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Kris Bock’s Website
Chris Eboch’s Website for children’s books
Write like a Pro! Chris Eboch's Blog
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I originally went to art school and studied photography. I learned I didn’t want to be a photographer, but I got a great education in creativity and critiquing. I also started writing for the school paper and got interested in journalism. I went back to school for an MA in Professional Writing and Publishing at Emerson College, planning to focus on magazine nonfiction. I wrote my first novel – The Well of Sacrifice, an adventure set in 9th-century Mayan Guatemala for ages nine and up – as something fun to do in between looking for jobs. That led to a dozen more published children’s books (and an equal number of unpublished ones). Eventually I wanted a change and turned to writing for adults under the name Kris Bock.
What was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction?
I’ve written about ancient Egypt, the pre-Columbian Maya, and kids who see ghosts. Even my first two contemporary romantic suspense novels were entirely made up, except for the realistic Southwest settings. But my newest novel is based on a real experience: two friends and I found a dead body. As you might imagine, it was shocking and horrifying and powerful, especially when we learned the victim’s name and that she’d been murdered. I was fortunate that the two men I was with were willing and able to talk about their feelings. From the start, I recognized the unusual opportunity for research, so I took 10,000 words of notes about everything we felt, thought, and did. I waited several years before I felt ready to revisit that experience, but it became the seed for What We Found, due out in August.
I cannot even imagine what that must have been like for you. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Most characters are entirely from my imagination, though there is a little bit of me in many of my heroines. Not necessarily me as I am now, but sometimes me as I was when I was younger. Also, in Rattled, the heroine’s best friend, Camie, is based on a close friend of mine – but I changed the character’s gender. It worked out surprisingly well, and the role model was flattered by the portrayal!
What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books?
What We Found involves falconry. My husband and I met a falconer a couple of years ago, got to know him, visited his home, and went out on several hunts. (I’ve posted some of my falconry photos on my Picasa page, including shots of newborn hawks and falcons.) I wrote an article about falconry that was recently published in a local magazine, but I wanted to do more. Falconry turned out to be the perfect counterpoint to the murder mystery in What We Found, because of the metaphors it provides regarding predators and prey. I’ve always loved wild animals, so getting to be close to raptors has been amazing.
Sounds like amazing research and a great tie in for your plot line. Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book? Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?
Writing a book is hard. It can and should be fun, but it also takes a lot of work to make a manuscript into something other people want to read. Take classes – many are offered online, through the mail, or by local writing organizations. Attend writing events and network with other writers. (You’ll not only learn from them and build a support system, but the connections will help with promotion as well.) Focus first on learning to write. Then focus on learning to write better. Don’t rush the process – it may take years. Save stress over publication until you are far along on your writing journey, or you’ll just experience more frustration and disappointment by submitting (or self-publishing) work that isn’t ready.
As for promotion, it’s always going to be a challenge, and I’m still figuring it out. Doing guest blog posts, or getting reviewed on major blogs that have a lot of followers in your genre, seem to be good ways of getting attention for your work. But my best advice is to be patient, don’t stress over sales numbers or Amazon rankings, and focus more on writing your next book than on promoting your last one.
Very sage advice. I especially like your advice about not focusing on sales rankings and promoting your last book, but instead putting your energy into continuing to write more books. What’s your writing schedule like? When do you find time to write?
I am a full-time writer. I make most of my money these days from writing articles, teaching workshops, and doing private critiques. I have to work pretty long hours sometimes to also find time to write novels, but I’m hoping they’ll provide more of the income in the long run. It’s an investment. I generally try to write a couple thousand words on my novel-in-progress in the morning, both because that’s my more creative time and because that way it’s sure get done. If I wait until I’m done with all my other work, I’ll never get to my personal projects.
How did you find your publisher? What was your journey to publication like?
Remember that first novel I mentioned – The Well of Sacrifice? I got really lucky with that, because I didn’t make many of the mistakes first-time authors make. It was also an unusual topic and perfectly targeted for fourth and fifth grade classrooms when kids learn about the Maya. (Lucky again; I didn’t plan that.) I met an agent at a writing event and she sold the novel to Clarion. I was on my way!
Then my luck ran out. I didn’t sell my next five novels, largely because I was making all those mistakes I’d accidentally avoided with The Well of Sacrifice. (I prefer to think of those bad novels not as failures but as “learning experiences.”) I eventually got some work-for-hire jobs, and I finally sold the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show. Then that series got dropped.
I decided to self-publish my Egyptian historical mystery for kids, The Eyes of Pharaoh, because I believe in the book but publishers weren’t buying much historical fiction. As I explored self-publishing, I came to believe it was a good decision for adult genre fiction as well, so that’s what I’ve been doing with my romantic suspense novels. I haven’t gotten many sales yet, but I’ve been focusing more on the writing than on promotion so far. I have gotten good feedback from readers (including people I don’t know!), so I’m confident in the material. I’m trying to be patient and build up my “brand” slowly by producing more good work and taking opportunities such as these to meet potential readers.
So very true that branding your name is much more important than marketing any one specific book. Continuing to write and finding new readers for each new book, will also bring in a solid readership base once those readers begin reading your backlist. How have your friends and family received your career as an author? Are they supportive?
My parents have always been wonderfully supportive, even though the lack of security in a freelancer’s life makes my mom nervous. And my husband is amazing, backing my decisions even when the money isn’t coming in as quickly as we’d like. (I’d say I’m lucky, but I chose him, so it’s not really luck.)
Many of my local friends are science or computer types, so they don’t always “get” what I do, but they generally think it’s cool. And I have many writer friends around the world. I love going to conferences or retreats where I can spend days talking about writing.
I totally get the whole mom worried about a freelancer's life! Maybe our moms should chat. :) It's wonderful to have supportive family and friends. What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you? ~ POV issues; using too much passive voice and not enough active voice; trouble creating active and engaging dialogue; using too many similar words in starting sentences; or something else?
I’ve been writing and teaching writing for many years, so I’m pretty confident in most of my skills. But transitioning from writing for children to writing for adults had some challenges. The longest children’s novel I’d written was 35,000 words. When I hit the 35,000-word mark in Rattled, I was exhausted! I needed to take a week off before I could get back to it, but I eventually got through the remaining 50,000 words. Fortunately, I knew length might be an issue, so I did extensive outlining before I started writing. I wanted to make sure I had enough material to sustain a full-length adult novel.
The other challenge was slowing down and allowing the main character’s introspection. Between my journalism training and writing for children, my style tends to be fast-paced and efficient, without many wasted words. But when writing romantic suspense, character is so important. Often my first draft of a chapter is primarily action and dialogue. Then I go back through and add the reaction in the character’s thoughts and emotions. I want to work even more on character arcs and fully developing the romantic subplots in my books.
Whispers in the Dark: A young archaeologist seeking peace after an assault stumbles into danger as mysteries unfold among ancient Southwest ruins. Can she overcome the fears from her past, learn to fight back, and open herself to a new romance?
Rattled: A legendary treasure hunt in the dramatic—and deadly—New Mexico desert.... The Victorio Peak treasure is the stuff of legends. When Erin, a quiet history professor, uncovers a clue that may pinpoint the lost treasure cave, she prepares for adventure. But when a hit and run driver nearly kills her, she realizes she’s not the only one after the treasure. And is Drew, the handsome helicopter pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch, really a hero, or one of the enemy? Just how far will Erin go to find the treasure and discover what she’s really made of?
What We Found (coming August 2012): Audra goes back to her small hometown after college, just wanting to fit in. Finding a dead body in the woods was not part of that plan. Simply reporting the body makes her enemies. Too many people have secrets, and someone starts targeting Audra. She’ll have to stand up for herself in order to stand up for the murder victim. And then, just maybe, she’ll find her own path alongside the wounded warrior who is as intriguing as the falcons and hawks he keeps. (Sign up for Kris’newsletter to get an announcement when the book is released.)
Thanks for sharing. I read and write romantic suspense, my favorite genre, so I'm sure I'd love your books. They sound very intriguing. Where can readers find your books online?
My Amazon Author Page
My Barnes and Noble Author Page
I hear you have a book regarding writing tips. What's that called and give us some more details.
Advanced Plotting written under the name Chris Eboch, is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer. If you struggle with plot or suspect your plotting needs work, this book can help. Use the Plot Outline Exercise to identify and fix plot weaknesses. Learn how to get off to a fast start, prop up a sagging middle, build to a climax, improve your pacing, and more.
Thanks for having me today and giving me a chance to talk about my favorite subject, writing!
Kris, thank you for chatting with me today. I found the interview to be highly interesting and I enjoyed getting to know more about you and your work.
Hope you all can hang around to chat with Kris for a bit.