Friday, November 12, 2010

Interview with Carolyn Kephart

Today’s author in my interview series is Carolyn Kephart.  Welcome Carolyn!

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
The Ryel Saga underwent several major revisions over many years, and its present form has little or nothing in common with the original version. I had enough youthful hubris to send the first version directly to Del Rey Books, back when it still had a slush pile. Not only did it get read, I received a two-page rejection letter of critique and encouragement from Lester Del Rey himself, that I cherish now. Later on I revised the manuscript in what time I had to spare from pursuing university degrees, teaching college freshmen, and writing academic papers. My life experiences--especially travel and reading--all deepened the narrative. It’s a far, far better book now than when it started, and I just wish Mr. Del Rey could have read it in its present version.

Did you query agents and traditional publishers?  How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract?
I went the typical route for authors back in the days before the Internet, and Writer’s Market in hardback was my main resource. Unluckily, my book (then titled Wysard) was simply too big, weighing in at 1000 pages, and didn’t fit with the Tolkien-influenced fantasy then being published. After a few years of querying and several almost-offers, I went with a small publisher. The rights reverted to me last year, and I lost no time in becoming a Kindle indie author with my own press, Samarkand.

What factors influenced your decision to go with a particular agent or publisher?
Like many writers, I just wanted to hit print, and I felt perhaps a greater sense of urgency than some because I was going through significant health problems. What made me happiest with my decision was the careful treatment my manuscript received--my editor was merciless about slimming it down, and I lopped a couple of unnecessary subplots because of her excellent advice. I was very disappointed, however, that I had to cut out even more material because of page constraints, and even more because the publisher split the book into two parts and issued them as trade paperbacks rather than a mass-market single volume. One can conjecture endlessly as to what might have happened had the latter format been possible, since the reviews for the duology were uniformly glowing.

Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will publish directly for Kindle?
I’ve published all my short fiction for Kindle, and plan to do so with future books. Being able to make The Ryel Saga available for Kindle fulfilled a long-held dream for me: the chance to join the paperback duology into a single digital book, restoring the many passages that had fallen to the cutting-room floor. Thanks to this opportunity, I’m hopeful that the story will finally get the reader attention so many of the duology’s reviewers said it deserves.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
The cover for The Ryel Saga was done by a professional for a paperback second edition that never went to print. When the rights reverted to me last year, I recycled the artwork, adding in my own title information.  I’d love to give the name of the artist, but I lost his email long ago due to computer problems and can only recall his first name, Joseph.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
As with most authors, I wasn’t able to dictate or even influence what went onto the cover. I was, however, pleased with the artwork’s quality. I’d have put Ryel into Steppes gear instead of that hooded cloak, and would have made Jinn (his horse) tan rather than white, but the design has a strong archetypal feel that attracts readers not only of epic fantasy, but of myth and legend as well.

How did you feel when you got your first sale? 
Shocked. Everything good that happens to me shocks me first, and it’s not a pleasant feeling for the first second. After that, the glow wells up in my solar plexus and moves outward, and I’m in a state of rapture for awhile. There have been many sales since then, but they all feel the exact same way; it never gets old, and I’m sure it never will because I know someone new is reading me.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I have accounts on both Twitter and Facebook, and I regularly update my website and blog. Forums include KindleBoards, Goodreads, and Amazon discussion boards. Now that more and more reviewers are considering e-books and indie authors, I’m always discovering new places to pitch my work.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
So far, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble eBooks, iBooks, and Diesel. The majority of my sales come from Amazon.

What’s next for you?
Lots more books and short stories! I have several novel manuscripts on the verge of completion, and dozens of yarns in my head waiting to get out. I haven’t been this excited about writing for a long time, and I owe it all to the Kindle, which gave The Ryel Saga its new lease on life.

I’d like to note that The Ryel Saga is digitally available in several versions. They are:
The Ryel Saga: A Tale Of Love And Magic. This is the one-volume expanded version of the original duology Wysard and Lord Brother. It alters the plot slightly, and adds in many previously-excised passages. It’s a big read at 974 KB, 700 pages if it were paper. I wish readers would select this version, so I’m advertising it most. However, I’m keeping the original duology available because of the many reviews they’ve received. Those books are:

Wysard: The e-book version of the paperback first part of the Ryel Saga. 279 KB or 220 pages.

Lord Brother: The e-book version of  the paperback second part of the Ryel Saga. 381 KB or 275 pages.

Since it was easy to create digitally, I recently made a one-volume edition of the original duology: Wysard and Lord Brother Complete In One Volume. This edition joins the original texts of the paperback versions, with nothing added or taken away. It’s much shorter than The Ryel Saga, at 654 KB or around 400 pages.


  1. Exellent interview. Great insight into working a book down to size for publication.