Recently, I launched Kris Clink’s Writing Table, a podcast to help new writers learn from authors and publishing experts as we explore books, the writing craft, and the varied paths to publishing. It’s been a joy to hear firsthand from authors who are responsible for my favorite books.
Kathleen Barber, Kimberly Belle, Lyn Liao Butler, Molly Harper, Amy Poeppel, and Susie Orman Schnall were generous with their time, sharing details from their personal publishing journeys. Here are some of the themes arising from those writing podcast interviews:
Write the stories you were meant to tell. Kathleen Barber cautions authors about writing to trend. Not only does it come across as inauthentic, but Barber also says it makes work of what could be a joyful writing process, resulting in a book that isn’t as much fun for the reader, as well.
In an early draft of Limelight, one of Amy Poeppel’s characters died, stemming a painful revision. She discovered she doesn’t “write sad.” It’s just not her. Humor is very much a part of her storylines as she creates a feel-good experience for her readers.
What do you do if the story you’re meant to tell is set in an unfamiliar time or place? Susie Orman Schnall says to “read up and around” to build a solid understanding of your genre and its constructs. A romance provides a “happily ever after” or, at least, a “happy for now.” Rom-coms blend love stories with comedy. Scientific fantasies integrate elements of scientific fact within a setting or plotline. Whatever you write, it’s important to grasp the pieces readers expect within that genre. Do your homework before you write in unfamiliar territory.
2. Writer’s Block
At some point in their careers, writers find themselves staring at a blank page, wondering if they’ve come to the end of their journey. In the writing podcast, Molly Harper says not to panic. Instead, get some sleep. Drink some water. Give yourself permission to take a break, with one proviso—set a deadline. Tell yourself, “After two days, I’ll return to my desk and bang out some words.” And stick to it. It’s amazing what a little time away can do to nurture a battered writing soul.
3. Protecting Your Writing Time
For suspense writer Kimberly Belle, “Home is where the laptop is.” That laptop travels with her, whether at home in Georgia or visiting her husband’s homeland in the Netherlands. No matter where she goes, she maintains some semblance of a schedule to meet her deadlines. She warns writers to remain mindful when common tasks creep up.
When Orman Schnall finds herself deeply entrenched in a manuscript, she eliminates all non-writing events from her calendar. Walking the dog might clear the mind, but if it takes you too far away from your writing world, you may not return.
Distractions aren’t limited to tasks unrelated to writing. All too often, writing is diverted by social media, updating a website, or the creation of a bullet journal to mark off daily word counts—even listening to a writing podcast. Any one of these could be considered important, but if words never land on a page, you’ll find you’ve filled your time with everything but crafting books. Belle keeps the “writers write” rule in the forefront of her mind.
For Liao-Butler, the pandemic presented an opportunity for an unexpected retreat. Somehow, the planets aligned to allow her to spend a few months in Kauai where she conducted research and put a hefty dent in her next book. Belle, too, uses time away to recharge, although the writing continues. A beach trip might mean a usual day’s work becomes abbreviated so she can take a hike or hit the water. Can’t get to Kauai? Ask a friend to use their guest room or secure a hotel room for a few days.
4. Typing, “THE END”
“Isn’t the end,” says Poeppel. Reevaluate those expectations. After the first draft is complete, it will require multiple revisions before it’s ready for prime time. Be proud of your work, knowing you’re in it for the long haul.
5. The Author’s Tribe
“Find your people,” says Molly Harper. Fellow authors will get you through the ups and downs of drafting, revising, querying, and publishing. Many times, they’ve been in your shoes and can alleviate stress.
Liao Butler encourages authors to rely on their author friendships to talk out their angst among each other. Not only does it make you feel better, but you can avoid dragging those negative experiences into social media.
Schnall has a group of five or six writers who meet via Zoom every Thursday to commiserate about their work. Similar Zoom meetings have become a helpful productivity tool for Barber. Accountability is key among her group of mystery and suspense writers. The platform provides a focused hub where they work, predominantly in silence. A designated interaction time provides a space for interaction to offset the workload in a supportive environment.
Where to find your people? On the writing podcast, Poeppel recommends visiting author websites or reaching out on Twitter.
Authors Kris Interviewed
Kathleen Barber’s first novel, Truth Be Told (originally published as Are You Sleeping), has been adapted as a series for Apple TV+ by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine media company. Follow Me is her second novel. www.kathleenbarber.com
Lyn Liao Butler
Lyn Liao Butler is the debut author of The Tiger Mom’s Tale, which comes out July 6th. Born in Taiwan, Lyn has had many careers: concert pianist, professional dancer, business owner, personal trainer, fitness and yoga instructor, purse designer and now author. www.lynliaobutler.com
Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including her latest, Stranger in the Lake and The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller. Her books have been published in more than a dozen languages and have been optioned for film and television. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam. www.kimberlybellebooks.com
Molly Harper is the author of more than thirty paranormal and contemporary romance titles, including the Half-Moon Hollow series, the Southern Eclectic series, and the Audible exclusive Mystic Bayou series. www.Mollyharper.com
Amy Poeppel’s writing has appeared in the NY Times, The Rumpus, and Working Mother, to name a few. She is also the best-selling author of Small Admissions, Limelight, and Musical Chairs, and she’s written the theatrical version of Small Admissions. www.amypoeppel.com
Susie Orman Schnall
Susie Orman Schnall is the author of four novels, and her writing has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Popsugar, Writer’s Digest, and Glamour. www.susieschnall.com
Kris Clink’s relatable characters rely on humor and tenderness to navigate complicated relationships. Set in middle America, her novels are laced with romance, heartbreak, and just enough snarky humor to rock the boat. When not writing, Kris spends her time searching for an open karaoke mike and an understanding audience. Born and raised in the Texas Panhandle, Kris lives in Wichita, Kansas where her great Dane, Sophieanne, runs the house Kris shares with her editor-in-training husband. Full interviews can be found at https://writingtablepodcast.buzzsprout.com/