A few years back I had the good fortune to connect with KM Weiland, award-winning author of speculative and historical fiction as well as myriad literary resources. I have learned a lot from her, and she has been kind enough to let me guest post on her highly-esteemed sites. Her latest novel, the dieselpunk adventure Storming, is going gangbusters, and I am beyond thrilled that she agreed to an interview. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know this talented and generous soul as much as I have.
*You have accomplished quite a lot already in your career—as someone who knew from childhood I wanted to be a writer, and who has an 11-year –old daughter who harbors these passions as well, I’d love to know when your literary embers began to spark, when you knew writing and mentoring would be your calling, and if you have any advice on encouraging (yet not overwhelming) young writers?
It wasn’t so much a decision. It just happened—which is how I think the right things in life usually happen. I grew up horse crazy, spent part of every summer working on a friend’s cattle ranch in Wyoming, and thought I’d end up being a horse trainer. But somewhere in high school, I realized I was having more fun staying inside and writing than I was going outside and riding. So after graduation, I sold the horses and started focusing on writing as much as I could.
My greatest bit of advice to young writers would be: Write for the love of it, first and foremost. As Anne Lamott says, “Being published isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But writing is.” Write the stories of your heart, not the stories you think the market wants. Write the story you’d want to read if you were one of your own readers.
*You have two wonderful websites: KMWeiland.com as well as Helping Writers Become Authors. What are the primary differences between the sites and why have you found it beneficial to have two?
HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com focuses on teaching writing how-to and my related non-fiction. KMWeiland.com is my “official” author site, which is more of a showcase for my novels. I originally started out with just the KMWeiland.com site, but then started using Blogger to host my blog. Eventually, I purchased the HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com domain for the blog and migrated it to the Wordpress site it’s become today.
I choose to continue them as separate sites primarily because the platform for my fiction is very different from that of my non-fiction. On the non-fic site, the fiction kind of gets lost in the shuffle. And the writing how-to stuff is pretty out of place amongst my fiction readers. I don’t do too much with the KMWeiland site. It’s pretty static except for when a new book comes out. But the HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors site keeps me hopping!
*What drew you most compellingly to historical and speculative fiction? You novels have been received with acclaim, and I always admired those who write effectively in this genre, as it seems there is a careful balance to be sought between fidelity to history/fact, and the fiction/speculative/even fantastical aspects of the tale. You are renown for your writing tips—if you could provide but one for the aspiring writer of these genres, what would it be?
With a few exceptions, my historical and speculative novels are distinct from each other in following the tenets of their separate genres. I’ve always loved history: its important realism within foreign and even fantastical settings. Really, my love of fantasy has grown out of my love for history. All of my fantasy stories are firmly based in history—just with the added bonus that I’m not tied down to getting all the facts exactly right.
My tip to historical authors would be to read broadly about whatever period you’re writing in. Research is key. You want to immerse yourself in the subject to the point that the details come effortlessly for the most part.
To fantasy authors, I would stress an emphasis on proper and detailed world building. This is what is going to set your story apart in its unique attributes as well as distinguishing it as a fantasy novel. I recommend Patrica C. Wrede’s awesome World Building Questionnaire: https://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/
*I love the Peter De Vries quote on your site: I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning. How important has establishing a routine been to your career, and does that ever challenge the spontaneity writers often seek, or in fact provide a forum which makes creativity more likely to flourish?
I love that quote too! I always say schedules are my secret weapon. My life is extremely busy. Even though I write full-time, my “day job” is my non-fiction writing about writing. It’s easy to let that side take over. So I have always been very strict with myself in maintaining my two hours of fiction writing every day. Schedules are the only way that happens for me.
I will say, however, that I’m just naturally a structured person, so schedules come easily. I don’t find them inhibiting at all because I’m not a very spontaneous person. Although I definitely believe that some kind of schedule is going to be useful and important to just about any kind of writer, I think some people—depending on their lifestyles and personalities—will find a “looser,” more flexible schedule to be more useful to them in maximizing their creativity.
*You have enjoyed wide-ranging success as a novelist and a writing mentor, and have earned an impressive and loyal following. But I know first-hand—and see this from you all the time—that you have remained a personable, accessible and humble person—and this can be kind of rare. I am sure this speaks first and foremost simply to who you are as a person, but has it at times also been something you’ve consciously considered, or even taken steps to ensure you stay grounded, and stay you?
Something I’ve always tried to focus on in inviting others to learn from me is putting my service to them at the forefront. I try very hard never to take people for granted. When they visit my site or buy my books, they’re doing me as much of a kindness as I am them, and I try to always keep that front and center. I’m only able to do what I do because of the kind and generous writers I’m blessed to interact with every day.
That said, the busier I get, the more I’ve had to adjust how I interact with people. I used to respond to every single tweet, every single Facebook response. But I just can’t do that anymore (even though it drives my OCD side wild!). I still interact as much as I can, but I have to set limits for myself. I have a policy of answering every single writing question anyone wants to email me, but at the beginning of the year, I instituted a new rule of only answering one question a day. That alone has provided me a huge amount of breathing space and really taken the pressure off my daily workload.
I think it’s important to take a few steps back every now and then, since that allows the quality of my interactions to remain higher than it might be if I tried to respond with the same frequency and intensity I did when I first started blogging.
*So, Storming is doing great. What can you tell us about Diesel Punk and what drew you to that?
Dieselpunk is a subgenre of steampunk, which incorporates the usual steampunk technological aspects into a historical era between the World Wars (instead of the Victorian period). I have to admit, however, I’d never even heard of dieselpunk prior to writing this story. I came up with the idea of a historical novel about a barnstorming biplane pilot in the 1920s, who discovers something strange up there in the clouds—and then learned it technically qualified as dieselpunk.
I actually hesitate to even call it a dieselpunk story, since what it is is a historical novel—with a few dieselpunk attributes. I had a ton of fun writing it! It came out in December and I’m humbled by the great response it has gotten!
K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors. Her highly-acclaimed dieselpunk adventure novel, Storming, is available now.