I'm thrilled to welcome an amazing adult/middle grade writer whose serious persistence in this business has finally paid off. There just might be a silver screen production of her MG story...too cool!! She's here to share her journey in life and writing with us, plus offer up a SIGNED copy of her book to one lucky Alleywalker!!
Kari Lee Townsend
Author of The Samantha Granger Experiment: FUSED
& TEMPEST IN THE TEA LEAVES: A Fortune Teller Mystery
Welcome, Kari!! Awesome to have you here.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I have always written poetry, then progressed to short stories, and finally when I was 20 I took a year off from college to save for my wedding. I wrote on an old Brother typewriter, but never finished a book, and then gave it up until the birth of my oldest child in 1994. I stayed home with him and needed an outlet. It didn't take me long to become hooked, it just took me forever to sell :-)
What made you want to write middle grade literature?
I didn't necessarily want to write middle grade literature. I was just so desperate to sell that I was willing to try anything, but then I discovered I really loved it. I never knew I would enjoy writing action/adventure scenes so much. You never know what you might enjoy doing or be good at unless you are open to trying new things.
That last sentence is very profound and great advice all writers need to keep in mind.
Did you have any favorite MG characters growing up?
I always loved Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. That's probably why I enjoy writing my adult cozy mysteries so much.
Do you have a system of formulating your ideas? Basically: outliner or pantser?
I used to be a pantser, but have become a plotter out of necessity. I really like using screenwriters tips and the three act structure. I am such a visual writer that I love using a big display board to put my index cards on for all three acts. It really lets me see my book as a whole. I tend to plot the major points like setup, midpoint, black moment, and resolution, but a lot of the other sections I plot as I go along. So I guess I'm still a little of both.
Two Signature Alleyway questions: Cookies or cake?
Definitely cookies! I have an insane sweet tooth that I'm trying to get better about :-) Soda or water?
I should say water...but for me it's soda for sure. Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke...I switch them up as I get bored.
Are you a night-owl writer or a daylight writer?
I have four kids so my day starts early. Make lunches and get everyone off to school. Then it's time to work out in the morning and take care of any errands/cleaning/ promotion, etc. When my kids were little I wrote during naptime and still can't seem to get out of the habit, so my best time creatively speaking is in the afternoon. Then once my kids are home, it's running around like crazy time. By eight PM I am fried. That's hubby and TV time, then bed by ten.
What is the one writing advice you don't think you could have lived without?
Do your homework. And I mean homework on all fronts. Know the market. What's out there, what's doing well, etc. Then pick something in that genre that's unique and hasn't been done. You can be a fabulous writer, but if your story isn't unique enough, then it won't sell. Yet you can be just a good writer, but if you have that amazing hook or concept, chances are an editor will pick it up.
That is so interesting. I've thought about that, as I'm sure many Alleywalkers have. Thanks for mentioning it.
Give us a brief peek into your road to publication.
It took me 14 years to sell, 3 of which were with my agent. I made all the newbie mistakes. Spending years insisting my baby of a first book sell, then finally moving on to other books. Going to conferences, entering contests, etc. When I won a contest at the New Jersey RWA Conference, I met my agent there and eventually signed with her on that book. It was only after signing with her, that I realized I had to give her more. If I didn't give her stories, how could she sell me? I went on a writing frenzy, paying attention to every trend out there, trying new things and seeing if it was something I could do. My agent ended up getting me a 3 book deal off just a partial for The Samantha Granger Experiment. Book one Fused is out now. Then just 5 months later she got me another 3 book deal off another partial for a cozy mystery series called The Fortune Teller Mystery Series. Book one Tempest in the Tea Leaves comes out in August.
Did you ever feel like giving up?
When I talked to an editor on the phone and was so close and he said he wanted my series, then the deal fell through at the last minute, I thought I can't do this anymore. Then, just 48 hours later, another editor at the same house said I love her writing style. What else does she have? We gave her another one of my stories and she bought it. That was The Samantha Granger Experiment. If I had given up, I never would have known what was just around the corner. Writing isn't just something we do. It's who we are. This business is hard. You have to work your butt off, want it badly, and never give up.
I planned to do a few driveby signings at my local bookstores and was so excited. My CP even took the day off to go with me. The problem was the books weren't on the shelves for almost a whole week at one book store chain, and it took two weeks to get them into the other book store chain. That was so disappointing, however, the day they finally arrived was amazing. Walking into one of the big book stores and seeing my book on the shelf is an experience I will never forget. I don't think that feeling will EVER get old.
What's next for Samantha Granger?
Fused is out now and has been adapted to a screenplay by a Hollywood director. It is being discussed at various studios as we speak, so cross your fingers and stay tuned. Book two is done, but the date it will be released is to be determined. Meanwhile, Tempest in the Tea Leaves will be out in August, and I am currently working on Corpse in the Crystal Ball.
Tell us your hopes and dreams for your future writing adventures and the publishing industry as a whole.
The publishing industry is changing, but that doesn't mean books will go away. We just have to be open to new formats and new possibilities. I plan to learn and grow as much as I can because this is my dream, and I'm not going away anytime soon. Thanks so much for having me. Good luck to you all, and I hope to see you on the shelves someday soon :-)
Kari is wonderful and has such a bright future. Feel free to visit her Website or Blog. Want to win a SIGNED copy of The Samantha Granger Experiment: FUSED??? Leave a comment below with your email addy. A winner will be chosen by Random.org and announced May 17th. *giveaway is with the US* Tell all your friends. No extras necessary, but if you share via social media, just let me know in your comment with the link and I'll give +1 for each, +5 for a blog post, +3 for sidebar. Good luck!!