An interview with bestselling Australian author, Keri Arthur

Today, I’m delighted to be interviewing bestselling Australian author, Keri Arthur. Keri is a highly prolific writer in the genres of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She lives in Melbourne.

Book cover for Keri Arthur's Wicked Embers

Keri’s latest book, Wicked Embers will be released in July, 2015.

Keri, can you describe your writing day? Do you have any rituals, writing processes or methods that inspire you?
I generally do the same things every day. I read emails and catch up on the news over breakfast, then I head off to the gym for a couple of hours (well, only one hour is at the gym, but it’s an hour drive each way to get there). After lunch, I write. I aim for five pages a day, six days a week. Sometimes I get there, sometimes I don’t. I generally listen to music when I write, but weirdly, when I’m editing, I hate music playing.

How have you developed your writing craft? Have you done formal study, completed any short courses or workshops?
I have been to lots of conferences over the years, so I’ve attended lots of panels and workshops (though I generally avoided the ones that make you work. My brain seems to freeze when put on a spot like that). I mostly learned writing the hard way – by writing books and getting lots of rejections.

How do you tackle research for your stories?
Google is my best friend ☺ But I do have a few Writers Digest research books – books like Body Trauma, Forensics and Fiction, Malicious Intent and Private Eyes.

I understand you have used Melbourne as a setting in your novels. What aspects of Melbourne inspire you?
I’m a born and bred Melburnian, and I love my city! I always wanted to write novels set here, but of course, was always told that non-US settings wouldn’t fly. Which is why my early ImaJinn novels were set in various US cities. But when the idea for the Riley Jenson series came along, I just thought I’d set it in Melbourne to see how it went. Thankfully, it went well, but I was fully prepared to change it if the publishers had asked.

Do you do detailed outlines for your stories or do you ‘wing it’?
I’m a pantser by nature and have written many a book that way. I think half the fun of writing is the discovery of where the story might take me. But these days I’m contractually obligated to provide a synopsis of my novel about four months out from the hand-in date, so I generally have a good idea where the story is headed. Which doesn’t mean it always goes there. LOL.

Did you have a strategy to develop your career as a writer?
My overall strategy is to keep being published! I love what I do, and really don’t want to go back to being a chef. (I hated that job!)

Write the best story you can, and hope like hell the readers love it.

I understand you have a literary agent. How does that relationship work?
An agent does many things – they submit your books, negotiate contracts, deal with publishers when shitty things happen so that you don’t have to, and they give feedback and advice on novels or career when asked. I wouldn’t be the success I am today without my agent, and she’s totally worth the 15% I pay her.

Have you been tempted to self-publish your work?
Indeed I have. I self-published a book about two years ago, just to test the waters, and it’s doing okay. I do want to self publish more novels, but I have contracted books to worry about first, and that’s where my priority currently lies.

What does your editor usually expect from you in terms of revision or rewrites?
Every one of my books goes through edits, copy edits and galley proofs (this is aside from the editing I do). I’m expected to do them in a timely manner and to discuss anything I might disagree with.

What’s happened in the past with publicity and promotions for your books?
It’s hard for me to do signings, launches, or radio work, as I live in Australia, my main market is the US, and I’m generally asleep when they’re all awake. We’ve done online promotion, blogs, etc, and I try to get over to the US every year to do the Romantic Times Convention.

How successful has it all been? I’m not sure. But I am a firm believer in the fact that the best thing any author can do for their book and career is write a damn good book.

Have you had assistance from your publishers with promotions or have you organised everything? With your social media presence, what do you find works or doesn’t work?
Publishers do a lot of the promotion work for me, but I do promote via Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, as well as through a newsletter and on my website. With social media, I think not promoting your own work too much is the key. Interaction with fans is the key.

I aim for five pages a day, six days a week. Sometimes I get there, sometimes I don’t.

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as an author? Or to put it another way, what is it that differentiates you as an author from the other authors?
I hate questions like this! Lol. My main goal for every book is to create characters people care about, and a story that is action packed and sexy. I guess that’s also my ‘brand’, though I really hate that term.

Are there any ‘how-to’ writing books, workshops or online communities that you could recommend to other writers?
I’ve only ever read two how-to books, and I recommend them both. The first is Stephen King’s On Writing, and the other is The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman. I also recommend hooking up with other writers and, here in Australia, we have several great writing conferences:

The Romance Writers of Australia runs a brilliant conference every year featuring US editors and agents (that take submissions). While they are romance-focused, their workshops are broad-based and useful for all levels of writers. They also have a very strong urban fantasy sub group.

Conflux is a Canberra-based speculative fiction conference. They have a mix of Australian and overseas writers and authors, and lots of great panels.

The other main conference – and a new one on the block – is GenreCon. This is (in their words):

A celebration of Australian genre fiction, bringing together diverse communities of genre writers under one tent to explore writing craft, discuss the business of writing, and engage with a research stream featuring industry specialists whose fields are of interest to creators.

Can you share any tips on how to write a bestseller?
Write the best story you can, and hope like hell the readers love it.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
Write a few more novels and get better at your craft before you bother submitting. Maybe then I would only had five years of rejections rather than ten. LOL.

Bio

smallerkeriKeri Arthur is the author of the New York Times bestselling Riley Jenson Guardian series. Keri has written more than thirty-two novels, received several nominations in the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards and won Romantic Times’ Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy. She lives with her daughter in Melbourne, Australia.

Keri will be on the ‘Superstar Romance’ and ‘Worldbuilding’ panels at the Romance Writers of Australia Annual Conference in Melbourne in August, 2015.

Links

Keri’s website
Keri has loads of advice for budding writers on her website. Click on the tab ‘For Writers’ to explore.

Keri’s FaceBook fan page

Keri on Twitter