Author Kami Boley recently published the second installment in the Disturbing History Saga. Today, she recounts lessons she's learned with The Gator Leaves Nothing Behind: Part II, offers advice for new indie authors, and gives us a glimpse into her authorly life. This interview is special to me because I had the opportunity to work with Kami on her book launch.
Kami was born in Houma, Louisiana, in 1973. At a young age, she discovered a deep passion for books and writing. As a young adult, she put that dream on hold to devote her time and energy to working as a cosmetologist so she could provide for a new love in her life, her daughter, Kirstie. Now that Kirstie is grown, Kami is ready to share her stories. Some stories will be for children, some will be for adults—but as she creates them, you will be able to find them all at www.boleybooks.com.
1. How long ago did you start The Gator Leaves Nothing Behind? What inspired it?
The birth of The Gator Leaves Nothing Behind is a long story. I will attempt to answer this question without becoming novel-length in of itself. My husband, my daughter, and I had a running tradition of spending Thanksgiving Day eating popcorn at the movies. On Thanksgiving in 2007, as the final credits rolled by after Beowulf, we discussed breaking from our routine and taking a drive to visit our relatives in Houma, Louisiana.
We stopped by our house to gather a few overnight supplies and for a reason, unknown to me at that moment, I grabbed a 5-subject notebook and a brand new pen. Miles of haggard Louisiana roads quickly passed beneath our truck, bringing us nearer to my hometown, stirring many memories of the past swirling all around me, prompting question after question. I began to transcribe both questions and answers as I interrogated the one person that puzzles me most in the world . . . my mother.
Ten years have zoomed by between then and now. This epic story told itself to me and I stole minutes from my busy existence as a mom, wife, and salon owner to write it down . . . and I am still struggling and writing. Along the way, I gained bits of momentum as the story became more insistent about coming into the world. As if by an invisible force, I was led to the people that were instrumental in assisting me where I was weak, to provide me with a welcomed push and a clearer path to publication.
The Gator Leaves Nothing Behind was intended to be only one title in what will be known as The Disturbing History Saga—it became Part I and Part II because of its length. There are at least two more titles to be released in the next few years. I was told once that you will know when a series is over when the characters stop talking to you . . . mine still have more to say.
2. Your books have many historical figures in them. Who are your favorite ones and why did you choose them?
This is a tricky question to answer without giving too much away . . . I am still in the throes of writing. I have always enjoyed learning about history . . . it fascinates me. Weaving real historical references and people into the story made this journey one of surprising discovery for me. I studied US, World, Louisiana, and Mob history to find juicy details. I could not write a story about New Orleans during the span of 1958 to 1964 without including hints of The Mafioso network, Carlos Marcello, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the JFK assassination.
I have not completed the Saga and there are many intriguing facts to share with you . . . some easily retrieved and some I had to dig deep in archives to find.
To give a small example of the little treasures I have tucked into the storyline: there is one sentence in Part II that I created as an omage to the Clutter Murders referenced in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. This book and its author have many interesting ties to me, real characters that inspired my story, and to the Hotel Monteleone (a setting that appears more than once in the course of The Disturbing History Saga).
I have a document created for my fans that I give as a free gift for joining my email list >> here.
3. Do you have a word count goal you try to stick to each day or week?
No. I do not have many free minutes to research and write. I am a one-woman day spa and my family has always depended on my income to pay the bills. I have to steal my writing time from other tasks. This means skipping sleep, letting chores go, and absolutely no relaxing. If that sounds rough, it is. If you want to fight for a dream, you must ask yourself daily: How bad do I want this?
I wanted it bad enough to skip out on fun and lose sleep for ten whole years. Punishing myself further with a word count goal seemed unnecessarily harsh.
4. What were some new methods you tried with marketing and launching Part II of your series?
This launch was different in that I hired Shayla to guide me and shed light on many things I had not considered or knew anything about. She gently pushed me to refine my author platform and branding and also helped me to get maximum use of my social media outlets to spread the word.
I had never heard of Thunderclap before, but it seemed to be a good way of having a strong “out of the gate” presence on Facebook and Twitter. Amazon is an unpredictable platform and you need plenty of reliable support to get noticed when playing with the big boys of the publishing world. I am not suave enough to know how to stack the deck, so my book debuted next to Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and more of that caliber. They probably looked around and said, “Who is this kid that wandered onto the wrong playground?”
I continually seek assistance from professionals who have more knowledge than me, so I can learn vast amounts with each book launch. I highly recommend having Shayla by your side. Stay connected and aware, as soon as we all think we have it figured out, Amazon will change the rules.
5. What were some cons you ran into on launch day that you’d like to share, in hopes of helping other newbies?
Be careful of how and where you share on Facebook. They blocked me for being an overly enthusiastic sharer on launch day. That was a setback that took a bite out of our sales momentum. I do not know the exact action that put me in Facebook jail (the inability to post, comment, or participate in any groups, including my own) and so I don’t know how to avoid it entirely, but I will be tightening my circle of trust in the future for sure.
If you think you know who your friends are before you launch a book, talk to me again afterward. Many amazing people showed me abundant kindness and loyalty—some I have known for years and some newly met. To those precious people, I am forever grateful.
The most shocking thing was that many individuals to whom I have sold valuable hours of my life to for decades ghosted on me. It is eye-opening to realize that to some you are simply a paid servant and nothing beyond that.
Take a long look at your inner circle and create a loving barrier between you and the world so that you never lose sight of what is real and true.
6. What was the most exciting moment you had during launch week?
Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. He wrote 11-22-63, which is a book that is fairly similar to mine as far as the period and the themes that we cover. I jumped up and down when I saw that I again crossed his path during my launch. Having my book next to his is the closest I have ever been to meeting him. There have been other moments of pure glee that I was thrilled to share with my friends, family, and fans. I also have a few big names in the movie-making industry now following me on Twitter. I am trying to behave and not look like a loon. I was either brave or stupid when I decided to communicate with an award-winning director, but she is totally cool and answered my fangirl questions!
7. Your professionally designed covers are captivating. What tips do you have for new indie authors when it comes to cover design?
In self-publishing, we have to make decisions that will either help or hinder our ability to compete with our peers, and that includes the Big Five. When I first became a cosmetologist back in 1990, I was told if I presented myself like a “kitchen beautician,” that is how I would be perceived no matter my level of skill. If your cover looks unprofessional or like you did not make the best effort, no one will open it to see all your hard work. If your budget does not allow for an artist to create a cover design that will get attention, my best advice is to wait until you can afford it. Unfortunately, people do judge a book by its cover and your story deserves the best shot at finding readers.
8. Are there any characters in your book who are a reflection of you? If so, in what way?
I am on the autism spectrum and my social skills can be questionable at best. I race around and I speak loudly with no filter; this can be quite irritating to people and that is why I keep my behind at home most of the time. Gayle Gautreau is boisterous and often says things that are colorful or inappropriate—that is me all over. Unlike Gayle, I avoid social situations because I am often nervous and uncomfortable; trying to act normal is difficult. Gayle seems to thrive in social situations, even seeking them out. If you know me well and look at each character, there are bits and pieces of me scattered throughout.
9. Book marketing is quite daunting, especially for introverts. Do you have any tips for our introvert friends who are trying to market their books and build an author brand?
How bad do you want your work to get out into the world? I was very resistant to social media at first. I can tell you I resisted all of the technology until just a few years ago and I was still paying all of my bills by snail mail. The truth is that if you want to reach an audience, you have to get in front of them first or you will be forever shouting into a void. Go where the people are online (and stay current with the changing trends) like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and introduce you and your brand. Present the public with a taste and an easy path to your body of work.
If you don’t know how, find trustworthy sources, read articles, and be led by those who seem to be doing it right. If you decide to take the dreaded step into the sunlight, have an extrovert help you navigate in the real world.
10. What is your favorite self-help book for aspiring writers?
I am a huge fan of finding mentors. I listen to audio lectures by Sol Stein. I own and love many helpful books by K. M. Weiland and the Angela Ackerman/Becca Puglisi duo. I also follow them on their websites and through social media. I have all of this information along with helpful reference links on the boleybooks.com recources page >> here.
You can research and research, but no book, website, or training course is going to do the work for you. My best advice for finishing is to eliminate distraction and fight for the words. I am a writer so I write and I leave all the other parts of publishing to the pros like my computer guru James Boley and other professionals—Nicole Eva Fraser, Spencer Hamilton, Sandeep Likhar, and Damonza highly skilled in editing, formatting, and cover design.
An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. Her blog posts have been featured on popular websites like The Book Designer and Positive Writer. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday.