Wednesday 27 November 2019

Meet LJ Kendall - Australian Author

“L. J. Kendall failed to drown on five separate occasions on Sydney's northern beaches.  He worked in the IT R&D field while extremely happily married for 30 years to an adventurous mediaeval scholar 22 years his senior until her death in 2014.”

Series title: The Leeth Dossier
Vol 1: Wild Thing
Vol 2: Harsh Lessons
Vol 3: Shadow Hunt
Vol 4: Violent Causes

Genre:  cross-genre: sci-fi/fantasy


Book 1:
In 2036, magic returned to a world which neither needed nor wanted it.  Years later, an unusual young child is acquired by Dr Alex Harmon for his magic research at the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction.  He sets Sara to hunting an imaginary creature, unaware it is both real and far more dangerous than anyone could know.

Publish date: Ebook: Dec 2015, 1st pbk Mar 2016
Publisher: Self-published

What’s the basic plot of your book or series?  
In The Leeth Dossier, a cross-genre sci-fi/fantasy series set around 2060, events at the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction turns a ruthless researcher's naive young guinea pig, Sara, into the deadly assassin, Leeth.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Originality, but being aware of readers.  My main focus is on making my characters real: letting them be themselves and get into and out of trouble.  Second to that, I try to meet readers’ expectations. Several reviewers described my first book or two as “brave”.  And Leeth is very real to me: I’m writing the series to bring her to life (and for me, to find out what happens to her).

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
The series is very much a continuous series with deep connections through and across all the books. They follow my MC – a loveable assassin – with a continuing and developing cast of characters and plots. The gaps between the books vary betweens hours and days, or maybe weeks.
For an author starting out, I’ve done many things unwisely – learning my craft with a novel, rather than short stories; and then writing not just a single book, or even a  short series, but a lengthy one. (I can’t see myself wrapping up all the major plot arcs and character development in less than ten books.)

 How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I don’t think the publishing part of the work has changed my process at all.  I suppose I’m more aware of the things I need to do around the writing that’s not actual writing or editing.  But finishing my first book taught me how valuable it would be to involve my editor at the outset, to get some feedback on the sketchy outline of the book.  Nowadays I also allow plenty of time for the structural edit and later rechecks and polishing.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The two key things are my cover designs from Mirella de Santana (in Brazil) and the developmental edits from my Editor, (in Ireland).  If I had to pick just one, I’d say the money paid to my editor.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Probably talking my way out of being bullied.

What does literary success look like to you?
I consider myself ahead if the number of hours of enjoyment my books generate, exceeds the number of hours I spent creating them.  I think I’ve put about 12,000 hours into creating the first four books, so if I assume it takes about eight hours to read one, then I’d need about 1500 readers.
Of course I’d like many more people to find and enjoy them.
But the best success would be to one day have a reader tell me that Leeth’s example helped them through a low point in their lives – that they took heart from Leeth’s story, and refused to give in or give up.

How many hours a day do you write?
It varies through the phase of the book.  While I’m writing the first draft, I generally average about ten hours a day, six days a week.  I ease off during the month or two I spend editing and revising before sending it to my editor.  After sending it off I generally shift over to the publishing and marketing side of things, blogging more and more social media, and beginning to plan the launch and learning more about what I need to do on the business side.

How do you select the names of your characters?
I put a lot of thought into the names.  Names have a network of meaning attached to them, etymologically and through connection with famous figures.  So I try to  find names that help me get inside the character.  Names are super important; they’re a bit magical.  Recently I was trying my hand at writing a short film script, and discovered I couldn’t continue when one of the characters stepped on stage until I’d named them properly – the instant I did, the words flowed.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read them all.  The good ones help me feel appreciated and understood.  I get a little burst of pleasure to know someone enjoyed my book.  For the bad ones, I think I can tell when it’s from someone who should not have read the book (my books aren’t for the faint-hearted), and more rarely from someone who’s just being destructive.  I’m happy to receive constructive criticism, and that’s much more common.  I learn from the constructive ones. E.g. if a reviewer misinterprets something, it tells me I need to be more overt.  Recently, in book 4 a reviewer complained Leeth was growing too slowly as a character, which may mean I need to somehow signal that Leeth’s personal journey of growth will be a slow one, covering many books.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes.  But more plot foreshadowing than ‘Easter eggs’.

What was your hardest scene to write?
The scene in the first book immediately after Leeth’s magic unfolds, and Harmon get just how he wants.  At that point Leeth still has a bare inkling of how deeply he’s been manipulating her.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I figure about 3000 hours of work.  Partly it depends on the length, but it’s not that simple.  I think book 4 was over 4000.  I can write very fast – e.g. after some discussion about splitting the MS for book 2 in half, I spent 10 days plotting new stuff to make a satisfying story – 24 new scenes.  I then wrote those over the next 11 days, a total of 44k words.  So I can be fast, when doing my first draft. Structural edits take a month or few, after I get the detailed feedback from my editor.  From there I spend a couple of months polishing, copy-editing, and then polishing.  I also try to do what I call an “oomph” analysis, where I self-rate each chapter on Character Development, Plot development, World building, Pace, Tension, Emotion, Humour.
I’m still trying to work out what that tells me!

Do you believe in writer’s block? 
Yes and no.  I think there are many, many things you can do to induce writer’s block.  But once you get a feel for what the main ones are, and how to harness your unconscious, you can avoid it.
After dead silence from publishers with the unsolicited MS, and as my day job grew stressful, I stalled for ten years by trying to visualise a certain scene I wanted to write.  But since learning about the Unconscious Thought Theory, writer’s block has been a thing of the past.
Oh: and in book 4, I finally reached the scene I’d been wanting to write, and it turned out very well I feel. (NB: it’s the scene in the nightclub, Sybarus.)

Quick quiz:
Favourite food: lobster mornay
Favourite drink:  fresh-squeezed OJ. Alcoholic: butterscotch schnapps.
Silliest saying: What could possibly go wrong?
Best holiday spot: a coral island.
Favourite song at the moment: Castles, by Freya Riding
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? Pantser.
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: LOTR
Best superpower: Do What I Say.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Finish writing my series,

What’s the hardest thing about promoting your books?
It’s so hard to pick just one thing – I’m increasingly coming to feel that no one at all deeply understands how the marketing of books works.  It’s a big, complex problem.  But for me specifically, I think the hardest thing is that I can’t just try to attract any and all readers, because the key relationship at the heart of the first two books is the one between Leeth and the researcher who ‘acquires’ her, and they delve into some deep and dark waters.  My books are a mix of dark and light, but they’re not for everyone. I’m experimenting now with the summary/warning message:
"An abusive childhood creates a disturbingly innocent killer, who through a few precious friendships and her own strength and courage, slowly changes to something far more."




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