Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TBG Author Interview: K.M. Walton!

Hey everyone!

Today I've got an awesome interview with writer extraordinaire, Ms. K.M. Walton, whose debut YA novel CRACKED comes to a bookstore near you on March 16, 2012 by Simon Pulse! Here's the summery from Goodreads:

Victor hates his life. He's relentlessly bullied at school and his parents ridicule him for not being perfect. He's tired of being weak, so he takes a bottle of his mother's sleeping pills -- only to wake up in the hospital. Bull is angry, and takes all of his rage out on Victor. He's the opposite of weak. And he's tired of his grandfather's drunken beatings, so he tries to defend himself with a loaded gun. When Victor and Bull end up as roommates in the same psych ward, things go from bad to worse. Until they discover they just might have something in common: a reason to live.

Awesome, no? And now, without further ado, on to the interview!

1) Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
No, I always wanted to be a teacher. I used to hold “school” sessions in the basement with my three younger sisters. I actually gave them homework. And they still like me. When I grew up I actually did become a teacher and spent twelve amazing years in the classroom. I honestly floated into school every day, with wings on, that’s how much I loved teaching. But then a funny thing happened. I wrote my first novel. My life has never been the same. I left the classroom and took a part time coaching position in which I coach teachers on how to become highly effective in their instructional practices. I did this to give myself more time to write. By a stroke of what I will call “luck” I will be a full time writer after this school year ends. I am beyond excited.

2) How did you come up with the idea for CRACKED? Did it just come to you, or was it more of a gradual progression?
I was actually toying with writing a novel from alternating perspectives and thought a bully and his victim would make for a compelling story.

3) Where do you draw your inspiration from while you are writing? For example, do you listen to music while you write or sit outside?
I need 100% quiet while I’m writing. However, quiet is a precious commodity with two sons and a husband who like to play his music loud. So I am often forced to drown the noise out with music. I played Radiohead’s In Rainbows over and over again while writing this book. Same with Coldplay and Civil Twilight. I even put those three bands in my acknowledgments ; )

4) How do you stay motivated to write? Even though you are a soon-to-be-published author, have you ever wanted to give up? And if so, how did you pull yourself back from the "edge"?
Oh, the edge and I are intimately acquainted, trust me. I did give up, as in, for real. I couldn’t take the query rejection any more. I was closing in on the 150th rejection and I threw in the towel. And then the Universe did a funny thing, I got a full request from Sarah LaPolla the day after I “quit”. Forward three months and I signed with Sarah. Forward three more months and Sarah sold my first novel. Long story short…NEVER give up.

5) Tell us about your writing habits: where you write, when you write, how much you write, etc.
I have an office that has three walls of windows looking out into my yard – I love my office. I write in the day (I give major props to the nighttime writers out there. I don’t know how you do it.). When I start something it tends to fly out of my like wildfire so I typically don’t start books unless I have long chunks of free day time.

6) How do you deal with constructive (or not) criticism? And if it's negative, how do you deal with it?
After I wrote my first novel back in 2008 I had no idea how to take criticism – constructive or otherwise. I felt the need to constantly defend everything and take “the meanies” on. Not until I realized that people (namely other writers) online don’t know me, which means they’re not criticizing me…they’re criticizing my writing. BIG difference. Once I took my “but my writing is so good” jacket off and slathered up with a thick layer of “I can take this because it’ll make me a better writer” I saw through even the snarkiest comments and got something out of them.

7) How many stories did you start writing before you found a "winner" and how did you know you'd found a keeper?
I thought my first novel was a winner. For sure. I queried it WAY too soon though. Hence my triple digit rejection count. When I finished CRACKED I walked into the living room and announced to my husband, “I just wrote the book that’s going to get me an agent.” And it was. Go figure. I knew it was “the one” because I cried my eyes out while writing it. My two boys from the novel - Victor and Bull - crawled into my heart and set up camp. I just loved letting them tell their stories. They were so incredibly real to me when I finished. That’s how I knew.

8) Do you have any new writing projects in the works? Can you tell us about them?
I am actually in a full blown revision of my very first novel. It’s a middle grade sci-fi and I’m pretty close to saying, “I’m done.” I do love the characters from that novel as well.

9) What were the most difficult and best parts of writing CRACKED?
Difficult? Hmmmm. I’ve honestly been so excited to be out of the query trenches that everything feels like welcome work – even the time consuming parts, like revising and line editing. Best parts? Every part. From finishing that first draft to crafting my query letter for the novel have been great experiences for me. I was definitely a stronger writer by the time I wrote CRACKED.

10) What did you do to celebrate when you found out that you were getting signed by your agent and then later when you found out CRACKED was going to be published?
Both moments produced lots of screaming and jumping and hugging. Face to face, on the phone, inside, outside – nowhere was safe from the excitement (and relief).

11) What did your friends and family think when you told them you were writing CRACKED?
I heard, “That sounds interesting, Kate,” a lot. Still do.

12) Now that you're a soon-to-be-published author and a more experienced writer, what advice would you give to your unpublished self?
I would tell myself to do a few things and not to do a few things. Since I’m a “glass half full” gal let’s start with the do’s.

DO: Spend the insane amounts of time you spent researching agents and the whole industry.
DO: Read FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL by Elana Johnson. It changed my query for the better and she made the process logical.
DO: Attend writing conferences. Spend the money. Meet the people. Talk, talk, talk. Push yourself to step out of your shell and make connections.
DO: Read as many books on craft as you did. It made you a MUCH better writer.
DO: Read as many books in your writing genre as you did. Again, it made you a MUCH better writer.
DO: Start your blog. Reach out to other bloggers, enter writing contests, make actual writing friends. It’s all so good for you.

DON’T: Query your first novel like a maniac and stare out into space with Stephenie Meyer dollar signs in your eyes. You big dummy. Be realistic. That novel wasn’t even ready yet. Heck, it’s still being worked on.
DON’T: Mistake the genuine, “OMG, this is the best book I’ve ever read,” from your family and friends as legitimate critique. It’s not. It’ll never be. And as great and inspiring as it is to hear, until that manuscript is in actual book form – it means nothing on your journey towards publication. Harsh…but true.
DON’T: Get so riled up with online critique comments on your writing. Relax for love of heaven. Read through the sometimes craptastic snark and find the actual valid critique point. It’ll make you a better writer.

13) How long did it take you to write CRACKED from concept to outlining to completion to sending if off to agents?
I came up with idea at the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, January of 2009 but didn’t actually start writing until late August of that same year. I had a finished first draft by September 9th. The book exploded from my head. Then, I got some feedback and revised a few times. I started querying mid September (I like things to move fast. What can I say?). I actually started querying every agent that had requested either a partial or full of my first novel – the middle grade sci fi – and went from there.

14) Can you briefly detail your journey to publication after finishing CRACKED?
I think I was a well seasoned query veteran by the time I sent my first queries for CRACKED (which back then was titled Everything’s Not Lost). By this point in my writing journey I’d had piled up close to one hundred rejections – I knew rejection well.

15) What kind of atmosphere do you prefer to write in, calm or chaos?
Calm all the way. I need complete quiet and no people.

16) What is your writing process like?
I’m a pantser through and through. I typically type out a bullet pointed list of ideas, plot points, character notes, and other stuff. Then I go back and add more to the list. Bull’s first line of his chapter is directly from my original brainstormed list.

17) The main character in CRACKED is a teenage boy; what was it like being a female and writing from a male’s point of view? Any tips?
Actually I have two main characters – and they’re both boys. I don’t know how I did it but I literally got inside the head of two sixteen year old boys. It was an out of body experience. Unfortunately, I don’t have any tips because I seriously don’t know how I did it. It just sort of happened – which I know is kind of lame.

18) Do you have any odd and unusual habits which help you in regards to writing?
Well, I am a cuticle/finger picker. I know, gross. This awful habit started back in eighth grade – and no, I can’t remember a single traumatic event that triggered it – aside from being asked to fight by the resident eighth grade hard ass. I turned her down, of course, but I swear I remember puking a little as I told her no. Okay, back to the unusual writing habit. I can’t say my finger picking, and subsequent band-aid wearing, actually helps me write, but its something I do A LOT of as I write. I’m typing right now with band-aids on my fingers. Since I’ve had this habit for quite a while, I’ve had time to think deeply and analyze why/when I do it. It happens when I’m deep in thought (writing is about as deep in thought as any human being can be, eh?) and when I’m doubting myself (again, when I’m writing I have this annoying voice that whispers, “You can’t do this. Stop. You can’t write a book.”). Stupid voice. My fingers seem to always be at varying degrees of picking – some days I’ve got five band-aids on (no lie) – some days I’ll just get to one finger – some days I don’t seem to focus on my fingers. It’s a horrible habit. I wish I didn’t do it. I wish I could stop doing it. But at least it’s not drugs or alcohol – or some other uber life altering habit. I can handle band-aids.

A very big thank you for asking to interview me, Ella. Your questions were fun to answer! I’d like to invite everyone reading this to stop by my blog and say hi:, or say hi on twitter: kmwalton1, or stop by The Apocalypsies site and say hi (you can also check out tons of 2012 debut authors) Thanks again, everyone!

No, thank you, K.M.! It was such a pleasure getting to know you better and I can't wait to read your amazing book! :)



Sarah Allen said...

Such a great interview! And the book looks incredibly powerful. It's got me excited already!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Matthew MacNish said...

What a great in depth interview! Kate's awesome.

Christina Lee said...

Came over to say hi to KATE! Great interview you did. I am lucky enough to be her CP and heart her to bits! xoxoxo Talk about talking each other off of ledges--ha!

Ron Smith said...

Awesome interview. Kate is great. Hey, that rhymes.

We met at an SCBWI conference a few years ago in NYC.

I'm so happy for Kate and her getting out of the trenches!

(Oh, and I'm a finger-biter, too. Much to my wife's chagrin.)

K. M. Walton said...

Thanks for having me, Ella. It was fun!

Thanks for all the nice comments as well. The support feels pretty sweet.

Mimma said...

Great interview! Kate you are inspiring!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed learning more about K.M. I've followed her blog for a while and was thrilled about her deal. I can't wait to read Cracked.

Erin Gress said...

What a great interview. Excellent advice for any aspiring writers out there...cannot wait to get your book into my library!