I just finished reading Cat Girl’s Day Off, the latest funny and clever novel by Kimberly Pauley and am thrilled that she’s agreed to an interview. A little background, Kimberly and I are on the same listserve for the Midsouth chapter of SCBWI, and her first novel, Sucks to Be Me, immediately caught my attention. It came out during the height of the Twilight craze when it seemed that every YA writer and her mother was writing a vampire book. But Sucks to Be Me, besides having a catchy title, stood out from the pack with its funny, irreverent perspective on what happens when main character Mina discovers that her parents are undead. Like, teen/parent relationships aren’t complicated enough! (Side note that has nothing to do with anything and will possibly cause Kimberly to think I am a loon, but I absolutely LOVE her author photo. I have been stressing about author photos lately—which will be a subject for another blog, I promise—and saw Kimberly’s on the back flap of Cat Girl's and am totally inspired.)
Kimberly: I actually wrote Sucks to Be Me in 2005 before Twilight came out that October. Just goes to show you how long it took to find it a home and get it produced. Oh, and the picture of me in my orange hat? I just took that myself! It was my Kentucky Derby hat (we used to live in Louisville, which was how I wound up on the MidSouth list).
Jody: I lived in Lexington for ten years, which is how I ended up on that list. Nice to see our mutual Kentucky connection! But Kimberly, before we get started, I’ve got to give a shout out to Cat Girl’s Day Off. For my blog readers, it’s about a girl who can communicate with cats, something she doesn’t particularly like to share with people. She’s got a strange family with freaky talents of their own. And two misfitty friends who are beyond thrilled that a movie is being filmed at their school. Throw in a quirky mystery about an imposter (and her cat) and lots of fun references to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking: where do you get your ideas?
Kimberly: Everywhere. Watching people on the street. Staring off into space (I do this a lot). Seriously, ideas are never my problem. I have ideas ALL THE TIME. It's the getting your butt in a chair and finishing a book thing that takes time. I don't think I'll ever run out of ideas.
Jody: Yeah, setting the butt in the chair—that's the tough part of this job. No matter how long you’ve been writing, it doesn’t seem to get any easier, does it? Speaking of, how many books did you write before you got your first book deal? And I guess the corollary to that is how many rejections did you get along the way?
Kimberly: Sucks to Be Me was actually the first book I finished. I did have 2 others that were half-finished (and may or may not ever see the light of day again). As far as rejections, I stopped counting those. Still get 'em! It's not really worth keeping track of. I'm trying to just focus on the positive instead. It's a hard enough business without dwelling on the rejections! (But, yes, there were a lot!)
Jody: Well, that makes me feel infinitely better. (I’m sorta the rejection queen, not that I keep track either. Too depressing.) Okay, once you decide on an idea for a book, how do you start? Do you see yourself as a make-stuff-up-as-you-go type or an outline ahead/planning person?
Kimberly: Kind of in-between. I generally do an outline, but it's not super detailed. In the last book I finished (currently out with my agent), I didn't keep much of an outline at all, so it was a bit more of a "make it up" book than I'm used to. It was kind of fun, but also a little disconcerting. The one I'm working on now I'm kind of in-between again...thinking about trying out the notecard thing again.
Jody: Can you expand on that?
Kimberly: The notecard thing? Well, I'll basically just write down what the scene is (I often think about books in the sense of time and organize my outlines accordingly). Once you have all your scenes down, you can scramble them up and re-order them as needed. The chapter headers in Cat Girl obviously make use of a timestamp -- those were originally for me as I was writing, but they wound up staying in.
Kimberly: It depends on whether my son is in for a full day at school or a half day! If I'm having a real writing day (one of his full days), I try to go out to a non-Wi-Fi'd cafe and work there (with the obligatory coffee or tea). When I'm actively writing I try to get in at least a 1000 words. A really good day for me is 3000 words.
Jody: Wow. I’m lucky if I can manage 1500. 3000 words….
Kimberly: I should add that a 3000-word day for me isn't common! That's a really good day!
Jody: Well, I’m bowing down to you, anyway. And this, with a young child. My kids are much older and I still feel pulled in lots of different directions. How do you do it-- balance your writing time with your other obligations?
Kimberly: Terribly. The same as most people, I imagine. I tend to go in spurts. Like today I wanted to get some writing done but it was a half day for my son and I wound up doing laundry, setting up Dr. appointments, paying bills, etc. etc. until the morning was gone. Then I'll have days when I get a lot of writing stuff done and no household stuff. Right now is a bit hard because it's important to do promotional things for the book that just came out and so I'm getting in less writing than normal as I do other things.
Jody: What kinds of promotional things?
Kimberly: I have a Facebook fan page (and one for my latest book that my publisher set up as well), a Twitter (KimberlyRPauley), Pinterest (that's new), MySpace (that's old and I barely use it, but it's there), a website, a blog, a newsletter... I do blog tours, Skype video chats, hold contests, mail out signed bookplates and bookmarks...Always trying something new and always looking for something to try! It's a big, wild and wooly world out there and it's hard to get noticed in all the noise, especially when self-promotion doesn't come naturally (or easily).
Jody: Yikes! That sounds like a lot of stuff to deal with. One more question and I’ll let you get back to it. Lately, with all the attention on e-books, it seems that more and more writers are foregoing the traditional publishing route and self-publishing. What’s your take on that?
Kimberly: I really don't know. Ten years ago I would have turned my nose up at it. But now, things are changing. It's really hard to say what things are going to look like in a few years. But, no matter what route someone takes...it's not easy.
Jody: Very true. Well, thanks so much Kimberly for chatting with me. Looking forward to seeing what stories you come up with next, but oh, I have to ask—is there a Cat Girl’s Two in the works?
Kimberly: Not yet. At the moment I have another book finished and out on submission (it's a more serious book) and I'm working on a book that's kind of mid-way in-between -- not totally serious, but not exactly split-your-sides funny either. If Cat Girl does well enough, there will hopefully be a second book! I'd really like to see that as I love the characters (especially Oscar and PD) and also because any further books in my first series (Sucks to Be Me) effectively got canceled when that publisher decided to go back to their core books (D&D) and not publish any non D&D fantasy anymore. It would be nice to have one go on.