I wanted to interview Kyra Davis for a lot of reasons. First, of course, I think her writing is great, but more importantly perhaps, I really enjoy her attitude toward publishing and writing. She’s very smart, understands what it takes to be a successful author, and offers some great advice at the end of this interview. Enjoy!
I love hearing about how people come to write their first book. In your case, you were going through a rough time after your divorce, had insomnia, and starting making up stories in your head to fall asleep. Then, since you were awake anyway, you started writing it all down. Did your first book dictate the way in which you wrote the others? Do you still tend to write at night?
Well I’m a night owl. I know the world is made for morning people so I keep trying to conform but it’s just too much of a struggle. So yes, I do a some of my writing at night but as a whole I’m not as fond of insomnia as I used to be and have for the most part given it up. As a result I do a lot of writing in the afternoon when my son isn’t with me.
You met your agent at the Williamette Writers Conference in Oregon. For those that have never been to a conference like this, tell us about this experience. Is it something you’d recommend to other writers?
Writing conferences (or at least good writing conferences) are wonderful ways to launch your career as an author. Agents and editors get thousands of query letters every year. It’s hard to stand out if that’s the way you are going to pitch your project. But if you can attend a Writer’s Conference (like the Willamette Writer’s Conference) where you’ll be able to meet and actually schedule one on one appointments with agents and editors you will have a chance to pitch your project in person. Face to face interaction can make all the difference in the world. In person your prospective agent/editor can see your enthusiasm (which is hopefully contagious). They can ask you questions and if they’re not interest they can tell you why instead of just sending you a generic and uninformative/unhelpful form letter. Furthermore, talking to other authors can be an education in and of itself and as a general rule the seminars are well worth the price of admission.
How much of Sophie Katz, your alter ego, is you and how much is created? Is there one of Sophie’s traits you wish was more like you?
Everyone sort of assumes I’m Sophie and for good reason. On the surface we have a lot in common. We are both authors, we have the same ethnic background and she lives in San Francisco and I used to live in San Francisco. We even have a similar sense of humor. But I’m much more restrained than Sophie. Sophie almost never holds her tongue regardless of the consequences. That leads me to another key difference, Sophie is much more impetuous than I am. I love spontaneity but I’m old enough now to at least try to look before I leap. She’s also more jealous than I am. But the thing I envy most about her is her complete self-assurance. She never really doubts or questions herself (although sometimes maybe she should just a little bit). Whatever she does, no matter how daring or outrageous, she does it with complete confidence and willful determination. How can I not be a little envious of that?
You admitted that you were a fellow Tudor fanatic. (Which I love, by the way.) Favorite Tudor fiction book? Movie?
Well in regards to the historians I tend to read the articles/works of Joanna Denny, Dr. Starkey and Dr. Retha Warnicke. I adore Alison Weir not just because she’s an excellent writer but because her stories and conclusions are so well supported by the work of the majority of historians. Phillipa Gregory’s work is more speculative and controversial in regards to the conclusions she’s come to about that period but she writes so convincingly and beautifully that it’s almost impossible not to get lost in her books. Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett, was a great film. The Showtime series is fun although, like Gregory, they play a bit with some of the facts. Then again it’s a TV show and Gregory’s books are novels so in my mind playing with the facts is absolutely allowed and should even be encouraged if it adds entertainment value.
Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?
With the Sophie books my main goal is always for the reader to walk away with a smile and a desire for more. There are no hidden life lessons in that series. It’s all about escape which i think we all need every once in a while. In Vows, Vendettas and a Little Black Dress one of Sophie’s closest friends will get engaged and another will be shot. The consequences of both events are the driving forces of the book. Sophie will set out to avenge her wounded friend and try to accommodate her betrothed friend at the same time. In the meantime Anatoly’s past will begin to raise its ugly head and that will begin to put some strain on her relationship with him…but of course she can’t really resist him. Who could?
Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
I would like to write another Sophie book. I think it needs at least one more installment for the readers to have a sense of closure and complete satisfaction and I really want to spend some more time exploring Anatoly’s past. However before I write that I hope to write a fantasy novel that is completely separate from the Sophie series. I’ve been doing a lot of research to prepare for this next project and I have my fingers and toes crossed that the publishing industry will greet it with some level of enthusiasm.
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
Determination. This is a really tough business and you can’t just give up after a few rejections. And once your published you’re STILL going to get those rejections. An author who is destined for success (or to maintain his/her success) will keep writing after getting those rejections until he/she creates something they can sell.
Where can we learn more about you?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Writers who are trying to break into the publishing industry right now should know it’s a very tough market. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. At the moment publishers want “big concept” novels. Find the right idea and it will sell and when you do get your first rejection letter remember how bad the publishing house who sent it is going to feel when you become a bestselling author. The point is, keep writing, keep trying and believe in your own abilities. That’s essentially what it takes to succeed in this industry.