Kylie Griffin – Emerging writer (and RWA Contest Diva!)

Welcome to my blog, Kylie. It’s lovely to have you here. Hope your Christmas and New Year were full of fun and laughter. I loved reading your blog about your goals for 2010.

Thanks for the invitation, Helene!

I had a lovely cold Christmas lunch with my parents here at home. Unfortunately my sister and her fiance were working and they were unable to join us but we rang to catch up.

It is so hard to get everyone together isn’t it? A cold lunch sounds just perfect for an Aussie Christmas! So tell us a bit about the genre you’re writing. Was this your original genre?

I breathe, live and love the fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal romance genre.  I can’t remember a time I wasn’t interested in it.

I grew up watching as much of this genre on TV or in movies as I could and this interest shifted to reading in my early high school years. It was a natural extension to want to write in this genre.

I think mum and dad wondered if I was a changeling -lol- because no one else in the family had an interest in it (and still don’t).

I have this great image of ‘changeling Kylie’ being deposited on a doorstep…! When did your passion for writing  first develop?

I’ll answer this question in a round about way.

My addiction to sf/f/p began when I discovered Dr.Who, a British TV series (which scared the pants of a very impressionable 7 year old, let me tell you), Battlestar Galactica (the original ’70’s version) and Star Wars (no way was I ever playing with Barbie dolls when I could be a X-wing pilot or a Jedi Apprentice vanquishing the Dark Side).

A high school librarian introduced me to Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey,  wonderfully inspiring sf/fantasy authors.  I enjoyed the action packed adventures, the real-life characters they created and the hints of romance in Ms.McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern books!

Of course, being a teenage girl, I caved under peer pressure and read the Sweet Valley High teen romances. I liked the idea of both sf/f/paranormal and romance genres, but couldn’t find  books combining both, it was one or the other. I decided to write my own combination genre!

From then on I was hooked and determined to be a writer. Now, take note all you English high school teachers! – I had two different English teachers who actively encouraged my creative writing through high school. Without them I doubt I’d have progressed beyond being a hobby writer. I still keep in touch with them – one day they’ll be listed on the dedications page of my first book.

With sf/f/p romance, I love the idea of characters that are larger than life, or stranger than life as the case may be, grappling with age old issues but with a twist eg. using magic or psi-powers, living with demons, being half-demon, mixing it up with other extra-terrestrial species while travelling to other worlds through portals/via space vessels etc…the list could go on.

I also enjoy world-building, creating whole cultures and species. A lot of it resides in my head but once I put fingers to keyboard, I create a world almanac (scraps of paper with scrawled notes until I write it up formally in a journal).

This was my childhood approach. I used to spend a great portion of my afternoons in the backyard or wandering the farm, imagining myself in another world on an adventure. I’d invent an invisible cast if I couldn’t con my sister or friends to join me. I never thought to write things down but boy, did I have a vivid imagination.

I think a lot of writer can relate to those imaginary worlds filled with imaginary characters. I certainly can! So, Kylie, I understand you’re taking a year off from teaching to concentrate on writing. What prompted this decision? Do you think you’ll miss your classroom? What are you looking forward to most?

In the mid-90’s the Dept.of Education developed the Deferred Teachers’ Salary Scheme. Teachers apply to join the scheme and if accepted 20% of their pay is put away for 4 years. They then take the 5th year off with right of return to the position they held previously. It’s to give teachers a chance to undertake further study, go on sabbatical or do something other than teaching, and they can use the money they’ve saved during that 5th year as income.

I signed up in 2001 – did a lot of travelling and visiting friends, photography at A.C.E., farm-sat, discovered patchworking, wrote … spent time doing things I wouldn’t normally indulge in.  Refreshed and energised, I went back to teaching, but I loved the time so much I wanted to do it again later so I signed up in 2005.

Yes, I’m definitely going to miss the kids and the classroom, but I’m also glad for a break.  I work in a two-teacher school so I play a sort of administrative/executive role – very time demanding, stressful and wearing. I view this year off as the chance to recharge.

Five years ago I also became more goal orientated and serious about writing as a full time career instead of being a ‘part-time-when-I-could-fit-it-in thing’. I entered competitions with a vengeance – as much as my budget allowed – and with feedback from these comps I began honing my skills.

Over the last couple of years all that hard work started to pay off – I  began to final more and more. I started multi-placing. I found an agent in early 2009 and we started working on the mss I’d pitched to her. Now there’s interest from several major publishing houses, but nothing too exciting. Yet.

Unfortunately, I also lost my agent late last year. Due to economic reasons she’s had to close her business, so I’m back on the agent hunt treadmill.

What am I really looking forward to? I’m hoping this year I’ll receive THE CALL (positive visualization here). The timing of this year off is fortuitous – semi-planned career move, but also reliant on how things go on the agent/publishing front (more on that in a moment).

I’m entering US competitions in a continued effort to build my writing resume. I believe consistency and dedication to your passion is an important selling point. I also want to focus on getting another two to three new single title books written/drafted.

Back to career decisions – if this all pans out, I’ll have a hard decision to make at the end of the year about when to switch careers and make writing my full-time job and casual teaching my second job. It’s a wait and see game, but this is my ultimate goal.

Kylie Griffin

Kylie's Dragon

All the very best with those career decisions – you’re so focused I’m sure 2010 will be your year. (And I had no idea the Education Department was so staff friendly…)  Kylie, I have to ask, where do you get your inspiration? Your stained glass doors with dragons and fairies sound magical, so is your writing environment important to your creativity?

The windows are fantastic, aren’t they? I get lots of compliments from visitors. My friend, Robyn, a multi-skilled craftswoman, made them. We took weeks to get the designs just right and she spent almost four months making them. They’re beautiful! If I ever have to move from here they’re coming with me (lol)!

The inspiration for my stories are as varied as the stimulii that started me daydreaming. I find images very evocative, some pieces of music resonate, the lyrics of a song hit home, a type of character or scene from a movie or show captures my attention and I begin the game of what if?.

And yes, my writing environment is very important to me. I’ve made my home my ground-floor castle and have surrounded myself with all things from my genre. I have gargoyles guarding my garden (affectionately named Boo & Screech), terracotta figurines of fairies, castles, cats, magical wishing trees and dragons scattered around my garden, wind-chimes anywhere I can hang them.

Inside I have an office/library with shelves of romance/sci-fi/fantasy, reference books and my To Be Read Pile within easy reach, inspirational quotes posted on the walls and a large desk for my computer and associated writing paraphenalia. I burn incense and scented candles all the time when I’m writing, sometimes I play music and my lap top goes everywhere I go (except the bathroom).

Most importantly I have a Writer at Work-Do Not Disturb sign that I hang on my door when I work on my books. Most people now understand I’m serious about writing once I began making a habit of hanging that on my front door.

I might have to try hanging a sign up myself… Congrats on your impressive contest portfolio. You’ve had wins in The Clendon, The Emma Darcy, and the Valerie Parv award in 2009.  Well done! What do you think these contests have contributed to your writing and what advice would you give new authors embarking on the writing journey?

The Clendon Award

The Clendon Award

Thank you – 2009 was an amazing year. Hard to believe sometimes but I’m ecstatic to have achieved so many of my goals. I really wish my last goal of having Hugh Jackman accompany me to the awards dinner could have been realised – sigh – oh, well, there’s always this year, eh?

Yes, I do believe these contests have helped my craft. No doubt about it. I live in an isolated, rural village in NSW Australia (pop.203), so writers, particularly ones in my genre, are pretty rare in my neck of the woods. There are no writing groups, no crit partners within easy driving distance (at least until the RWA started the CP Scheme), so my main source of feedback came from competitions like The Clendon, The EDA, the VPA and Emerald.

When I get my scoresheets from a contest I analyse them to find common threads, positive and negative. Then if I think something could be improved or altered to make the story better I do it. The most valuable comments are those from judges who show me how to do something rather than just telling me – I’m a try-by-picking-apart-an-example-and-reconstructing-it instead of a big picture learner.

My advice for new writers – I’m taking a well used saying from the Clendon Award here and adding a bit –

* “Finish the damn book!” and do it over and over again.

* Write every day – on things to do with writing, not just your book. Keep your skills honed.

* Join a writing organisation (like Romance Writers of Australia or New Zealand or America) and go to their annual conferences. You get so much out of mixing with other writers.

* Don’t be afraid to enter competitions – you get so much value out of feedback once you get over the fear factor of putting your work out there.

* Learn about the industry by asking questions – of other writers, published authors, industry professionals.

* If you want to become a published writer be prepared to work hard, never say die, develop a thick skin, a ton of patience and a barrel-full of stubbornness. (I often think we writers are a masochistic lot, heh, heh!)

I love the motto on your website –“Perseverance, patience and pigheadedness; all good tools of a writer”.  I think we can all relate to them. (And maybe Hugh can make it to your Book Launch!) So where to for you now? How’s the mentorship with Valerie Parv going? Are you working on a new story?

I’m getting a shirt with that motto emblazoned on it one day! Want one?

Where to for me now? Well, that ties in with the question about Valerie. I’m only four months into the mentorship and can’t say just how amazing an opportunity this is. She’s been critiquing the manuscript that came 3rd in the VPA and I’ve been agreeing or wrestling with her suggestions and comments. Most times her advice has been spot on and I’m now rewriting bits and pieces and making the ms stronger.

I’ve also been drawing on her many years of experience and asking plenty of questions about the industry. It’s been invaluable and I have no doubt I’ll cry when the new VPA winner is announced (because I won’t want to lose her!)

January/February’s main focus will be hunting for a new agent. I’m also continuing to work on the ms with Valerie. I’ve spent the last couple of years writing fantasy romances and feel the need to get back to the sci-fi romance genre, so I’m going to start with the second book in my sf romance series.

Kylie, thanks so much for taking the time to visit – I love reading about other writer’s journeys. Everyone’s experience is so different and I guess that’s what makes our stories unique. I’m looking forward to seeing your books on a shelf soon. I’m sure there’s a wonderful agent waiting in the wings for you!

Helene, thanks for the opportunity to blog with you, you had some great questions.  I’ve really enjoyed visiting!

The Back Door Fairy!

The Back Door Fairy!

You can find Kylie at www.kyliegriffin.com. She’s a sf/f/paranormal romance writer disguised as a primary school teacher, living in a small village in outback New South Wales, Australia. Kylie shares her home with 3 cats – Splat, Pandaemonium and Furball. By day she teaches in a small 2 teacher school in rural NSW. But in the evenings, and wee small hours of the early morning, she creates fiery, feisty heroines and strong heroes who demand that their stories be told – whether it be in worlds futuristic or fantasy, on a spaceship or creature-back, the characters guarantee an adventure from the first page to the last.

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19 thoughts on “Kylie Griffin – Emerging writer (and RWA Contest Diva!)

  1. Jen, hello (wave), great to see you here! Robyn – the lady who made my windows is going to be so pleased when I tell her how many other writers liked her craftsmanship!

    Hi, Cath, glad you dropped by. I think I get that dogged dedication from my dad, we’re very much alike in these sorts of endeavours. 🙂

  2. This was an excellent interview. Loads of interesting titbits and advice.

    I really admire your dedication, Kylie, and have no doubt you’ll receive “the call” very soon.

    Wishing you all the very best for 2010.

    Thanks Helene and Kylie.

  3. good luck Kylie, I enjoyed reading about your writing career to date. It is fabulous to be so focussed . I have no doubt you will do well

  4. When I set my goals this year I took the hint about competitions, Helene, 🙂 and decided to hit the US circuit. Instead I’m helping out as a judge and co-coordinator of one of the RWA comps.
    You won’t find my name or mug up on the screen at the Awards dinner this year, guys, I promise!

  5. Giovanna, thanks for popping in – I’m really looking forward to heading across the ditch to see you all again in August!
    Hey, Karly! When I first got the dragon door installed I had locals dropping in – not to see me, but because they’d heard about the door! (lol) 🙂
    Mel, I believe any serious writer needs to set goals and work out how to achieve them, even if they don’t finish with the anticipated reward, the journey there can be more valuable.

  6. Welcome, Giovanna. Kylie has to get that ‘Call’ this year so some one else can have a shot at the contests!!

    Karly, thanks for dropping by – look forward to reading Fallout when WRP release it later this year! Very exciting year for you too!

  7. great questions Helene and equally wonderful answers Kylie!
    I love how you’ve set goals, focused on them and acheived them so well! 2009 might well have been your comp year, but 2010 is ‘the year kylie got published’ LOL!!!

  8. Hi Kylie and Helene- great interview.
    Kylie this year you’ll get the “Call”.
    Look forward to catch up with you in 2010!
    Thanks

  9. Hi, Fleur, thanks for visiting. I’m glad some of my advice was helpful – I always like to pass on as much help as I’ve been getting over the years. One good turn and all that…;-)

  10. Hi Kylie and Helene, what an interesting interview! I really enjoyed reading about your writing career to date. I hope you get ‘The Call’!

    I also think I might take some of your advice for writers… It’s so easy to fall by the way side, if you get out of your routine. Thanks for the inspiration guys!

  11. Helene, thanks again for the invite to visit your blog.
    Sharon, hi! Great to see you drop in and so early too! I was still curled up in bed at that time – one of the great things about this year off is being able to set your own timetable, and now that I’m not working a 4am rise goes by the wayside 🙂 .
    Yes, I do intend taking advantage of the time to write. I will have to get the whip out and start cracking it soon and set myself a more definite timetable or I’ll fall into the pottering around lifestyle I’ve enjoyed since school broke up. 🙂
    Thanks for dropping in.

  12. Kylie and Helene, great interview!
    All your answers were really interesting, Kylie, and there’s some fab advice for aspiring writers.
    Good luck with this year off that you’re taking. What a marvellous scheme and very sensible too because I imagine the teachers that take advantage of it find they stay fresher for the job. Do lots of writing and researching and filling up your muse with inspiration.
    🙂
    Sharon

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