I came across Sara Flower Kjeldsen through a mutual friend some time ago. I picked up her book The Broken and the Foolish, and I was blown away by it. Her newest book, Sally, is out, and she agreed to do an interview to talk about writing, her books, and doing it all independently.
I’ll start with a basic question: What made you get into writing and how did you start?
I’ve been writing books since I was 6 years old and “publishing” them in class – my teacher actually asked me to slow down one time. Creating stories is my lifeblood. I became more serious about writing in my mid-20’s where I started to create novels. Interesting stories and films made me want to create my own. Later on, I wanted to be able to capture the emotional brutality – and beauty – of being human.
Where do you draw the most inspiration from when you’re searching for a muse?
I’m perma-inspired. I’ve always got story ideas spinning in my mind, so I’d say that is my biggest muse. Music, a good film, an interesting fashion ad, or going for a walk can all help with my inspiration.
Do you prefer self-publishing on your own terms versus going through the long and tedious querying process to find an agent?
I do prefer self-publishing as I was so excited to release my books out into the world that I didn’t want to wait months for literary agents. However, I may be open to querying agents in the future.
Book agencies and publishers tend to play it “safe” when it comes to what they’ll accept, and few will take risks from the normal, cookie-cutter types of novel. Do you think there would be more opportunities if they’d open up and take a risk with something you’ve written?
Yes, I believe so. There are some new literary agents who are a little more open than the seasoned ones and I’ve queried those ones from time to time. I think that the publishing industry underestimates readers. People are more open to unique, off-kilter stories than the literary agents and editors may realize.
What’s your take on the current indie book scene? Is it too many authors cramming themselves into one arena, or does the competition make better writing come through?
I think in some ways it can get a little saturated since there is no one monitoring the quality of content. Amazon has some parameters you need to meet such as spelling errors and formatting guidelines, but aside from that, it’s free range. I’ve read a few books that had little to no editing and the writing felt like it was in the first draft stage. But these situations are in the minority. I think that most indie authors can market themselves as unique, professional creatives. The new #Bookstagram trend on Instagram is particularly helpful. I’ve sold the most books through Instagram and Twitter. Having a blog or a website also helps engage readers, making it easier to gain fans of your books. I personally have a few devoted readers from the Blogosphere, so I recommend every author to have a blog presence. Over time you can build a readership and your writing will get better with experience as well.
I noticed you came under some troll attack after your book The Broken and the Foolish rubbed a male reader the wrong way when he saw your main character was a strong female and not a damsel in distress. Is having a female protagonist a struggle for male readers? Do you find breaking the gender norm in a western book was hard for some readers to grasp?
Ah yes, this one actually surprised me, because all of my readers for The Broken and the Foolish have been male so far! So it was interesting to see a man who wasn’t impressed with an independent female outlaw. I’ve noticed a lot of men could relate to Mary, the protagonist. You ask a good question. People who I know in real life have sometimes pinned me as the female protagonists I write about and get a little offended at the violence, forgetting that the story is about how a particular character may have been in a certain era. My editor, who is a woman, also suggested that I tone Mary’s fierce nature down a bit and have her fall in love with Alano (A handsome Mexican cowboy) and she thought that she was a little too self-absorbed. I’d say one might need to be a little self-centered to stay alive as an outlaw. *Laughs*
I write to show that everyone is human. Male or female, we are all unique, and gender is not necessarily a personality type.
Your new book Sally is now available on Amazon. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m excited to in the near future. What can you tell me before I dive in?
Sally is an outlaw coming of age story. She is a gentle girl who wants to study art in Cambridge – an honour for any woman in 1880 – but her plans are cut short when a tornado hits the countryside and she is forced to hide in a root cellar with a local farmer. In those days, a woman’s honour was her greatest asset. Her parents force them to marry to maintain her good name. It’s a novel full of twists and turns that any fan of adventures, suspense, or Westerns will enjoy.
Can you tell us a bit about what you have in store for the future? Any works in progress you feel comfortable telling us about?
I’ll definitely be releasing a YA fantasy novel in the near future. The first draft is done and there are four main characters based on my grandparents when they were younger. I’ll also be working on a slightly different novel. It will be a surprise even to me on how it turns out.
You can purchase Sally, Sara’s newest novel, on Amazon in both Kindle and print book format.