Sunday, 25 September 2016

Hardball and Riley Like Art

Michelle Krys and Amy Jones

    Are you looking for great books written by local authors? Have you thought about writing a novel? Three of Thunder Bay’s top authors are happy to talk about their work and to give us an idea of what it means to be a novelist. Michelle Krys and Amy Jones are professional authors who make a living doing what they love. They are relatively young and have achieved national and even international attention. They get healthy advances and are promoted by their publishers. However, they cannot remain idle. In a business that waxes and wanes with economic and technological shifts, authors are required not only to do the research, writing, editing, worrying and time-management required to the get the book written, they also do extracurricular work to help promote their published works. 
     Michelle Krys’ fourth novel is in the hands of her agent while her third novel, Dead Girls Society, is about to be released on November 8. And with it she will do book tours in the United States and Canada. Michelle is stoked to chat about the details of her progress and the ins-and-outs of the industry. Her enthusiasm is contagious and it’s hard not to feel the glow that exudes from a truly charismatic author. 
     Michelle is keenly aware of how fortunate she is to have had so much success with her first novel, Hexed, a young adult novel about a teenage cheerleading witch.  Continued success followed with, Charmed. Michelle’s phenomenal success is unusual for a Canadian writer requiring hard work, imagination, due writing diligence and likely a bit of good luck.
      It takes quite a number of deep breaths to embark on writing a first novel, but Michelle was wise enough to get support from a collective of writer friends in both Canada and the United States. Michelle then approached over a 130 agents to find one who saw her potential. Michelle’s agent shopped her novel around and got a great deal, an amazing advance for a first time author and publicity that even established Canadian writers dream about, something she didn’t at first appreciate until the debut of he second novel.
     Getting a good book on the shelves is a long process and being an author is an ongoing full time job, not as some people assume like winning the lottery. For while her agent has a fourth novel being looked over by an editor, the publisher has to take the book to an acquisitions department where they decide what kind of offer to make after they have drawn up a risk benefit ratio to determine whether or not they can take a risk on it. “They ask, who would read it? Who would sell it? Would chain companies like them? How many would they buy? The process is huge,” says Michelle. 
     After reworking the novel for the agent and then the publisher Michelle works on a pre-order campaign to help promote the book using social media; Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and a blog.
     Michelle explains. “Once you have books out it’s important to have a cascading effect take place where interest builds for the launch of the new book, like a special websites with secret codes and special invitations with exclusive material for big fans of the books.” All of this can be a burden, but Michelle understands that it’s part of the job, something she relishes because she genuinely adores her fans. “I’m aware of how lucky I am and I love creating stories.”
      At home, Michelle slams out two thousand words whenever she gets the chance. Being a wife, a mother of two while working part-time as a NCIU nurse plays interference with being a writer, but she’s thankful for all that she has, including a good group of local and international friends to boot.
     With advice for first time novelists, Michelle says, “Hardship and dreaming are compatible friends on a path to success or failure. To much hardship could make you bitter and too much dreaming could blind you from seeing who you really are that only others can see, but are afraid to tell.” 
      Michelle sees one of the benefits of her success as encouraging others to write for themselves or to become readers, as people have told her that it’s the first time they’ve picked up a novel in years. Even at the young age of thirty-one, Michelle Krys remains practical about the chances of continuing to hold a mass audience for decades on. It’s very likely she will. “It is truly inspiring to know that all that hardship may not have been wasted after all, after all that dreaming.”
 Amy Jones says, “Whatever path you choose, nothing is going to happen overnight. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to get rejected.” Amy’s contagious smile is part of a continued high she is riding with the success of her first novel, We’re All In This Together. “Writing is the kind of thing that the more you do the better you get,” Amy adds.
     Inspiration for the novel came with both wanting to write a story set in urban Thunder Bay and wondering if anyone had gone over Kakabeka Falls in a barrel. “I felt it was important to write about a place in which you live,” says Amy. “There are a few themes I’m obsessed with. I’m interested in home and what home means for people, that conflict in wanting to stay in a place familiar to them while simultaneously wanting to leave and see what they can make of their life when leaving isn’t necessarily what they want.” Amy later adds, “I like the idea of outsiders, people who don’t fit in with their family or their city, society.”
     When asked if the characters in her novel are based on friends or relatives, Amy says, “There will always be elements of people I know. There might be a personality trait I borrow, but there’s no person that is actually connected to the story. They’re figments of my imagination.”
     Amy’s book was on a Canadian bestseller list for a few weeks after the book first came out. Already selling a second printing, Amy says, “My expectations coming going into it were pretty low.” But with critically positive reviews in Quill and Quire and the Globe and Mail she was quickly landing gigs at writer’s festivals, in Peterborough, Halifax, Word on the Street in Toronto, and a writer’s festival in Vancouver.
     The Thunder Bay Public Library has chosen Amy’s book for One Book, One Community events, an initiative where a city’s library chooses a book that everyone is encouraged to read while hosting events inspired by and related to the book.
      Amy is thankful Amy is particular in her acknowledgement of the help she’s received from her agent who acts as an advocate for the work. Amy says, “Agents will often be former editors of publishing companies, so he has an ability to see things from both sites, the marketing and business sides of things. He was able to give me advice on that, basically he does everything. He gave me the big picture to get it ready for publishers. He knew where it would be a good fit.”
     Soon Amy was talking to the editor of the publishing company who wanted revisions to improve the story’s pacing and continuity. From there the book went to a copy editor and proofer, while Amy’s agent worked with these people as a team, as he has done before on other book projects. The entire process took about a year.   
      “Writers can be perfectly fine without an agent,” says Amy. “It works very well for a lot of people, but a lot don’t need an agent to find a publisher, but for me the less I have to worry about the more I have to do my work.”      
      Amy is under a bit of pressure as she signed a contract requiring her to produce a second book for the publisher. But she’s not worried. “Ideas have never been the problem. I have too many ideas. It’s just a matter of making it all fit together. And I worry about, like, whether I’m going to write in the first or third person.” 
  Duncan Weller is a writer and illustrator of adult fiction and children's books. You can find them here.