Friday, November 16, 2007

Thoughts about the "B" word (no, not the one that ryhmes with "witch"!)

Killer Hobbies received a double bouquet of great news this week.

I had the honor of being listed, along with fellow author and Killer Hobbies co-blogger Linda O. Johnston, on the IMBA’s Bestsellers list for October. (

Now, as a relatively new author (I’ve actually been published many times before, but always under a pseudonym), I found myself awestruck—perhaps overly so—by the term “Bestseller.”

When my name turned up on the IMBA’s list just one month after the publication date for DYING TO BE THIN, I spent an embarrassing amount of my thought-time “dieseling,” as our Monica would say, over the following questions:

“What is a ‘Bestseller’, anyway?”
“What does it mean?”
“Why am I spending so much time thinking about the ‘B-word’ rather than doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is finishing up the first draft for A KILLER WORKOUT?”

After misdirecting all that brain energy, I finally decided to observe an old adage (I’m probably misquoting it here): “God arranged man’s arms and legs so that it is hard for him to either a) pat himself on the back, or b) kick himself on the behind.”

Bottom line: I’ve got another book to finish!!!!!

Read of the week

When I’m not thought-dieseling or writing, I’ve been reading an interesting book called WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, by Donald Maass.

His advice for how write a “breakout novel”—in a nutshell, it’s this: open up your story. Make it bigger. Give it higher stakes, a larger theme, one that impacts many more people than you’d find in, say, the population of Cabot Cove.

I find myself instinctively doing that. In the second book in The Fat City Mysteries, A KILLER WORKOUT, there is an umbrella “theme” of mean girls grown up, but underneath that theme, there are other, larger issues at stake: child molestation and criminal activity in the national forests, plus environmental peril.

So I’m wondering—do you think that books need to “grow” their stories in scope in order to maintain a reader’s interest and loyalty? Authors, do you use any particular techniques to widen the scope of your follow-on works? To make them “bigger”? To achieve a “breakout” novel?


Joe Moore said...

Kathryn, congratulations on becoming bestseller status. Enjoy the "B" word. You earned it.

Monica Ferris said...

A few years ago I was interested in writing a "breakout" novel. After all, there is a whole lot of money in one -- or more -- of those things. Then I got into these stitchery mysteries, and the chance of one faded. These are doing well, and I was satisfied. But now, just maybe, as someone pointed out, I may have the plot idea for one in Buttons and Bones. Do I? Am I willing to reach for it? I don't know -- isn't that odd?

Linda O. Johnston said...

I'm always interested in writing a serious breakout novel, and in fact I'm working on one that I hope has potential. On the other hand, if Kendra Ballantyne, protagonist of my Pet-Sitter mystery series, wants to star in my breakout book, I'll let her!

Kathryn Lilley said...

Thanks Joe! Best, Kathryn

Kathryn Lilley said...

Monica, that's the first thing I thought of when I read your background idea for Buttons and Bones--that German POW angle is great, very compelling. Can't wait to read it!

Kathryn Lilley said...

I get the sense that as authors any of us can create a breakout book, no matter what the genre, but that even in a smaller story, such as an intimate family situation, it requires hooking into larger, global themes that draw readers in.

Camille Minichino said...

I posted to this earlier, and somehow it has disappeared. I'm posting again as a test .. maybe I didn't pay my Google bill??

On breaking out and big themes. .. I've often wondered if "cozy" can make it, even if the themes are big. If you think about the really big cozies, they're by authors who go back a few years.

I hope I'm wrong!

Kathryn Lilley said...

Ooh, Camille, I really hope that's wrong! Maybe that's why my books are getting less "cozy," and more what they call "soft boiled." I talked about that in the post called Cozy Mysteries and Sex! Violence! Chicks Gone Wild! Maybe one would have to strain the edges of the genre a bit, don't know!