Author Spotlight Interview: Deborah L. King
Today’s interview is with women’s fiction author Deborah L. King. Deborah shares with us her journey to publication and details about her writing process. We are thrilled that we got to learn more about her, and her life outside of writing.
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
DK: Hi, I’m Deborah and I write women’s literary fiction. It’s also been called historical, but I refuse to believe that the 1980s are historical. I’ve been a writer and storyteller my whole life, and I published my first short story when I was seven years old. It was a melodrama about a church closing (spoiler: it didn’t close). For years, I wrote poetry, songs, and nonsensical adult stories for my own entertainment. It was only after attending a women’s writing class and reading my stories out loud that I started calling myself a writer.
HG: I refuse to believe the 1980s are historical, either! LOL. Tell us a bit about your publishing journey. When did you know you were ready to take on the “author” role?
DK: In 2016, I attended a writer’s retreat master class that included a full manuscript review. The instructor read Glory Bishop and told me “It’s time to start querying to find an agent. This book is ready.” I was floored and flattered and more than a little bit terrified. I’d already had it edited and beta read a few times, so I started querying. It took 99 tries before I was accepted, but I got some really nice rejection letters. See… most of the problem was that Glory Bishop was 130k words which is considered way too much for a debut women’s fiction novel. A few said to come back when I condensed it… but then I found Red Adept Publishing and they wanted the full manuscript as-is.
I got an email, a voice message, and another phone call. I was floored. See… in the beginning, I didn’t set out to publish a novel. I just wanted to get the story out of my head. The fact that somebody had read the whole thing and wanted to publish it was amazing to me. It took eighteen months from acceptance to publication, but in June 2019, I became a published author.
HG: Amazing! Tell us a little bit about your actual writing process. Do you have a routine for where and when you write? Any interesting quirks?
DK: Let’s see…depending on where I am and what time it is, I will sit down at a desk or my dining room table. I use Google Docs, so I can really write anywhere, even on my phone. I’ll spend some time agonizing over what the character is doing and how long they’ve been doing it…I once had a character stuck in a phonebooth for 6 months. I’ll get up and prepare myself a drink and a snack (unsweetened lemonade, unsweetened iced tea, or a box of Riesling with a straw, and hopefully some Doritos). Maybe I’ll tweak the thermostat a bit. I’ll sit back down and agonize some more, start to post about my agony on social media, but reconsider because that’s silly and attention-seeking. THEN I’ll decide to move on to a different scene and eventually get to writing.
Quirks… hmm… well, each of my characters has a theme song that I play non-stop when I’m writing their scenes. While writing Glory Bishop, I listened to “A Case of You” as sung by Prince and “Holdin’ On” by Citizen Cope twenty-four hours a day for three days straight—even when I slept. For Glory Unbound, it was “Try” by P!nk; and for Mary Not Broken, it was “To Be Loved” by Jackie Wilson.
HG: Love the process and the quirks! Thank you for sharing that with us. What have been the challenges you’ve faced in your publishing career?
DK: The first challenge I faced was querying. I had to tweak my query letters a few times before I got to something that effectively condensed 130k words down to 150 words. Then came the rejections and a hasty decision that I regret. After several rejections of Glory Bishop due to word count, I chose to cut the novel at what I thought was an acceptable point and make it 80k words. That failed miserably as the main character no longer had a complete character arc. I only sent that manuscript out twice, but I think I might have gotten a better result if I had not cut it.
Did I mention I got 99 rejections? I couldn’t take them personally because they were rejections of my query letter, not my actual novel. Out of the 99 agents I queried, 92 of them rejected because of the word count, genre, timing, etc. Only seven agents requested the full manuscript and even they were put off by the word count.
And here’s the funny part… After the full manuscript of Glory Bishop was accepted by Red Adept Publishing, they found the ending so troublesome (the heroine married the bad guy), that we cut the last quarter of the book and wrote a new ending. The manuscript is now 100k words.
Of course, I had other challenges, writer’s block (it’s real), editing, etc. I won’t say they were easily overcome, but after pounding my head on the desk, quite a few tears, and a lot of wine, I made it.
HG: So glad you stuck with it, and in that is great advice for other writers. Tell us a bit about your books. What can readers expect? What feeling do you hope readers are left with when they finish one of your novels?
DK: My books are Women’s Fiction. That means that the target audience and main characters are women and that the themes are women’s concerns. It doesn’t mean that men won’t enjoy the stories (quite a few men have given me great reviews). It just means that my stories depict a world from a woman’s perspective.
Readers have said my books should come with trigger warnings. In Glory Bishop, there is a tiny bit of teenagers behaving badly. There’s also a couple of F words, and some domestic abuse. In Glory Unbound, there’s everything from the previous book, but more intense. Mary Not Broken has domestic abuse and really sad things. But the biggest trigger warning is for religion. The books are not considered Christian Fiction, but the characters’ faith plays a very important part in each story.
Honestly, I just want my readers to be entertained for a few hours. I want them to root for Glory, hiss at Malcolm, and understand Mary. I want them to love Herschel, JT, and the Parnells. I want them to feel they have read a good story.
HG: Fantastic. Your third book, Mary Not Broken, is available through Kindle Vella. Could you tell readers a little bit more about Kindle Vella?
DK: Kindle Vella is a serial publishing/reading platform. Stories are published in episodes. The first three episodes are free to read, and the remaining episodes are purchased with tokens (subscribers get 200 free tokens to get them started). The tokens cost about a penny each, and the episodes cost 1 token per hundred words.
Writing in episodes is the hardest project I’ve ever tried. When I started out, I was fifteen weeks ahead, meaning that I had fifteen episodes already written and ready to publish. After a while, writer’s block set in and I watched my fifteen-week lead slowly dwindle away. By the end of the series (80 episodes) I was barely keeping up with the weekly publishing schedule. Trying to write and publish at the same time meant no chance to go back and make changes, so I sometimes had to write myself out of terrible plot holes and continuity problems… while I was publishing.
Yeah… not trying that again.
HG: Thank you for shedding light on that! If your most recent book, Mary Not Broken, was turned into a movie or TV series, who would you cast as the main characters?
DK: I had to ask around about this question because I don’t watch TV or movies often enough to know any actors. I am told that Regina King would be perfect as adult Mary, and Danielle Detweiller as young Mary. John Batiste could play Mason Carter. Quinta Bronson might be great as Ruthie, and Delroy Lindo as Will Bevers. For Paul, how about Brian Tyree Henry? And though he’s not a main character, I would insist that Winston Duke play Slim.
HG: Awesome. What can you tell us about any other projects you have in the works?
DK: The story I’m working on now is sort of a secret. I can say that it’s absolutely not related to the Glory series. I can also say that it’s women’s fiction that will also appeal to men and will make a lot of people uncomfortable. It’s a dystopian tale set twenty years in a future where a lot of people haven’t lived happily ever after… but there is hope.
HG: Oooh. I’m intrigued. Keep us posted when you can. Switching gears, what do you enjoy doing when not writing?
DK: When I’m not writing, I enjoy my day job (I play with pictures of guts all day), cartoons, baking, photography, and classic Star Trek… but… I’m writing for like ten hours a day, so I don’t have much time for anything else.
HG: What was your last 5-star read?
DK: Voyage of the Pleiades by Amie Marie Turner. It’s a Victorian adventure murder mystery, with a woman defying societal norms, leading an expedition, and searching for a killer…all while slowly developing a relationship with a colleague. Linnea Wren is a very busy lady.
HG: For fun, before we wrap up, let’s do a fast five! First one…cookies or cake?
DK: Cake!! Every year for Christmas I spend two days baking cakes. I usually end up with about thirty… caramel, lemon, carrot, butter rum, chocolate Irish cream, pineapple coconut, and German chocolate. Oh… you meant for eating? Well, I’m quite partial to butter cookies.
HG: 30 cakes! That’s incredible. Movie or book?
DK: Always books. Nothing against movies, but I’ve seen very few movies that have equaled the source books.
HG: Pool or ocean?
DK: Definitely pool. The ocean isn’t bad or anything, but I feel like a trespasser in natural bodies of water. Fish and other beings actually live there. I’d be quite upset if some giant creature came wading through my home.
HG: Introvert or extrovert?
DK: Total introvert. I’m kind of afraid of people in real life, and I’m even shy in Zoom meetings too.
HG: eBook, print book or audiobook?
DK: This is a tough one. Each one has its merits, but if I had to choose, I’d say eBook, if only for portability.
HG: For readers that want to find out more about your stories and keep up with you, where should they go to connect or learn more?
DK: I think I’m on almost every mainstream social media platform…but I check Facebook the most, and I’m trying to do better at checking for messages. If you look for Deborahloi on most social media, it’ll probably be me.
Readers can visit:
- My website: https://deborahlking.com/
- Substack: https://deborahlking.substack.com/
- Facebook https://www.facebook.com/deborahloiwriter/
- Twitter https://twitter.com/deborahloi
- LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/deborahloi/
- Instagram https://www.instagram.com/deborahlkingwriter/
- Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3610436-deborahloi
- Book Bub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/4289089942
And of course, there’s email email@example.com, which I check all day every day.
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