It really has been a great week to be a blogger. I reviewed my first novel for the Writerly Yours #NailbitersNovel Blog Tour on Tuesday, a book which blew me away, and now I am privileged to interview the author herself, MK Williams.
Originally from Philadelphia, but now living in Tampa, MK Williams is a woman uncompromisingly pursuing her dream. MK Williams has always loved writing. She wrote a lot of poetry when she was in high school and college, and for the past few years has done a few freelance articles. While she juggles her full-time ‘day job’ and full-time passion, Nailbiters signals a future in which MK’s dream that her passion for writing may one day be her full-time occupation. So from where did this passion for writing come?
“I don’t have a specific memory of when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I have always enjoyed writing and I set a goal early in life that I wanted to be published because that is what successful writers do. In recent years, I’ve realized that as long as I enjoy what I am writing that I don’t need anyone else’s approval in order to feel successful. That has been a very liberating feeling.”
I have said it often on my blog, but I am a huge post-apocalyptic survival story fan – Stephen King’s The Last Stand and The Cell; The Walking Dead; The Christian-based Left Behind Series… Nailbiters joins this list. It’s a huge story to tell. And so I was curious to find out from MK how her version of Hell on Earth came to be:
“I loved The Stand by Stephen King as well! So great! Nailbiters came about in stages. I had a very vivid and very scary dream and the idea of the invasion was born. I started a short story, but it never went anywhere, so I decided to work on something else. A few months later, I had another dream and some of the villains: Gael and Don were created. I picked the story back up, made some edits, and then left it alone again. About two years ago I finally had an idea of where the story would go, who the characters would be, where they would end up, and what the overall message would be. After that, it was easy to put together.”
The thing that struck me the most while reading Nailbiters was the seemingly effortless intensity with which the story unfolds. But after years of trying to get my own post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel off the ground, I am not at all delusional about the fact that effortless a venture it is not.
“I think the biggest challenge in writing anything is not getting distracted, not focusing on all the things that I am giving up so that I can lock myself away and just write. I usually have to turn off the wifi on my computer so that I’m not tempted to start surfing the internet. Even though I love writing, sometimes I can get easily distracted.”
And as for the yang to the difficulty ying?
“For me, the easiest part is the dialogue. Sometimes, I can think of the conversation that the characters are having faster than I could ever write it down. I love to include an intelligent and informative dialogue between characters.”
This is one of my biggest challenges in writing, I personally really struggle with the dialogue, establishing a dialogue that flows naturally yet which facilitates its unnatural intention of storytelling in words alone, it debilitates me as a writer, and is the bane to my personal process… Many of my own personal writer’s block challenges has been formed on the back thereof, and so I was most interested to find out MK’s thoughts and approach to writer’s block.
“I had two years’ worth of writer’s block on Nailbiters. My advice is to just let it go, when you are inspired to work on that story again, it will come. I have always found that when I force myself to work on something the product isn’t as great. If I let it come naturally the story develops much better. I usually start working on another story or novel when I get writer’s block on any one story. If I am blocked on all the stories I have going, then I read – A LOT.”
And it is in reading that MK repeatedly turns as a lover of her craft. Inspiration is found within the pages of the books she love, but so to is the necessary research which feeds into her creative process.
“I do research in the form of reading other books from that genre. I try to let my writing be a place where there are no rules, so I try not to let what others have done impact my work too much. Even when I am writing a story that is based in reality, I like to play with elements that I think are fun. If I stuck to research too much, I would probably give up.”
The most compelling and interestingly consistent hook within the novel Nailbiters is the presentation of the story through the primary protagonist of Dora. It is through Dora’s eyes and first person presentation of her recounted experience that we as readers become invested. I desperately wanted to find out from MK about her thoughts on Pandora, what is the inspiration and how much of MK lives within the character.
“One thing that I saw in other recent post-apocalyptic tales was that the female characters were all teenagers. I knew from the get-go that Dora was an adult, she had life experience that would help her get through the situations that she was thrown into. I think I want to see myself in Dora, she is fierce and determined. She is far stronger than any other woman that I know, even though at times she feels defeated. I want to have that kind of courage and strength, so I gave to her something that I could only imagine.”
Satisfied with the inspiration and mental approach which MK has given us insight to, I (particularly as an aspiring writer) want to find out more about the practicalities of her process:
How is your process structured?
“I have a notebook that I carry with me everywhere I go. I’ll think of bits of dialogue or scenes for characters and jot them down. Once I have enough of these little notes together, I’ll put them into a Word Document on the computer and keep track of all the little notes and bits. When I have a clear idea of what the story is, how the characters will develop, and what the end outcome will be, I will write out a point by point outline of the story (roughly a paragraph summary for each chapter). Then, I’ll organize the existing notes in order and begin writing from there. Sometimes I will jump around and work on chapters out of order, other times I’ll go back and re-read everything in order to see what I need to include.”
Is there a specific time of the day you prefer to write?
“I would prefer to be able to write at any point of the day. I get ideas at the most inconsistent of times. If I could devote 100% of my time to writing, I would like to write in the mornings after a long run and spend my afternoons editing and reading. But, since I have a full-time day job I fit in writing when I can.”
What tools and techniques do you use (and cannot do without) to get the thoughts onto the page – IE: Music; mind maps; any specific apps; plot tools?
“The main tools that I use are my notebook, Microsoft Word, and a carefully curated playlist of music. I have playlists for each story that I work on. The Nailbiters Playlist (available on spotify) is particularly dark. Some of the newer stories that I am working on have a more upbeat tone. It really depends on the mood of the story.”
Do you free-flow and edit later? Or do you plot it out and document it?
“I do a little bit of both. I write down my ideas haphazardly and then organize them once I have a clear idea of what the story will be. I know some writers say that you have to write it all out and then take away. I find that I often skip a lot of explanation and description, so I am always adding in a lot and then editing extraneous content out.”
So… The story is complete, having poured years into the work, the process of getting to the final draft, how does that happen in MK’s World?
“As I’m writing, I’ll usually share the excitement about the story with my husband, but he doesn’t read it until it is done. He helps me edit, as does my mother-in-law. They are both so helpful and generous with their time! I also have a great friend, Nora Gecan, who helped design the cover art for Nailbiters. She was one of the first people to read Nailbiters outside of my family. I was really nervous because she reads a lot and I knew she would tell me the truth if she thought it was a bad story. She said she loved it and the cover art that she created is spectacular!”
Nailbiters is a self-published novel, a medium of publishing which has really taken off in this digital age, I have asked MK to give us her thoughts on self-publishing vs traditional publishing…
“I tried to go the traditional publishing route and didn’t find much success. Most people don’t, but I was often put-down by others who said that I didn’t have enough life experience to write anything that would matter. That really turned me off to the idea of traditional publishing. As I worked on Nailbiters I felt defeated before it was even complete. Then I realized that I didn’t need the approval of the publishing industry, I just needed to know that I enjoyed writing the story, that it could make a difference to someone, and that my character’s story was being told. I have learned so much through self-publishing and couldn’t imagine giving away my story for someone else to market and promote.”
As we approach the end of the interview I take a step back and consider how practical and systematic MK is in relation to her art. But one thing I know for sure, having penned a few far more amateurish pieces of my own, is that the accomplishment of her first published novel can only have had an everlasting effect upon her. How has the Nailbiter’s journeys influenced and changed MK?
“I think it has given me the confidence to write the things that I want to write. The content in Nailbiters is dark, and I worried that people would think I was really weird for writing such a dark book. But, the book has been well received. I feel okay writing even darker and weirder content, when the timing is right.”
And The number one piece of advice she would give to her younger self and other aspiring writers?
“Keep working at it and don’t try to be someone else. Trying to be someone else will never work, you have to be you in order to be successful.”
Nailbiters commences a career which is ready to be continued, MK is most of the way through editing her next project. She’ll be releasing a collection of short stories this year and is really excited to see how they are received. There won’t be any aliens in this one though, but expect a few twists and turns nonetheless. Naturally the question about a Nailbiters sequel is in the air, and the answer is :
Last question… Are you a biter of nails?
“Of course, it is my worst habit that I am always trying to beat.”
It has been a real pleasure to be involved with the #NailbitersNovel Blog Tour, and to have had the opportunity to interview and learn from MK Williams, a selfish endeavour for me as I enjoy exploring and engaging with other writers, but one which I hope entertains you the reader as well. Thank You MK for your time, and to my readers, be sure to get a copy of Nailbiters now!!!
Want to find out more about MK Williams and her work? Check out the other stops on the Writerly Yours #NailbitersNovel Blog Tour:
Day 5: Check out this literary analysis of Nailbiters on The Literary Apothecary.
And tomorrow… A surprise!!!!
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