A. B. Keuser was raised in the soggy coastal town of Coos Bay, Oregon, escaping the pervasive cold and unrelenting downpour six years ago by moving to Phoenix, Arizona. Working for an Electrical Supply company as a project manager pays the bills while she whiles away the boredom by writing and keeping a blog on the unedited annals of a girl trying to get a book (or three) published.
1. Have you always considered yourself to be a writer, or was there a time in your life when you decided that is what you were?
I didn’t consider myself a writer until I realized I had a 130k-word manuscript sitting on my flash drive. I honestly wasn’t one of the people out there who thought to themselves, “You know, one day I’m going to write a book.” It wasn’t something I gave a second thought to honestly. I loved reading all through high school and after, but I never once set out to write a novel… and somehow, between boredom and a serious case of imagination dump, I ended up with one (in severe need of edits) after a very strange August in 2009.
2. Most writers have “First novels which will forever be locked in the drawer, never to see the light of day.” Do you have any of these?
Sort of? I have “finished” 4 novels. The first three of which I’m not satisfied with and have plans to completely tear apart and redo. A beta and I had a long and rather interesting brainstorm for #3 the other day and it has me very enthusiastic about the “reconstruction.” I think that novel #2 or #5, which is presently with my editor (read: mom) are presently the worst of what I’ve written. Whether the edits of #5 or a rewrite of #2 will help them find their way out of the “headed to the drawer” category, I’m not sure.
3. How much editing do your manuscripts go through before you’ll consider sending a query to an agent?
I try to be one of those people who can just write straight through before they do any edits, but as my “read as you go” beta readers will tell you, I irritate them by sending them a few chapters and then changing them before they get the next set of chapters. My beta readers get it with anywhere from 3-8 quick read through edits, then it goes to my editor (mom) and when I get it back from her, I usually do another edit myself based on all the feedback, and then sometimes I send it back to mom, or I send it to my crit partner.
4. When and why did you start critiquing queries for other authors?
My first critique was for my (now) critique partner. She’d won a blog contest and had her query critiqued by someone who just didn’t “get it” and I’d been talking to her about said contest and she emailed me to vent about her frustrations. When I offered to take a look, she found my suggestions helpful enough to suggest that I start doing critiques. I’d done quite a few on querytracker.net’s forums, and I figured what could it hurt. So here I am… helping anyone who wants to take me up on the offer.
5. How much experience have you had sending out queries of your own work?
I’ve queried 3 of my 4 completed novels (one of them twice) and stupidly, I’ve queried one of the novels that is still being edited – it was kind of a mistake, but still. I started querying my first novel in December of 09 and had no luck. I got one request for partial, but I think the 130k word count scared a lot of people away. I spent 6 months revising that (while finishing two other novels) and requeried it at 89k… also no luck. For the moment it’s on the back burner. I queried my second novel in April of ’10. I finished it, got it to the best I could make it and sent it out with very little hope. It was a paranormal romance and while I felt my concept unique… I didn’t think it would make it in a market so saturated. I never queried my third novel – mostly because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what to write in the pitch – and my fourth novel I’ve had queries out for since…. January, I think? And I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback for it. I’ve got a few subs out still, so we’ll see how that goes.
6. How long a list of prospective agents should an author have? Is it all right to set their hopes on that one person who seems perfect in every way?
I’m of the “Query broadly” mindset. You may think one agent is absolutely perfect for you, but they might have something too close to your ms. And someone you’re unsure of may end up being the best fit you could have dreamed for. The only way you’re going to find an agent is by writing the best novel you can write and then getting queries out there for the largest number of people to see. That doesn’t mean you should do a massive query dump – sending to everyone on your list at once – but it does mean that you should explore every avenue while trying to find the right person for your book.
I did design the covers for those. They were the product of boredom (as most of my creative projects are – I also paint with oils) But I do love having something tangible. As for book trailers… I’m not super tech-savvy. The moving pictures are a bit out of my reach.
8. Besides the blog, what other online resources or social media do you use?
I actually have two blogs, my writing one (abkeuser.blogspot.com) and a personal one (notanauthoryet.blogspot.com) which has more or less degenerated into pictures of my dog, shoes, trips and the BF and my Travel excursions. I’m on Facebook and twitter… but that’s about it. I’m not super social in real life… it comes as no surprise to anyone that I’m not so social on the interwebs.
9. Have you ever found a way to work the term 4” rigid nipples into your writing?
Ha! No. Just into my work life. Working in Electrical distribution does have its quirks.
Most of the science in my SF novels is of an electrical variety. That or medical. They say write what you know and back before I decided to “deal with school later” I was majoring in psychology and taking as many medically oriented classes available to that major. So, when it comes to the science in my fiction I shy away from physics and things I know nothing about – unless of course I want to make something up entirely – and stick with what I know, Electrical or Medical (or sometimes both at the same time)
10. Are there on-line groups that you like to link up with or exchange posts?
For a while I was linking up with The Red Dress Club’s Red Writing Hood prompt, but with other things and a recent vacation I’ve completely fallen behind. Even though I can’t link up anymore I do plan on trying to catch up – I’ll get into the “why” in my answer to the next question.
11. Did the Zoe Krief novel begin as a serial? Or did it create a life of its own?
Zoe Krief started as a two part challenge to myself. #1 – could I participate in every link-up for the red writing hood prompts. #2 – could I do that while keeping with the same story line and keep it cohesive. Like I said I’ve fallen behind recently, but I do still plan to catch up and try to continue on. Zoe’s not really a novel – I’d probably have to keep her going through 2012 to get her close to the proper length of a novel, but I do enjoy someone else randomly directing the story and having to scramble to get things in order so they not only make sense, but follow the guidelines.
12. Have you ever had an author complain if you gave them a less-than-stellar review or rating?
Well, I don’t recall giving any bad ratings… other than to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and, well, Steig Larson can’t really come after me, now can he?
When it comes to reviews, I don’t give one if I don’t like the book. There are a few reasons for that: I’ve found that I don’t like a lot of books that other people just love; I don’t want to alienate a potential future publisher or agent by letting them know – I think your client’s book stinks; and because I know that when my books are eventually published, there will be people who don’t like them. Those may sound like pithy excuses, but when it comes to book reviews, I say: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” (The Dragon Tattoo was an exception because omg was that atrocious.)
13. Now, to turn your own questions back to you… Who is your favorite protagonist?
Tyrion Lannister from George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire Series. I know it’s kind of cheating, because he’s not really the protagonist. And I’m only halfway through book 3 of the 5 that are out for that series, but I just love him. There’s something so perfect about the ugly dwarf and all his scheming and how unlike his family he is… I could go on, but I refuse to spoil anyone. (Also, they only made him better by casting Peter Dinklage in his role in the HBO series.)
Honorable mention: Bartimaeus (Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy) That minxy Anti-hero was amazing.
14. Who is your favorite antagonist?
The ‘Sko in Linnea Sinclair’s Finder’s Keepers. As a race, they’re militant and divided by religious zealotry and there’s just something amazing about the way she portrayed them. They make your skin crawl and you can’t help but want to have nothing to do with them.
Honorable mention: Ida from Louisa May Alcott’s The Inheritance. I love that I want to smack her in the face – and I know she doesn’t actually exist. She’s just so aweful that I can’t help but feel she’s real.
15. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
I’m not sure if this counts… my flash drive. I keep stuff backed up all over the place, but my flash drive is the way I transport everything around. With it, I can work on anything I’m in the middle of anywhere I have a computer.
16. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
I thought about just leaving it at that and letting you stew… but I’m not a mean person (only because you’re not a fictional character). The BF and I are road trip-aholics. We have to take at least one lengthy drive (and by lengthy I mean not to be less than 2000 miles) every year. And there is nothing quite as inspiring as getting out and seeing things, beautiful things, to inspire me and get the creative juices flowing.
17. What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
At work (Where I do most of my writing) – The phones, the gaggle of middle aged men I babysit (that should be my official title at work – middle aged men babysitter) and Twitter. Mostly because I have subs out and am neurotically checking those agent’s feeds.
At home – The boyfriend and my adorable snoochie boochie (She came to us with the name Lucy, but has since gained about 90 other names.)
No… I mean, it depends entirely on the feel of the novel. I have novels that, very quickly, cut to black and I have novels that will probably have to be edited to get them back to “R” rating based on what little I know of publisher’s editorial preferences.
19. When the day comes that you are on stage, accepting some prestigious award, who are you most likely to forget to thank?
I’ll probably find every way possible to not be there. I hate being stared at by large crowds – so hopefully my agent wouldn’t forget to thank herself 😉
20. Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
If you’re a purist, Han shot first, as the original version clearly saw Greedo dying without firing a single laser bolt, but if you’re someone who never saw the version previous to it’s 97 rerelease then of course Greedo shot first. I’m going to just come out and say it: Lucas seems to like messing with things that are perfectly fine, and that is truly tragic. In my opinion: Han shot first, and that will never change – Lucas can continue to bastardize his own work.
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A.B. interviews A.B…. twice! Read A.B. Keuser’s interview of AmyBeth Inverness on www.abkeuser.blogspot.com