Interview with Rachel Starr Thomson on Writing, Editing, and Indie Publishing (Plus Giveaway!)

For the past ten years, Rachel Starr Thomson has been an inspiration to me on numerous levels. I first encountered her when she was a columnist for the Amie Newsletter, a publication dedicated to encouraging teenage girls. Her articles on the Christian walk impacted me deeply during a season in my life when my steps were unsure.

Rachel_Starr_Thomson_Interview_&_GiveawayAfter the Amie Newsletter was discontinued, I stalked Rachel on her blog—always reading but never uttering a peep. She posted writing tips back then, which fueled my aspirations to sling words onto paper and into people’s hearts. I admired—and almost envied—her fluid, artistic voice, and her courage in building a platform for herself through self-publishing quality books.

I bumped into her again years later when I submitted an article about storytelling to Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, where she served as copy editor. Shortly after my article was published, I began receiving requests from authors for help with refining their work, and I discovered that polishing sentences gave me a sense of satisfaction I’d never felt before. I realized I was suited to editing and wanted to pursue it seriously, but I had no idea how to get started. I sought advice from Rachel because I had no one else to ask, and she kindly imparted counsel that has proven invaluable. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I’m at now (editing for KP and a small Christian publisher) without that short e-mail she sent in response to mine.

Thus, it gave me great pleasure to approach Rachel on behalf of Kingdom Pen and ask her about her experiences as an author of more than twenty books, blogger of Kingdom truths, and a freelance editor for twelve years. I found myself empathizing with and learning from her comments, and I know all of you will benefit from hearing her wisdom as well. Read on, KeePers, and be sure to check out the book giveaway at the bottom of the post!

KP: You’re considered a pioneer of self-publishing. What caused you to choose indie over traditional publishing?

Rachel: I started experimenting with indie publishing back in 2006 or 2007, while simultaneously looking for an agent and a traditional book contract. I’d done so much writing over the years that I wasn’t even thinking about pursuing publication for all of it, so self-publishing was just a fun way to learn how to produce a book and put something into print myself. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent, but mostly I was just playing around. I realized it might be a real, viable publication path slowly, especially after I checked on an e-book I’d put up for free on Smashwords and forgotten about and realized it had been downloaded over 25,000 times while I wasn’t looking. Eventually “playing around” gave way to thinking more seriously about writing as a business. I much prefer the control of self-publishing, which applies to many aspects of the publishing journey, from timelines to content to career trajectory. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brianna Storm Hilvety
Brianna was born with a rumble in her veins. She finds the tap of a keyboard to be soothing like the pitter-patter of rain. She has been a writer for a decade, a freelance editor for a few years, and a bibliophile from the moment she pronounced her first syllable. Proudly a Silver Member of The Christian PEN, she serves on their team as graphics coordinator. She exudes her passion for speculative fiction and helping young writers by being on the staff of Castle Gate Press and Kingdom Pen magazine. When she isn’t poring over words, she may be spotted shooting her Canon, riding The Breeze (an all-terrain vehicle), or romping with her dog, Zookie. Purple is her signature color, and she refuses to recognize all other claims to it.

Four Types of Plot Clichés That May Be Dragging Down Your Story

A few weeks ago, I picked a random book off the library shelf and started reading. The book, Flashfall, grabbed my interest immediately. The characters were relatable and the story world was fantastic. Even better, the plot seemed fresh: miners struggling to excavate radioactive caverns where mutated creatures were trying to eat them. I hadn’t read anything like it.4_Types_of_Plot_Cliches_That_May_Be_Dragging_Down_Your_Story

Until I realized that I had.

After the fun of the first sixty pages, the mining ceased. It turned out that a familiar dystopian regime ruled the “unique” story world. The “interesting” heroine became just another strong female character who didn’t respect authority. (She also had a boyfriend, and another guy she liked.) Needless to say, she ended up inciting a revolution and probably would have toppled the dystopian government. I’ll never know for sure, because I was too disappointed to read the next book in the series. The clichéd plot killed it. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brandon Miller
Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

A Seven-Step Process to Solve Moral Quandaries in Christian Storytelling

When I was younger, I wrote without any intention of showing my stories to anyone outside of my immediate family (and sometimes not even them). The stories were for my enjoyment only, since I was tired of borrowing books from the library that I would have to set down because of bad content.

A_Seven-Step_Process_to_Solve_Moral_QuandariesThen one day I discovered the power of storytelling. Without my knowledge, my grandma loaned the book I’d written to a friend who was an English teacher. Later she told me what she had done, and the feedback I received from the teacher was positive and incredibly motivating. I decided I wanted to share my stories with an audience larger than my relative fan club, so I began to explore how I should approach writing as a Christian. In doing so, I encountered more and more questions concerning acceptable vs. unacceptable content until the list became daunting and seemingly endless. [Read more…]

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Rolena is a homeschool graduate who has been carried away by her imaginations since long before she could read and write. So it was only natural when she learned to use a pencil that she wrote down all the places she dreamed up. Since then she’s completed quite a few novels and short stories and became a published author when she sent her third novel out into the world of Amazon. When’s she’s not lost in thought over her latest story development, you’ll find her directing a drama, instructing her vocal students, hanging around the KP forum or “extroverting” (both in the real world and her imaginary one). Her long term plans are to be challenged and changed by God’s Word each day, learning to bring Him glory through each season and moment in life.

Twenty-Seven Examples of Ways to Bend Clichés

Although some clichés used to be powerful writing tropes, they have become trite with age, bringing as much life to your story as a dead doornail. Writers are advised to avoid clichés like the plague, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. When manipulated properly, clichés can be worth their weight in gold.27_Examples_of_Ways_to_Bend_Cliches

A cliché is anything that has been overused to exhaustion and beyond: a character (the villain garbed in black who chuckles evilly while petting his cat), a plot device (the mentor who inevitably perishes), or a phrase/description/metaphor (“deader than a doornail”) so timeworn that readers’ eyes glass over when they see it. [Read more…]

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Hope Ann is a speculative fiction writer who lives on a small farm in northern Indiana. She has self-published three Legend of Light novellas and is the Kingdom Pen Writing Team Captain. Reading since the age of five, and introducing herself to writing at age eight, she never had a question that the author’s life was the life for her. Her goal is to write thrilling Christian fantasy and futuristic fiction — stories she longed for while growing up. After graduating from homeschool, Hope now teaches writing to several of her eight younger siblings. She loves climbing trees, archery, photography, Lord of the Rings, chocolate, and collecting shiny things she claims are useful for story inspiration. You can find out more about her at: http://writinginthelightpublishing.com/

Three Ways Gender Differences Should Impact Your Story’s Character Arc

A character arc is the process by which your protagonist grows and changes over the course of a novel, and thus it is the foundation for building your novel’s theme. Many writers have already expounded on how you should weave a character arc throughout a novel. But one aspect of character arcs that seems to be neglected is how a character’s gender impacts his character arc. In real life, men and women sometimes change in similar ways, but often they don’t, and this should be reflected in storytelling.genderdifferences_pinterest

I realize that this statement contradicts the vibe of our culture, which seeks to deny gender differences. Since our culture emphasizes gender neutrality, it can be tempting to question whether gender differences are actual differences or just stereotypes. However, not only does the Bible state that God created men and women differently, but science backs this up as well. In this article I will examine various scientific studies from peer-reviewed journals on gender differences and explain how this research should affect storytelling. Although there are few hard rules about how men and women react differently, they tend to contrast in three main ways. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf started reading when he was four, started writing fiction when he was six and hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. After growing up with seven younger siblings, he eventually found himself graduated and attending Patrick Henry College, where he plans on majoring in literature with a minor in pedagogy (it’s a fancy Greek word for education).
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels that have worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as fun as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. Plans for obtaining those impossible goals include listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer, ignoring college work so that he can find time to write, and avoiding coffee at all costs.

Five Overused Clichés about Family in Writing (and How to Avoid Them)

Name a Disney film. Name both of the hero’s parents.

Not easy, right? Usually at least one of the parents is dead. Although Disney has other reasons for doing this, the main one is to develop sympathy in the audience for the hero. Sometimes it works. But it also comes at a price.

People, especially young adults, are surrounded by family. Whether they want to be or not, they are stuck with their family and have to interact with them every day. Though some might not admit it, familial relationships are the strongest relationships anyone can possess.5_Overused_Cliches_about_Family

Why aren’t we highlighting these relationships when we write stories? Most of your readers will have close friends from church or school. Many of your readers might have “significant others.” (I hate that term; isn’t everyone significant?)

But all of your readers have (or have had) parents. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Brandon Miller
Raised on C.S. Lewis and matured (to whatever extent) on Tolkien, Brandon Miller is a huge fan of Christian speculative fiction. His favorite stories artfully bend the physical reality to reveal spiritual realities which apply to all realms, kingdoms, districts and solar systems (including our own.)
When not writing fiction Brandon spends his time tending his blog The Woodland Quill, sportsing, or just struggling through that last-year-of-high-school/first-year-of-college which is really neither but is definitely both.

How to Write Strong Women in Fiction without Making Them Feminists

Writing Christian fiction involves much more than mentioning God a few times or showing a character attending church once. Christian fiction encompasses the whole worldview behind your characters. Loyalty. Courage. Hope. Kindness. Love. No character is perfect, but the worldview presented and the conclusions reached by the main characters ought to mirror the teachings of Scripture. This is true, not only of emotional and mental themes, but of all the details in your story—including the portrayal of gender roles, which is often ravaged by secular (and sometimes Christian) fiction.How_to_Write_Strong_Women_in_Fiction

I am not just talking about a proper view of marriage or the fact that God created us male and female. In a biblical worldview, men and women have different tasks and roles of authority in which the woman is a helpmeet to the man. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Hope Ann
Hope Ann is a speculative fiction writer who lives on a small farm in northern Indiana. She has self-published three Legend of Light novellas and is the Kingdom Pen Writing Team Captain. Reading since the age of five, and introducing herself to writing at age eight, she never had a question that the author’s life was the life for her. Her goal is to write thrilling Christian fantasy and futuristic fiction — stories she longed for while growing up. After graduating from homeschool, Hope now teaches writing to several of her eight younger siblings. She loves climbing trees, archery, photography, Lord of the Rings, chocolate, and collecting shiny things she claims are useful for story inspiration. You can find out more about her at: http://writinginthelightpublishing.com/

How Advice from a Chess Grandmaster Can Transform Your Writing

One of my favorite classes that I took at a homeschool co-op during high school was a chess class taught by a local grandmaster. I learned many different chess openings, position tactics, and endgame tactics, all of which improved my chess strategy.

One day the grandmaster was explaining a game he won against another high-ranking chess player. He pointed out that one move in particular was important because it served multiple purposes. His words stuck with me:chessmasterpost

“In chess, a mediocre move only does one thing. A good move does two things at once. But a great move does three things at once.”

This advice not only changed how I play chess, it transformed the way I write.

Pinned by the Single-Minded Approach

Often, when we begin writing a scene, we want to accomplish one specific goal—to have a character explain a massive plot twist or the villain enact a stage of his evil plan. [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf started reading when he was four, started writing fiction when he was six and hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. After growing up with seven younger siblings, he eventually found himself graduated and attending Patrick Henry College, where he plans on majoring in literature with a minor in pedagogy (it’s a fancy Greek word for education).
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels that have worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as fun as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. Plans for obtaining those impossible goals include listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer, ignoring college work so that he can find time to write, and avoiding coffee at all costs.

Five Myths about Writing Strong Female Characters

Of all the overdone stereotypes currently at loose in literature and on the screen, the Strong Female Character annoys me the most. Strong Females have infested filmmaking to the degree that directors seem to think it’s no longer optional to include one. In hand-to-hand combat, a female warrior is often portrayed as equal, if not superior, to a male triple her size. Yet, despite the innumerable Strong Females marketed to us (Katniss, Jyn, Triss, Rey), I find myself struggling to relate to any of them.5_Myths_about_Writing_Strong_Female_Characters

I am aware that as a female I tend to be more critical of my own sex. I also acknowledge that although I am not capable of singlehandedly thwarting three armed assailants trying to steal my BB-8 droid, that does not necessarily imply no woman can. But in a culture proclaiming that gender is an arbitrary social construct while simultaneously bewailing a lack of female presidents, it is important that Christian authors reaffirm what it means to be a woman. Here is an opportunity for us to stand out from the empty noise by avoiding five common mistakes when writing Strong Female Characters. [Read more…]

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Sierra Ret is a homeschool student who spent nearly her entire childhood with her nose buried in a book, and consequently decided she wanted to write one of her own (preferably filled with dwarves and elves). Actually getting her thoughts down on paper regularly has proven to be a far greater challenge than she first thought, but Kingdom Pen was kind enough to step in and give her some much-needed deadlines by honouring her with a temporary spot on their writing team. When not hermiting behind a laptop screen, Sierra enjoys gallivanting across Canada and adventuring near her home in rural Ontario with her family. Currently her chief fantasies include making a living as a travel blogger and someday moving to New Zealand. But above all, her chief aim is to live a passionate and meaningful life for the glory of God.

Can You Keep a Pure Mind While Reading about Darkness in Literature?

In my article, “All Art is Christian Art,” I proposed that any beauty in art must by necessity find its traces in the order of the world God created. My three main goals were to show that art is essentially objective, being grounded in God’s original design; to prove that secular literature can still give us an incredible understanding of God and his creation; and to help Christians evaluate literature and be savvy in their reading choices.

I thought my case rested there, but through certain conversations, I began to realize that I had failed to cover a precept that was vital to the Christian approach to literature.Pure_Mind

I had a serious problem because I was up against a Bible verse:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8, NKJV).

Based upon what I already knew about the foundation of art in Christianity, I was certain that even books with faulty themes could impart loads of good and noble things to meditate on. [Read more…]

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Daeus is the published author of two books, Edwin Brook and Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin. He is a Christian seeking God’s face when he remembers to and finding that that is all he was seeking when he seeks for something else. He is a joker who takes himself too seriously and a sack full of ambition who likes to relax. Among his top interests are poetry, reading, philosophy, theology, gardening and permaculture, athletics, marketing, psychology, and interacting with his friends. You can also find him participating in such activities as ranting about the glories of frozen raspberries or making impromptu music for every occasion.

He also is a fanatic over The Count Of Monte Cristo. Be thou forewarned.

If you would like to sample his work, you can get a free copy of his novella, Treachery Against The House Of Fairwin at the link below.