Linda Kuhlmann and I worked together for years. Both of us dealt with technical writing. While I churned out Users Manuals, Linda was writing training manuals and teaching employees how to use the software products.
Linda jumped ship before I did and I'll have to admit she gave me heart to do the same myself. It took hardly any time at all for Linda to publish "Koenig's Wonder," a novel based on family history. Linda took a relatively (ha) interesting story from her family and created an even more interesting novel involving a Lippizan stallion, race horses, and a stolen painting pitting two brothers against each other.
But, let's just get on with the questions and see what Linda's got to say.
Check out Linda's website for more information on the book and her events schedule. Buy "Koenig's Wonder" at local bookstores, Llumina Press, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble online. Signed or inscribed copies are available through Linda's website.
Marva: Hi, Linda. Thanks for answering my questionnaire. First question: Did you start writing "Koenig's Wonder" while you were still working? How did you manage the juggling act?
Linda: Yes. At the technical job, I was teaching a minimum of three software classes a week while writing and editing pages for "Koenig's Wonder." My novel is loosely based on my family history. When my father's health began to fail, I took myself seriously as a writer. I used every spare moment to take it to completion - editing pages during breaks and lunches and using a tape recorder on my commute for scenes that needed work.
Recently, I was privileged to be invited to give a writer's workshop at this year's Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon entitled "Writing With the Paying Job." I'm very excited about this opportunity!
Marva: Here's your chance to pique interest in "Koenig's Wonder," your first book. Tell us the story behind the story and what prompted you to write it.
Linda: I was doing a genealogy search on my father's side of our family, gathering names, dates, and places. The family lore has it that my great-grandfather and his brother came to the U.S. from Germany, then separated. No one in the family seemed to know why or where the other brother went. That's when my imagination took over and "Koenig's Wonder" was born!
Many of the locations in the story are from my family's background and places I spent with my parents. One segment of the story takes place at the Arlington Race Track in Chicago. When I was young, I went there with my parents and bet $10 on a horse with my mother - I think we won a buck! Also, some of the history during WWII are parts of my father's experiences.
Marva: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Linda: The way that life weaves through us all at different stages of our own histories. That's why there are so many sub-plots driving "Koenig's Wonder." We meet many people throughout our lives who impact which choices we make. That's what happened to the two brothers, as well as Sam and Emma, the young lovers, who were separated and later reunited.
Marva: What else are you working on? Another family story?
Linda: My next novel, which is planned for publication soon, is "The Red Boots" - a story about a young Irish sculptor who leaves an art tour to go to Oregon to confront her father, whom she hasn't seen in twenty years. She doesn't know that a serial killer from Dublin has followed her to the U.S. "The Red Boots" is not related to "Koenig's Wonder." After it is off to the publisher, I am planning to write a screenplay for "Koenig's Wonder" and two sequel novels.
Marva: Research is very important for books dealing with history. I know you research the hell out of your books. What sources did you find the most productive?
Linda: I love the research process! Before I begin, I read as much as I can on my subject and take copious notes. Also, I've found that connecting with experts in the field you are researching are the most helpful. For "Koenig's Wonder," I met a man at the Oregon Racing Commission who introduced me to the backstretch of a racetrack, the trainers, veterinarians, and jockeys. It is important to learn to interview like a journalist - have your questions ready before you go.
I also learned about 'freeze branding' from a man I met on the Internet. However, if you use the Internet, make sure you check your resources and information!
Marva: Okay, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. You're a self publisher. Why did you decide to go that route rather than the agent/publisher deal?
Linda: The first time I ever pitched "Koenig's Wonder" to an editor at a Willamette Writers Conference, a St. Martin's Press editor was interested in the entire manuscript. However, by the time I sent it to her, she was no longer there, and the new editor was not interested.
Later, at a Willamette Writers meeting, I heard M. K. Wren talk about her publishing experiences. She mentioned that she'd lost all of her rights to her first mystery novels and now uses iUniverse, a Print-on-Demand publisher. When my father became ill, I knew that I wanted to get "Koenig's Wonder" published and in his hands before he died. I was a few months short, but he knew the story and had read drafts.
I chose Llumina Press (another Print-on-Demand publisher) because I was able to keep all rights to "Koenig's Wonder." They also have a selection process, as well as editing and marketing packages available.
Marva: A whole lot of writers have also chosen to self-publish, but haven't been as successful as you have. Tell us your secrets on how to be successful as a self-publisher.
Linda: It is important to believe in your work! I felt that "Koenig's Wonder" was a story that needed to be shared. Llumina Press gave me many marketing advantages, as well as great advice on how to market it on my own. Because my novel involves the world of Thoroughbred racing, I've found that selling books at racetracks was a great venue.
My father was a salesman, so I was blessed with some of the sales skills he'd used. (I'm not sure he knew I was paying attention, but I did!) I have no problem in calling a bookstore or group to schedule a talk or a book signing. I'm not shy about taking copies to bookstores and libraries and asking if they will carry copies of my novel. It's all about the faith in your work!
Marva: That brings up your speaking engagements (that sounds so snooty). You seek out groups to talk to about lots of different things. Give us a run-down on where you give talks and what are the subjects you cover.
Linda: Since "Koenig's Wonder" was published, I've had the great fortune to give numerous talks with writers groups, kids at middle and high schools, readers groups, and seniors about writing their memoirs. Each talk has a different slant, based on the group I'm talking to. I've had so much fun meeting many wonderful people who (I hope) I have encouraged to write.
Marva: Your website is absolutely loaded with links and great information. What techniques are you using on the Internet to promote your book?
Linda: My publisher, Llumina Press, made "Koenig's Wonder" available through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Borders.com, as well as Ingram and Baker & Taylor (which are distributors for bookstores and libraries.) Some of the larger bookstores may not carry a Print-on-Demand book, but they may consider listing it on their online site, such as Powells.com. Because "Koenig's Wonder" appeals to horse enthusiasts, I have found numerous horse groups who have websites that are willing to post a link to my website. It's all about knowing who you audience is and look for venues to help get the word out.
Another great tool is asking your readers to post a 'review' in online sites, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I copied some of these reviews onto my website.
Thank you, Marva for allowing me to share my experiences. Just remember - if writing is your passion, the rest will follow!