Today, I am pleased to continue my Author Q&A Series with an amazing writer and mentor, KM Weiland.
K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.
KM has been a heavy influence on my return to writing, and her role as mentor has helped my abilities as an aspiring author blossom. Getting the chance to interview her was truly a blessing, and I am excited to share it with you.
- When did you begin writing professionally? What guided you to that career choice?
I started writing when I was twelve and published a small newsletter throughout high school. I independently published my first novel, the western A Man Called Outlaw when I was twenty. But I didn’t really take it seriously as a business until my next book, the medieval historical Behold the Dawn, came out three years later.
Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom.
- Which authors or works were inspirational to your growth as a writer?
As a novelist, I am inspired by countless excellent authors and filmmakers. Specifically, Brent Weeks’s epicness, Margaret Atwood’s prose, and Patrick O’Brian’s sheer genius speak to me and urge me on. As a blogger, I’m inspired by the professionalism and creativity of people such as Joanna Penn, Porter Anderson, and Jody Hedlund.
- What drew you to the genres you write in?
First answer is: blood and thunder stories. I’m kind of all over the board on genres (although everything I write does stay confined under the giant umbrellas of either historical or fantasy), but all of my stories are what I like to call “blood and thunder.” They’re usually action-packed, a little bit on the adventurous side, but also gritty.
- How and where did you learn your vast repertoire or knowledge on writing?
Writing books, magazines, blogs—and lots and lots of study and practice of real stories!
- How did you get involved in helping other writers?
It was all an accident, believe me! I stumbled into blogging about writing because, hey, every writer needs a blog, right? And you’re supposed to blog about what you’re interested in, and that would be…writing. Then one day I woke up, and the blog had just sort of taken off!
Really, I think the site has been as much of a blessing to me as it has been to anyone. Other than the marvelous writer folk I’ve gotten to meet, I’ve also learned so much by writing about writing.
- You have published 6 writing craft books, you have a podcast with more than 300 episodes, and your website has a wealth of resources and information. How has sharing this with others helped you grow as a mentor and a writer?
I’m learning right along with everyone I teach. My blog and my books are just an outgrowth of my own writing journey. Forcing myself to put my own thoughts and discoveries into a teachable format has been invaluable to me in strengthening my own conscious knowledge of writing.
- When you are mentoring someone, what are some of the most common mistakes you see when they are learning the craft?
#1: Fail to properly structure the story.
#2: Fail to create an engaging character with an engaging voice.
#3: Fail to show more than is told.
- As a writer, what has been the most difficult thing for you to overcome? What about as a mentor?
Every book is its own adventure. Something that’s easy in one book can end up being surprisingly difficult in another. Major rewrites, when they’re necessary, are probably my least favorite part—but they offer their own rewards too. Honestly, I enjoy aspects of every part of the process.
- We know that imagination cannot be taught, but what do you think is the single most important thing to writing a successful novel?
Proper structure is vital in creating powerful and memorable fiction. Story structure is instinctual to most people. It’s embedded deep in the human psyche. It’s certainly not an arbitrary set of guidelines, and it’s also not something exclusive to our era. We find the classic three-act structure across centuries and continents.
That being so, we have to ask ourselves, Why? The answer, of course, is that structure creates stories that not only balance the rise and fall of action, but also time the important turning points, so that they have the best chance of impacting and resonating with readers.
What writer doesn’t want to do that? A conscious understanding of structure allows us to understanding the theory behind story, which then allows us to discover why certain stories work and others don’t—and how to make sure our stories land in the former group.
- What can your fans and apprentices expect to see from you in the near future?
Within just a few weeks, I have an online writing course coming out called How to Write Amazing Character Arcs That Sell Novels. Before the year is out, I also hope to put out a book and workbook on character arcs. I’m also in the process of editing my latest novel—a historical superhero adventure called Wayfarer.
A big thank you goes to KM for taking the time to be a part of the Author Q&A Series. I hope that any aspiring authors or writers found some good advice in her answers. Don’t forget that you can find so much more of her incredible insight on her website Helping Writers Become Authors and in her books.
A special thanks also goes out to the Wordplayers. Thank you for the feedback and input for the series.
Thanks for reading!