea of promotion. Instead, I make a brand. I post things that I find interesting. I engage people in discussions. And I talk about my work if it comes up or if it’s relevant and sometimes, just for fun too. I won’t spam Twitter with links to buy my book. Instead, I want to make people like me and  to be interested enough in what I have to say that hey, they might just buy my book too. Which would rock my socks off.

Promote your books in a sentence or less 🙂

“Femmes du Chaos” is about chicks kicking ass and taking names.

“The Caged Girl” is romantic story about a girl, a boy and decapitation.

“The Princess and the Piper” is like the “Prince and the Pauper” only with lesbians.

“The Devil is in the Details” is about a pathetic man who wants nothing more than to overthrow his red hot boss, but instead suffers an eternity of pain and torture.

What are you working on now?

Finishing the editing of “Femmes du Chaos” and eventually I will format that sucker. I have a cover all ready to go and have already started sharing snippets and sample stories (www.kristenduvall.com. You can also read a snippet of “The Caged Girl” over there too).

I also have two anthologies I’m putting out through my publishing company, Fey Publishing.

 

 


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Kristen Duvall’s links;

 

Links that readers can contact and or connect with you at –

http://www.facebook.com/kristenduvallwriter,

http://www.facebook.com/fey.publishing,

Twitter @kristen_duvall, Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5392198.Kristen_Duvall

Links to websites that sell your work

http://www.kristenduvall.com (has samples and will list when my books are for sale). http://www.feypublishing.com.

 

 

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