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Kris Kennedy is here!

Today we get to hear from one of my favorite people, who is also one of my favorite authors!  I’ve enjoyed watching Kris’s progress from being one of the great unpublished to her present position as an up-and-coming author — and after you read what she has to say about that progress, I’ll bet you’ll be thinking of her as a favorite person, too.  Then read one of her books!

Me:  Did you get a publisher first or an agent?

Kris:  I wanted to first say a quick but heartfelt thanks to the lovely and wonderful Beppie and her gals for having me here today!

Let’s see . . . things happened in a slam-bam fashion, or at least that’s how it felt.  After taking  a pretty long hiatus from writing (or at least good, non-sleep-deprived writing), when my son was 3 years old, I decided to query a few agents.  I also entered the Golden Heart with two historical manuscripts.

I got an agent in February, found out about the double final  in the Golden Heart in March, and signed a 2 book contract in May, all of 2008.  I admit, I was a little stunned.

But that doesn’t mean it was in any way an ‘overnight’ thing.  Even discounting those almost-3 years break (when any writing I did didn’t count for squat, because it was unintelligible and terribly, deeply uninteresting)  I was writing consistently, and prior to those three years, I entered contests regularly, for the feedback of non-friends.  I came and went with a couple different critique partners,  but every one gave me really valuable feedback.  But here’s what I think mattered most: listening.   I listened to what people said and often realized “Oh . . .!  What I’m intending here in this scene isn’t what’s coming through.”  And I made changes based on that.

And I wrote.  Like, all the time.  If I wasn’t working or with my husband or friends, I was pretty much writing.  Admittedly, this was all pre-child, so there was a greater abundance of time (and other things, like brain cells, but I digress, which is a major sign of sleep deprivation . . . ).  Nevertheless, my point is the apparent speed of events was an illusion.  It was years up to that point.  And I treated it like I was a journeyman.   I am learning a craft, a discipline.

Me:  What was it like in the initial stages of working with an editor?
Kris:  My editor at Kensington is John Scognamiglio, and he’s fabulous. He’s very efficient and effective.  We didn’t have long, gushing conversations or emails about the story or my writing, which was very good for my ego. (Wait, I mean ‘bad for my ego,’ meaning good for my character, as I had  to admit he might, maybe, not think I am a freaking genius.  Odd, but there you have it. So, I buckled down and set out to become one.  <g>)     He’d already read the first book when we talked, and we discussed options for the 2nd book.  Over the next two months, I wrote & sent him outlines for 2 different stories.

He picked one, but then, when THE IRISH WARRIOR (at the time, it was titles Wanting Finian) won the Golden Heart, he suggested we go with that for the 2nd book instead.  I agreed, spent the next TEN MONTHS working on a supposedly finished manuscript, and lo, come June, there it will be, on the shelves!  🙂

I loved working with John.  I admit, I don’t know what other editor relationships can be like, as this was my first, but I suspect I lucked out.  He’s the editor-in-chief, and incredibly busy, but he was also clear, direct, and incredibly responsive (as in, minutes after I sent an email he’d reply).  When I asked for something, he tried to be helpful wherever he could.   There’s a reason he’s been around as long as he has, and it’s because he’s terrific.

My new editor at Pocket is Abby Zidle, and we’ve had only one phone conversation thus far, but I loved it.  🙂  I think it’s going to be a terrific relationship, and I appreciate my wonderful agent for making it happen.  🙂

Me:  What’s it like, coming up to your first book release when you are  already working on the second?

Kris:  Wow, that is one of the hardest things.  Once you have one book out, you’re majorly multi-tasking.  And I was on a very easy deadline schedule, those first time, as my second book wasn’t due essentially for 12 months.  Now, I have 2 books to turn in within 11 months.  With a child in 1/2 day Kindergarten.

I’m writing Book C (for Pocket), doing copy-edits &/or galley proofs for Book B (IRISH WARRIOR, comes out in June), and still occasionally doing promo that relates to Book A (THE CONQUEROR, May ‘09).  Oh, and cooking and keeping the house clean (hahahahahahaha :rolls on floor laughing:)

Me:  Why did you decide to change?
Kris:  Kensington ’passed’ on my option book proposal.  My agent sent it to Abby and she made a pre-empt offer on it a week after she  read it.  My editor at Kensy passed on his congratulations, and of course, we still have an author-editor relationship together for IRISH.

Me:  What are the up sides and down sides to changing publishers?
Kris:  New opportunities, new experiences, new learning.   I have never worked with another editor or publisher, so it’ll be a valuable experience.   I am really excited to get to know Abby, and have her help me create some amazing books for readers.

Me:  What is your relationship with your agent like?
Kris:  Gorgeous. Wonderful.  I love her.

I admit, I am a dunce with the market, and contracts, etc. (Thus, why I have an agent)   She is not necessarily the ‘let-me-educate-you-on-every-step-and-its-ramifications-as-we-go’ kinda agent.   But I trust her, and I can ask anything any time I want (and I have, on everything from eRoyalties to what the letters on my first statement mean), and she will give me patient, clear, direct, honest answers.  Of course, sometimes it’s like Math in 3rd grade: you’re so confused / ignorant to begin with, you don’t even know what question to ask.    But she is always there for me.  Usually, literally, within minutes.

In short, my agent is THE BEST.


Me:  What are the biggest differences in your daily life now that you’re a  published author?  How much does the difference between being  unpublished and published impact your regular routines?

Kris:  Needing time.  Always, always needing more time.  Therefore I have to get better at focusing, because I really don’t like being only half present when I’m with my family, because I’m mentally still trying to get more writing done.   This is something I absolutely must become more skillful at.

Thanks so much for having me here!  I would love to answer any questions about the writing gig, experiences I haven’t covered, and the like.   Feel free to ask away!!

Okay, Kris, you asked for it!

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39 Responses

  1. Hey, Kris! Welcome to the blog! Since I’m getting ready to query (hopefull this morning!) just who is your agent?

  2. Welcome, Kris! I read this with lots of interest since my story is kinda similar (except for the agent) and my first book is coming out in June.

    Reading this has only hieghtened my desire to have an agent. I can’t seem to get one, but then again I haven’t tried that hard, I guess.

    I’m going to have to put on my big girl panties and get hustling on that. Guess they aren’t going to just come to me, darn it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hey Keri~
    Thanks for your welcome, and for having me over. 🙂
    And yay for you querying…this morning! That’s exciting. I wish you all sorts of luck.
    My agent is Barbara Poelle, of Irene Goodman Agency. She reps historicals, and also a bit of paranormal, and thrillers. She’s a dynamo. I remember this one point when she’d sold every single historical author on her list. She had no more books to sell. LOL.

  4. Congratulations on your success. I think I’m very close to signing with an agent and wondered what I should be concerned about in an agent contract.

    Johnny Ray

  5. Liz~
    Congrats on your debut coming out! Is it a SuperRomance? Congrats! And I agree, if you’re thinking of going into single title, you should definitely do up a list of those A agents and start submitting.

    I admit, I needed someone to give me a kick as well. I entered a contest and got progressive requests for a partial then a full, and when I sent of the full, I asked my cp at the time, “Do you think I should be querying agents too?” She replied, “Duh. YES!” So I did. 🙂

    I would make up that A list of agents and start querying. And congrats again!

  6. LOL–thanks, Kris. I love Barabara. I roll with laughter every week on her tuesday blog post. And, I already have a query there! I can’t ever seem to catch her attention, so I went with something a bit different and more personalized this time. We’ll see how that goes.

  7. Johnny~
    Congrats on being to the point of querying! Are you a member of RWA? If so, they have a fantastic list of questions to consider when hiring an agent. And there’s some solid, reputable info online. But I admit, this isn’t my strong suit–isn’t that terrible, since I’ve already signed?

    I did ask about contracts (with the lit agency) and I asked how involved she was w/ feedback. But since she already had some revision suggestions to give me (that she’d give after we agreed to work together), I knew she did do editorial stuff.

    I asked about a few other things as well, and, since I’d queried another agent who also offered representation, I had something to balance her replies against. But . . . more than the answers themselves, there’s the ‘feel’ of your interactions with them, on the phone or if you’re lucky enough, in person.

    At that point, the reason I went with my agent was b/c she scared me. LOL In a good way. She was EXTREMELY hard to say no to, and I thought, “Well, jeez, this is someone I want in my corner.” And now, I’m, glad she’s mine, for every reason. 🙂

    Good luck in your search! Does anyone have some better resources than my drivel for Johnny?

  8. Keri~
    Good luck with your Barbara query! I do know she was utterly inundated back in the fall early/winter, so it may take awhile. But in this biz, so often, no news is good news! Let me know how it goes, okay?

  9. Thanks, the agent is reading a full and a major NYC editor is reading a partial on it. I hope to make a more detailed announcement soon. I’ve seen list of questions before but lost them. It would be good to be ready for the call.

    thanks AGAIN

    Johnny

  10. Johnny~
    Very exciting developments for you! I’ll be excited to hear more.

    I checked the RWA site, but I think the list of questions for agents is only for PRO members, in the PRO booklets that were made up a few years ago. If you’re a member of RWA and have PRO status, you can check them out.

    Also, here is just one resource that I found online, a blog by a reputable lit agent, on just this topic. http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/05/questions-to-ask-agent.html

    Best of luck with those wonderful opportunities!

  11. Hi Kris,

    I’m glad to read about your journey. I’m looking forward to your new releases and wish you the best!

    Has your writing process changed with that two-books-in-11-months schedule?

    Thanks for being here!

  12. Hi, Kris

    Coming a bit late to the party (LOL) but one thing that interests me now is how all of us seem to have identified finding an agent as absolutely critical to the getting published business. It’s such a personal relationship, isn’t it? There’s no one size fits all, as far as I can see.

  13. Dang it, my comment got eaten. *scowl*

    First, I want to say I’m pretty sure the PRO booklets are available for ALL members: http://www.rwanational.org/cs/rwa_publications/pro_booklets. They’re compiled by a PRO committee, though.

    Second, Kris, I think we met at the NEC conference a few years ago, shared a table at a meal? I said something about social anxiety and conferences being the only place I can really overcome it, and we had a great discussion that evening. (If I’m confusing you with someone else, I’m REALLY embarrassed. LOL) I was very glad at your success with the GH and first sale, and it’s great to hear that success is continuing!

    What are you new books for Pocket about?

  14. Hey Kris, and welcome to our world. Finding an agent can be tough, sometimes tougher than making the sell. I’ve heard excellent things about your agent and working with John had to be awesome!

    As with Keri I’m in the middle of the query process myelf. Two agents have requested and I’m sending it out this weekend. Then waiting…gotta love that part. I will say it’s a little easier now then when I first started the process. I now know to send it and go back to writing instead of worrying about it for days on end. 🙂

    Love your cover and your story is a wonderful whirlwind.

  15. Hi Barb~
    Okay, how has my writing process changed since being on a 2-books-in-11-months-schedule . . . ?

    Ack. It’s really, really hard for me. I’m afraid I have a terribly inefficient process, a big part of which involves banging my head against a wall when I’m wading through creative muck (or far worse, a desert), sometimes for weeks. This happens in between streaks of rather ‘hot,’ excited, ‘forestland’ writing.

    This pattern is not really conducive to the notion of ‘deadlines,’ but until I can change my brain, that seems to be the way it’s going.

    I’d say the biggest difference is now, with 2 books due in the next year, I can’t just get up and do something else when I’m stuck. Especially since I only have about 3-4 hrs most days to write. Oh, and I am no longer a good nighttime writer. Used to be. Child came. Brain went. No longer have ‘It’ in my at 8/9pm. Adjusting to that has been a challenge as well.

    🙂 Thanks for asking, Barb! I know some writers are much more efficient and predictable in how their stories come out of them. What is your process?

  16. Natalie~
    Thanks for that link to the PRO booklets! Very helpful.

    And yes, we DID talk, at the San Fran National conference! It was before the 1st luncheon I think, and you were sitting at a table & I came up (or, oh jeez, was I sitting and *you* walked up? See–my sleep-deprived brain was functioning more poorly than now.) ANYHOO . . . I really enjoyed chatting with you!

    Thank-you so much for your warm congrats, Natalie.

    Let’s see, the Pocket books … the first one is another medieval with a desperate woman, a very dangerous knight, and both of them have something perilous to protect. It’s a *very* loose sequel to THE CONQUEROR, set during the time of Magna Carta.

    The second one . . .we haven’t decided yet. But I’m working on a Renaissance era (or a bit later) one, which I’m really excited about.

    I’m really glad you said HI, Natalie!

  17. Vicki~
    Well, now, you get extra brownie points (or just brownies, whichever you prefer) for saying that about THE CONQUEROR! Thank-you so much. I hope you like THE IRISH WARRIOR as much, if you read it. It’s a faster-paced, sexier, more tightly-written story (to my mind).

    And as far as the waiting . . .you said it! We just have to get back to work.

    When my agent submitted to Abby at Pocket, Abby told me later that she made an offer days after reading it, but the ‘getting to it’ part took *way* longer, simply b/c she was swamped. So, we just never know the reasons. Best for us to keep writing.

  18. BTW. I met Abby at the Moonlight and Magnolia conference a year ago and think she is really great. I know you will be happy with her.

  19. See Kris, anything with Irish and Warrior…yeah, I’m so there. Heehee

  20. Okay, it WAS at National. I puzzled on that for a while, but in my head the venue was smaller. I don’t remember who was at the table first, either! 🙂

    I hope we get to cross paths again sometime!

  21. Hi Kris,
    My writing process? I wish I had one :0

    I’m still way too subjective, even though I *know* to just keep writing when those R’s roll in. Gotta get over that mindset. In a previous ‘life’ I developed thick skin—it would be dandy if it carried over to this writing,

    I have a day job, so I must write on weekends and late afternoons/evenings. As you say, there are times when it flows ‘greatly’ and other times–not. But if i’m on a deadline to get something finished for critique or query, my brain blessedly kicks in.

    So maybe the deadline threats will help focus your creative drive. :0

    Thanks for asking.

  22. Hi Kris:
    So glad the hiatus didn’t affect your ability to eventually publish. I’ve been worried about that since I’ve been back. I’ve been afraid people would think I’ve done nothing for 6 1/2 years, when I was truely working my butt off just to walk and use my arms.

    You know I’m proud of you. You’ve come such a long way from when we first met. I loved The Conqueror and I’m really looking forward to June.

    Take care, Mama Writer!

  23. Johnny~
    Thanks for letting me know that! Everyone who’s ever met Abby has said she’s absolutely terrific.

    Natalie~
    Ah, so it’s not just my brain . . . 🙂 I hope we meet up again as well. I am 30/70 on RWA National conference this year (the 70 is the ‘No’ category) but I am absolutely going in ’11. You?

    Barb~
    Well, you just let me borrow that ‘deadline-on-demand Muse of yours, k? Mine is a more fickle soul. 🙂

  24. Hey there Mary!
    Your energy was an amazing benefit to RWA–to wit, the PRO program and the online historical romance chapter– and we’re all unbelievably lucky to have you back in the swing of things again.

    Blissfully ignorant upon a time, I didn’t realize how potentially damaging that kind of hiatus could be to a skill set, and I wasn’t at all worried about not getting published. (Much like, when I was 16, I didn’t worry that hitchhiking could get me killed). Upon a time, I was just writing to write. Getting published wasn’t an the center of my writing awareness.

    I actually feel a little sorry about the way things have gone, for newer writers. It feels as though every activity is centered around publication, rather than growing as a craftsperson, and loving Story for Story’s sake. I do not think it was quite this driven when I first started, say 2000. I wrote a handful of stories just to write them, never queried on them. Just moved on and wrote another story.

    (Says the woman trying to write 2 books in the next 11 months for an editor, so take what I say with a grain of salt.)

    🙂

    🙂

  25. Wow. TWO smiley faces, right in a row. I guess I felt happy.

  26. My ratio is the same, Kris! LOL

  27. great interview. I’ve met your agent, Kris. Barbara was at the Dallas conference last year. She was a riot. Had the audience laughing. Really like her.

    Good luck with Pocket!

  28. Cyndi~
    Hey there! So glad you enjoyed Barbara. She’s pretty awesome. 🙂

    And thanks for on the wishes for the Pocket books! Now, to write them . . . .

    Thanks for coming by, Cyndi!

  29. Hi, Kris! Congrats on your new contract, and thanks for sharing your path to publication. I find it intriguing that you found success after you took a break. Do you think that your break gave your brain sorted everything out, which led to your writing breakthrough and current success?

  30. Hi Keena!
    You know, I hadn’t actually queried anyone before the ‘break,’ so I think the success came as a result of lots of ‘practice’ (writing) and finally hunting it down (i.e. querying.)

    Well, wait, I queried maybe 15 agents about 8 months after I started writing. This was pre-RWA writing. Yes, go on, laugh. I do, when I reflect. 🙂 I actually got a handful of requests from that initial query run, but the rejections came swiftly. This was terrible, adolescent writing. No plot. Minimal character dvlpmt. I mean, just bad in every way but intention. 🙂

    But I’ll tell you what I’ve also noticed, as far as ‘shift’ like you’re talking about . . . during the writing of THE IRISH WARRIOR, I felt some kind of fundamental shift happen, as far as craftsmanship. Now, not everyone may like the story, which is fine, but over the course of writing it, I definitely became a more skillful writer, and that seemed to be a 100th Monkey sort-of phenomenon, only all within myself. LOL

    It felt as though I’d crossed some threshold of awareness about writing. I felt I was seeing more clearly where pace dropped off, where a character was overwrought instead of dramatic, where a scene was superfluous and actually burdensome for the larger story. etc etc

    And again, whether readers think the same remains to be seen. 🙂 I’m just talking from the perspective of the craftsman doing the work. What it felt like from the inside.

    And I suspect that was b/c I’d written and read and studied the craft sufficiently at that point. I’d listened sufficiently to crit partners & contest judges and their reasons for feedback, I’d made changes, and admitted yes, indeed, this is better now.

    All these things were finally coalescing and sinking in deep.

    I see this, maybe, as that ‘shift’ or internal ‘sorting’ you mentioned. But I attribute it to repetition and practice, not the ‘break’ from writing, although I’m sure a break could be what works for someone else.

    And who knows to what extent the ‘break’ helped as well? It’s hard to tell. But it wasn’t a pretty break. LOL My husband was traveling overseas for work much of that time, so I was single mom-ing it, my mother passed away during those years, in a long, slow illness, I was doing international and cross-country plane travel alone with my 1-2 year old, and I was exhausted and painfully sleep-deprived, so I don’t think it was a regenerative ‘break’ at all. I see it more as a rite of passage. It didn’t kill me, so I must be stronger now, right?
    😉

    Thanks for coming by, Keena, and saying Hi! 🙂

    And my, what a long reply, Kris . . . .

  31. Kris, loved The Conqueror. I can so relate to wanting more time in the day. Last night (this morning?) when I was wrapping things up at midnight, I thought “I wish I could just stay up all night.” Ha!

  32. Carol,
    LOL. I need not only the time, but the energy. 🙂 Now, you’re writing Harlequin Intrigue, w/ shorter timelines, so you’re really working it.

    Thanks for saying you love TC!

  33. Great questions, Beppie. How wonderful for you to get two great editors, Kris.

    Congratulations on your success, Kris. I’m definitely going to have to pick up one of your books.

  34. yeah Kris. Wishing you oodles of sales, more sleep…and while I’m at it, let’s add it more time.’)

    rr smythe (ronna)

  35. Hey Kris,
    Congrats on your deal with Pocket! Did you find the move to a new publisher scary at first, or did your agent help alleviate those fears?

    Can you tell us a little bit about how you “nabbed” such a great agent? Through the query process, pitch appointment, etc.? Do you know what it was that grabbed her attention enough to offer representation?

    Thanks for the great post!
    Tracey

  36. Hi Kris,
    Thanks for sharing your journey and your experiences as a new author. I’m just so thrilled for you with your new deal at Pocket.

    Your agent holds a special place in my heart, because after reading my full and deciding it wasn’t quite what she represented, she referred me to an agent friend of hers. This new agent happened to be on “my list” (I just hadn’t queried her yet), I signed with her, and she quickly sold my book. I heart Barbara!

    I loved hearing about your writing process, probably because it sounds as scattered as mine! But there’s nothing like a deadline to focus one’s writing.

    Wishing you mucho success with IRISH WARRIOR and with your move to Pocket.

    Laurie

  37. Great interview, Kris! The Conqueror was amazing; I’m so looking forward to The Irish Warrior. 🙂

  38. So sorry for the delay in my reply to the folks who came later!

    Sandy~
    Thanks! Your right, Beppie asked some great questions to get my brain going. I wish my characters would do that in the morning sometimes. 🙂 Pre-coffee Character Questioning . . ..

    Ronna~
    Thanks for the wishes for sales AND for sleep! 🙂

    Laurie~
    Thanks for coming by! Barbara is a great agent, isn’t she? Even when she knows it’s not a perfect fit, she often suggests who might be a better fit, and shares the wealth of talent. 🙂 Thanks for your well wishes and right back at you for tons of sales when your books release.

    Donna~
    Ah, thanks, you. 🙂 I love that you lliked TC so much! Thanks for coming by.

  39. Tracey~
    Thanks for the questions!

    You know, Abby has seemed just wonderful, and as I’m in the Cave right now, hard at work on the manuscript, nothing really feels different to me. Yet. 🙂

    I got Barbara by cold querying. She was the one going through queries at the time, and she requested the manuscript (wait–did she request a partial first? I’m forgetting.)

    What a great question, about what got her attention in the manuscript! I don’t have an answer! LOL I will ask her, or hey, when she and I come by RomanceUniversity in a couple weeks, we can ask her there. It’s a good question. Of course, it’ll vary agent to agent, but it’s a great question.

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