Guardian Cats & The Lost Books of Alexandria Author Interview

Adopt An Indie month continues, and I had the opportunity to submit some questions to the author of the book I adopted, The Guardian Cats & The Lost Books of Alexandria.

The author Rahma Krambo was kind enough to take the time to answer them, have a look…

The Mind Reels: What brought you to the point where you decided to self-publish?

Rahma Krambo: At the start of my journey, I really wanted to find an agent. You know–the kind who falls in love with your book and has all the right connections. So I spent a lot of time trying to follow the traditional path.

I spent weeks writing queries.  I researched agents, read their blogs, and tried to get a sense of what they were looking for. The whole process drained my energy. Trying to get a decent query almost made me give up writing altogether, I felt like such a horrible writer.

But I went ahead and sent out my dreadful queries and got a few nice rejection letters.

I decided to stop before I got too discouraged and went back to editing my book. At the same time I had my ear to the rails about what was going on in the publishing industry. It was during this period—about a two year stretch—that the revolution happened.

Suddenly there were some very respectable writers self-publishing. I learned a lot from Dean Wesley Smith (Think Like a Publisher) and Joel Friedlander (A Self Publisher’s Companion), both of whom went the extra mile to give writers the expert advice.

Being a natural do-it-yourselfer, I absorbed their teachings and began to consider the possibility. I didn’t make the decision lightly, but once I did I pretty much threw myself into learning formatting and book design.

It was a HUGE learning curve. But that’s ok because all my time and energy was going back into my book.

TMR: What other stories/novels have you written/published?

RK: I’ve been writing for years, but Guardian Cats is my first published book. Now that I’ve finally decided what I want to do when I grow up, I write every day and treat it like a job–the best job ever! Hopefully there’s more good stories I’ll be able to unravel from my brain.

TMR: Do you keep a notebook of ideas? What ones are brewing now?

RK: I’m planning a sequel to Guardian Cats. However, I’m taking a break from the commitment of a long project and started writing short stories. I’ve given myself the task of coming up with twenty short story ideas in twenty days—a challenging fun way to free up the creative process. It’s also a great way to use some of those characters I had to edit out of my book.

And from what I hear, 2012 is going to be the year of the short story.

TMR: Tell us about the creative process behind Guardian Cats. Where did the idea come from?

RK: A little background first. I was watching my tabby kittens at play.  I grabbed a spiral notebook and began describing them. I wanted to keep going and thought, quite naively, that I’d write a book for my grandkids.

Pretty quickly I discovered I had no clue what I was doing. Even though I enjoyed writing, I’d never studied story structure or character development. So I researched everything and learned as I went along. I hardly remember the original plot, but I’m sure I would be totally embarrassed to read it now.

It took me four years to completion. I spent so much time with my characters that they are quite real to me.  That’s something only a writer can understand. Everyone else just gives you a funny look.

I wanted my cats to be characters with thoughts and emotions people could relate to and based them on traditional archetypes. But I also wanted them to remain true to their nature.

The element of the Library of Alexandria didn’t show up until the third year of rewrites. My plot lacked substance and needed a boost. It was during a brainstorming session with my husband that the idea of the cats guarding something of value sparked a connection with that legendary tragic event. And that cats were needed to protect the mystical books saved by the one librarian who survived the fire.

It was the aha moment the cats needed.

TMR: What sort of routine do you set for yourself when writing?

RK: I have about 4 part time jobs, one as marketing director for our solar business. The others are non-paying work for three community groups. So, the only time I have to fully concentrate on writing is in the early morning hours or the evenings after dinner.

My most productive schedule is getting up at 5 a.m., making coffee and saying my prayers. That time before sunrise is very magical and I treasure it. I aim for this routine, but sometimes miss my 5 a.m. alarm.

In the evenings I make a list of what I want to accomplish the next morning so I don’t have to figure it out while waiting for the coffee to kick in.

TMR: Polo as a ferret was an interesting choice as a sidekick, where did he come from?

RK: My two tabby cats who inspired me to write were named Marco and Polo. In the beginning, Marco and Polo were both cats in the story.

I wish I could remember the moment where Polo morphed into a ferret. But once he did, he was there to stay.

TMR: How much control do you have over your characters? Mine once they spring to life are their own creations, and I’m often genuinely surprised by some of the choices they make, causing revamps in the story, did this happen for you?

RK: I love how this happens. It’s part of the magic of writing–when your character takes on a life of its own. Most of my revamps were not because of unruly characters though. Their personalities just kept evolving and I tried not to stand in their way. It’s like raising kids.

TMR: Is Marco based on any cats you know?

RK: Yes, as I mentioned above. I’ve had a lot of cats in my life, but Marco was different. He had a ‘look’ about him, very wise. I always thought it would be interesting to see through the eyes of a cat and Marco allowed my imagination to explore that.

TMR: Do you see yourself revisiting the universe of the Guardian Cats to tell more stories of Marco, or perhaps other tales of other cats?

RK: I’m working on another book which might be a sequel to Guardian Cats but I plan to write it as a stand-alone book.

TMR: How has self-publishing worked out for you? Have your books found their audience? How do you promote it and yourself?

RK: Self publishing was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It took months for me to get it right because I didn’t want it to look self-published. It’s exciting to have the control over every aspect of your work, but a huge responsibility and requires a great deal of fortitude.

I published it as an ebook first, then went on to make a print edition which required learning a lot about book design. That’s where Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer, came to my aid.

After the initial publishing kick-off where all your friends and family buy your book, you have to try all kinds of promotions and see what works. I kept a notebook of everything I did, so I can refer to it the next time.

My sales were modest, but steady. I sold a book or two every day which may not seem all that great but I was pleased. Especially when they continued to sell even if I wasn’t running a promotion.

I priced my ebook at .99 and my paperback at 11.99. I think some of my readers who liked the ebook came back and purchased the paperback as gifts.

Then all of a sudden last week Amazon dropped the ebook price to Free. I had quit looking at my stats every day so I could concentrate on writing. Then over the weekend I saw that I had made the Best Seller list for Children’s Fiction-Sci-fi, Fantasy and Magic. At first I was #2, then the next day I was on top. Downloads are phenomenal right now. There are over 10,000 downloads at this writing.

I know it’s not the same as having a #1 Best Seller that somebody has to pay for and I don’t know how long it will last, but the exposure right now is amazing and it’s given me quite a boost.

TMR: Will you involve yourself with Adopt-An-Indie again?

RK: Yes, I love this idea and it was so exciting when I got adopted. It’s been really nice to connect this way with one of my readers and I appreciate you taking the time to write a review and ask me these in-depth questions. Thanks also to Donna for taking this brilliant idea and making it happen for me and the other Indie writers who got adopted.

TMR: What advice would you have for other writers who want to get their work out there?

RK: Think like a writer. Keep a spiral notebook or index cards with you at all times  because you can get a spark of an idea at anytime. Think like a professional. Take the study of your craft seriously, but keep the joy. Study human nature.  That’s where the stories are. Pay to have a professional edit and book cover. Be in it for the long haul and don’t give up.

Guardian Cats is available on Kindle and Nook, and available as paperback through Amazon.

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