Author Hill Kemp is a former Texas State Representative. Though his first novel, Capitol Offense, is a political thriller, he recently teamed up with his seven-year old granddaughter to write a children's chapter book, Lucky Penny. In this interview, Kemp talks about his books, writing habits, and offers some writing advice.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I wish. I didn’t start writing until I was 55! Now I can’t get enough. Where was this almost compulsive writer all those years? I’ve gain, grown and taken flight since I opened up to writing.
Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?
Lucky Penny from Guardian Angel Publishing is the joint work of me and my 7th grade granddaughter, Siena. The conflict in this tweener novel came right out of her experience in 4th grade. But Siena was truly the inspiration for Lucky Penny. She’s an avid reader and wanted to read my first novel, Capitol Offense, but we decided against that for a 9-year-old. So Siena and I built characters, used her experience and Lucky Penny is the result. The book highlights both the importance of friends and friendship and how it takes investment to sustain.
Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style? Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?
I write in bursts, stream-of-consciousness style. My books play out in my head like movies. My outline for a 100,000 word novel might have 12 or 15 major nodes with nothing listed under them. Only the major flow. Before any fiction, I write pages and pages on the main character(s) to get them fully three dimensional – almost a life history. Then I put them on the stage at the first ‘node’ and away we go. My characters are rich enough that they added 5 chapters in the first 40 in a novel I just completed. Writing a page or so each day doesn’t work for me. I try to block out a whole day (and night?) and get inside my story and go. Probably 5–7,000 words in a burst.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?
My website is www.capitoloffense.com
What are you working on now?
I am working with my publisher to get the final shaping of A Lone Star Special , the sequel to my first novel Capitol Offense. I am part way through ghostwriting the memoir of a person who wants her whole story out now that the Statutes of Limitation have expired. People from five other states want me to do their state legislature the way I did Texas in Capitol Offense. I have my native Louisiana already framed and that will be my next project barring other interventions.
Where are your books available?
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., my website.
Any special marketing strategies you’d like to share?
Most of the money I’ve made selling books has been to impulse buyers at the entry of Kroger grocery stores. Over $20K. I have the option to sell in Kroger stores anywhere in the 105 cities where they are the dominant grocer. I just need writers in those cities. Anybody in Cincinnati?
What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
Read, read, read any and everything you can find even close to your planned work. That old saw about write about what you know is mostly on target. Read the foundational book The Writer’s Journey. Try to remember that persistence stands almost equally with talent in actually getting a book into print. 80% of all books published are non-fiction. The average sales per published book is 200!(so don’t quit your day-job) Be open to let the writing process teach you, open you, scare you and inspire you.
Who are your favorite authors?
Grisham, Dick Fancis, Maeve Binchy
What is the best advice on writing you've ever received?
Never send out anything that has not been edited by an editor (not you).
Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
My inspiration quote by C. D. Lewis: “Do not write to be understood. Write to understand.” I gained a father I’d totally lost out of my fledgling writing effort.