Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Carol Kilgore and In Name Only

Hello, friends!  Back, and I will give you the scoop tomorrow. Looking a lot like a lean August in terms of blogging, as I have another break near the end of the month, but there you have it. TODAY, I am hosting my friend Carol Kilgore, who I had the pleasure to meet in person just over a year ago. She is delightful, friendly, and what's more, she has written a FABULOUS book.  So in honor of her release, I've interviewed her...

Without further ado, Welcome Carol!

Tart:  So you did a FANTASTIC job across the board, plot, characters, setting... what inquiring minds want to know is where you STARTED?  Which of these seeds of genius came to you first and how did you build from there?

Carol:  Thanks so much for having me here. And thanks for the kind words. You're so witty, I'm not sure I can keep up, but I'll try. Right now I'm trying to keep a straight face over "seeds of genius." Somehow I missed those during the writing.

The character of Summer Newcombe had stuck with me from a previous short story titled "Never Say My Name." I wanted to pick up her life five years later inside WitSec and plop her down near where I was living at the time, which was on the South Texas Coast. What better place than Padre Island!

So characters came first, then setting. Plot came last. I didn't know what Summer would find on Padre except an older man, a sexy firefighter, and trouble. The original plot looked a lot like Swiss cheese. I didn't see the holes, but the excellent editor for this book, Helen Ginger at Straight from Hel, spotted all of them. My mission was set before me, and one by one, I filled each hole. The story grew stronger until the last hole was filled and In Name Only was complete.

Tart:  Okay, now and this is because I really want to learn how to do this and you did it SO WELL on your freaking DEBUT (yes, I'm impressed as heck). Did you do anything special to learn the THRILLER pacing?  Because you really got it. Did you read any 'how to's or read a certain kind of book, or use a certain checklist?

Carol:  Ummm…no. But I'm happy you think I did a good job. I think it's the way my brain works. Mixed with all the thrillers I've read. All I wanted was to tell a story that would keep the reader turning pages to see what happens next. I have read enough writing how-to books and articles to know that the first priority is to invest the reader in the characters, so that was my main goal. Then each time I could think of a problem or calamity or fear to add, I dumped it on them.

At the end of each section and chapter, I tried to have a problem for the character or a question planted in the reader's mind. Then I switched to a different viewpoint character so the problem or question wasn't resolved or even dealt with immediately. This is another way to build suspense and keep the tension high.

Tart:  So is Gabe really your dream hunka hunka?  Or did you more specifically match him to Summer?  Do you really have a hand fetish? (he WAS pretty dreamy... who can resist a hot fireman?)  

Carol:  Laughing I wanted to write about a firefighter. Their calendars inspired me, but I also wanted to know the man behind the hunk. South Texas is heavily Hispanic, with many residents descendants of settlers who lived there before Texas achieved independence from Mexico, and I wanted to show the Mexican influence. What better way to do that without interfering with Summer's story than with a hunky firefighter. And his father.

My personal hunka hunka has blue eyes and freckles, but he is tall. And has the best hands EVER! So it's possible I may have a mini hand fetish. Just sayin'. I do look at men's hands when I meet them. Eyes first, hands second. Some hands are hunky, like Gabe's. And some hands really put me off. It's a feeling. Hope that's not TMI!

Tart:  And I could tell you did a fair amount of research—arson, witness protection, firearms... did you mostly approach friends? Or did you cold call people you thought might be good sources?  (or friends of friends?)--how did you find all your resources and approach them?

Carol:  I LOVE research. I have to make myself stop researching and start writing – only to have to stop to research something else. Or so it seems. I had some ideas about the arsonist, and had begun constructing his character. I asked on a writers group if anyone had contacts who were firefighters or would talk to be about basic firefighting techniques and about arson investigation. I received a few replies. One of them was from a writer/psychologist who wanted to know about my arsonist and how I was putting him together. "By the seat of my pants," was my answer. Turns out I had some of it right, but not all. She answered questions and provided a basic psychological profile for an arsonist that let me add many kinky details to the novel's resident arsonist.

Little was forthcoming from the U.S. Marshals Service about the Federal Witness Security Program. And despite all my Google searches, no men in black showed up at my door. I think both of those things are good! So I used my imagination.

I'm a believer in cold calling and cold emailing. The worst that can happen is they never respond, say no, or hang up on you. The hanging up part once happened to me with a sheriff's office when I was researching a different story. So I made their deputy a dirty cop in that story. In this story, I cold called the Corpus Christi Fire Department and met two really great firefighters who filled me in on how their department operates.

I knew a little about firearms and learned more from another writing friend. For this story, I took a basic shooting class, asked a lot of questions, and shot a lot of different guns. Turns out I don't like those little semi-automatics like Summer's Beretta. I like the big full-size-oh-yeah-baby Glock. And I have a decent aim. I'm thinking we probably need to keep all this secret and not tell the psychologist who helped me with the arsonist.

Tart:  Okay, I want to change modes a little here and talk about your publishing decision and process. Am I seeing this right? You self published?  Honestly, and this is a HUGE compliment to you, I was surprised because your quality is SO HIGH... I mean I know some self pubbed IS, but most of it I've seen has some typos or oddities, and your book was really clean. What was behind your self-publishing decision and what did you do to ensure the quality you got? (hire an editor? Buy one of the CreateSpace packages?)

Carol:  I'm glad you were impressed. When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew I was not qualified to do everything myself. I began with Elizabeth Spann Craig's Ebook Services Directory and branched out from there. The book had already been through a developmental edit and a line edit, so I searched for a cover designer, proofreader, and formatter. I made long lists for each, crossed off names, and queried the names that were left. I read a lot of articles and blog posts by other self-published authors and asked a lot of questions. A LOT of questions! From my queries, I found people I liked and trusted. They deserve all the credit for a clean book with a great layout and a kickass cover!

Tart:  And one of the things self-publishing sort of allows for that traditional tends NOT to, is putting out a few close together. Do you have more books in the queue fairly soon? Or are you taking this one at a time?

Carol:  I'm in-between. I plan to release another book in either March or April. My work on the writing is complete – it's been written and edited. And my cover/proof/format peeps have a heads-up. I hope to move forward in the fall and have a cover by the end of the year. So that's like a 8-9 month span between books. I would love to pump out four books a year. Sadly, I don't write that fast, and I spend quite a bit of time on promotion.

Tart:  And finally, what are you working on now? Are you sticking with the same (or similar genre)?  Tell us a little about your current projects.

Carol:  The book that will release in early spring is SOLOMON'S COMPASS. In it, U.S. Coast Guard Commander Taylor Campbell returns to the Texas Coast to handle her uncle's estate and becomes his killer's next target. When she learns the mysterious Jake Solomon is not the man he's portrayed himself to be, Taylor takes matters into her own hands to find her uncle's killer. Jake has other plans.

After SOLOMON'S COMPASS, the next book is SECRETS OF HONOR. It's written but not yet edited. I hope to release this book in Fall 2013, but that's not yet a firm timeframe.

My current WIP is AMAZING GRACIE, the first book in a series about San Antonio Police Detective Grace Hofner. Although Gracie is a detective, the story is not a procedural. This novel is still very much a work in progress.

All of these books are Crime Fiction with a Kiss. All have crimes; all have a romance.

Tart Note:  High recommendation to read... Here is what I posted on it at Amazon and Goodreads:

This story had a fabulous pace, a tightly woven plot, and well developed characters that kept pulling me back to reading, even when I was supposed to be doing other things.

Summer Newcombe is having to start over. Again. She does that a lot as someone in the witness protection program, but when she finds herself on Padre Island in the Gulf there are several things that make her wish she could finally just settle down and stay somewhere. Unfortunately, her past is still right on her tail.

I really think this is a fabulous debut and look forward to more from the author.

Book blurb:  No home. No family. No place to hide. For Summer Newcombe, that's only the beginning.

The night Summer escapes from a burning Padre Island eatery and discovers the arsonist is stalking her, is the same night she meets Fire Captain Gabriel Duran. As much as she's attracted to Gabe, five years in the Federal Witness Security Program because of her father’s testimony against a mob boss have taught her the importance of being alone and invisible.

No matter how much she yearns for a real home, Summer relinquished that option the night she killed the man who murdered her father. But Gabe breaks down her guard and places both of them in danger. Summer has vowed never to kill again, but she's frantic she'll cost Gabe his life unless she stops running and fights for the future she wants with the man she loves.

Brief biography:  Carol Kilgore is a Texas native who has lived in locations across the U.S. as the wife of a Coast Guard officer. Back under the hot Texas sun in San Antonio, Carol writes a blend of mystery, suspense, and romance she calls Crime Fiction with a Kiss. She and her husband share their home and patio with two active herding dogs, and every so often the dogs let them sit on the sofa.

Learn more about Carol and follow her here:
Amazon Link:


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hart!! Welcome back. You were missed.
Carol, if you were inspired to write about firefighters after looking at a calendar, is it all right if I write about women's beach volleyball after watching the Olympics?
Can't wait to read your book!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I've bought your book, Carol, and I'm looking forward to reading it! You inspired me with your fearless approach to research. I'm always terrified to do cold calling research, but you're right--all they can do is hang up on us!

Old Kitty said...

Yay for a most NAKED interview of the fabulous and naughty Carole! LOL! She's lovely!! I like how the characters come first before the plot - I can so relate to this. I imagine favourite characters but haven't a clue what to do with them! LOL!!

All the best Carole!!

p.s. scoop!!? What scoop!?!?

Take care

Alison DeLuca said...

The book sounds fantastic, and I am impressed with all the research! Good for you, and best of luck. I'm adding it to my TBR list!

Hart Johnson said...

Alex-I think you should got for that! Make it an inter-space volleyball league!

Elizabeth-I'm with you--those cold calls terrify me! (and yes... it's irrational)

Kitty-*giggles* Naughty Carol. I love it. I'm sure you can find a story for your characters!

Alison-YAY! Sold!

Linda G. said...

Great interview! IN NAME ONLY is smoking up my Kindle, just waiting until I can find breathing space to read it. Can't wait!

Carol Kilgore said...

Alex - Absolutely!

Elizabeth - Go for it!

Old Kitty - You're so sweet :) Thank you!

Alison - Thanks! Nice to meet you :)

Linda G - I know exactly about breathing space.

Carol Kilgore said...

Hart - Thanks so much for hosting me here. I loved meeting you last year, too. This was a fun interview!

Stephen Tremp said...

Welcome back! Having someone's past chasing a character is a great way to keep the story moving forward. Good luck to Carol and In Name only!

Ciara said...

Welcome back, Hart!

Hunk + Firefighter = must read! :)

Teresa Coltrin@Journaling Woman said...

Hart and Carol, great interview.
Hart, it is good to have you back.

Carol, you are awesome. Your book is on my TBR stack--toward the top. :)


Hart Johnson said...

Linda-Man, I hear you about that TBR pile! And then I am terrible about being sucked off on a tangent in addition...

Carol-You have great answers! And I love your thriller advice!

Stephen-it IS, isn't it!?

Ciara-you won't be sorry!

Teresa-thank you!

Medeia Sharif said...

I'm reading Carol's book now. It is well-written and well-edited. :) I also love the cover.

Johanna Garth said...

Welcome back Hart!

Carol, I think I'm going to download your book for our end of summer vacation. Can't wait to read it!

Carol Kilgore said...

Stephen - Thanks for the good luck wishes!

Ciara - Of course :)

Teresa - Cool :) Thank you.

Medeia - Thank you. Enjoy!

Johanna - Great news! Thanks.

Arlee Bird said...

Hart, what better way to return from a hiatus than with Carol and her new book. Great getting new insight from you, Carol, and as I've said before I'm wishing you great success with this.

Tossing It Out

CarrieBoo said...

Wow, what an awesome interview. This is definitely on my reading list (only a click away). ;) Very impressed at how you research, Carol, and push the boat out on creating a polished product. Very thorough. I like it!

nutschell said...

Hey Carol! *waves* Hi hart! *waves again*. loved this interview. I usually start out with a concept, so I was curious to find out that the character came first for you , Carol ;)


Carol Kilgore said...

Arlee - Thanks so much. I love good wishes :)

CarrieBoo - I get a little OCD about some things, and producing the best product I can is one of them. I wish I could have done it all, but I know my limits. So I invested in myself :)

Nutschell - Sometimes it's the character, sometimes the concept. Rarely is it setting or plot. Solomon's Compass came from a dream, although the finished product contains only one element from that dream. And that element is altered.

Lynda R Young said...

Great interview. I laughed out loud when I read how you made the deputy a dirty cop in a story because of their lack of help. The revenge of a writer!

michelle said...

What a great interview!
Carol, I'm impressed at the amount of research you put in!

Carol Kilgore said...

Lynda - I wanted to send them a copy of the anthology with a sticky that said 'Remember me?' but I figured that might be too much, LOL. Revenge is SO sweet :)

Michelle - I like to make sure all the facts are right so when I weave in the fiction it feels more real for the reader.

Madeleine Maddocks said...

I agree another for the TBR list. Impressed with the research too it makes so much difference. Congrats Carol and well done for the great interview Tart

Clarissa Draper said...

Carol, I thought the thriller parts in the book were very well done. There was a scene where she had to sneak into the villain's house for something she left behind that had me on the edge of my seat.

Shelley Munro said...

Those firemen calendars are certainly inspirational! Down my end of the world it's scantily clad rugby players.
I enjoyed learning more about you and your writing process, Carol.

Carol Kilgore said...

Madeleine - Thanks. Research makes a huge difference in the kinds of things you can include in the story.

Clarissa - My sister liked that scene, too :)

Shelley - Ooh...I see I need to research rugby :)

Helena said...

Per usual, I a day late (or two days late) and a dollar short. Sorry, Carol and Hart, but the last couple days have been frenetic for me so I'm only now getting around to blogs. OF COURSE In Name Only is on my to read list, especially since it's a thriller. I like that you started with a character and the plot came later; for me that's a sign of good writing 'cause then a character isn't invented to serve the plot, which then never really works.

Carol Kilgore said...

Helena - I have a lot of frenetic days, too, so no worries. Character or the concept/premise nearly always comes first with me.