I met L. Blankenship through her excellent writing blog, Notes from the Jovian Frontier, during this year's A to Z challenge. I've enjoyed her posts on everything from how to decide where your story should begin to resuscitating comatose stories, especially because she uses examples from her own writing, and let me tell you, these little peeks at her story ideas are most intriguing.
When L. started writing about using Kickstarter to raise funds to help her launch her fantasy series, Disciple, I pricked up my ears. I'd read the opening excerpt and thought it looked great. I have much respect for L.'s plan to hire an editor and proofreader, as well as an artist to design the book cover. We all know how hard it is to do line edits and proofreading for our own projects.
Kickstarter is a great way to give a project an extra edge before releasing it into the wild. At the same time, relatively few writers use it. To get a better idea of what's involved, I interviewed L. about her writing, about Disciple, and about her Kickstarter campaign.
ET: What led you to writing fiction?
LB: I don't think I was ever led to it, actually. My life has been more about the things that led me away from writing fiction and how long it took me to get back. Like a lot of people, I started writing stories when I was quite young and it's always been that thing I've returned to when others failed.
ET: You're preparing to release the first book in your six-part fantasy series. What was it about this particular story that made you want to develop it?
LB: I had to think about this question a lot. DISCIPLE has had its claws in me for so long that I don't question it anymore. Deep down, it's a story about realizing what you are capable of -- which is something I think many people never do. Myself included, perhaps. And there's a dozen other things I love about the story: the action, the gritty details, the characters, the triumphs, the agonies, and yes, the romance. I couldn't not write this story, to be honest.
ET: For people who haven't heard of Kickstarter, can you give us a quick explanation of what it is and how it works?
LB: Kickstarter.com is a fundraising platform for all sorts of creative projects. Artists post a profile of their project and offer rewards in exchange for pledged money. The pledges are not collected unless the artist's funding goal is reached within a set period of time. If the goal is reached, the artist receives the money, carries out the project and distributes the rewards promised. It's a fascinating site and easy to lose time in!
ET: What made you decide to post your project to Kickstarter?
LB: I've been hearing about Kickstarter for several years now, and they've hosted a lot of interesting projects and helped them raise money. It's been quite a boon to the role-playing-game industry to be able to fundraise by pre-selling their games. Every time I wander around Kickstarter, I'm stunned by the creativity and talent I see.
There are other fundraising sites, but Kickstarter has earned its reputation. It was really the only contender, for me.
ET: Artists, filmmakers, inventors, game designers, and creative types of all kinds post projects on Kickstarter. Are there any writer-specific advantages to posting your project on Kickstarter?
LB: Kickstarter is a very even playing field, really. The advantage goes to those who can clearly explain their project in an interesting manner -- and that could be anybody. We writers learn how to do that in the process of querying agents and editors. A Kickstarter project page is really just a query letter to the whole world.
OK, I realize that's kinda terrifying but I didn't mean it to be. The same principles apply: be clear, be interesting, give people a taste of your work.
ET: Your project posting included making a book trailer, which I understand you created yourself. How difficult was it to put together? What tools did you use?
LB: The trailer was a lot of work, but I would not say it was all that difficult. The difficult part is figuring out what you want to do, what you actually can do, and reconciling those two to each other. Everything else is putting it together -- which can be tedious, but it's just a matter of putting the work in. I took a multimedia arts class at a community college a few years ago, and I have a long-standing interest in amateur film-making (though I've never made anything) and those were both a big help when I was planning out what the trailer would be.
Don't let this intimidate you, but I used Adobe Photoshop, AfterEffects, and SoundBooth -- which I only have because I'm also a freelance graphic designer and I have the full Adobe Creative Suite. I've been using Photoshop for 15 years, but the video and sound editing programs are still very new to me. Making my book trailer barely scratched the surface of what they can do. Everything I used in the video was freely available on various stock photo and sound effect sites, with the exception of one photograph that I paid a flat fee for.
ET: You recently wrote a great blog post ("Did I promise you a rose garden?") about the promises a writer makes to her readers, and the importance of fulfilling those promises. I'm wondering if you'll be kind enough to give us a glimpse of the promises you're making with the first Disciple volume.
LB: I know I've promised my readers action -- swords, magic, and monsters. I've promised them an entire war, in fact. I promise my readers a certain level of gritty realism, but I like to think it's optimistic. My main character, Kate, is a healer and she sees a lot of blood and suffering, but she's there to save lives. I've promised my readers romance, and because of that there are going to be tough choices, tears, and consequences. There's also going to be hope, though. How happy will the ending be…? :)
ET: Give us the official campaign blurb.
LB: I'm running a Kickstarter project to fund the professional editing, proofreading, and cover artwork for my gritty fantasy romance, Disciple, Part I: For Want of a Piglet. There will be six parts in total, published over the course of the next few years.
I'm offering e-books, paperbacks, promotional bookmarks, and more at various pledge levels (ranging from $1 - $100). Check out the project page for my book trailer, budget, and production schedule.