For this week’s blog post, I interviewed June Kramin, author of numerous books including the fast-paced romantic suspense story, I Got Your Back, Hailey; a time-travel romance series, Dustin Time; a sweet romance series, Money Didn’t Buy Her Love; and Hunter's Find, a suspense-thriller series. June answers questions about the writing process, where she finds her inspiration, and self-publishing versus traditional publishing. She’s a hoot, so I’ll step out of the way and let her inform and entertain you!
What typically comes first for you, a character or a story/plot idea?
With the exception of my last release, I Got Your Back, Hailey, all of my novels have been inspired by one simple idea, and the rest of the story poured out from there. Twist and turns happen that I never would have imagined, people show up and “wow” me with who they turn out to be.
For I Got Your Back, Hailey, the name Parker Peters (yes, Spiderman in reverse, of all things) came to my mind, and I was determined to write a character with that name. I wish I could tell you where the story came from. Double Mocha, Heavy on Your Phone Number came about when I kept envisioning hitting a pedestrian at a certain stop sign for weeks. I wish these were the oddest inspirations. ;)
When writing a novel, do you write an outline first or dive in and wing it?
“Wing it” is an extremely nice term. “By the seat of my ass” is more like it. My characters are extreme bullies and definitely run the show. I write until free time is over then close out for the day. When I go back, I read the last page I wrote and carry on. I’ve never struggled with how to get from A to Z because they seem to know what they are doing. Only once did I think I had a plan, but I was quickly put in my place.
I used to frequent a few writer forums. This was an ongoing argument with writers. Some will say you have no idea what you are doing without an outline, while others say that’s when you know your story is on the right track. I guess everyone has to do what works for them. I’m okay with surprises, and my family is used to hearing me shout things like, “I told you not to ____, but did you listen to me? Nooooo!” And, “You could have told me you played the piano ten chapters ago!”
How many drafts do you usually write?
There are not really specific drafts. I write continually from that opening idea, straight though until the end, then go back and read it again when I think it’s about “done.” When I’m writing, so much flies at me at once, and I need to just keep going for fear I’ll lose it. I like my novels to hit that eighty-thousand word mark. My initial process usually lands me at seventy thousand or so. The rest fills in with adding the details I missed in my haste to get all the thoughts down. I sometimes jump ahead and add an idea at a new chapter, but I tend to just keep plugging forward. Then it’s shampoo, rinse, repeat at least twenty times. OK, thirty.
What's the one thing you struggle with most when writing (e.g., writing good dialogue, plot pacing, grammar and punctuation, character development)?
Since I don’t argue with my characters, my stories just flow, so I don’t ever see that as a problem. I actually love writing dialogue. My characters are always sassy, so that’s fun for me to write. I love a quick banter. I have a lot of LOL moments when I re-read, wondering where that came from. I’ve never had the infamous “writer’s block” because I have no expectations of where things will go; I let it happen.
Hands down, my issues are the nitpicky grammar rules. I got straight A's in English, but that was a hundred years ago. Having worked with three different small presses, I know a lot of rules are “house specific.” It’s a little frustrating that there are “sometimes” rules for things but it’s not always black and white. No disrespect to any of the houses I’ve been with—I loved them all and have learned a lot along the way—but I have to say (and I’m not just sucking up because this is Erica’s blog) that I have gotten the best editing with her with my last release. She threw things at me that I had honestly no clue about. Parallelism error, Erica? Seriously? LOL! I should be embarrassed, but then I wouldn’t be me. I’m grateful to have the wisdom of someone like her to fix the nitpicky rules so my characters and I can focus on the story.
What things should an author consider when deciding whether to go with traditional or self-publishing?
When I first started out, I did things the way I’d heard they should be. Do your time, query your fanny off to agents, get rejections, suck it up, and try some more. When that didn’t work, I tried a small press and was thrilled with an acceptance on the first try. I had no clue that going that route meant the whole dream as I knew it (Barnes & Noble shelf) wouldn’t be happening. I didn’t realize that editors at small publishing houses were sometimes interns. I didn’t grasp the concept of “e-book first” and impatiently waited to hold an actual print copy. I didn’t know about print-on-demand (POD) books and that my books would be spendy. All I knew was that I had gotten an “I want this book!” from someone and my head drifted into the clouds.
With what I’ve learned over the years (seventeen books later), I certainly wouldn’t do the agent search again. I wouldn’t turn down a big fat advance or a movie contract, but from what I’ve read about agents I once respected, I don’t like how writers are treated at all. The term “herd of cattle to be culled” just does not sit well with me. Not enough publishers seem to have a writer’s best interests in mind, so that’s not as appealing as it used to be.
I never wanted to be self-published and swore I would never take that route, but I am honestly happier now than I have been since this whole game/career/insanity started. I’ve regained the rights to a few of my novels and have re-edited and re-released them. Again, I’m getting better editing now that I’m hiring it out. I loved my friends for the five-star reviews they gave me and for loving my first story, but a one-star from a stranger for typos made me want to curl up and cry. She was a meanie, but a correct meanie. I had a publisher—I thought I was getting great edits.
I know self-pubbing has some bad stigmas attached to it and some are deserved by the few that rush the process in their eagerness to get their book out there. But many self-published books are amazing. I read a lot of self-pubbed books by authors that I know, and I have yet to be disappointed.
There is no one answer for everyone. You have your dream—you have to go after it. There will always be two sides to this debate—you have to find what works for you. Just please, if you self-pub, don’t skimp. Find beta readers. A lot of them. Hire a cover artist and, above all, hire an editor! A good one. (Like Erica. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)
I Got Your Back, Hailey is the first novel I stepped out and screamed, “I self-pubbed it!” If you’re willing to review it, I’ll send you the e-format of your choice.
Thanks for having me, Erica! I heart your face ’n’ stuff.
About June Kramin:
Wife, mother, writer, lunatic. Not necessarily in that order.
"There is a fine line between genius and crazy... I like to use that line as a jump rope!"
June, who prefers to go by Bug, was born in Philadelphia but moved to Maui, Hawaii, when she was four. She met her “Prince Charming” on Kauai and is currently living “Happily Ever After” in a small town in Minnesota.
Her son and daughter are her greatest accomplishments. She takes pride in embarrassing them every chance she gets.
Being hopelessly addicted to ’80s music is her super power.