Author Interview with Sandra Kerns
Welcome, Sandra, and thank you for breaking from your work schedule for this interview here today. Before we talk about where you are now, would you mind telling us about how life led you into writing in the first place?
I’ve always been a writer, but my first ‘conscious’ decision to try to write professionally came when we moved from central New York to Rochester, Minnesota. Brrrrr, is the best way to describe that first winter. Being inside so much I needed to find an outlet beyond quilting for my creative side. Well, that and the fact that characters were starting to run around in my head when I tried to go to sleep at night. I figured out if I put their antics on paper during the day they would let me get some sleep. That’s why the mug my sister gave me that reads, ‘The voices are back. Excellent!’ because as long as the characters talk to me I have stories to write.
Is there anything you would like to share with regard your view on characters that might bring light to an aspiring writer?
Characters are the heart-blood of your story. It doesn’t matter what genre you write, characters breathe life into your words. Take time to get to know your characters. Be willing to heavily edit your earliest version of the story because as you write you’ll learn things about your characters you didn’t know in the beginning. Even if you do detailed character sketches, forms, profiles, or my personal favorite interviews, you won’t really KNOW them until you start writing the story. Enjoy the process and get to know them.
Many writers work several projects during the same period, are you one of those. Tell us your latest news about your current work.
I do usually have more than one project going at once. I just put the wrap-up novella of my Masters Men series up for pre-order. It’s the end of the series, but also gives a hint of the new series born from those characters. It will release the day after Christmas. The new series, Master Security, has my brain in overload because I’m working on the intro novella AND the first full novel so it can be released soon after the novella. I haven’t set a firm date yet, but expect it to be March 2016. I’m also working on a novella for a group event that will be released near Valentine’s Day. The group is a number of authors publishing novellas in the romance genre, but all different sub-genres. All the books will have one character with the same name, but that character doesn’t have to be the hero/heroine or even human. Mine’s actually a dog. I’m having a blast with this story.
Do you consider yourself multi-genre or are you completely immersed in a particular theme?
I am completely immersed in romance, romantic suspense in particular. Why? I write romance because relationships are what make the world go round. What relationship is more difficult and rewarding than a romantic one? And how much more fun it is to through some major trouble in the hero and heroine’s path? Yes, I know, I’m a bad girl.
That said, I also love sci-fi and paranormal/fantasy (magic, not werewolves and vampires). I plan to write a combination sci-fi/futuristic/fantasy series one day soon.
Click the cover below for details of Sandra’s latest offering or click here to view all of her books.
Back to the interview: Independent publishing is a difficult road. Have you ever tried to go down the traditional route?
Yes, independent publishing is a difficult road and yes, I did try to go the traditional route. My biggest issue with traditional was the wait after someone requested a manuscript. It was a minimum of six months and usually over a year. And then, if/when I did hear back it was usually a form letter saying something along the lines of, this isn’t right for our line. That doesn’t tell me what I need to do to get something in their line. I mean, they did ask for it, so they must have thought it could be for their line.
Anyway, by being an independently published author I control how long I take to publish a book, what the cover looks like, how long it is, how much it costs and all the other details. It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding when someone tells you they really enjoyed it or it was just what they needed when they picked it up. Even when sales are low I’ve never thought about going traditional since I made the decision to self-publish.
How long did it take before you considered your writing style became your own?
This is a tough question because I’ve never thought I wrote like anyone in particular. Well, a little like Nora Roberts, but only because I cannot stay in one point of view for an entire chapter. I need to know how both characters feel about what is happening in a scene. I was also once told my style in Dream Stalker reminded someone of Iris Johansen. That was high praise to me. That kind of book, almost a psychological thriller, is draining to write. I tend to get so caught up in whichever character I’m writing that I carry their fears and angers around with me. That’s probably why I’ve only written a couple with that kind of edge. There will be more, but I need the others to calm me down in between.
Does your work carry a message?
I try to make sure all my stories give hope to the readers. While I wouldn’t call my stories inspirational in the publishing world’s definition of that, one or more of the main characters has a deep seeded faith. A faith that knows there will be difficult times that they can’t handle on their own, but expects help from a higher power. Most of my characters (even the ones with this deep faith) have some major issues to deal with or overcome. Some have all but given up. However, the faith and hope aspects of my stories give them a reason to keep going.
What kind of work have you done outside of writing?
I’ve held numerous jobs, mainly secretarial in nature, but also in retail sales. I retired from a school district a couple of years ago. I’d been the Faculty Assistant (glorified copy lady) for seventeen years. Believe it or not, it was rewarding. My faculty and staff all knew I was a writer and supported me tremendously, even asking me to speak in several classes. I also had a chance to meet and ‘teach’ some great young people over the years.
What do you consider is your main character strength with regard to writing?
Characterization is my biggest strength. I believe that because I rarely read anyone else’s work that makes me feel more connected to the characters than my own. However, I often read work by other authors who are much better at description, setting, or setting up red herrings. I live and breathe my characters when I’m writing a story. They are very REAL to me. I talk about them as if they are friends (or enemies) when asked how things are going. As an example, if you asked me how is the novella I’m currently working on for release around Valentine’s day, I would probably say something like, “Charlene is being purposely dense. I mean, really. Martin has made it pretty clear he’s interested. And of course, Deirdre is causing all kinds of trouble. If that woman doesn’t get over herself soon, I’m going to have to do something drastic.” See, they’re real to me.
There are many choices; fame, money, respect, or maybe just someone enjoying one of your books. What is your take on success?
Okay, I’ll be honest. Money and fame would be awesome. However, having a reader come up to me and say how much they love my books is absolutely the best. Then, growing a relationship with that reader through social media or events just makes it that much better. So, I guess that means someone enjoying my books means success to me.
Are there any final words of advice you would give to those looking to develop a writing career?
To anyone wanting a career in writing I would say:
- Being an author is not for the faint-hearted, develop a tough skin. You can’t please everyone and someone will always be sure to tell you that you shouldn’t be a writer. If you can ignore them and keep working and learning, you will succeed.
- Be tough on yourself. Edits and rewrites are requirements, not options. No one writes a perfect first draft. Don’t send something out that hasn’t been edited and proofread by yourself AND someone else, preferably a professional editor.
- Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy the writing, you’re wasting both your time and your readers.
Thank you for your author interview this day, Sandra. I for one have enjoyed your company and hope that maybe we can do it again sometime.