Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Kimberly.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Thank you for having me on the blog. My background? Hmm, let’s see. Well, I have a bachelors in theatre arts from Arcadia University where I specialized in screen writing. Although I’ve written a few screenplays, my first love has always been fiction. Over the years I’ve written many different genres including literary fiction and straight romance. But not until I began writing gay romance, did I find my niche, the place where I could really grow and blossom as a writer. That was around 2006/2007.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first novel, that is the first one I seriously tried to get published, was Phoenix Rising. I worked on the manuscript for close to two years before ever submitting it. That story went through three very extensive revisions including a transition from a m/f/m menage story to an m/m romance. It was a learning book for me and I grew a lot as a writer during the process of completing it.
It was rejected by one publisher, or not really rejected. But the reviewing editor asked for some changes in the plot that I felt would have changed the heart of the story too much, so I said thanks but no thanks. After that, I submitted it to MLR Press where I had already had a novella accepted for publication. As you know, it found a home at MLR as did I. It’s a terrific publishing house and I couldn’t be happier.
When did you start writing M/M Romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I had been writing romance since the late nineties with an eye toward publication. But not until 2006 when I read my first gay romance did I think about writing m/m.
I think what appealed to me, and still does, is the dynamic of two (or more) sexy men together. As a lifelong romance reader, I had become somewhat jaded with the plots and conventions of straight romance. Gay romance opened up an entirely new vista with so many fresh options. It was like a banquet and I was giddy with all the possibilities. As a writer, gay romance freed me from the restraints of heterosexual romance like the heroine has to be this or the hero can’t be that and they can’t have sex before a certain point in the relationship. All that went out the window when I started writing m/m. As I said, it was very freeing.
How many books have you written thus far?
I have published two novels so far and I’m nearly finished the first draft of my third with a fourth just ccontracted. I also have four novellas available as part of anthologies. Over the years, I’ve written countless stories and parts of stories that will probably never see the light of day. But they all live on in the memory of my computer. I never throw any story away because you just never know.
Do you write full time?
Not yet. I have a fulltime day job as a programmer analyst in the information technology industry. I plan to write fulltime when I retire, but that is still some years in the future.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories. Even as a very young child I had a very vivid imagination and a rich and full fantasy life. Some time around the seventh grade, I began writing the stories down and I would read them to my friends during lunch and recess. So writing, storytelling, has always been part of who I am.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
On a typical day my writing time is limited so I have to squeeze in words whenever and wherever I can. On days when I don’t have to go to the day job, I like to get up really early, make tea and sit by myself and write in the morning quiet. I write best, that is most easily, in the morning. I think it’s because my internal editor is a late sleeper. So I get my words in before she wakes up.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I am a total pantser. If I plot too carefully or too much my muse gets bored and goes off to find something more shiny to play with. It’s like I’ve already written the story in that I know what’s going to happen, so why bother?
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
I am a research junky, which is why I don’t write historicals. I can see myself getting sucked into the fascinating world of research and never getting the story written at all. So I stick to contemporary stories and I do research as I go along, as much or as little as needed. In the beginning I used to worry that I hadn’t done enough and that worry often delayed the start of the actual writing. But I’m getting better at knowing when I know enough to start the actual writing and when to put the brakes on the research.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
I don’t consciously include people I know in my books, though I’m sure aspects of my friends and family appear often in my fiction. I write about things that interest me, and people interest me, so it’s inevitable that quite a bit of real life makes its way into what I write.
As for myself, all the characters come from me and as such have little pieces of me inside them. So there’s an awful lot of me on every page.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
It varies, depending on the length and complexity of the story, how long I’ve had the idea in my head, whether the characters are completely new or ones I’ve worked with before. There is a whole host of variables. It took me two years and three revisions to finish Phoenix Rising which ended up around 82000 words. Last year, during Nanowrimo, I wrote a 36000 word novella in around six weeks. A little over a month ago, I wrote an 18000 word short story in eight days. So it’s hard to say.
Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
I do light revisions as I go. I also keepp a list of large edits and changes I need to make when I go back to do the bigger revision which comes after the first draft is done. I have found that the best way, the fastest way, for me is to just keep moving forward. For example, if I decide in chapter six that one of my heroes is a nurse rather than a computer programmer, I make a hnote and continue on with the story as if he’s always been a nurse. Then when I go back, I revise for that change. It keeps me moving forward and keeps my word count steadily increasing.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I don’t believe in writer’s block, not for me anyway. I do have times when the well runs dry and needs to be refilled. When that happens I read.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
I want my readers to experience the emotional journey of my characters. Since I write primarily romance, that journey is most often one of falling in love. I want them to experience the highs and lows, to feel that first flutter of attraction and the devastating crash of the breakup. I want to create a fictional dream where they live for a while right alongside my characters. And I want them to sigh with satisfaction when they read the last page. If that happens, then I’ve done my job.
Can you share something you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
I’ve learned that writing the book is only the first step. Promoting the book is a whole other job, one most writers aren’t especially suited to.
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Before I can begin working on a story, I need some kind of title, something to call it even if it’s just in my own head. Sometimes that original, working title turns out to be the right one, other times it changes. But no matter when it happens, I always know when I’ve hit on the right title.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Sense of humor is one of the most important things in life. Without one, I’ll bet life would be incredibly dull. As for what makes me laugh, I think the better question is who. My husband and I laugh a lot. We can find humor in almost any situation which is probably why we’ve stayed together for two decades.
What is the most frequently asked Kimberly question?
I guess the most frequently asked question is one that a lot of straight female writers of gay romance get asked. That is, why gay romance?
My answer is quite simply that men fascinate me–how they act, how they think, how they feel–it’s all very interesting. And since I’ve spent my entire life loving and being atracted to men, I feel like I can write with some authority about that.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing the first draft of my third novel called Dancing With degas. I’m also working on edits for an anthology called Shifting sands which is a series of six interconnected stories about shifter animals, the Chinese zodiac and a Texas ranch.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
Write every day. It helps to keep my head in the story and keep the characters talking.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I love hearing from readers and interacting with readers. So I try to do a good number of chats as well as participate on several author groups. I think it’s important for an author to establish a presence and part of that is being accessible. If you let readers get to know you alittle, especially for a new author like me, they might be more inclined to give your work a try. It’s a very different thing from just flooding the loops with excerpts or other less personal promo.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
As I said, I write every day, at least a few hundred words. I also do a lot of reading both in and out of genre. I also love to observe people. So one of my favorite activities is to go to a coffee shop or a restaurant and just listen to comversations going on around me and immerse myself in other people’s little dramas.
What pros and cons surround the e-publishing industry, and how do you envision the future of e-publishing?
I’ve been a fan of ebooks for many, many years, so I’m thrilled by the growth of the ebook industry. The number of titles and formats that are available is staggering when compared with what was available even ten years ago; and it seems there’s no reason to think this growth trend will slow down.
It would be nice if something could be done about ebook piracy, though I don’t know what. I think it may be one of those situations where it’s necessary to change hearts and minds before any real progress can be made. People need to understand that taking an ebook without paying for it is no different from walking into your local bookstore and taking a print book off the shelf without paying for it. Until they do, I’m afraid nothing will change.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I’ll read almost anything, though fiction is my first love. When I’m writing, particularly when I’m embroiled in the first draft, I don’t do a lot of reading because I want to spend every spare minute in my own story world. Also, I don’t want to be unduly influenced by another writer’s voice. I like my stories to sound like me. But when I’m in one of my refilling the well phases, I’m just as likely to be caught reading a biography of Lincoln as Suz Brockmann’s latest Troubleshooters novel. All’s fair in love and books.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
Lonely. I would really miss all those characters who live in my head.
I recently read your novels Phoenix Rising and Bound to Please? Where did you get the idea for these stories?
All my stories begin with the characters. They show up and start talking in my head long before anything resembling a plot begins to take shape.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
Covers don’t mean much to me personally because I’m visually impaired. But from a marketing perspective, I know that a good cover can help sell abook. Anne Cain did the cover art for both of my novels and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on that artwork.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I love to travel, especially to warm places. Key West is the home of my heart even though I haven’t figured out how to make it my permanent home yet. Still, until that happens, we try to get there a couple of times a year.
I also like to read and sail and walk on the beach. And even though I don’t drive myself, I love riding our Harley. There’s nothing quite like it.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
I have a short novella called Blush releasing this month from MLR Press. The story is a modern-day vampire tale and is part of the Red anthology. It’s an interesting project because each writer was given the same five items (the color red, a cold drink of water, a pebble, a cricket and the scent of blood oranges) and asked to write an erotic romance that includes all the items. It was a lot of fun to write and I’m very excited about the anthology. I’ll be sharing the pages with some truly amazing authors whose work I admire including Victor Bannis, William Maltese, PA Brown and JP Bowie.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Write every day and read all the time. Read the good stuff as well as whatever thrills you, whether or not anyone else is thrilled by it. Watch how the writers you most admire handle the language. And most important, keep writing and never give up.
What future projects do you have in the works?
Right now I’m finishing the first draft of a novel called Dancing With Degas. I was just working on a blurb for the story, so I’m going to try it out on you.
Following his partner’s sudden death, Michael, blind since childhood, struggles with an interfering family, revelations about his lover’s infidelity and doubts about his own independence. But when a new man offers more than friendship, Michael is forced to choose between treasured memories and a chance at future happiness.
It needs work, but that’s the idea of it.
I also just contracted the third book in the Phoenix Rising/Bound To Please series. This one is Mario’s story and will be called Consent To Pleasure.
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet?
My web site which is also my blog can be found at, http://www.kimberlygardner.com/. I also participate on a blog called fiction with friction (http://www.fictionwithfriction.com/) which I share with a group of my friends who are also writers of gay romance. FWF has quite a stellar list of participants and we take turns blogging each day. Some of us more faithfully than others. *g*