Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keith Pyeatt Interview

Keith Pyeatt (author of STRUCK) and I first met in an online writer's group way back in 1997. (Seems like yesterday, eh, Keith?). We were starry-eyed author-wannabees in those days, helping each other fine-tune our writing skills. When it became clear that we were destined to be friends for life, we made a pact to one day celebrate our success with dinner at a fancy restaurant in Montreal (sort of the halfway point; Keith's in NM and I'm in BC). We've yet to have dinner, but we are celebrating our success. This week, please welcome Keith to my blog. Below is a fascinating insight into his life as writer. Then, in a few days, he'll guest blog on a subject dear to his heart: Writing.

Please do leave him a comment, or a question. Meanwhile, buy a copy of his book,
STRUCK. It'll scare the beejeebees out of you.

1. Keith, what inspired you to first write? And how old were you?
I wrote many technical documents over the years, but I was 39 when I wrote my first fiction. I was a manager at an electric utility in Vermont, and my assistant challenged me to write a short story where the good guys win. She kept at me for a year to write it, and when I started, I couldn't stop. My short story came out as a tongue-in-cheek horror novel, and I was hooked on writing.

2. After years of rejections, did you ever consider quitting? And if so, how did you bounce back from any bouts of writer's block?
I've never considered quitting. I considered that my novels might not be published, but I kept writing them anyway. Any writer's block for me comes when major activities interfere with my writing time. When the other activities end, so does my writer's block.

3. I know your stories are character-driven, but where did the theme for STRUCK come from?
Interesting angle to that question. I've addressed what inspired the setting, the multi-cultural and multi-lifestyle aspect, and the inclusion of the Pueblo Indian's ancestors before, but this is a little different.

I developed the story after becoming fascinated with the Ancestral Puebloan (often referred to as Anasazi) ruins in Chaco Canyon. Balance and natural order were important, and I devised my novel's crisis by creating an imbalance. I separated two opposing powers, putting the power of control in one man's hands and the power of acceptance in my hero's hands. At first glance, control seems like a much stronger power, and I played with showing how powerful acceptance is. That comparison between control and acceptance became a theme I carried through STRUCK.

4. What was your greatest obstacle in finding a publisher for STRUCK?
Trying to go the agent route to end up with a big publisher was my biggest obstacle. To most people who've commented, STRUCK defies genre, and I agree. That illusiveness has made for positive reviews, but even agents who praised it claimed not to know how to market it. A few suggested approaching small presses. Once I got serious about small presses, it sold quickly, and I'm pleased with how things have worked out so far.

5. Keith, getting one of your books into print was a long-time coming, how did you maintain your faith during those "waiting" years?
As I grew as a writer, I went back to prior novels and made them better by applying sharpened skills to old material. Every time, I was glad I improved them before they were published. That experience helped with the wait. At some point, however, the wait needs to end.

6. What's your daily writing regime? Or does it vary?
I tend to start early and work hard for long stretches at a time. I like working every day, even if it's just a few hours instead of many, to keep my mind in the novel. Unless really inspired, I don't write after 4 PM or so, but I'm often at it by 5 AM. I like having a clear schedule. Even a lunch appointment interferes with my flow somehow. I want to write until I stop, so my lunches come at odd times.

7. Are you discouraged or encouraged by the publishing industry today?
It is what it is, whatever that is. The publishing industry changes quickly and often these days. I'm never sure if the changes are good for authors, but I'm not out to redefine or challenge the industry. I want to spend my energy writing or marketing, so I'll deal with what the industry is and what it's becoming. I try not to be discouraged, instead focusing on keeping up.

8. Do you believe that today's unpublished writers need a "gimmick" or "hook" before they stand any chance of finding a publisher?
In a word, no. Gimmick's, hooks, "platforms," and timing can translate to sales, so they attract publishers. They don't hurt. If I had a platform, I'd announce it to show I'm marketable, just like I'd use applicable experience in a resume to show I could do a job. But I think good writing will be recognized if a writer is persistent, gimmick or not.

9. Keith, did you consider self-publishing?
I did. Once I decided to stop spending my energy trying to get an agent, I focused on self-publishing and small publishers. Both have advantages and disadvantages. I like having someone else handle much of the production issues and some of the marketing, and since I had the option, I went with small publishers.

10. Your stories carry an underlying message that people can overcome the most horrendous challenges. I wonder if you write with that theme in mind, or is it subconscious?
I like big stakes and relatable characters in my paranormal thrillers. I also like making the characters find within themselves the means and the passion to overcome the things they must. We've all had to do that, hopefully not while carrying the weight of the world's future, but still... Humankind's finer moments are often when we find it in ourselves to rise above obstacles.

11. What is the most difficult part of writing a novel? Beginning, middle or end? And why?
Beginning. So many options, so much blank space to fill.

12. I receive lots of emails from struggling writers who are full of self-doubt over their writing skills. Looking back over your career, how and when did you overcome those same fears?
There's a lot to learn about writing, far too much to learn at once. It's a long haul because much of what we learn comes from experience. I needed self-doubt at first, because I needed to learn to write better in about a thousand different ways. I kept learning and writing. Self-doubt kept up with me during the first long legs of my journey to become a better writer. I couldn't out-run it, but eventually it fell back, and I kept going. I have more endurance than self-doubt. It still catches up and taunts me from time to time, but the more experience I gain, the less often I see its nasty little head and hear its grating voice. Good incentive to keep moving, isn't it?

13. Can you tell me a little about your next book? What's the title, the theme, and your release date?
DARK KNOWLEDGE comes out in mid-October through Lyrical Press. It's a bit darker than STRUCK, with a stronger paranormal element, but it's really sweet in its own way, and I've always loved this novel. My tagline is: When good and evil intertwine, taking one means accepting the other.



Thanks, Keith. And best of luck with DARK KNOWLEDGE and STRUCK.

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HORROR WITH HEART
Paranormal thrills, real emotion
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18 comments :

  1. Thank you for doing this, Joylene. You made me look good by asking great questions. I look forward to interviewing you on my blog this week.

    After all our years as friends and fellow writers, we finally get to do this, and it feels even better than I imagined.

    Keith

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  2. Yeah, it feels great, Keith. Bravo for us!

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  3. Great interview, Joylene. Thanks for sharing, Keith. It's encouraging to hear about other writer's history. I'm hanging in there.

    You said you went small press. Would you go that route again?

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  4. information interview, Joylene and Keith. I have a question. Keith, were you required to do a lot of edits once you signed with Lyrical Press? Or, if so, was that a stipulation before you signed?

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  5. Great interview, Joylene and Keith!

    Keith, when did you know that you were ready to market Struck? How long after you typed The End?

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  6. Hi, Sam. Yes, I'd definitely go the small press route again. In fact, I am. Regal Crest Enterprises has been a wonderful experience, and so far, I love Lyrical Press too.

    It all depends on the writer, of course. Everything regarding writing depends so much on our individuality. Yay! I like being read at this point. I like working with nice folks and not being at the whim of folks I'll never meet who require so much immediate return or you're history. Sales and income aren't going to significantly alter my lifestyle, but it's a start, it's fun, and it's a rush to be read. I'm having a ball.

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  7. Hi anon. I'm in my second round of edit with Lyrical as of today. I'm very lucky to get great editors at both presses I've worked with. There weren't major alterations with the first pass, and the second is very minor changes, often commas, etc. I edit until I'm blue in the face, with much help from other writers, and I'm always grateful at this point. I understand Lyrical edits can be fairly extensive for writers who are fairly new, but I've also seen a lot of gratitude for the edits. My editor works very hard, and I'm thrilled to see how she's always working to make Dark Knowledge better. I'm enjoying the process.

    Line edits are next, and if my prior experience with Regal Crest is any indication, those will be easy to accomodate too.

    It's great to see your ms. get stronger through edits, and both Regal Crest and Lyrical have assigned me fine, fine editors.

    Holler if I didn't fully answer your question.

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  8. I've heard some good things about Regal and Lyrical. Congratulations, Keith.

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  9. Hi Robin. STRUCK is my first published, but it is actually my 5th written. It was a long creation process, covering years. My own edits were intense and severe but satisfying. They took the better part of a year. Then I showed it to Joylene, and she ate it up. I knew I was ready. She'd never done that so whole-heartedly before (although I feel I've brought my other novels up to STRUCK standards now).

    My other novels required many edits over several years. I think by doing that, and with the help of folks like Joylene, I've become a better self editor. STRUCK was easier overall. Still, I'd say it was 9 months to a year after I typed "the end" before I knew it was ready.

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  10. Thanks, JacktheMac. I have no complaints with either so far. I'm futher along with Regal Crest, and I'd love to work with them again, but STRUCK is the only one I have that fits their standards of having a gay or lesbian main character. I may write another or a sequel, however. It's been that positive an experience.

    Lyrical has been a pleasure too, a great inlet to the world of eBooks for me. Exciting stuff.

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  11. Thanks Keith. I think I'll give them both a try. Good luck with your book tour.

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  12. Keith, was publishing all you thought it would be?

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  13. Hey Henry. Publishing so far has met my adjusted expectations. Keep in mind, I had years to adjust expectations from a Hollywoodized version with a big publishing house with golden limos and throngs of waiting fans to the realities of publishing with a small press.

    There was a slight let down the day it was official. Birds didn't serenade me or land on my shoulders as squirrels and rabbits played at my feet. Then congrats started coming in, people wrote to tell them they bought my book. I was happy again. Folks started writing to tell me how they enjoyed it or they stayed up until 2 AM to finish it. Now I'm getting folks who bought it and are now buying more copies for gifts, and all that makes me feel great.

    I have my first lecture this month, with more in upcoming months. I haven't attended a booksigning or event or had a radio interview. This is my first interview of any type (thanks, Joylene), so I'm taking things at my pace, a good way for me to enjoy myself. I have much left to experience.

    Long answer, huh? Ha. Short answer: yeah, pretty much.

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  14. Great interview, guys...So glad you are celebrating. Both "Struck" and "Dead Witness" are memorable, scary, and well-written. I'm re-reading "Struc."
    -Judy

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  15. Wow, I lose my internet connection for an evening and look what happens? A party!

    I'll also be reading STRUCK again, Keith. This time I'll post my review.

    Yesterday, I tried to articulate why I like your book so much. It's not just one thing. Barry is the kind of man who exhibits all the qualities I admire: integrity, charm, intelligence. He's very appealing.

    But being Metis, I think I really like the Native influence. More importantly, your Native characters aren't stereotypical. They remind me of people I know, yet, they're distinctively individual. I can see why readers compared your writing to Hillerman's.

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  16. ps. thanks, Judy! One day we'll be doing all this for your book. We'll be an old pro by then. Eh, Keith?

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  17. Hey, Keith, a big hi and congrats from another alumni of that online writing group. Glad to see you doing so well. High hopes for many happy years and books to come.

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  18. Hi Judy. Thanks for touching base from NH.

    Thanks, Joylene. You make me feel great! We're definitely fans of each other's characterization skills. Yay. Mutual admiration never hurts.

    Hey Pat. It's like old crit group week. Is it true critiquers never die, we just run out of red ink? I love watching your deserved successes these days. Keept at it.

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