What’s your name? Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?
My name is Rebecca Kightlinger. You can find me on my websites, RebeccaKightlinger.com and BuryDownChronicles.com; on Facebook pages “Rebecca Kightlinger” and “Bury Down Chronicles”; and on Twitter at @RS_Kightlinger.
- Tell us a little about your life outside of the world of writing
My husband and I have a big old farmhouse in a small town, and two Border Collies, a Chihuahua, three cats, and a little rooster. Most of my life revolves around them, researching and writing the Bury Down Chronicles series, swimming, walking, and, most of the year, watering roses, berries, and tomatoes.
- How long have you been writing? What genres have you written? They don’t have to be published.
I began writing medical articles in the 1990s; then with the medical team I worked with in Guyana, clinical research papers about work we did. I started writing fiction in the 1990s, but not seriously until about 7 years ago. I now write historical fiction and magical realism, but I have published some short stories set in the present day.
- What has been the greatest influence to your writing? Other authors, life experiences, etc…
Since many of the characters in my story are healers and there is a strong element of afterlife existence, I would guess that my novels may have been influenced by my own life experiences and theories about the hereafter.
- Are you currently writing anything now? If so tell us about it? If not make something up…
I’m working on book two of the series. New people are showing up in Megge’s life, and one of them, Faye, has something to teach Megge in her own home village, out on the northern cliffs of Cornwall.
- How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?
I begin by sitting down with a clear head and watching in my mind’s eye for an image to appear. As it does, I start typing, describing what I see and hear. The story takes shape from there. In Megge’s case, she either narrates her story or simply shows a scene, which I describe as clearly as I can. I do have to keep track of characters and timelines so I don’t make errors there, and I do a lot of research after writing out a scene to make sure what I’m seeing was even plausible. Usually it is, but sometimes I have to revise when my understanding was wrong.
I usually focus on my novel, but now and then I feel like writing a short story. Or, when I sit down to work on the novel, a different narrator shows up and that person’s story—often just a vignette—takes shape. In those cases, I just go with it and write that story.
But I only work on one novel at a time!
- What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?
Readers frequently remark that they feel they are right there, in the story, as it plays out, so I guess my strength is evoking the setting. I enjoy creating the atmosphere through the senses and trying to convey to readers what I feel as I live inside the scene the narrator is showing me.
Describing a character’s physical appearance is always awkward, but it is especially difficult in this narrative since Megge would only ever describe a person if their appearance strikes her as remarkable or if it has a direct bearing on the scene. Usually readers formulate their own image of characters anyway, and I think many prefer to do so, so I feel comfortable keeping description spare.
- After publishing, the next trouble facing writers is marketing. What do you typically do when marketing your novel? Do you have tips you’d like to share?
The final class in our MFA program a transition to the real world of writing and marketing our work, and in that class we had to make a website. Thank goodness for Suzanne Strempek Shea guiding us through that, because I had no idea how to create one! The website has made it easier for readers to learn more about Megge. Suzanne also taught us about using social media, which I was inexperienced with, and I gave The Bury Down Chronicles a Facebook page. That’s made it easier to let readers know what’s happening now with the book and with author events. But beyond that, marketing is incomprehensible to me! It is a profession, so I leave it to professionals.
For Megge, I found a publicity firm that works exclusively with authors, and I just do everything they recommend. The important thing is to reach readers who might enjoy the book, and that’s what they’re helping me to do.
- What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?
There’s nothing better than starting something new! I’d say just start writing and see what comes out. If it turns out you enjoy writing and want to write with the skill and focus of a professional, learn the craft. Right down to the ground. Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure—it all matters.
Consider investing in formal education. Workshops and in-person courses with a professor will challenge you to look critically at your work and learn how to make it better. It will also give you colleagues and the understanding that you are not the only one sitting alone in a room scribbling!
Finally—and everybody says this because it’s true—persevere! If you write something but can’t find an agent or publisher right away, write some more, maybe something entirely different. Give each piece—and yourself—the necessary time to find a publishing home and enthusiastic readers.