Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: S. Kyle Davis

Welcome everyone! Thanks for trudging through the snow today to make it to my blog. Feel free to dump your snow gear at the door, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and make yourselves at home. And give a warm welcome to S. Kyle Davis.

I have had the pleasure of reading Kyle's current manuscript, and I'm extremely impressed, not only for the fast pace of action and engaging characters, but for his ability to revise. He does a beautiful job. And I'm beginning to think that is the key to it all! He has a ton of wonderful things going on at his blog, so go over and check him out. In fact, today, he'll be tearing apart my query, redline style. Isn't that fun?! He has a very professional website as well. Make sure to head over and check them out!

Kyle, thanks so much for being here!

Thanks, Heather for the opportunity! This is fun!

So, Kyle, tell us a little about yourself.

First and foremost, I'm a husband to my biggest supporter, Wendy. I'm also Dada to Finley and Rowynn. I'm a Christian. I'm a graphics designer. I'm a technical expert. I'm an armchair literary scholar with an MA in English. I'm a foracious "reader" who listens to audiobooks instead of reading them (because of my dyslexia and ADHD). I'm an author.

You wear a lot of hats, Kyle. What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a YA Fantasy Thriller called BLACKBIRD. It's part fantasy, part spy novel, and part cyber punk fun. Sort of Artemis Fowl for the older paranormal/urban fantasy reader.

That's a great description Kyle. And I have to say, that I love BLACKBIRD. What made you start to write seriously?

Well, I actually came at writing first as a musician. I was a songwriter, and loved writing the lyrics to the songs most of all (even if they were really confusing). Lyrics morphed into poetry, which morphed into screenwriting, which morphed into novel writing. When I started working on BLACKBIRD (though with a different title back then), I knew I was on to something good, and started thinking seriously of seeking publication.

You've done a bit of everything. I think that is an excellent idea for a writer. Kyle, what stage are you in, currently, in your journey toward publication? And--how is that going for you? Has anything surprised you about this stage?

I finished my first draft in January of 2009. I'd "revised" as I went, and knew I didn't need to do much to it before I'd get representation requests piling in. Sure, it was a little long, but hey.

The truth? I needed to do a LOT to it. Like a LOT LOT LOT. Oh, and it wasn't a little long. It was 202,000 freaking words!!! That's like... nearly three books! If only I could chop it up!

Finally, I realized how much work I really needed to do on it, and that it wasn't ready. I stopped sending queries out and focused on perfecting my book. So, I'm back in the revising stage and hoping that I'll be "really" ready this time. My goal is to be done before DFWcon in late February. It's going well, but I didn't have any real idea just how much work (read: PLANNING) goes into making a book publication ready.

That is a realization I've come to as well. It's a ton of work! Now, if you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

Yours, DUH! Well, other than the obvious suck-up answer, I'll say Holly Blodger's blog. It's a great resource for writers, and she's always putting up writer's craft tips that I find extremely helpful.

Very cool. And thanks for the sweet sucking up. That gets you many points. :) What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

Well, I have two series (serieses? seri?) I'm pretty proud of, one called "Becoming a Slush Pile Hero" and the other called "Writing that Stellar Novel." People can find them on the right side of my blog. Probably my favorite post, though, is the first one from the "Stellar Novel" series. It's called "The Balancing Act," and it talks about the importance of balancing all the main plot elements in a novel (action, drama, suspence, humor, and romance). I believe that successful commercial fiction should have a balance of most--if not all--of these elements.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Casey McCormick's Literary Rambles blog, definitely. Her "Agent Spotlight" series is awesome. If you write kidlit, you should follow it. Go do it. Now.

I agree. Casey's blog is wonderful. Kyle, tell us about your biggest trial in writing?

Knowing when it's done. I read it. I think I like it. Turns out it sucks. I fix it. I read it. I like it. Turns out it sucks, but a little less than last time. It's a bit of an endless cycle.

Oh, that hits a chord. So, what tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don't feel up to writing?

Have a reserve novel. One without a deadline. Maybe even one you don't plan on ever publishing. Something for you. Something fun. Work on that when you need a break.

Kyle, I love that advice! Do you have a writing schedule? Are you an everyday writer?

I try to write every weekday from 7 to 8 in the morning. Then, I get ready and go to work. Having a routine like that helps keep me motivated and keeps the novel fresh in my mind, without having so much writing in a day that I get burned out.

That's a great system. Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

This is kind of a lame answer, but I think every book impacts my writing life in a different way, because I always search for that one thing the author does really well. Some writers find themselves picking apart novels, finding all the things they'd do differently. This is my way of combating that, and it helps, because there's always something awesome about every one. Take M.T. Anderson. LOVE his voice writing. Some of the best prose in YA in recent history, and Anderson himself is so transparent. The main character comes through without Anderson coloring it. It's incredible. There are things I don't like about Anderson's books, but that's one thing I love, love, love. I try to find that in each novel I read.

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

I "just" want to be published by a major publishing house (can you say "just" to a statement like that?). Sure, I'd love to be a bestseller with a six-figure advance. I wouldn't say no to that. I'm not crazy. But I think traditional publication is an attainable goal for me if I work at it. I sometimes get lazy in my craft and need great beta readers (like you, Heather) to kick me in the butt, but if I work at it, I think (hope... pray...) I will get there.

I'm always happy to kick butt. You'll get there. :) Kyle, so far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

The best is the writing itself. Writing is just fun. If it's not fun, why write? There are a lot better things to do with your time. Other than that, I've enjoyed meeting all the cool people. Like you. ;-)

Aww, sweet! Thanks Kyle. I feel the same way. If you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like?

Probably like any one of these.

Oh, me too! That closet is too cute.
If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

I don't think I'd want to "be" another character. I guess I'm too narcissistic for that! Ha! As far as world, though, I'd have to go with Harry Potter. I'd love to be a wizard and go to Hogwarts (or the US equivalent). Or my own world from BLACKBIRD. I don't know that I'd want to go to spy school like Taylor, but I think I'd enjoy studying magical theoretics at Salem Prep.

What other distractions are in your life?

Well, my wife and kids aren't "distractions," per se, but they're the thing I spend most of my time on. I love them all to death, and they make writing worth it.

I love that Kyle! And, just because I'm curious, coffee or tea?

Coffee with two hazelnut creamers and a packet of hot cocoa (the "add water" variety, not the "add milk" variety so the water in the coffee will blend with the powdered milk). It's a recipe I do every morning with my Eeyore mug (reads: "Good Morning. If it is a good morning... which I doubt.").

I love adding hot cocoa to my coffee as well!  Thanks Kyle. It's really great to get to know you!

Thanks again, Heather!

So, everyone, give Kyle a bit of love here in the comments. He'll stop by to answer questions. And then make sure to go visit his blog, and check out all the wonderful features. 

And, please feel free to crit my query over there. I'm trying a new version--you'll have to let me know which parts work. Thanks, everyone!


  1. Thanks Heather! I enjoyed the interview. Bring on the comments!

  2. This is a lovely interview. What I most enjoyed is his perspective on balancing family, writing and life in general. I actually blogged about that exact thing last week in a post called "WolfPack". Whether or not we're published, polishing a new WIP, querying or simply at the beginning of the long journey, finding a balance is difficult for all of us and a topic I never get tired of hearing others discuss. Wonderful and thank you for sharing.

  3. Kyle, what a neat way of becoming a writer! From lyrics to prose. I can't even contemplate it, but it's neato!

    Good luck with the upcoming conference.

  4. Great interview! Just goes to show how interrelated the arts and creativity all is! I'll check out his blog!

  5. Great interview! I loved Kyle's answer about his journey. This quote: "[I] knew I didn't need to do much to it before I'd get representation requests piling in. Sure, it was a little long, but hey." Made me laugh out loud. At least he can look back at it and make jokes!

  6. Thanks everyone for your comments.

    Lindsay, balance is definitely the key. My wife is awesome and so supportive, and I love my kids. I don't want to take away from my relationship with them to write. I dedicate time to writing, but also time to family. It's why I write in the morning. Evening is family time.

    Jon and Laura, I think music and poetry are very close to writing. There is a certain poetry that goes into prose. I actually wrote a blog post about it once.

    Tracy, I'm glad I made you laugh. :) It's good to have a good perspective on things and hold your head up. Rejection is hard, but ultimately, it's not about "you suck." It's about "you can get better."

  7. Great interview. Kyle, we follow a lot of the same blogs so it is so cool to learn about you and what you are working on. I've had to do a few revisions to get my word count to an acceptable level so I can relate to what you are going through.

    Good luck with your book.

  8. Thanks Natalie! Yeah, I spent a lot of time cutting word count, and then realized I still needed to actually... um... revise. lol.

  9. Thanks for the interview, Heather.
    Kyle it is great to meet you. I like that story about revision and realizing how much more there is to do. I also like how Heather said you have made big changes and a better book with revision. That seems so hopeful for us all who are drudging through this lengthy process. I am curious about other manuscripts. Do you have others you are working on? And is your process different with them than Blackbird?

  10. Tina, I have others that I have on the back burner. Other projects I've started, but gave way to more Blackbird revisions. My other projects include a southern gothic/dystopian and a paranormal/"super hero" novel (both YA).

    I have definitely planned more with them than I did with Blackbird. I find my writing with them is much more focused.

  11. Great interview!
    Interesting that you went from lyrics to poetry to novelist.
    I am a music lover and went from poet to novelist.
    Good luck with Blackbird!

  12. Thanks Kyle and Heather. Good to know that we all go through the same "I'm finished. It's good. It sucks. I'm finished...."
    I am almost at the end of my third revision. and I already know I am going right back into the 4th. (Doubts that one of my main characters is strong enough. I was planning t read MT Anderson. Have now pushed it up to first place. Also friended Literary Rambles. If you are looking for something to read, I just posted ten first line/paragraphs at Pen and Ink. The last five are from First time Authors nominated in the Mid Grade Chapter Book category of the Cybils. Please check it out and tell me which of these writers would you like to follow on their journey.

  13. HOLY HECK! Why has no one ever suggested I put hot cocoa in my coffee?! I'm SO going to try that!

    Great interview, you two!! It was fun learning more about Kyle.

    Kyle, that's some fabulous writing advice, and thank you so much for the shout out!

  14. Another cool interview. Love S. Kyle's honesty about the hard work writing requires. Best wishes on getting that revision done by your deadline, Kyle!

  15. I think the music - writing link is interesting. I am often inspired by music in my writing endeavors. thanks for a fun interview!

  16. Do you and Mr. Davis gave the same photographer?

    (just kidding)

  17. Thanks Kelly and Lori! Same to you!

    Pen and Ink: Yeah, it is a cycle. The key is to have beta readers, which let you know if you're going too far afield with your edits. You want to be improving, not just changing.

    Casey, you should totally try it! And you're welcome!

    Tess, music is of course a great place for inspiration! It's everywhere!

    Jim, you're right! We do both have the head-cock thing going on, don't we?

    Thanks everyone for your comments! And thanks, Kelly for letting me participate!