Interview with an Author - Keith Willis

  • Tell me a little about yourself, personally.


I am “of a certain age”, born well before the era of smartphones and internet or indeed anything digital. I lived a peripatetic childhood, attending 11 different schools in several different states before I hit sixth grade. I graduated (long ago) with a B.A. in English Lit. from Berry College, which has the distinction of being the largest college campus in the world. Having wooed and wed a Yankee gal (my college sweetheart, in fact), I subsequently shook the red clay of Georgia from my heals and transplanted happily to upstate New York. I currently reside in the Hudson Valley/Adirondack region of New York with that same Yankee gal, who has been my wife, best friend, Scrabble nemesis, camping buddy, and perspicacious proofreader for lo these 40 years.


  • What is the name of the book or books you have published?


I have two books published so far:

Traitor Knight (Champagne Books, 2015)

Desperate Knight (Champagne Books, 2017)


  • Where can they be found?


Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Champagne Books

Smashwords


  • Do you have any current WIPs?


My 3rd installment of the Knights of Kilbourne series, titled Enchanted Knight, is currently undergoing edits, and is scheduled for an April 2020 release (again through Champagne Books). I’ve also started drafting the 4th book in the series, tentatively titled The Knight Job. I’m also working on a children’s picture book (featuring Wyvrndell, my draconic character), and a series of short stories set in the Kilbourne universe.


  • How are they going?


I’m super excited to get Enchanted Knight ready for publication. This is, to me, such a fun book, with a lot going on (i.e. a lot of plates in the air I’ve gotta keep spinning). I love working with my editor, who has over the course of the three books we’ve worked on also become a friend. She keeps me grounded in my storytelling, and tells me when I’m being obtuse and confusing the reader. Which, by the way, I can boast to being quite good at.


The story idea for the 4th book just popped into my head, almost fully formed, one lunch break at work. Normally I’m a total pantser, so knowing the direction the story was going to go is something totally new and different for me. I think it’s going to be a really fun tale, getting hopefully back to a bit more of the humor for which my books have developed a reputation. It’s going to be a fantasy-cum-heist caper, with my main characters, Morgan and Marissa, tasked to retrieve a valuable magical artifact before dreadful things happen. Which is about all I can say at the moment.


  • What got you into writing?


I grew up in a family of readers. Family legend has it that I cut my teeth on The Sword in the Stone—literally, I was teething on my mom’s copy, and was reportedly quite upset when they took it away from me. But what goes around comes around, I guess. A bit later, Sword in the Stone turned out to be the first fantasy book I actually read.

Another early favorite was Howard Pyle’s Adventures of Robin Hood. Action, adventure, humor—what else could you ask for? And when I got a little older, I started borrowing –well, make that sneaking-- my granddad’s library of Nero Wolfe and Agatha Christie mysteries. And I decided someday I would be one of the people who told those “once upon a time tales”. I wanted to be one of the people who made the words dance.


In the ill-spent days of my youth I wrote satirical pieces to entertain my friends, and then some really bad poetry in college. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that I began to take things seriously, realizing that it had come to a “now or never” cusp if I was ever going to achieve my dream of writing and publishing a novel. I embraced the now, ran with an idea I’d had kicking around in my brain for a bit, and turned it into a novel. That, actually, was the easy part.


  • What keeps you focused?


Deadlines. If I don’t have a deadline to work against, I’m really not that focused. I have a full-time day job, a home and family to take care of, and social and community commitments, so writing actually takes a back seat, and I write when I can. I’m not one of those writers who consistently commits to a certain amount of time or world count each day or week. Right now I’m actually working on deadline, since I have to have the edits for Enchanted Knight completed and back to my publisher by February 1. But focused? Not really a word in my vocabu… squirrel!


  • What gives you inspiration?


That depends on what you mean. If you’re talking about inspiration for stories, inspiration comes from so many things I can’t even keep track. Road signs (I love to get character names from exit signs—like MacAdoo Tamaqua, who will no doubt appear in one of my stories in the near future). Snippets of conversation. Music. Clouds. Dragons. Cloud dragons…


If you mean what inspires me personally, it’s a pretty long list. My wife. The beauties of nature. The amazing authors I get to interact with, either in person or on social media. And I take major inspiration from the books I read—they inspire me to be a better writer myself, to try and tell stories as good as the ones I’m reading.


  • How do you battle writer’s block?


I don’t often have writer’s block. As a pantser I find that I let my characters tell me the story, and sometimes they’re not as communicative as I’d like. When I do find myself in that situation, I just work on something different. It might be a different chapter of the same book, or might be another project altogether. Then I just wait for things to flow again on the original project.


  • Did you decide on traditional or self publishing? What made you make that choice?


I made the decision early on that I wanted to publish traditionally. I wanted the publisher to assume responsibility for hiring the editors, and paying for cover art, instead of taking this all on myself. Writing for me is a passion, but it’s something I do in my spare time. I have a full-time day job, a home and family, social and community commitments. Also, limited resources. I figured going traditional—in my case with a small press—was my best option to achieve what I wanted to do.


That being said, I absolutely respect authors who self-publish. They’re in charge of everything related to the creation, production, and marketing of their books, which is crazy hard, and anyone who is doing this deserves a lot of credit. I just wanted to cut out the production aspect, and let someone else handle that.


  • How does it feel to be considered an author?


It depends on the day. Most of the time it feels great! To know that people are reading and enjoying the stories I tell is an amazing feeling. And when someone comes up at an event and tells me they read my first book and can’t wait to get their hands on the next one just tickles me pink. And to know that I’m part of such a vibrant, supportive community of authors—as I said before, those people who make the words dance—is sometimes overwhelming.


But some days it’s frustrating. When random strangers say, “Oh, you write? That’s nice, I have this great idea for a book, I just need someone to write it.” Or, “Ah, writing a book can’t be that hard, you just make stuff up.” All of us have met these folks, and it can be hard to maintain the fixed smile and keep your hands from around their throat…


  • What’s your social media platforms for people to find you?


I mainly interact on Twitter, and can be found @kilbourneknight

I’m also on Facebook, but not as much.

And finally my website.

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