Welcome to an indie author, a place where you can find self-published (indie) authors and authors-to-be. We host interviews and conversations threads, providing a place where you can learn from, be inspired by, and make friends with fellow writers going down the ‘indie’ route.
Today’s interview is with KC Cowan.
Some key highlights:
🌏 Portland (OR) and Tucson (AZ), USA
🐾 Wrote a story called The Duck Who Wanted to Read in 1st grade
📖 Writes with a co-author
🖊 Fantasy; 3 young women drive each story
🎨 Enjoys walks, swimming and oil painting
So, let’s dive right in…
Hi there! Firstly, what do you like to be called?
I’ve always gone by my nickname - KC. It’s my initials. And I use my maiden name professionally. So -- KC Cowan
It’s nice to meet you, KC. Where in the world do you currently reside?
I am currently splitting my time between Portland, Oregon and Tucson, Arizona. My husband can’t abide the rain in Oregon anymore (it rains a lot, but worse, you get months of gray skies…) so we winter in Tucson. It’s a University town so there’s lots of culture and we love the sunshine!
Oh, how lovely that you get to flit between the two. I’ve been to Portland - I loved it there. Which subjects were your favourite ones as a child/teenager? Did you enjoy writing back then?
I always enjoyed English class, because writing came easily to me. And teachers always picked me to do “creative” stuff, like write a school play, so I was encouraged to be creative. I also loved choir and drama -- I was in every play and musical all during high school.
When did you first realise that you really enjoyed writing stories?
I wrote so much when I was a child and even into college, but creative writing took a back seat when I became a news reporter. After writing all day for the news, my energy was rather tapped out, so I stopped. It was when I was no longer a reporter and my co-author, Sara, asked me if I still had the “novel” we wrote in college and I dug it out and we began collaborating on fantasy stories that it hit me how much I LOVE living in my head and putting it down on paper.
What was the earliest thing you wrote which felt meaningful, or has otherwise been memorable for you? Can you tell us a little about it?
I remember writing a story called, The Duck who wanted to Read in first grade. It was about a duck who wanted to learn to read, so she went to a bookstore, bought a book and took it home and sat down and read it. Despite the lack of a good story arc, my story was one of a couple chosen from my class to go and read to a 3rd grade classroom. Now, that was a BIG DEAL!
Why did you choose to go down the self-published (‘indie’) route?
I had a small publisher for our first book as well as the sequel, but the company folded and I bought back the rights. After trying to go the traditional route with no luck, I decided to just go Indie and it has worked out pretty well.
That’s interesting, I’m glad it’s worked out well in the end. What was the first book you wrote?
I was hired to write a book about my hometown, Portland, Oregon. It was called, The Riches of a City, which is part of a quote on an 1800’s fountain in the city that reads: Good Citizens are the Riches of a City. I was terrified at the thought of writing 20,000 words, so I broke it down to 2,000 words each for the ten chapters, and told myself, “Well, that’s just equal to five news stories” and that made it manageable in my mind. I also wrote: 20,000 Brilliant Words on a slip of paper and put it on my computer where I could see it every day.
I like the title a lot. What was the inspiration behind it?
That book came out of the blue - a phone call with a job offer. I think because I was a known TV personality and reporter, they figured people would answer my calls for interviews and they were right!
Can you talk to us about your experience writing this first book? What was your rough process from start-to-finish?
At the time I wrote “Riches” I was working in radio as a morning news anchor. I would get up at 3:00 AM, then do my shift, but I was done at 9 AM. Then I would go home and write, or go do interviews, or make calls to set up interviews. By 2 PM, I was tired so I would just do something easy, like edit. When I had a finished chapter (each chapter had a different topic, like history, education, the arts) I’d send it to my editor and start the next one.
Do you tend to be more of a ‘planner’ or a ‘pantser’?
Writing with another person puts a whole different spin on it. Sara and I get together and talk about the possible characters in the next book we do. Who are they? What do they want? What are their challenges? Then we figure out what the main story arc will be and how it will end. But since we each still write a complete chapter and send it to each other, we have been known to come up with an idea we didn’t talk about before that might take the book in a different direction!
Do you have a preference for writing for any particular genres(s), or about any particular topics or themes (however broad or narrow)?
I like fantasy a lot -- But at the heart of all our books, are the three young women who are driving the story. And I find I like to READ stories with strong capable women, so I guess that’s why I like to write about them, too.
When/where do you tend to get your best writing done?
I like writing in the morning when I still feel fresh. However, if an idea strikes, I will run to the computer any time of day and dive right in. I LOVE getting lost in my writing and looking up and seeing 3 hours have flown by!
And how do you balance your writing with other life commitments?
I’m semi-retired now so it’s easy. Plus, while I’m waiting for Sara to finish her chapter, I’m under no pressure, and have the time to “day-dream” ideas for what I’ll do when the story comes back to me.
So I’m glad you mention Sara. How did your relationship come about? And when/how did you decide you would write together? I’d love to know more about how this works in practice.
Sara and I met in high school in Portland, Oregon. We were both in choir and involved in theater along with our other friend, Nancy. All three of us went to different colleges, but kept in touch. Sara is the one who started the whole thing by deciding to write her own fantasy novel. She made herself a character: Irene, Princess of Cabbage. She turned Nancy Danner into Nan the Dancer and I became Kay of the Crystal Seas. She is really the reason it began and we still do it as we did originally -- alternating chapters (Nancy dropped out kinda early).
So, after I write as far as I want on a particular chapter, I send it to Sara and she advances the various storylines she wants to work on. When I get it back, I get inspired by what Sara wrote and it really makes me excited to dive in and move it along. Throughout the book, we meet often to discuss how it’s going, kick around some ideas and figure out problems.
Once the book is “done” I get the job of editing and moving things around. For example, Sara may have advanced one plot point just a little bit -- a few paragraphs, and in my next chapter, I might also write just a bit. When I edit, I often decide to combine those two bits into one chapter.
What is your ‘day job’ / how do you support yourself financially alongside your writing?
I still do voice work. I have a client for whom I narrate educational/training videos for, plus I enjoy narrating other authors audiobooks. (check me out on ACX.com!)
Oh, I’ll have a look on there! And how do you market your books?
I have tried a LOT of different things. I got several TV, Radio, and Print stories about our first book, because I was a former TV reporter and well known. Didn’t seem to boost sales, though. I’ve done some FB ads, joined local writers groups, etc. but I think connecting with other writers on Twitter has been the most helpful. I learn a lot from others that way.
Well that’s very interesting. Do you have any sense of why TV/Radio/Print didn’t seem to work? Did FB Ads work better?
I guess the reason TV and Radio didn’t work is that my “target” audience ( teens, mostly although many older woman like our books) doesn’t read newspapers and watch TV news! I think I did a little better with FB.
In what ways has connecting with other writers been so helpful, marketing-wise?
I get some ideas from other writers about marketing. Other authors are so willing to help others! But also, the writing community on Twitter is always trying to boost other authors and I’ve had a couple of book bloggers reach out to me about our series, which is great!
Have you ever used a publisher? What was your experience like working with them?
I enjoyed working with my small publisher. In fact, I still use her to do my covers!
What one thing has led to most of your book sales thus far?
Book signings at local book stores. We sold 49 of the first book!
Have you ever used a publisher? Which one, and how did the relationship come about?
I just submitted to Ravenswood and she accepted me.
Can you share more with us about this publisher? What sorts of books do they publish? Who are the team behind it? What’s the experience of working with them been like?
She’s now become a vanity press, sadly.
Oh, that’s a shame. So am I right in saying that, since then, you’ve been publishing by yourself (i.e. without a publisher)?
Yes, I reformatted the books while recovering from ankle surgery (lots of time on the sofa!) and put them back out on Amazon. One thing I did to help market is print postcards for each of the books. One side is the cover, the other is info about the story and how to buy it. I ALWAYS keep them in my purse, so when talking to someone, if books come up, I ask if they like fantasy and if the answer is yes, I give them the cards. Guerrilla Marketing at its best!
What stories do you like to read yourself? Do you have any favourite genres?
I tend to gravitate towards female-centric books, novels or nonfiction. I’m an omnivore!
How about favourite books and authors? (especially self-published authors/indies, but traditional is perfectly fine, too!)
I love Amy Tan, Elizabeth Gilbert, Isabelle Allende, Nicole Mones to name a few. One book I keep recommending to people is Mistress of the Vatican. It’s a true story about a woman who maneuvered her brother in law from parish priest to Pope! And she was the “gatekeeper” everyone had to pay off to see him. She was a scandalous woman and the story reads like a novel.
Are there any books that you’re currently working on, or planning for the future? (writing-wise)
Sara and I are working on book four, but she’s had some health issues and hasn’t written for a while. So, to keep busy, I’ve been writing the prequel to our first book, Journey to Wizards’ Keep.
Aside from your writing, how do you like to spend your time?
Love to take walks in the desert when we’re in AZ, and go swimming. I adore antiquing even though I certainly don’t need anything else in our home. And I also am a hobbyist oil painter!
Where can we find you online (website & social media), & where can we purchase your books?
Our books are available on Amazon.com. You can learn more about our books and read “extras” that didn’t make it into final books at our website: www.irenenankay.com (names for our three heroines!)
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us before you go?
After a full career working in television, it’s really a joy to find a “second” career with writing. I hope to keep on making new adventures with our heroines for some time!
I’m so pleased you’ve found such a joyful “second” career, and may you continue to keep making adventures - and going on ones of your own! Thanks so much for taking part, this has been really fun.