Interview with M.K Chester

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing tends to energize me. As an introvert, spending time alone, inside my own mind, allows me to renew my energy. Developing story lines and character arcs presents puzzles that I like to solve. Likewise, I like reading and/or watching a good story in much the same way.

  1. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

I can see both sides of the coin. If, by “big ego” you mean something akin to “bulletproof”, I can imagine that this person would be comfortable writing what they love and they may have a tough skin, which one needs to move forward.

However, if this keeps a writer from connecting personally with readers and other authors, it can be a problem. The authors I look up to are approachable and respond to their fans—and they respond to other authors looking for advice and support. The amount of support I’ve received over the years from the romance author community speaks volumes about their character—there’s room for everyone to have their own success.

  1. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Yes, and I would consider it in the future. I don’t limit my brain in the amount or types of story ideas, but realize that fans of say, historical romance, aren’t necessarily the same fans who will follow an author into outer space.

  1. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Yes! There’s a saying that every story has already been told, but no one has told it the way you would. So, I like to put odd twists into my stories that may be unexpected—but nothing to yank the reader out of the story itself. Readers of romance have wide and varied tastes, but the universal is the “happy ending” and that’s something you don’t mess with.

  1. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I don’t think the inability to feel emotions strongly does not necessarily negate the ability of a writer to pull strong emotion from readers using effective language. Writing is highly personal to me, and when I’m writing about something I feel strongly about, it can be difficult to be objective inside the context of the story.

  1. How do other authors help you become a better writer in real life?

The internet has increased the ability of writers to make connections and learn their craft. I work and have worked with several authors over the years who have selflessly assisted me (and others) with critiques, feedback, encouragement and advice. I have also joined a local RWA chapter and found those in-person meetings just as productive. I’ve not had any author attempt to discourage me, even as they pointed out issues in my writing. In fact, one of my early critique partners ended up editing my work at Carina Press years later.

  1. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

With the Bryeton Book series, I prefer each book to stand alone, yet be linked to the other stories by place and familiar characters. Readers will find familiar faces in each story that will hopefully bring a smile of recognition and a feeling that they’re “at home.”

  1. What author(s) did you dislike at first but grew into?

The top of my list is Earnest Hemingway. I took the AP English Lit course in high school and read The Sun Also Rises. I found him incredibly difficult to get into, with his short, succinct sentences. Because I had also started writing, I started to see how his style began to influence my own—and I liked how it worked for me. While I’m now conscious of what I’m reading while I’m writing, I am also more conscious of the things I like and want to emulate in my own style.

  1. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

There’s only one book I read every year, and it’s Ann Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. Depending on what’s going on in my life, I always find some new wisdom—after all, she’s writing about immorality. While I think this book will stand the test of time and become a classic, for now, it’s the book that launched the vampire craze and as such, is underappreciated today.

  1. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

I usually let the real people I base characters on know that I’ve done so. Typically, these are secondary characters for me, not major characters or villains, etc. I will also occasionally use a friend’s name and let them be surprised. In All in Good Time, all the Ryan family names come from my own family, aunts and uncles, who were alive in that era.

  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

LOL—about twenty! Only one or two of them are in the “idea” stage, the rest have multiple chapters complete. I also have a geeky spreadsheet of them, including a color-coded system to easily recognize how close they are to completion.

  1. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Sometimes, it depends on the subject matter. I enjoyed writing the Bryeton Books because they reflect stories and ideas shared by my family who are of the Greatest Generation. It allowed me to look at old photos, ask questions to fill in blanks, and the research was much more intimate than something in the dystopian realm.

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

For All in Good Time and the other books in the series, I wanted to ensure the names were historically accurate for the time and location. I do that for any historical novels. Trendy names can date your work, so I tend to use more classical names for contemporary work and save the super unique stuff for dystopian stories.

  1. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes, I read my reviews. It’s a part of criticism and you have to understand that not everyone will love this thing you poured your heart and soul into (lol). Having said that, I have a love/hate relationship with sites like Goodreads. On one hand, it seems great that everyone and their dog can leave feedback. On the other hand, everyone and their dog can leave feedback. For example, I’ve had someone leave a one-star review for the audio version because of the narrator (not the story, which she liked). That’s frustrating as an author because you can’t do anything about that, but it drags your rating down for no good reason, which can hurt sales.

  1. What was your hardest scene to write?

I’m going to admit that the endings are the hardest things for me to write. I didn’t start out writing romance with the HEA and I rewrite endings more than anything else because I don’t want the last few pages to feel either forced or too tidy. It’s a fine line, at least in my head.

  1. Do you Google yourself?

I used to, and I probably will to periodically see what pops up. I use Google Alerts for my titles, so when a new review comes along, I’ll be notified that way (if nothing else).

  1. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

Recently, I gave up my job. Not intentionally—I was laid off. After the shock and awe wore off, I saw the blessing that now (for the first time since I graduated college) I have the time to really make this writing thing happen.

  1. What is your favorite childhood book?

I read a LOT as a child and there were several I read over and over. Among them were any and all Judy Blume books, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, and Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Peterson. Around age 10, I’d read every book on my shelf and thought for the first time that I should try to write a story.

  1. Does your family support your career as a writer?

Gladly, yes. They don’t always understand the process because they’re a big bunch of extroverts, but they are supportive with time and encouragement. And because they’re a big family there’s some guaranteed sales!

  1. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

On average? Ten years, LOL.  I have rarely had the opportunity to write on any kind of full-time basis, so getting a story from idea to published has taken some time in most cases. My best guess is 9 months, and I think I can reduce that time-frame give the amount of time I now have available.