Where Honesty Never Ends.
Greetings everyone! No Labels here. In our first April Spotlight, we go behind the scenes with Harmony Kent. (No relation to Clark Kent, who becomes Superman, but her dedication to indie improvement does possess a superhero type ambiance.)
Pleasure to have you here, Harmony! Many writers talk about having support on their writing journeys. What about you? Did you have support on your writing journey?
My writing journey is pretty much something I’ve done alone. My sister was incredibly helpful being my first reader with The Battle for Brisingamen (my first book). I think I drove her quite mad by having her read the first draft when I’d only written about 50%. She was biting at the bit for me to finish writing the rest so she could take up where she’d left off. I’m banned from showing her a book now, until it’s in its final draft! Along the way, I’ve met some good online friends who have helped in many ways. Fellow authors, editors, reviewers, and—of course—readers, who have all given to me; even when they didn’t mean to *smiles*
How much research, if any, went into the development of The Battle for Brisingamen?
A lot of research went into The Battle for Brisingamen. The initial idea was sparked by a news article I came across online. The discovery of a huge landmass which stretched all the way from the south coast of England to southern Norway had drastically changed how archaeologists and historians viewed a whole era. Previously it had been thought that a narrow strip of land had connected Britain with Europe, but now there was evidence of settlements over a vast area which was now undersea. They had found ‘Britain’s Atlantis’. After reading this very brief report, I started writing, and I didn’t look back. As the story developed, I found myself having to research Nordic Mythology, as well as all things Dutch: language, towns and cities, hospitals, names. It was great fun. Happily, the magic was already there.
The old cover
The Battle for Brisingamen
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
For The Battle for Brisingamen, I noticed a significant change in the book cover. What factors were involved in your making the change?
I never felt totally comfortable with the original cover, and eventually asked for feedback via the Goodreads arena. This was the first cover I’d made, and I learned a lot in the few months between publishing the book and changing the cover. I also learned how to make a mini-movie for a book trailer, which was a very steep learning curve—but again great fun. In making book covers and movies I have discovered a whole creative side that I had been unaware of. I still prefer the writing part though * big grin *
Yes, Harmony! You and me both. Tell us about your latest and upcoming projects.
My latest book is going to be a Young Adult novel, and will be the first in a series. I hope to have this published sometime within the next three months or so. I had planned a release for early 2014, but a major home move and medical problems have delayed this somewhat. Its title is Elemental Earth, and it will form part of The Mysteries Series. I am excited about this one on many levels, not least of all because this is the first YA I’ve written. It’s also the first series I have embarked upon. Both The Battle for Brisingamen and The Glade are stand-alone novels. I also have another ‘grown-ups’ book in progress, which is shaping up to be a gripping read. Keep an eye on my website for more information on both of these books, as well as promotions and sneak peeks.
I can hardly wait to check it out!
The Glade is definitely different from The Battle for Brisingamen. Was that done intentionally, and if so, why?
Genre: Supernatural Suspense/Mystery
I think the two books reflect my evolvement as a writer. I had developed a stronger voice by the time I wrote my second book, The Glade. Also, Brisingamen was Fantasy Fiction, and fairly gentle; whereas The Glade was a much darker book right from its inception. The two books kind of wrote themselves—all I had to do was to not get in the way. I hadn’t set out to be intentionally different; it just turned out that way. Although I had set out to deliberately improve the technical execution of my books, which I achieved mostly via an editing and proof-reading course. This has also given me skills I can use in areas other than writing. All of this has made me a much more discerning reader (and reviewer!)
You are Awesome Indies Certified. Expand more on what that entails and the triumphs and challenges that come along with the distinction.
Becoming Awesome Indies certified has been a long and arduous slog. In order for a book to make it onto the AI list it has to meet a set of very strict criteria, such as strong plot, pacing and character development. The editing and proof-reading also has to reach a high standard, and fall within specific and stringent guidelines. With the editing and proof-reading training I have done, I feel I am in a much stronger and knowledgeable position than when I first started out. It was a huge achievement to be added to AI’s list of approved authors for both The Battle for Brisingamen and The Glade, but an even bigger achievement to be invited to join their team of reviewers. My goal now is to use my skills to help fellow indie authors wherever I can. Sadly, not all writers receive constructive feedback from reviews positively, and I’m not the first reviewer/author to be the victim of abuse or revenge reviewing. Such a lost opportunity! Whoever the reviewer, and whatever the comments, I have always taken on board what is said and attempted to learn and to grow in my writing as a result. Yes, our books are our babies: but we don’t want to stunt their growth by keeping them locked in a dark cupboard all their lives. Often, when growing up, I learned more from my mistakes than from anything else.
On your website, you state you are “always on the lookout for talent and excellence”. What qualities make up a talented, excellent writer?
In my experience ‘talent’ and ‘excellence’ don’t always get to meet up. I have read books where the writing shows great promise, but the technical execution is lacking. I have also read books where the technical execution is great, but the read boring, banal, and simply regurgitating an idea the market is already well flooded with. To be blunt, the most important thing to start out with is talent. You can always learn the technical stuff, but if you haven’t got the talent then chances are you’ve got a long slog ahead of you. A very long slog. A talented, excellent writer will bring both a fresh and original voice to the table, and professional execution of the writing. I am always saddened when an otherwise excellent book is let down by a total lack of even proof-reading, let alone editing. I understand that not everybody is good at this, and that professional services can be expensive. This is why I offer editing and proofing at much reduced rates than any others I have seen online. This is also why I state on my website that I am open to negotiation on these rates. And I really am. If I didn’t have to eat, I would offer my services for free. Perhaps when I’m rich and famous! For the same reasons, I will always offer to re-review any book that has been revised after I’ve already read it. It’s never a case of ‘I’ve reviewed it, and that’s it for the rest of ever now’. I’m a friendly gal at heart—and I don’t bite (well, not much) * smiles *
Well stated! Speaking of indie authors, are there any who write in a genre you don’t normally read but because you are familiar with his/her style of writing, you’re willing to go out of your genre comfort zone?
I am always willing to go out of my genre comfort zone in order to review or edit a book. I won’t let my personal preferences get in the way. Of course, with my personal (just for fun) reads, I definitely have a comfort zone. It’s pretty eclectic, but there all the same. I once read a book where I hated the main character, and disagreed strongly with his philosophy of life. I gave the book a solid five out of five stars: the important (and impressive) thing was that the author brought the character alive enough for me to form an impression—for me to care. I don’t need to be familiar with an author’s style of writing to leave my comfort zone—I want to give every book (every writer) a fair chance.
Name three marketing resources that have been recommended for indie authors that you believe are ineffective or haven’t been used properly.
The one that sticks out most in my mind is also one that cost me a fair bit of money. Press Releases for books. Avoid. Spend your hard earned cash elsewhere. I came across an advert on Goodreads for public relations press releases and decided to take a chance, ready for the release of The Glade. I would have been better spending this money on somebody like Bookbub, or similar. Or even on getting a manuscript (MS) appraisal. There are so many PR and advertising services out there it’s a real minefield for the poor, beleaguered author.
I would also be wary of so called publishers who want lots of money from you in order to publish your book. The money should flow towards the author, not the other way around. That said, there are some small publishers out there, who for a small fee, will help you to self-publish your book. Their fee will usually include book cover design, and multi-site listings. Most of these publishers will do nothing towards actually advertising your book for you, however. So, if it’s marketing and publicity you want, this isn’t necessarily the best way forward.
Review swaps. As tempting as they might seem when you’re desperate to get your book out there, get your book known, they are so not worth it. Don’t do it. Sites that offer this kind of service are a waste of your precious time. And definitely, don’t ever pay for a review. It won’t be taken seriously by anyone else. These are not to be confused with sites that offer a service to be bumped up the queue for a small fee. In these cases, the fee is for priority, not a guaranteed good review. All I will say is: choose carefully if you go this route…there are a lot of sharks out there. Anybody who pretty much guarantees you a good review is not only doing the author a disservice, but readers everywhere. If we can no longer rely on the review system, then what on earth do we have to go on when trying to choose a book? A good measure is to check out the site’s/person’s published reviews; this will give you a good idea of reliability and what to expect. Some sites, such as BRAGMedallion, only publish reviews on books that make it onto their list, but they state this clearly on their website, so to see no poor reviews on this site wouldn’t be an issue. In a nutshell: do your research first.
What is your favorite food and drink indulgence before, after, or during a good write or read?
Ooh, my favourite food and drink indulgence … whether I’m writing or reading it would have to be chocolate and whiskey—a good single malt; no ice. I tend to do most of my writing on an evening, so I am usually to be found with a good soundtrack playing in the background, and glass of whiskey on hand, as I sit at the computer typing into infinity. (Or would that be oblivion?)
Your favorite type of music to write to is what, and why?
This really depends on how the mood takes me, and what I’m writing at the time. I wrote the whole of The Battle for Brisingamen to the soundtrack for The Twilight Series. Whereas I wrote The Glade pretty much listening to Game of Thrones or The Hobbit. I prefer music without lyrics, as the human voice would prove too distracting. It’s funny, I do my best writing when listening to music, but when I’m editing I have to have quiet (and definitely no whiskey—lol).
How has your experience living as a Buddhist monk shaped your views on others and the world around you?
Living as a Buddhist monk for thirteen years helped me to gain in confidence, and to be able to see the world more clearly, instead of through a veil of fear and inadequacy. This, in turn, has helped me to not be so demanding of others. I am comfortable in my own skin, so don’t need the constant reassurance or bolstering that I once would have sought in my interactions with other people. This is so freeing. I am happy and content with my life, just as it is. This gives me the space and ability to give to others, without needing anything in return. A lot of us live with an agenda, and most of us are completely blind to that fact. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. I’m not claiming to be free of an agenda myself—far from it—just that I am at least a little more aware of it, and so not as controlled by it as I was. The Buddhist way of life taught me to accept responsibility. Before we can sort out the world, we have to sort ourselves out. The buck both stops here, and starts right here. I am more content and peaceable than I was before I embarked upon the Buddhist way. What a great way to live.
What does the statement “turning tragedy into triumph” mean to you and does that apply to any areas in your past or present?
My own story is one of turning tragedy into triumph. I found a jewel in the deep and sticky mud that surrounded me, and was in danger of defining me. I didn’t have an easy childhood, and wasn’t making too good a job of being a happy or confident adult. Then I went to live in a Buddhist temple and discovered peace, contentment and confidence. Life was good. Then everything changed. I had gone into hospital for routine surgery, and then the surgeon made a mistake—a big one. To cut a very long and difficult story short, I ended up with a painful and life-changing disability. The specialist surgeon, who was tasked with trying to put me back together, commented the day after said surgery that he had seen people in much better shape physically, but much worse shape mentally. What a compliment: I have my time in Buddhist practice to thank for how well I was able to handle my situation.
The many challenging experiences this injury presented me with also provided me with an opportunity of further personal growth. I am pleased to say that my disability does not define me. There is so much more to my life. When the punishing rehab was over with I found myself unable to undertake much in the way of physical activity, and struggled to fill my days. The aggressive drugs I had been on had also altered my brain function alarmingly. To find peace and equanimity in the midst of all this was, perhaps, the greatest gift of my life. With that as a basis, I have been able to gradually rebuild and remake my life. Outwardly, it doesn’t much resemble the life I had before injury, but it is incredibly fulfilling, nonetheless. Inwardly, not too much has changed—just the scenery. I am now an author of two books, with more on the way. I am a respected editor and reviewer, and have many online friends. And if that isn’t enough, I am also learning to play piano…somewhere along the line I remember I’m supposed to sleep—lol. The fact of being physically limited has ended up giving me such freedom intellectually and emotionally, that my world is actually much larger and more rewarding than ever before.
Do you have any advice for one who is passionate about writing, yet because of financial circumstances, can’t make it his solo career at this time?
This circumstance seems to be a common one. For me, the single most important thing is to not let the dream slide. Don’t let your life become too full of busy to write, to give life to your passion. To one who is passionate about writing, I probably don’t need to say that—you will find the time regardless. To be a successful writer isn’t to be a full time writer, nor to have particularly good sales, not even to be a household name. I used to think it was all about the number of books sold, but now I know differently. Of course, these are all bonuses when we can get them. * winking * The very act of producing a work of art is enough in and of itself. There will be times when you simply don’t have enough hours in the day; don’t give up and definitely don’t beat yourself up. Just get back to it as soon as you can. Even if it takes years before you publish your first book, so what. To finish it and to publish it is what counts at the end of the day. It’s not a race. First and foremost, is to enjoy the time you do sit and write. Secondly, and perhaps not so obvious, is to try not to resent the time you have to spend doing something other than writing, and which you might not particularly enjoy. Such times can be utilized to garner experience and knowledge with which to enrich your writing. Each and every sense, and event, can be engaged, explored and exploited. The very best authors are those who never stop writing, even when they’re busy doing something else.
Well said, Harmony! Well said! Any more tidbits you’d like to add?
Well, we’ve had the (not quite) twenty questions…here are ten more things you might want to know about me:
One: I was born in 2013 (at least, the author in me was) … the rest of me is … err … just a LITTLE bit older than that.
Two: I am really boring.
Three: I have absolutely no sense of humour. At all.
Four: I read. A lot.
Five: I write. Even more.
Six: I’m completely sane (in).
Seven: I don’t have any children, but I seem to be surrounded by loads of cute gremlins who claim to be my nieces and nephews. Stranger still: they seem to like me.
Eight: If you’ve read this far, you’re probably as sane as I am.
Nine: If you still want to hang around, and if you’re feeling brave …
Ten: I’m online …
Sales link for my books: http://harmonykent.co.uk/my-book-store/ (links on this page will take you through to Amazon)
Lol…I will definitely have to dim the wattage for next time, but I’m glad you had fun, Harmony! Thanks for stopping by.
Thanks for checking out this Author Spotlight on The Review Board. Feel free to like, share, and subscribe! Have an awesome day.