Hello everyone! Happy Monday!
Today I am really excited to introduce to you another Independent Published author, one who is local to my area.
During the summer, an acquaintance between the two of us contacted me and informed me that this author was going to be having a book signing at one of our local museums. I made a special point of going to introduce myself, since he was only the third Indie Author I’d heard about in my area at the time. After meeting him, it did not take me long to figure out that we both had similar tastes in geekisms.
However, I am getting a little ahead of myself.
Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce author Dakota Kemp!
Yay! Mr. Kemp, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Do you have pets? Family?
I’m a twenty-four year old graduate student at Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford, OK. I’m a colossal geek who loves good science fiction and fantasy, and I spend most of my time stargazing, playing sports, reading, writing, and spending time with my friends and family. I get absurdly excited about good stories, and I love storytelling in any genre, whether in literature, in film, in video games, or even a good ol’ fashioned campfire tale. I have two lovely sisters (Kaitlin and Emilie) and an older brother (Kaleb), and all three do their best to keep me humble.
Hey, what are siblings for? Well... not that I would know. I'm the oldest in my sibling group and I make sure that my little siblings keep my ego well fed AND groomed. *wink*
when did you start writing, and why?
I started writing when I was about fourteen – mostly variations on the King Arthur legends – but eventually decided it was too time consuming and difficult for my delicate teenage disposition. That period of writing resulted in the early ideas and groundwork for the first novel I ever completed, The Arrival, so I like to think back on my early writing forays as much needed experience for my current writing attempts.
It was about eight years later during my junior year of college that I started seriously considering picking up writing again. I’d always wanted to write a novel, and in the summer preceding my senior year and much of the first semester, I wrote my debut novel, The Arrival.
My own childhood inspired much, if not most, of the story in my own novel. My novel had to go through a lot of malicious editing though, because I wrote the story during my "delicate teenage" years. *gags, shudders* Yeah. Ugly things that were not supposed to be there appeared in that story.
Well, anyway. Moving on! Do you write for a particular genre, or do you cross genres? If so, what is your favorite genre to write for?
I definitely cross genres. I’m interested in far too many topics, ideas, people, and theories to pigeonhole myself in a specific category. That being said, most of what I write is science fiction and fantasy, though I have written various short works that fall more in the mystery, drama, or non-fiction categories.
I have two books available at the moment – The Arrival, which is an epic, medieval fantasy, and Goddess, which is an action/adventure/romance science fiction novella.
Crossing genres are so much fun! It really just allows the imagination to go “BWAH! Lalalalalalalala! FruitLoopsTrippleDippedInDoubleWanka! Whoohoo!”
Ahem. Oookay... sorry about that.
So, are you a planner or a “pantser” – do you plan out your books meticulously or do you write by the seat of your pants?
A little of both, I suppose. I definitely lay down an in-depth, meticulous plan before actually beginning the writing stage, but I don’t shy away from opportune tangents or good ideas that strike me in the middle of a scene or chapter. Sure, those intuitive, lightning strike moments of inspiration may not fit well into the overall scheme, but then again, they might be the perfect touch I was searching for to bring out that special something in a character, scene, or plotline. I can always go back and remove the bits that don’t make sense or distract from the overall flow of a scene or plot. That’s what editing is for, after all.
Aha! So you are a schemer. Schemers are tricky folk who lay out a beautiful plan, then randomly begin to erase little bits of it when nobody is looking, thereby causing extreme chaos and mayhem! *squints at Dakota* I have my eye on you...
Well then... what do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write a little of everything. My two published works are firmly in the fantasy and science fiction categories respectively, but I enjoy frequently branching out to crime dramas, mysteries, non-fiction, and, yes, on great occasion, even romance. Though, of course, I try to incorporate many elements into any story I write, regardless of the ‘main category’ in which a work is written.
The music from Two Steps from Hell is awesome! Audiomachine is hard to beat though. But, when in doubt, always listen to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy music (it's my all time favorite).
So, is there a message conveyed within your writing?
To a certain extent. There is a great quote from one of my favorite books, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, in which a storyteller named Wit says: “The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.” In a nutshell, this is how I feel about conveying messages in my writing. That being said, I often try to show the diversity of life and of morals by portraying everything from the most selfless, faultless of qualities to the most base, revolting aspects of existence. I’ve always felt it important to explore every facet of life, not just the parts with which I agree or feel comfortable. Of course, I do love to champion the values and themes I was raised to believe in, such as love, courage, friendship, hope, forgiveness, perseverance, justice, personal sacrifice etc., but to ignore the viewpoints, experiences, and activities with which I don’t agree would be to disregard a large portion of the imperfect, mistake-ridden, rollercoaster ride called life.
I absolutely agree with you. Because of the “imperfections” of life, there is always room for improvement. If you take those same imperfections away from a story and characters, what is there left to improve?
That is the rumor I’ve heard as well *whistles innocently*. However, I must back up and say that I do not think it is narcissistic of you to take pride in your hard work. I believe there are better words to describe it: gratification, satisfaction, conceit, egotism…
Anyway… Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books?
It depends on the book, honestly. Most of my stories take place in fictional worlds that I created from scratch, so I think it’s probably fair to say that I do much more research than the average writer to make certain that my worlds, cultures, peoples, characters, etc. appear realistic. That being said, I’m still creating my own worlds, which means I have the option to make stuff up or ignore reality if I feel like it.
That is the reason I love fantasy so much. I can input stuff that I know and stuff that I learn, but the rest of it I leave for the imagination to gnaw on.
I feel much the same way. Of course, there will always be the Nazi’s out there that will find SOMETHING wrong. But if indie authors wish to have a good reputation among the masses, then pro editing is a key part of building that good rep.
What was your experience with getting your book published? How did you start out? Did you have help?
I started out by applying to agents and publishing houses. However, it wasn’t long before I realized that the traditional publishing industry is incredibly exclusive. Being a good writer and storyteller just isn’t enough. You have to know people. The right people. If you don’t, you have next to no chance of being picked up. You have a better chance of being struck by lightning. I sent queries and applications to over seventy agents and publishing houses, and I never found a single person willing to read my manuscript. I’m an impatient person, and I quickly tired of the gatekeeping game. Luckily, I have great mentors, and when I announced that I was going the self-publishing route, they were more than willing to help out. Dr. Gaydosik, my literature professor, was instrumental in helping me get my manuscript for The Arrival ready for print.
I personally had no hope of ever becoming a published author. I felt like I could blow up a sun and not get a traditional publisher or agent to look my way, and all the “vanity” publishing companies charged an arm and a leg just for printing (they still do)! Thank God a couple of local authors pointed me to CreateSpace.
Did/do you find marketing difficult? What strategy do you use, if any?
Marketing is difficult, but it’s essential. Self-publishing is playing the long game, building a base of readers and fans slowly over time. Keep putting out solid work, making it visible and accessible, and you’ll see a gradual increase in readership and interest. I make sure to appear occasionally at book signings to promote my work, spread the word about my books on my website and on social media, and on great occasion set up promotions on Kindle Nation Daily or Bookbub.
Can you explain
A fact of life: people want to relate to people. People do NOT want to relate to trolls.
Yes. That was random. Do not worry, the first one is free.
If you have more than one published work, which book or series was your favorite to create?
Seriously, Fogleman? That’s like asking me to choose between my children…if I had any…which I don’t.
But in all sincerity, I’ve had good days and bad days on every project, but I’ve felt the same about them all at the end – proud to show off to the world, relieved to be finished, terrified of a crushingly negative response by my readers, and utterly exhausted and just ready to pass out for awhile. Pretty much exactly like parenthood, right?
Yeah. Just by having to help raise my siblings, I'd say that "parenting" and "authoring" are almost the same thing: teething, growing pains, sleepless nights, sad days, happy memories… diapers… minus the smell.
Wouldn't give it up for the world!
If you could change anything in an existing book, or series, of yours, what would it be?
Mostly it would be nitpicky things. There’s an old saying that a novel can be best described as a long piece of prose with something wrong with it. There have always been and will always be small things I feel I can improve upon in my novels, no matter how long I nitpick at them. But there comes a time when you’ve got to release it and move on. I eventually get around to that, but it’s never easy.
Ugh. Yeah. There have been several times lately where I have looked at The Dragons Son, groaned, then closed my eyes and forced myself to walk away. It is a FIRST book for a reason, after all.
Well, what is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
Both The Arrival and Goddess came out this past year. The Arrival is the first book in my Ascension fantasy series, which I’ve projected to encompass four novels. Goddess is the first in The Shrike Chronicles, a series of science fiction novellas (short novels).
At the moment, I’m working on two different projects. One is a steampunk/sword-and-sorcery novel, and the other is the second installment in The Shrike Chronicles. Both are coming along well, and I’m estimating that I’ll have them both published around July or August, perhaps sooner.
YAY! You must let me know, so that I can buy signed copies.
Is there any project you started and are just completely stuck on? (No, don’t tell me… let me guess… *wink, wink*)
Oh, yes. Too many to count, which is when I set aside that project for a week or a month or a year and I work on something else. Then, when I come back to said project, I’m usually bursting with enthusiasm to get on with the story!
If I were paid for my unfinished stories, I would be bloody rich right now. I could afford my own Batmobile. *heavy sigh*
Tell us a little about the world of your latest or favorite book or series.
The Arrival takes place in the medieval fantasy world of Vrold. It’s a world filled with magic and adventure and myths and all kinds of extraordinary creatures. I drew inspiration for the world of Vrold from all my favorite mythologies (Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Hebrew, Mesopotamian, etc.) and from the King Arthur legends. Vrold is really like a giant melting pot into which all the best fantasy creatures, races, monsters, and magics have been poured.
I've enjoyed reading and learning about mythology since I was a child, and I have a lot of fun seeing how people twist it into stories, such as you have done in The Arrival.
So, would you introduce us to some of your characters? What do you like about them?
The Arrival has many characters – certainly too many for me to go over in detail here – but the some of the main protagonists include a determined sorceress who is playing detective to unravel the mysteries behind a destructive war, an excitable history teacher turned investigator, a conflicted mercenary who is at some times brutal and at others kind, and a peasant boy bent on adventure.
Sounds like the perfect mixture of people for an explosion of grandeur! Do you have a favorite character among the many in your book? Why?
My favorite character in The Arrival is probably Jarwulf. There is just something incredibly fun in writing about a character who resides in the moral gray area – both in the readers’ minds and his own. A mercenary is the perfect place to explore the concepts of morality because ethical dilemmas crop up so often and in such extreme circumstances.
I have been working on a character in my second book who is "morally challenged" as well. It has been a lot of fun to write him, but he has also been really hard to work with because he can be so mean and unpredictable.
Do you have a character you hate/dislike? Why?
Not exactly – not really for their qualities, anyway. Korrigan might get on my nerves in real life, though. People who never stop talking drive me crazy. And people who are cheery about everything? Yep, being around Korrigan would likely be like banging my head on a desk all day.
Other than that, there were certainly characters about whom I had a tough time writing, because they were just difficult to write. They didn’t flow as easily as others.
Those characters who don’t move with the flow are really aggravating *glares at Keegan, hero of The Dragons Son*.
Are your characters ever based on real people?
Not entirely. Often I put certain attributes from people I know into characters, but I rarely make carbon copies. For instance, Barlgruuf talks, laughs, gestures, smiles, and does everything else imaginable very loudly – just like my friend David Schoenhals. Is Barlgruuf just like David? Nope. For one, Barlgruuf’s morals are about fifty times looser than David’s. But is Barlgruuf loud because David is loud? Absolutely. I specifically based that part of Barlgruuf on my friend.
Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off?
I haven’t…yet. Can’t say I haven’t considered it. My youngest sister, Emilie, who hates gerunds in English grammar, has often pushed for me to name a character Gerund – then, kill him off in the most gruesome way possible. People, though? You know, I can definitely see myself going that far…
I agree with your sister. Kill off those nasty gerunds! Make them evil minions of darkness that talk funny (ending every word in “ing”) and then kill them in horrible ways.
Anyway, back to the interview: what formats are your books available in (E-book, print, large print, audio)? Are you intending to expand these?
Both The Arrival and Goddess are available in paperback and on kindle as an e-book on amazon.com. I don’t have any audio or large print versions out unfortunately. Getting an audio book released would take some doing, but it’s definitely a good idea.
Yes. Audiobook = good idea.
Give us a fun/silly fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
When I’m at a point in my life that I have the time, I often spend as much as fifteen hours a week stargazing. I can spend hours and hours outside looking at the stars on a clear night. It’s as much of a time for me to reflect and think as it is for me to take part in an enjoyable activity.
That is excellent advice… advice that I must (reluctantly) put into use very soon on my second book. *cringes at the thought*
Well, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, Mr. Kemp! I have thoroughly enjoyed it!
For the rest of you reading this, I and Dakota would GREATLY appreciate it if you shared this interview with your friends, checked out Dakota Kemp’s books, and perhaps left a comment. I have a few sweet dragons at the “exit” button with really big teeth who will inquire whether you’ve showed this to your friends…
Where you can find Dakota:
Dakota’s Books: The Arrival, Goddess
Author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion,she returns to this world just to play with her dog and blog about her fun.
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