Charlotte Writers would like to introduce our new bi-monthly feature – Interview with a Writer. Here we spotlight writers from our group and learn about their particular process. For our first interview, we are starting with Darin Kennedy, one of the original organizers of the Charlotte Writers Group.
Question: What role has Charlotte Writers Group played in your writing journey?
Answer: Charlotte Writers has been an essential part of my journey. When I first moved to Charlotte in 2009, I sought a group of writers to help critique my work as well fellow creative types to commiserate in the trenches. Now, seven-plus years later, most of my good friends in Charlotte all come from my connections in this group and I owe a lot of my happiness since moving back to NC to this group. Also, having my work critiqued as well as critiquing other people’s work every other week for five straight years significantly improved my ability to both write and edit effectively. Lastly, as the second organizer of the group after the founder, Brendan McKennedy, I was able to develop as a leader in a different direction than my time in medicine and the military had led. Not to mention, what a great group of people to spend time with week after week. Writers!
Question: What propelled you into the world of writing? What/who was your inspiration?
Answer: I spent most of 2003 in the desert of Iraq, courtesy of George W. Bush and the tons of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction we never found there. Working as a family physician in a war zone is basically long periods of boredom punctuated by short periods of panic. Still, you’ve got to have something to do during the boredom parts. Darin plus the dentist’s Panasonic Toughbook plus lots of free time equals half a novel with lots of battle imagery. Now, thirteen-plus years later, I’m still writing, starting my fifth novel, getting ready to negotiate publication on Novel #4 and, hopefully, Novel #1.
Question: Describe your writing process. (How do you begin? What comes first—character or plot? Do you outline? Is your process the same for every project?)
Answer: My writing process is as follows:
- Decide what I’m going to write about (chess, classical music, new version of classic, etc.)
- Research the heck out of said subject and allow all the research to marinate in my head, making all kinds of cool connections.
- Make up cool people to travel those connections.
- Start writing. I’m not much of an outliner, but I generally know where I’m headed. I do sometimes map out a calendar so I make sure stuff happens on correct days and times of day, but otherwise, I kind of make it up as I go along.
- Most importantly, keep plugging away till I finish that project before moving on. Caveat: I may stop from time to time on long projects if I want to do a short for an anthology.
Question: Describe your routine as a writer. (Is it daily or weekly? How do you structure your day/week? How many hours of writing versus research? How much time is spent on “business”—queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?)
Answer: As many days a week as I can; for as long as I can; either at Amelie’s, Starbucks, Caribou, Muggs, Brixx, or at my house; I sit at the screen and make the words appear. I may get 500 words down, I may get 2-3K down, but I try to get as close to “good” as I can the first time. However, all first drafts are crap and I know I’ll be back to shine the silver later. The “write as fast as you can and fix it later” method doesn’t work for me all that well, though I’ve dropped into that from time to time. As I have a M-Th 8-6/7/7:30 job, some of my writing gets done on those nights, but most on Fri/Sat/Sun by necessity. I hope for the 3K days, but am usually happy if I get 1,000 words at a sitting. Only a hundred sittings till another book done, right?
Question: What resources are essential to your writing process (software, writing tools, research sources)?
Answer: I write longer pieces in Scrivener and edit those in Microsoft Word. It just works for me. For short stories, the advantages of Scrivener don’t help me as much, so I start and finish in Word. I have to have the dictionary/thesaurus open in the top right corner as I’m always needing to know another synonym for “black” (dark, jet, inky, and… that’s about it)
Question: Talk about your perspective on representation (pros and cons of having an agent) and any attempts you have made at securing representation.
Answer: I sought an agent from 2008 until 2012, five long years of rejection after rejection, some on query, some on partial, and even some on fulls. After 49 or so nos, finally someone read something I wrote who got it and believed in me and my stuff. Having an agent is no guarantee to a big five publisher, a big advance, or successful marketing/sales, but they can help you get in the door at places where you’d otherwise never get beyond the front porch. Agents can also help you negotiate contracts, make sure you’re not getting a raw deal, and generally look out for your best interests. Do your best to research any agent you are thinking about approaching. This is a long conversation and there are lots of good websites and blogs out there that speak to this question far more eloquently than I can. Me, I like my agent and am glad to have that relationship in my life.
Question: Share your experiences interacting with publishers (query letters, the editing process, cover design, marketing/sales). If you have self-published, describe the pros and cons to this process.
Answer: So far, I’ve had one novel published through a small press, multiple short stories through multiple small presses and one national magazine, and self-published seven short stories with a common character together into a novella-sized paperback. I’ve enjoyed each of these endeavors. This question is a blog in and of itself and maybe if I’m invited back some time, I’ll go into more detail. Catch me at Amelie’s some Wednesday night if you’d like to discuss any or all of the above!
Darin Kennedy, born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Bowman Gray School of Medicine. After completing family medicine residency in the mountains of Virginia, he served eight years as a United States Army physician and wrote his first novel in 2003 in the sands of northern Iraq.
His debut novel, a paranormal thriller titled The Mussorgsky Riddle, was born from a fusion of two of his lifelong loves: classical music and world mythology. The sequel, The Stravinsky Intrigue, is due out in late 2016 and continues the journey through myth, music, and madness. Pawn’s Gambit, his contemporary fantasy, and another project, this one his first YA novel, are both on submission at this time. His short stories can be found in over twenty anthologies and magazines. He is currently, as always, hard at work on his next novel.
Doctor by day and novelist by night, he writes and practices medicine in Charlotte, North Carolina. When not engaged in either of the above activities, he has been known to strum the guitar, enjoy a bite of sushi, and rumor has it he even sleeps on occasion. Find him online at darinkennedy.com, on Twitter @darinkennedy, on Facebook @ Darin Kennedy – Author, & on Goodreads @ Darin Kennedy – Goodreads Author.