Kay Froebel, Masquerade Crew Member
Have you read The Smartest Girl in the Room? Good. If you haven’t, I am willing to overlook this obvious blunder on your part. For now.
I have a special love for this series, mainly due to it’s strong female roles. You know me, I would take a kick ass girl over a simpering idiot any day. (Think Buffy- before the show got weird- versus Bella Swan.) The New Pioneer Series by Deborah Nam-Krane, featuring The Smartest Girl in the Room, Family You Choose, and the third installment, The China Doll due to be released soon, is a brilliant series containing four very different women struggling through the ups and downs of life and love.
Now I have been a pretty big fan of this series, and I was lucky enough to nab the author, Deborah, for an interview. I got to poke her brain with a stick, and it was quite fun! You should try it sometime. (Please note, this is figurative. If you poke someone’s brain with a stick you will probably go to jail, you creep.) Below is my interview with the Mistress of Sass and Wit herself.
Deborah Nam-Krane, Mistress of Sass
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No, I wanted to be a bunch of other things first. I wanted to be a painter, but when I was five my father told me I’d never make any money as an artist. I Thought that was weird even then, but I realized later it was because he was actually an artist who chose to go into architecture, largely because he was concerned about making a living. So my father’s comment pretty much killed that. I did dabble a little in high school and actually won a drawing award, but I never felt like I could pursue it. I have, however, always been interested in being a mystery writer. To the extent I pulled off a mystery in The China Doll, I’m over the moon.
I think it is pre-programmed in the parental download that we must persuade our children away from any type of artistic future because it doesn’t pay well. I mean are there any artists who are not starving artists? As for the mystery, I totally suck at writing mysteries so KUDOS! That mystery was pretty epic. (I have read book 3 because I am that cool! Just kidding. The author took pity on my lack of patience. It’s a handicap, truly it is.)
The New Pioneers Series, what made you finally decide to hunker down and publish it?
When my youngest two started preschool- free!- I decided I was going to hunker down and do it. I started reviewing for Amazon Vine at that point, and I read a book that just stunned it. It was a great story, but the writing was just… meh. I thought, if that can get published it, damn it, I’m going to do it too. I’d already started in on the first book, in bits and pieces, but I spent the next month writing like it was my (unpaid) job. Then it was done and I felt really empty. I didn’t feel like I wanted to celebrate- I felt like I wanted to write some more. So I started in on the second book, which was actually the story I’d been working on the longest, and some issues that had been nagging me for a decade finally fell into place. It literally felt like the story was writing itself. Finishing the second took a lot out of me and I thought I should slow down a little bit. I decided I’d go see a movie, but when I got to the theater, there was literally a power outage. I took that as a sign.
No fair. I want to write. Why won’t my office building have a power outage! Give me a damn sign, stupid universe. On a less crazy note, the writing bug is a difficult one to shake. Once you catch it, it consumes you. The lines blur between hobby and obsession. In this case, I am quite glad the stories took hold as it produced a fantastic series.
You have done a brilliant job developing your characters not only through the whole series, but through each book. Out of all your characters, which one are you most proud of?
I based Zainab off of my best friend in college, and Emily and Miranda are different parts of me. So making Jessie come to life is what I’m proud of. She’s the youngest, and we get to see her arc. Making her real without losing her core was the real job. She was supposed to be more vulnerable as I originally conceived her, but my subconscious wasn’t having that.
She isn’t kidding. Deborah, like Emily, graduated COLLEGE at 19. Can you freaking believe it? I had asked in a completely joking manner, expecting a negative response when she admitted she HAD in fact graduated college at 19. I think I cried. As for Jessie, I love her. She is a riot.
For someone who is devoted to her characters as you are, did you find it difficult completing this series?
Oh my god- yes! And as I really got to know the characters I killed off, I dreaded “pulling the plug”. I left room to give them more story though, and I’m doing that now.
Killing characters off is difficult, but I absolutely love when people do it. Now, before you start calling me a sadist hear me out. People die. Death adds another lay of realism to a story. Does this mean every story should have death? Absolutely not. In the case with this series, it spanned over a number of years, so death was inevitable. Still, people find a way to make people survive through the ages. Hey look, there goes my 104 year old grandfather!
Did you intend to send such a strong message about the consequences of deceit and the importance of honesty in this series?
It wasn’t a conscious intention, but that certainly reflects what I believe. I’ve had people tell me that I am too honest. No one has ever accused me of being a liar, and yet I manage to get into so much trouble anyway! The belief exists that everyone wants honesty, but only if it aligns with what they want to hear. I would say Mitch and Richard both fall into that. And, more seriously, Alex. Which is the most obnoxious thing ever in my opinion. I think it’s the ultimate disrespect to decide for someone else how their reality should look, which is what you do when you withhold information.
I loved the subtle message in this series because you get to see first-hand the rippling effect that deceit has on not just the liar, but the people around them. They are all guilty of this, not even just the men. Even the women are guilty of this. I can’t say how as it would give away some major plot lines, but seriously go read the books. Deceit is a strong, strong theme.
Have you had to deal with negativity regarding your series? If so, how do you respond to it?
I steeled myself pretty well for negative reviews by the time I hit Publish, so what I have gotten hasn’t gotten to me that much. There was only one time I read a review and was criticized for something and I thought, “Argh! That’s the entire point!” I have sat back though and smiled as people hated certain characters.
I tell many of the authors I edit/critique/beta for… you have to keep in mind that some of your readers a little bit thicker than average. Meaning, to them 1 + 1 isn’t always going to equal 2. Take reviews with a grain of salt, because our snazzy subtleties that we spend HOURS perfecting are going to be lost on some reader. Also, she really did smile as I raged about how much I hated Mitch. And boy did I rage.
No, I had a great time with it. I was more concerned that I would reveal things in the correct order- don’t give away too much, you know? I would say dropping hints is the hardest to get just right. I wanted to make my reveal and have them think, “Oh, she mentioned that!” Only one person guessed where I was going in The Family You Choose, but she writes twisted families also, so she knew the signs.
Writing in two different times is extremely hard to do, but man did Deborah make it work. I loved the chapters that delved into the history of the complex family, though you don’t see this until book 2, Family You Choose. I absolutely adored the characters, and would love to see maybe a novella or two about those characters! Yes I am demanding, no I will not work on that.
You have so many characters, but they are all so important to this story. Did you find it difficult keeping track of so many intricate plot lines?
I had more, but I got rid of them, LOL. There are some points, particularly with Richard, that I want to make sure the dates make sense. That is when I thank god for my editor. But otherwise no. All of them had very clear motivations to me for a long time. As I said, they were with me for decades!
The fact that these characters were so in tune with the author shows. They are wonderfully developed, and have such a realistic vibe to them.
So now that the New Pioneers Series, as we know it, is finished, what more can we expect from you? New Pioneers: Next Gen?
I am actually working on book five! The Golden Boy Returns brings back the core cast, and adds two very important new characters. One of them is connected to Zainab and it reaches back to The Smartest Girl in the Room. The other is connected to one of Richard’s friends/employees. I’m also trying to work out, as you put it, the Next Gen because there is a next gen, and I have some specific ideas about a relationship, which I hint at the end of Let’s Move On. And I find I can’t let go of a certain character from The China Doll and Let’s Move On. I think he’ll be getting some story time as well.
Fantastic! While you all may not know, I had a hard time deciding which book I liked best, The China Doll (Book 3) or Let’s Move On (Book 4). They were each epic in its own right. I think I finally decided on The China Doll because I loved Jessie, but still. I am all for a Book 5 featuring Detective D. (Curious? Go read the books!)
You self-published this series. Was it difficult to choose? How did you market it without the power of a publishing house name behind you?
I finished all four drafts at the end of 2007 and published the first this year, in 2013. I spent a good two and a half years researching my options. I was VERY ready to pull the trigger by the time I did. Marketing is another issue altogether. I would love to have a team of people getting this out to reviewers and putting this on the first page of popular retail sites, but everyone has told me that unless you’re big, you don’t get that at a big house either. So no regrets there.
How do I do it? Any viable way I can find. I’ve found some very useful groups on Facebook, and I’ve stumbled onto a couple of bloggers who have been supportive of my work. I’m playing with sales, but I really feel like the strategy might be past its sell by date, so to speak. The best strategy is the write more- but as we’ve recently been reminded, to maintain quality standards. Anyone can slap together 60k words of drivel; if we’re serious, we have to do better than that.
Deborah is well connected, and a great companion to have. She recently sent out an email containing links to useful sites around publication, marketing, and literary advice. Her choice to Self-Publish worked very well in her favor. The part of this answer I love most is the last part. She is completely correct. Now-a-days, anyone can write. If you want to be considered an author though, you have to do the best you can. You have to take it seriously. Write your story, not write for sales.
Now for the coolest question ever, if you could choose any, what would your superpower be?
Hah! The answer is the ability to heal. That’s why I liked teaching yoga and Pilates, although I didn’t think I’d heal anyone, just make them feel better.
Awesome answer! I don’t think I have ever heard that one. As for teaching… yeah I teach couch potato.
Want to know more about the authoress and her books? Click the links below.
I want to thank Deborah Nam-Krane for taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat with me during this interview. Deborah currently has two books on the market for the New Pioneer Series, and Book 3 and 4 will be hitting shelves before you know it! As she mentioned in this interview, Book 5 is currently in progress. If you haven’t done so already, I would hurry up and them out! If you like sassy chick lit, and strong women, this is a book for you! So go pick them up. Like now.