Sunday, May 2, 2010

Kathleen Duey Takes Center Stage

Please join Robin and I in welcoming the generous, multi-talented, masterful and enviably prolific author for Young Adults and Children, KATHLEEN DUEY. After letting her dream of becoming a writer germinate for twenty years, she has burst into bloom, and leaves most of us gasping at her drive and full frontal embrace of social media.

Kathleen and I met last month in the dazzling dowtown Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles in its revolving skytop restaurant. We both looked extremely glamorous drinking Pisco Sours, and had to work to keep the paparazzi at bay.

Interviewer's note: Para 1 is completely true. Para 2 has been embellished a tad. We were both in the state of California at the time of the interview. And, I'm certain wherever she was, she was looking completely glamorous.

And without further ado, one of the most unforgettable voices in dark fantasy, Kathleen Duey--


mh: If the difference between introversion and extraversion is where one goes to gather energy—within, or in the company of others--where do you fall on the continuum?

Kathleen: My life is neatly divided into two halves. I am either working alone in my office or wading crowds at book events, conferences, and conventions. I love meeting readers,writers, educators and bookbiz people, but crowds exhaust me and being alone heals me. So… INTROVERT!
mh:What book promotion/marketing activity puts you "in the zone." As in humming, lit, I-could-do-this-all-day?

Kathleen: School visits and writers’ conferences. I love them. Sign me up.
I have written books for K - high school and I find joy in telling students all the things I wish someone had told me, wrapped in stories. I often get standing ovations. It’s a pure high for me.
I love the people who want to write for kids and YA. They care.
Writers’ conferences remind me of how lucky I am, and how elusive and fascinating the process of writing really is. I have learned more about writing by trying to teach it than any other way.
mh: What promotion/marketing activity ranks right up there with plaque removal by a cranky cyclops?
Kathleen: Chain store book signings. I have had some wonderful ones. But many more were “organized” by an unbookish, uninterested, entry-level retail person who set the table up far away from the foot traffic, then asked me if I needed anything else before they walked away forever. I pretty much stopped doing them five or six years ago. I was recently admiring a “bestselling” friend’s packed chain store event when she confided in me that she hired a publicity team with her own dime in every tour city, to make sure that more than five people showed up. Really? Wow. I don’t have enough dimes to do that and I kind of wonder if it is worth doing? I don’t know. The promotion part of being a writer sometimes baffles me.
mh: If your publicist had $10,000 budgeted to promote your book, how would you like that money spent?
Kathleen: Hmmmm. For years I have gone to educators’ conferences for my MG and ready-for-chapters books because the teachers and librarians--lovely, dedicated people--are gatekeepers for that audience. Those conferences have allowed me to meet dozens of editors, too.
But for teens and adults, I think it makes sense to seek out the readers. So, with The Resurrection of Magic trilogy winding up in by the end of summer, and considering my intent to continue writing atypical fantasy/SF/dark/steampunky/YA-adult-crossover/sociopolitical/literary page turners…think I would use the $10,000 it for this: Almost every city book festival and every sf/fantasy con sells booth/table-space. I would go to as many as I could fit in and talk to as many readers as I could.
mh: You are such a fabulous teacher/presenter/keynote. As often as you speak in public, do you still/ever get nervous/vaporous/catatonic? How have you come to such a place of seeming ease?
Kathleen: First, thank you. That means a lot to me. I am a fairly relaxed speaker now and love speaking. It didn’t come easily.
Short answer: Practice. Practice. Practice. It will get easier, easier, easier.
Long answer: I had 20 years worth of life-crippling panic attacks. At my first SCBWI conference (cold-sweat, walking out, forcing myself to go back in, dry-mouth-heart-thud nervous, standing by the doors the WHOLE time) I realized that the people who had the kind of careers I wanted were all good speakers. So I set about learning.
I spoke (listening to my own pulse pounding) with friends at small, kind venues like women’s clubs, community libraries, etc. Then I made a deal with a local independent bookseller. She let me practice on school field trip groups in her store, using me as bait to set up the events. Once I could face 30 kids without completely freaking, I moved on to doing free school visits.
For the first two years, I was a two puke speaker: Once at home, once more at the venue. (Hi! I’m Kathleen, where is your bathroom?) So it was kind of a long hike. But there came a day when I realized I was having more fun than panic. I really love to speak now.
mh: Agree/Disagree: “A good book will sell itself.”
Kathleen: I think a good book will help you sell it and if lightning strikes it will begin to sell itself—at which point you should promote even more. I am trying to write unusual things that will stand out, and try to spend my promotion time and money reaching people I think will love the books. There is no clear roadmap.
I speak and critique at writers’ conferences and see a lot of trend chasing. There will always be trendy-trope bestsellers. I would love to have one, who wouldn’t? If current tropes and topics have always intrigued you, and you have a new slant to bring to the table, go for it. But if your inner book-pitch is starting to sound desperate: “No, no, really, I mean really, my vamps are different. They used to be faeries until they were kicked out of the forest by the mean girls and they are really dead, but this immortal girl named Tyra can hear them and she…” Try stepping back and decide what would fascinate you to write…and go with that…no matter what is selling big right now. Then figure out how to promote it and hope for lightning.
mh: What do you do to recharge your batteries when you’ve blown your wad?
Kathleen: Here at home? Yard work. If there is a shovel and plants involved, I feel good. Richard says I am happiest when my knees are dirty. He’s right.
On the road? Dinner alone, run back up to the room, read or TV, wallow in the alone-ness, repeat as often as possible.
mh: Introvert you’d most like to have dinner with? (Living or deceased, but presumed living during your date.)
Kathleen: Ok, I am going to cheat. I want to have dinner with Karl Jung, Jules Verne, Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, Abraham Lincoln, and Leonardo da Vinci, all at once, at a round table. If I can swing it, I will record the conversation and put it up on my website. Promise.
mh: A lot of introverts have trouble with social media. I know you're writing a novel on Twitter. (Such a brilliant idea, Kathleen!) Can you talk about how you've learned to navigate and use this? Any survival tips to share? Any thoughts about blogging that you'd like to share?
Kathleen: I loooooove reaching people from my cave. It’s easy and fun. For anyone still reluctant, just dive in. It’s like walking into the world’s biggest party. No one will notice you at first (and I mean that in the most reassuring, lovely way) so you will have time to loosen up. See what others are doing and fiddle with what pleases you. There is nothing scary about it. NOTHING! It is the only crowd you can escape with a click! The internet was MADE for introverts.
These are my major web places:
Jacketflap ((This one is all kids writers, publishers and illustrators.))
mh: What are you most excited about for 2010/ 2011?
Kathleen: Everything! I will be traveling a lot. I look forward to finishing the Resurrection of Magic trilogy late summer. It has been such a landmark for me: the National Book Award finalist medal hangs where I can see it on creatively cloudy days…
…but I am excited about what’s next.
The Faeries Promise books for young readers will start releasing in June along with two repackaged titles of The Unicorn’s Secret. Covers and excerpts are up on my website.
Next up:
My Real Name Is B. for young MG
(a creepy short story for:)
The Virgin’s Blood: a 12th century fantasy medical thriller.
Kathleen Duey has written many books for K-YA. Her first YA book, SKIN HUNGER, was the first volume of a dark fantasy trilogy. It was featured in Locus Magazine, chosen as a Kirkus best of YA pick, short listed for the Cybils Award, and was a National Book award finalist in 2007. It is now on several state-award short lists (student voted) for 2010. Kathleen works every day, almost, and travels a lot. She loves her job, knows what a gift that is, and is grateful for it.
. . . . .
Kathleen, thank you so much for this enlightening interview. I especially appreciate your disclosures about your struggles with public speaking. What an remarkable transformation! It gives those in similar throes great hope. And I hugely love your description of your work and style--"atypical fantasy/SF/dark/steampunky/YA-adult-crossover/sociopolitical/literary page turners." :-]

Anyone else out there want to give a go at writing a unique genre of their own? Submit your best creative fresh, vivid, unique description of your work, and you will be in the running for a copy of your pick of one of Kathleen's books. Good luck!

We have WINNERS! Congratulations to Robin M who has won a copy of Donna Gephart's How to Survive Middle School for her correct answer to our question, "What other middle grade novel also has exactly thirteen words in the title?" That would be my first novel, My Big Sister is So Bossy She Says You Can't Read this Book. :-] Robin M, if you'll email me with your mailing info, we will get those out to you.
And congrats out to Mike Jung, winner of our Buy Indie Day contest. Mike, if you'll email me as well, with the name of your closest indie, I will make arrangements to get a $25.00 gift certificate from them to you.
If you didn't get a chance to Buy Indie on Saturday, May 1st, we are going to encourage you to work at that all month long. And don't forget to thank your booksellers for all the great work they do while you are checking out. We will be checking in withe our Indie Bookseller Queens a bit later in the month. Stay tuned for some inspirited words from them!
Have an inspired week, friends!
Mary Hershey


Irene Latham said...

So much to love about this interview, but what sticks with me this morning is what Kathleen said about learning the most about writing by trying to teach it. Cool!

Unknown said...

Great interview! I'm a huge fan of the Resurrection of Magic series, and Kathleen has always been so kind and friendly on the social media that I had no idea she was a fellow introvert!

Amy Spitzley said...

3 degrees of separation--The fairygodsisters, of which Mary is one, helped get me, an introvert, to a conference last summer where Kathleen was speaking. The connection makes me smile. (grin)Oh, and "Hi!" Mary!

tanita✿davis said...

Kathleen Duey is so kind and actually responds on blogs and stuff - it's so nice to know that she's one of the violet clan. And the Resurrection of Magic series is a serious favorite around here! Can't wait for that third book.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview. I love the Resurrection of Magic series. And it was so inspiring to hear all of Kathleen Duey's experiences with getting better at public speaking, the terrifying part of being a writer.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

What a wonderful interview. For an introvert, Kathleen really shared from her heart and her experience, and that's a huge gift to those of us reading this. Thank you!
Also, so many things resonate for me from this - the public speaking practice, the journey to get to where you are, the excitement at the future, the insight that you've learned the most about writing from teaching writing...
I am so grateful for this.

Jo Knowles said...

Thank you for this interview! Kathleen, it's so reassuring to hear that you were able to overcome your stage fright, something that nearly cripples me as well.


Mary Hershey said...

Hi, Irene, Sheila, Amy, Tanita, Natalie, Lee and Jo, and thanks for coming by! God yes, Kathleen, is such goliath inspiration for all of us. This is a message that we all need to hear over and over-- that even as introverts, we are capable of getting more at ease with large groups, if in fact, that is what we want to do.

And, gosh, I see no one has taken my challenge to name-your-unique-writing-style. Really? No takers? Let's see, what's mine? Let me go ponder that! I'll be back. It's about 145 degrees here is Texas and I need to go stick my head in the freezer so I can think. :-]

Mary Hershey

prashant said...

Kathleen said about learning the most about writing by trying to teach it. Cool!
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