Friday, June 24, 2011

Interview With K D Grace

Twenty Questions With K D Grace by Sarah McNeal
Please give us your website addy, a list of your books and a short bio.
My website is kdgrace.co.uk
I’ve had stories published with Xcite Books, Black Lace, Cleis Press, Mammoth Books, and Ravenous Romance. I’ve also had stories in Oysters and Chocolate, Scarlet Magazine and Erotic Review as well as excerpts in Foreplay Magazine.
I have a writing obsession. It’s progressive and chronic and often interferes with normal, everyday functioning. I might actually be concerned if it wasn’t so damned much fun.
I live in South England with my husband, a back garden full of free-loading birds and an expanding veg patch. I walk my stories. Sometimes it takes miles to walk a story. For me, inspiration is directly proportionate to how quickly I can wear out a pair of walking boots.
I believe that Freud was right. In the end, it really IS all about sex. And nobody’s happier about that than I am, cuz otherwise I wouldn’t be here, and neither would you. Plus it’s fun.
How do you usually come up with a story idea?  Dreams?  Writer’s journal? Eavesdropping on conversations?  Newpaper?
Yes! I’ve been inspired by all of the above as well as personal experiences and mythology. I’m easily inspired. My novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly, was inspired by being stranded in a dark train in the Eurostar tunnel for four and a half hours, but that’s a bit extreme, even for me.
Who or what inspires you when your creative mojo is lagging?
Walking inspires me more than anything else, that and veg gardening. Usually if my creative mojo is lagging a walk, even a short one, will get me writing again.
Who is your Yoda—your seasoned mentor?
It’s a bit hard to say, actually. Since I write erotic romance, I read a lot of straight romance as well, though I prefer the hotter romance, and I think the person who I’d love to emulate when it comes to creating just the perfect heat and chemistry between two people, and telling a cracking good story as well, would have to be Nora Roberts. The woman is a story-teller’s story-teller. 
What importance do you place on writing workshops?  What workshops would you recommend to us?
I haven’t been to a writing workshop in a long time. I’ve been a member of writing groups, with varying levels of dedication and commitment, for a lot of years. I think there’s a lot to be gained from just the right writing group. I think having fellow writers to share the journey is one of the quickest ways to improve writing. The thing I like about writing groups is that they’re not a one-off. Every week, or fortnight or however often the group meets, you have a chance to hone your craft, whether it’s by having your own work critiqued by the group or by critiquing other people’s work and learning from their writing. My writing has improved massively because of writing groups.
What person would you like to thank for inspiring you in your writing aspirations?  How did this person help you?
Natalie Goldberg’s wonderful book, Writing Down The Bones, was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, writing-wise. It was the book that gave me permission to write often and write badly, the book that made me understand not every sentence I write has to be perfect, that some sentences are compost, and that’s okay. I’ve written mountains of compost since then, and out of it some good stuff has grown. I think Writing Down the Bones was absolutely pivotal. I owe Natalie Goldberg a huge debt of gratitude.
The one who has encouraged me the most and helped me most personally would have to be my husband, Raymond. He’s put up with a lot over the years while I’ve pursued my writing dream, and he’s always been my staunchest encourager and best cheer-leader. Plus he’s a pretty good critic too when I need him to be. 
Have you ever used songs for inspiration?

Certain songs or music can make me think of my characters or a certain story, but that doesn’t often happen now as I don’t write with music much anymore. But I don’t think I’ve ever had a particular song inspire a story, though now that I think of it, I just might give it a try.

Do you play music when you write?  If so, what kind?  Or, do you have to have silence or background noise to set your writing muse free?

I used to have music playing all the time when I wrote, but I don’t anymore. Not sure why the shift. It just seems to be where I am at the moment. Now I work mostly in silence. I kind of like the sound of my own thoughts, and if I do seriously listen to music, I like to completely immerse myself in it.
Do you read in a different genre than you write?  If yes, why?  If you read in the same genre that you write, do you feel that it influences your writing in any way?
I read in all sorts of genre. I can’t say that I have a favourite. Mostly I read it for entertainment. The main influence I get from reading in my own genre is learning and analyzing what makes a really good story work. It’s the same thing I get out of reading in any genre. That always makes my own writing better, but I’m not afraid that by reading someone else’s story, my work will imitate theirs. I have my own ideas about what’s erotic and my own way of writing it. Some of my very favourite erotica writers don’t write anything like I do, nor would I want to write like they do. I read their stories to be entertained by their particular way of writing, and by their way of portraying what’s erotic. I write my stories to be entertained by my particular way of writing. It’s completely different.       
What is your process from idea to first draft?
When an idea comes to me the very first push is to get down a rough draft – at least with a short story, and it doesn’t matter how bad that draft is. What matters is that I have something to work with.  With a novel, I do an extremely rough chapter by chapter synopsis then I plough through a first draft. First drafts happen fast and furious because I’m always afraid if I slow down I’ll lose the momentum and lose what it is that drives the story.
When the first draft is finished, the real work begins. The first draft can often be pretty skeletal, and the final draft is fleshing out, replacing generic terms and images with more evocative, more descriptive word pictures. By this time in the process I’m trying to sharpen the picture I’ve created into the clearest focus I can manage so that my reader will be drawn in by the plot and by her senses, so that the experience will be as much alive as possible. When I’m satisfied that I’ve worked out the kinks and inconsistencies and rough spots, and when it feels like what I’ve written can actually be experienced rather than just read, then it’s ready.
Have you ever given assistance to a struggling new writer?  Has another writer ever come to your aide?  How?
Yes. In both cases it was with the recommendation of a fabulous book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. It was recommended to me by several helpful women in a ‘bad girls’ writing group I was a part of back in Houston, Texas. I was pretty much the newbie, and many of them were published or well on their way to it, but their egos were always nicely stowed away before they came to the group each week so we all benefitted from each other’s experience – me probably most of all.
Several times since then, I’ve recommended this wonderful little book to people I feel have real potential, but just need an extra little push to help them hone their craft. And everyone so far has found it as helpful as I did. To me a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers always felt like a rite of passage. ‘Now that you’re ready to play with the big girls, here’s what you need to know.’   
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Selling my first novel and holding the finished product in my hand had to be one of the most heady experiences of my life. But selling the second was equally important because it proved that this wasn’t a one-off, that I really AM a novelist. I still get goose bumps when I think about either.
If you won the big lottery, what would you do with the money?  Would give any of it to charity?  If so, which one?
I like my life the way it is now. The only thing I’d really want is a bigger garden. I fantasize about what my veg garden would look like in the ideal world, all set up with an asparagus bed and a greenhouse and fruit trees and soft fruit beds. Oh my… garden porn!
As for giving it to charity, I would definitely be giving some to conservation groups that protect our amazing wildlife and its habitat and to walking groups, in particular the Ramblers, who have done so much to protect our right to roam the wild countryside.
What is the best advice you want to give to a new writer?
Get it all down! It doesn’t matter if you have the most brilliant first chapter in the world if the rest never gets finished. By the same token, it doesn’t matter if what you’ve written is crap. Crap becomes compost and amazing things grow in compost. You can’t perfect what you haven’t yet written, so getting something down is the most important thing. While you’re getting it down, turn off the internal editor. Just get it written. There’ll be plenty of time for the editor once you’ve actually got something to edit.
If you could choose an animal for a mascot, what animal would it be?  What do you admire about this animal?  Do you feel you have qualities similar to this animal?  If so, what are they?
I’m a cat and a bird person, which is a strange combination, I know, but I love both – all kinds of both. I admire cats because they’re so complete within themselves and self-reliant. They don’t need people so much as they allow people to share their space. They’re quite solitary, and that makes me think of writers. So much of a writer’s journey is solitary. That’s not a hardship for me because I love being by myself and letting the worlds and the people I create surround me.
I love birds because they can fly. They touch realms I can only touch in my imagination. And, like cats, they’re exquisitely beautiful, and their song is beautiful. But I also love birds because every time I see one I think about the evolutionary sacrifices they’ve had to make to be able to fly. I think writers and artists and anyone who sets a goal and sticks to it can very much understand that there are always sacrifices to be made before we can fly. I’m also reminded, when I see the black birds hunting in my back garden, that these are the descendants of dinosaurs, and when I see how effectively a black bird hunts, I’m very glad that size is one of those evolutionary sacrifices birds have had to make.  
If money, education and fear factors were set aside, what three careers would you like to attempt other than writing?

An astronomer, an ornithologist and a concert pianist. Okay, you can stop laughing nowJ

If money, talent and fear were no object, what big adventure would you like to have?

They’d be mostly walking adventures. I’d love to walk the 635 miles of the Southwest Coast Path. That’s one of several dozen trails I’d like to walk. I love the feel of the routine that develops when my whole world involves putting one foot in front of another to get to the next place to spend the night, then starting all over again the next day. Life becomes amazingly simple and amazingly clear.

What characteristics do you like to instill in your heroes? What characteristics do you feel are necessary for a good heroine?

I think the characteristics in a good hero or a good heroine must involve a journey. In other words the character cannot remain static through the story. I am not happy with heroes or heroines who are perfect and everyone else lives in their shadows. I think, first of all both the hero and the heroine need to be abrasive enough to smooth the rough edges of the other, which already implies their own rough edges. The journey of a novel is not just the plot of A happening and then B happening until we get to the end. I think the journey of the novel is just as much, if not more, about the journey of the characters, how they cope, how they grow, how they adapt and how they expand into themselves.
If you had the power to change two things in the world, what would those two things be?

I would make people more tolerant of each other and more accepting of each other’s differences.  And I would make people appreciate more and take much better care of the world we live in.
If could have a super power for a day, what would it be?  Why?

I’d want to be able to fly because I’d like to know what birds see and what they feel when they’re up in the air floating above the world, under their own power with no fear of falling.
Synopsis – The Initiation of Ms Holly
Journalist, Rita Holly, never dreamed sex with the mysterious Edward in the dark of a malfunctioning train would lead to a blindfolded, champagne-drenched tango, a spanking by a butch waitress, and an offer of initiation into the exclusive mysteries of The Mount. Desperate to save her threatened job, she agrees, scheming secretly to write an inside exposé on the club that will make her career. But as she delves deeper into the intrigue of The Mount and the lives of its members, she soon discovers that her heart may have other plans.

ISBN: 978-1907016431
No of pages: 265
HE PRACTICALLY FELL ON top of Rita, his hand grazing her left breast in the complete darkness. She yelped and grabbed him to keep from losing her balance.
‘God, I’m sorry!’ He gasped. ‘Bloody nuisance, this, isn’t it?’ His voice was warm, melodious, by far the most pleasant thing that had happened to Rita since she left Paris. ‘Oh dear. You’re trembling. Are you all right?’
‘I’m claustrophobic.’ Her words were thin and shaky, as though she didn’t fully trust herself to let them out. ‘It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t know where we are.’ For an embarrassing moment, she realised she was still clinging to him, but the embarrassment passed, and suddenly she didn’t care. If they were going to die trapped in a train in the Eurostar tunnel, buried beneath a gazillion gallons of water, she’d just as soon not do it alone.
He either understood, or was too polite to leave her in such distress. He wrapped his arms around her engulfing her in a muscular embrace, the scent of which was maleness barely masked by deodorant and some spicy cologne, both fading at the end of a day much longer than either of them had anticipated. ‘Don’t worry.’ In the darkness, he misjudged the distance between them and his lips brushed her earlobe. ‘It’s just an electrical malfunction. Anyway we’re better off down here than in the snowstorm up above. Sounds like all London is shut down. Who’d have expected snow this late in the spring? Never mind that, where else do you get the chance to cuddle strangers in the dark?’
He pressed a little closer to her, and she was relieved to find other thoughts, thoughts more welcome than those of their predicament, pushing their way into her head. He felt good, broad-shouldered and tall, easy to lean on.
‘Why are you huddled here in the corner rather than hunkered down in your seat?’
She concentrated on his warm breath pressing against the top of her ear. ‘I was on my way back from the loo when the lights went out and …’
‘And this is as far as you got.’
She nodded against his chest, honing in on the reassuring sound of his heartbeat.
‘Shall I help you back to your seat then?’
The train lurched forward, and she yelped again, tightening her grip around his neck. ‘No, please. It’s better if I just don’t move.’
There was a long pause. ‘Do you want me to stay with you?’


K D Grace said...

Thanks for allowing me to visit at Sweet N Sexy Diva's! It's sooo much fun being here!

K D Grace

Tina Donahue said...

I like your advice for new writers, K D. So true. The Initiation of Ms. Holly sounds like my type of book. Can't wait to read. :)

K D Grace said...

Thanks Tina!
Sadly there are thousands of fabulously polished first, second, and third chapters of novels out there waiting to be finished. Getting it down is everything. Otherwise there's nothing to polish, is there?

I hope you enjoy Holly. How lovely that you are guesting over at my site while I'm here! And from the response over there, lots of people, myself included, are looking forward to reading your fab new novel, 'Take Me Away.' A nice bit of synchronicity, I would say.

Delaney Diamond said...

I have a copy of Self-Editing For Fiction Writers. I agree with you that it's a good tool for writers.

K D Grace said...

I think Self-Editing for Fiction Writers was probably one of the books that was instrumental in teaching me to think like a writer. I still refer back to it. I've given away several copies to writer friends and am dog-earing my second copy, so yes, Delaney, definitely a great tool!

Tina Donahue said...

Absolutely, K D! :)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Natalie Goldberg is also my favorite inspiration. I've read everything she's written including Writing Down The Bones. But my favorite book of hers is Wild Mind. At the end of each chapter she has a section called, Try This...and she gives a thought provoking nudge to get you thinking and writing.
I loved your answers to your interview, KD and I wish you tremendous success with The Initiation of Ms Holly. It has an amazing cover, too.

K D Grace said...

Thanks Sarah!

Yes, I also loved Wild Mind. I loved the way all of Natalie Goldberg's books give 'permission to write,' as it were, and that was essential in getting me over the fear that nothing would come when I tried to write. It's so freeing to know that every word doesn't have to be a nugget of gold, that sometimes it's just compost, and that's okay!

I agree about the cover of Holly, Sarah! I still look at it and love it even after living with it for over a year.

Adele Dubois said...

Welcome, KD! You're right that learning to self- edit is critical for a writer's success.


K D Grace said...

Thanks Adele!

You're right. I've learned not to be precious with my words, which was a whole lot easier when I discovered that I really enjoyed the editing stage of writing. That was the stage when I got to turn on the lights and see the details and the depth that, I think can only be seen when editing.

Brenda Hyde said...

Thanks for the book recommendations-- I haven't read any of those. Great interview, and I love the cover too. Birds are amazing-- we have a hawk pair that nests in a large dead tree we have on our property and I love watching them.

K D Grace said...

My pleasure, Brenda!

And thanks. I'm very proud of the cover. Couldn't have asked for better.

Love birds of prey! I worked in a wildlife rehab for awhile and I got my biggest thrill cleaning the aviaries of the birds of prey, who always eyed me like I was succulent enough, just too big to hunt. It was wonderful to be so close to something so wild and lovely though!

Fiona McGier said...

You are so right about getting the story down when it's in your head. You can always edit and change it later, cleaning up the rough spots and making it better. But if you don't write it down, you have nothing to work with!
Great excerpt. Good luck with sales.