K. M. Herkes is mostly quiet with a thirty-percent chance of loud, and everything else about her is subject to change without warning. She lives in the Midwest and works in a library, where she gets paid to play with books. When she isn’t lost in her own imagination or making book recommendations, she’s outside in the garden, up to her elbows in dirt or wielding power tools with enthusiasm.
Professional development has included classroom teaching, animal training, aquaculture, horticulture, retail management, inventory operations, and customer service. Personal development is ongoing. Cats are involved.
How would you describe your story in one sentence?
Two series, so two sentences.
Stories of the Restoration. My characters are fighting to stay alive in a dystopian future that doesn’t look much different from the world of today
Rough Passages. Each story follows someone dealing with superpower-related crises in the present day of an alternate history where superpowers exploded onto the scene overnight in the middle of World War 2.
What inspired you to write your story/characters/theme?
The SotR series started off because I wrote a zombie apocalypse book that took place about a hundred years the future. Then I decided I liked the corporate-driven dystopian society I’d created as a setting more than I liked the zombies. So I un-destroyed the world and wrote a ton of other stories in it.
The idea for Rough Passages came from reading a lot of comic books and thinking that superpowers are pretty disruptive. Most stories give powers to young adults who don’t have settled lives, or to people with nothing left to lose. So I dumped powers on people who had full, ordinary lives and jobs and families, just to see what would happen.
Which authors have influenced you?
The ones who create the kind of books I like to read most are Lois McMaster Bujold, Sharon Lee, Neil Gaiman, and Andre Norton. I love Ray Bradbury too, and I could go on and on. So many authors, so many influences.
Which are your favorite literary genres?
Space opera, dystopian science fiction, post-apocalypse stories, and fantasy of all kinds. Also mysteries. I enjoy a good whodunnit or a complicated thriller. I love romances too, although some of those are pretty much fantasies when push comes to shove. And poetry.
I’m a sucker for well-strung together words of any kind I guess.
What makes a book/story special for you?
Emotionally-complex characters, and writing that immerses me in the world those characters live in rather than telling me outright what’s going on.
An example: The stench of cheap cologne hit Mary as soon as she got home after work at midnight. That smell, plus the dirty dishes and takeout on the kitchen table, plus Liz’s bra on the bedroom door, added up to a one-night-stand in progress. Mary sighed. This was going to be a long weekend.
That entertains me more than, “Mary could tell Liz had an overnight guest from the mess they’d left everywhere. The woman’s horrible taste in men was almost as irritating as her refusal to pick up after herself. She sighed and resigned herself to another long, annoying weekend.
Where do you live? Did your hometown/country/culture influenced your story?
I live in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, but I spent a lot of time on the west coast of the US before my family settled in the Midwest. I set down deep roots into the prairie soil once I got here, that much is certain. I’m sure it’s influenced me but I can’t point to anything specific.
How long you needed for writing this book/for your first draft/ for your revision/editing process?
I don’t draft in the currently-accepted sense, so comparing the time spent is like comparing oranges and pineapple upside-down cake.
A first draft of a novel might take six months or two years, but once I write “The End” it will not substantially change in tone, length or storyline. My revisions don’t take long: weeks at most, for a novel 100k words or more. It’s all phrase-polishing, copy-editing, continuity-checks and edits to fix beta-reader concerns. True revision, where I rip story ideas apart, adding or removing plotlines and characters —all that goes on while I’m writing the “first draft.”
I’m not the only one who writes like that, but it’s not a popular system right now. If I dedicate myself to the writing aspect, I can put out a quality novel and a couple of shorts a year, so I’m not sweating how long it takes in the first place.
At least I think they’re good. There are plenty of days where I wonder if I shouldn’t do it the way everyone else does.
Did you hire a cover artist/editor/proofreader?
Yes, yes, and yes. I tried volunteer copy-editors at first, but they missed too much. I’ve never hired a content editor, but that’s because I am an ego monster who chose self-publishing to write my stories my way. I am well aware they have issues. when it comes to commercial appeal and adhering to “standard story forms.” And I will confess that despite copy-editing and proofing there are still errors. I swear typos creep in while no one’s looking.
As far as art goes, I know enough graphic design to know I’m not a good enough artist to do my own words justice. I’ve done my own covers for the Rough Passages shorts out of financial necessity, but I’ll hire a professional for the book cover.
What have you learned while writing and publishing? Did unexpected things happened?
I’ve learned far too much to fit into one short interview. I’ve blogged thousands of words about my experiences. Most of it boils down to this: there is no One Right Way.
What helped you to get inspired and overcome hurdles along the writing of your book?
I write for an audience. For most of my life, that audience was imaginary, so I didn’t have much insecurity. The hardest part of my transition from writer to author has been the long wait for real readers to find my words, and the growing, gnawing fear that they’re ignoring me because my writing is awful. That fear has ebbed a bit now that I’ve had a few sales and some professional affirmation.
Still,knowing I have readers waiting inspires me to write more and faster. It’s that simple.
What would you do differently on a next project?
What should I do differently? I should be constantly building an audience for it now, through personal networking online, generating buzz with social media project updates and talking about my story all the time, and I should treat the finished books as a business product to be marketed, promoted and pushed.
Will I do those things? Probably not. At least,not to the extent the publishing pundits say I should. I have a serious problem enthusing about my work unprompted.
Best piece (s) of advice for first time writers?
Write. Write regularly and often as possible. Read writers who are better than you are. Write more. Listen to readers who tell you what doesn’t work, because you don’t have to change a single word, but knowledge is power. Write more.
Where can readers contact you in the internet? Do you have a blog/website?
I have a website! At dawnrigger.com you can find my writing blog, my book reviews, character art, news and more. I also have a Facebook author page, and I’m on twitter as @doawnrigger. Basically, a user search on dawnrigger finds me on most social media outlets.
What are you planning to write/publish next?
Next up is Heartwood, a new Rough Passages Tale, along with a couple of other short stories. I’ll be publishing a new Restoration novel in autumn if all goes well.
author website chock full o’ fun: dawnrigger.com
books & ebooks available for sale: www.amazon.com/author/kmherkes