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Kay writes Science Fiction novels.
10/24/05 6:55:55 PM Opening "Chat Log 10/24/05"
W2PDee: Kay....thank you for coming.
Kaykenyon1: Glad to be here, thx.
W2PDee: Does everyone know that Kay Kenyon is a science fiction author...and our guest speaker.
W2PDee: Paul...why don't you do a formal intro of our guest...first...then we can start
W2PSushi: Kay Kenyon came upon the SF scene several years ago, with her novel "The Seeds of Time." It's also when I became a fan :)
W2PSushi: Her newest, "The Braided World" is doing well
W2PSushi: Kay lives in a small town and, unusual for SF, has many tales in that type of setting. It's a fairly Urban genre, in case you-all didn't know that.
Kaykenyon1: I'll say a little about my work. I am attracted to world of wonder stories, and those with a dark edge. You might say I write dark adventure stories.
Kaykenyon1: Anyway, my work is often characterized as world building with weirdness. I like to have a lot of mystery and a touch of horror. But I like to have fun too, so my stories are often adventures of the hero. Stuff happens. I try to plot thickly and make room too, for deep characters.
Kaykenyon1: I'm not sure anyone else is writing quite what I am. Lately, I am a Philip K. Dick judge. I've been reading lots of sludge. Sorry to say. It's been very interesting, tho, to have a 12-month view of what's out in SF paperback.
W2PSushi: [That's an annual SF prize]
Kaykenyon1: Yes, sorry. It is for original paperback science fiction, and includes "trade" format, the large sized paperback.
Kaykenyon1: OK, what else... My first book was published in 1997. It took me a long time to break in. If you give up easily you're not suited to this business. I like to encourage people to keep on going. There are many reasons to quit, and few to continue.
W2PDee: how long did it take you?
Kaykenyon1: It took about 8 years. But I was writing slowly, and taking my time.
I want to mention my titles: After the first, It was Leap Point, Rift, Tropic of Creation, Maximum Ice and The Braided World. OK, questions now?
Rose1533: Eight years--that was from the time you started writing to the time it was published?
Kaykenyon1: Yes. It took four years to write the book (I was working full time) and then another four years to sell!
Lightningbug1957: I'm interested in your judging. How does someone get nominated to have their book sent to a judge? What's the procedure?
Kaykenyon1: All books are sent to the judges (five of us). If the publisher forgets, the authors can email us and make sure, and then send the book themselves. The judges are listed in trade publications like Locus.
Lightningbug1957: So it's the publisher's job to send books to various award programs?
Kaykenyon1: Yes, and they're very anxious to do it. Some times things slip through cracks, but the judges are supposed to be watchful and even go out and buy the book if necessary.
W2PDee: You said in the judging you come across lot of sludge...what do you consider puts a mss in the sludge category?
Kaykenyon1: Well, if the story is hugely derivative, for one thing. Like an alien on the cover with bald head and big eyes... and the story predictable. Some of these groaners are self-published. Also, some books are very wooden in their style and dialogue.
W2PDee: so, no bald head or big eyes, lol
Kaykenyon1: Yeah, make your monsters original!
Kaykenyon1: Some books have a heavy political point that they beat the reader up with. Don't do it.
W2PDee: what makes a style wooden? Too much description...or explaining?
Kaykenyon1: Wooden style, lets see: Saying obvious things to the reader, telling too much, rather than showing. Clunky things that no one would say, and "spot on" dialogue.
Lightningbug1957: What is spot on dialogue <--- feeling dumb over here
Kaykenyon1: It's a common mistake. The people in the scene are talking about the subject in a very straight-forward manner. In reality, people always try to wrestle the discussion onto their ego games.
W2PDee: can you elaborate on that with an example?
Kaykenyon1: You should talk sideways about things, and never stick to the subject. Does that make sense?
Genjii555: that makes a lot of sense
Lightningbug1957: Like when asked a question, the character doesn't have to actually answer it.
Kaykenyon1: Here's an example of what not to do: "Well, Jimmy, I'm sure you're wondering how this star ship drive works." "Gee professor, yes I am!"
W2PDee: making the dialogue more realistic? Ah...good example.
Lightningbug1957: got it
Lightningbug1957: gilligan island speak...
W2PSushi: [This is called, in the genre, "As you know, Bob" dialogue.]
Kaykenyon1: Better: "The drive is wonky today. Damn damn. Thought I had it pinned down better." "I think you're wonderful, tho, the way you figure it out." See he's got romance on his mind.
W2PDee: You mentioned heavy plotting in your books...do you start out with the characters and put them into situations, or start out with the idea for a plot?
Kaykenyon1: I start with plot. Plot is the hardest thing; if you don't have a good one, your book is doomed. Then ask, "who can this matter to the most?" Build your characters from there.
W2PDee: So the idea for the plot comes first...
Kaykenyon1: Yes, or the science idea.
W2PSushi: How much feedback do you get from publishers? General suggestions, or specific line editing?
Kaykenyon1: Feedback on the manuscript?
Kaykenyon1: Well, Bantam is very picky, and I get strict line-editing and plot change requests, too. I think that is unusual in the business. Some authors I know get No feedback.
W2PSushi: and do you accede with calm alacrity? ;-)
Kaykenyon1: Yeah, always. Actually you don't have a lot of choice unless you're a big name author.
W2PDee: How do you do Plot changes after the book is written...isn't that difficult...so much would change, and a problem with consistency.
Kaykenyon1: Yes, if a lot is asked, that is indeed difficult. BUt you take the king's money, you do the king's work. They don't ask for HUGE adjustments, but even minor ones can be a pain.
Genjii555: In line w/ Donna's question, how much turn-around time does the Publisher give you when it comes to plot change request?
Kaykenyon1: My experience has been that they want a brisk turn-around, but often as long as a month or so. So you drop Everything and do it.
Genjii555: wow. That's not long to me at all. lol
Kaykenyon1: Then if you can't meet the deadline, you just ask for more time. They want you to succeed, and they'll usually wait.
Genjii555: ok thanks
Kaykenyon1: You learn to work fast, btw.
W2PDee: What about agents...do you have one, did you have one when you sold your first novel?
Kaykenyon1: Yes, The Seeds of Time, my first novel, sold through an agent. He's the one that took four years to sell that puppy!
W2PDee: How did you find that agent? Did you go through great efforts to get an agent?
Kaykenyon1: I went to a literary conference where they let you make 10 minute appointments with the agents in attendance. I pitched him on the book, and he said, sounds good, send me the first three chapters. We've been together ever since.
W2PDee: Very good...I like to hear success stories...lol
W2PDee: You write about unknown worlds...how do you set them up to be believable?
Kaykenyon1: I invest time in coming up with telling details. Not just the obvious stuff, but odd items and surprising things. I try to hide stuff and let the reader guess too. I also spend a lot of time on the cultural, social side, so there is a lot of depth. It takes months of notebook work. There is a nice tension between what you tell and what you let the reader guess, and then there is misdirection, in which you lead the readers into their pre-conceptions, and then upset the apple cart. Surprises, twists and turns.
W2PSushi: A comment: Kay's worlds are so odd and original, and fully detailed, it's hard to NOT believe them; instead you go along for the ride! :-)
W2PDee: quite a compliment!!! lol
Lightningbug1957: If a story is about a parallel universe, is that SF or Fantasy?
Kaykenyon1: It depends on whether the rules of that universe are playing with science or ignoring science.
W2PDee: Good answer.
JnsnAngel: Is a lot of dialog good or bad?
Kaykenyon1: Well, that's an interesting question. I used to think that books should be about half dialogue. I heard that rule somewhere. I liked that rule because I love doing dialogue, and it plays to my interest in character. Now I am not so sure. Dialogue can slow down plot, you know. So you can't get too carried away by these conversations.
W2PDee: JnsnAngel gets the prize for the question stumper for the guess speaker, lol.
PHeeren: how about if a deaf writer asks for an interpreter to help him or her communicate with an agent? I am Deaf so it's a problem, ok? I am struggling to get some stories to publish
Kaykenyon1: At a conference, I wouldn't think having an interpreter would be a problem. Agents ONLY care about how strong the story is. After you get your agent, email is a god send. That can carry the relationship, that and letters.
W2PSushi: thanks, Tom :)
Rose1533: what's the average word count for your books and for most Sci-Fi books?
Kaykenyon1: In the late 90's I was writing books about 140,000 words long. Then around 2000, paper costs got publishers saying to limit to 120,000. I don't know if there is an average.
W2PDee: Tell us your method of rewriting...do you go back and rewrite, or write straight through first draft...then rewrite?
Kaykenyon1: I do a gentle rewrite on my material of the day before. Get's me in the writing frame of mind, and fixes some obvious bad stuff. Then I try to write through to the end....
Kaykenyon1: Because if you rewrite too much, you get discouraged. Finishing a novel is a marathon task. It feels so good to get the first draft done . . . And besides, why agonize over a chapter you're going to cut out later anyway?
Genjii555: Would you recommend that first-time authors limit their works to 120,000 so as not to turn off publishers, or do you believe that if the story is strong enough it won't matter?.... I also have a 2nd question...
Genjii555: How did you cope during the four years that your agent was still shopping your book around?
Kaykenyon1: The book will dictate to some extent. If it HAS to be longish, it just has to. Don't give them 200,000 words and expect to be taken seriously, tho!
Kaykenyon1: For second question, I coped by writing a sequel to The Seeds of Time. I kept at it for a years or so, but when my agent found out, he was upset at first, because he hadn't sold the first one. That he had me put the two together!
BrownDvs: In accordance with High Fantasy, do you consider actual myth to go hand in hand with it?
Kaykenyon1: Hm. I think you have to alter myth to make it useful in a story, or it will be too derivative. If I understand your question?
BrownDvs: In other words, do you think it good to use elements of actual myth and blend in with High Fantasy?
Kaykenyon1: A lot of people do that. I think it's more interesting to create your own myths for that universe.
BrownDvs: I do, but also blend in the factual to lend credence.
W2PDee: Okay, any last comments, Kay? Last words of wisdom?
Kaykenyon1: OK, last comments ....
Kaykenyon1: Keep writing. Your first work will be just practice.. as heartbreaking as that sounds... Don't let anyone tell you it's not worth doing... Treasure the friends you make in this business, they will sustain you through the inevitable hard times. Keep your ego out of it. Have fun. That's all! And thanks for inviting me!
W2PSushi: thanks so much, Kay :-D
W2PDee: Kay, this has been very enjoyable.
Kaykenyon1: MY pleasure.
Genjii555: Thanks so much, Kay, you've been awesome.
Lightningbug1957: Thanks for coming, Kay.
Kaykenyon1: Good work everyone. You're brave to meet and keep working.
BrownDvs: Thanks for coming, Kay
W2PDee: And also helpful, even for those who are s/f or fantasy writers... it hit all topics.
Rose1533: Thanks, Kay. Great chat
W2PDee: We have a good group...
W2PSushi: We have some hurricane-battered members trying to get on line, or trying to focus after a VERY hard day . . .
Kaykenyon1: Goodnight all. And goodnight Rosa, indeed.
W2PDee: <><><><><> clapping for our great speaker tonight
Genjii555: I think it was helpful even for those of us who aren't s/f or fantasy writers.
Rose1533: Good night all.
JnsnAngel: Thank you Kay!!!
W2PDee: Thank you again...
Beccastrat: Thank you Kay. :-) Very informative.
W2PDee: Kay has left the building...
W2PDee: Thanks to Paul and his group for the presentation speaker...
Genjii555: another great informative session... night everyone
Dhewco: Thanks Paul and group
W2PDee: night, Tiff.
JnsnAngel: Good night to all my new friends.
W2PSushi: next week the Centaurs will discuss Adam's recent story. g'nite, all.
10/24/05 8:05:54 PM Closing "Chat Log 10/24/05"
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