Back in 2018, I was lucky enough to interview a popular and successful indie author on my personal blog. Kristen Martin, the bestselling author of The Alpha Drive trilogy, also appeared on my YouTube podcast, The White Room. You can read that interview, re-posted here one week ago, via this link. I re-posted that interview here to remind my readers of her expert advice and insight—now including some bonus content—to benefit the science-fiction and fantasy writers out there.
This year, Kristen was kind enough to update us on how life as a writer is for her in 2020, 2 years later.
But first, let's get to know Kristen.
Kristen Martin is a self-made creative entrepreneur, the host of OWN YOUR THRIVE, a women's conference for ambitious creative entrepreneurs, and the Amazon bestselling indie author of personal development books, Be Your Own #Goals and Soulflow, as well as the fiction works, The Alpha Drive and Shadow Crown.
Having worked in the corporate world for almost a decade, Kristen decided to pursue her vision of empowering women through her writing and content creation and, in just two years' time, has grown what was once her "side hustle" into a full-time 6-figure coaching business. With her work reaching over 60,000 people via her YouTube channel and podcast, That Smart Hustle, Kristen regularly travels to speak and teach at conferences, workshops, and retreats across the globe. She currently runs her business from her home base in North Houston, Texas.
How important is research to you when you're writing your first draft?
Since I write fiction in the scifi/fantasy genres, there isn’t much research to be had. The ideas come straight from my brain before flowing onto the page. That being said, sometimes I research things like combat styles, weapons, what kind of plants/trees grow in certain climates/regions… but for the most part, I would say my books are 90% imagination and 10% research. It really depends on the type of book you’re writing, though!
I noticed from a young age that I have an overactive imagination...
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer? In other words, why are you a writer, and how important is it to you?
I knew I wanted to be a writer ever since I was 6 years old. Books were my life (they still are). I told stories every chance I got. Even when I couldn’t physically write yet, I would verbally tell my stories to my mom and she would write them down on paper that had been folded into a mock-book. I noticed from a young age that I have an overactive imagination and tend to think way differently than my peers. Writing is a way for me to express that. It’s always been a creative outlet for me, and I can’t imagine what my life would look like without writing.
What inspires you to write, and where do you get your ideas?
Reading books by my favorite authors always serves as inspiration. I love seeing how other writers make the “big reveal” and portray their characters and drop subtle plot hints. I’m most intrigued by the contrast in the writings of others, and I feel like I’m always learning something new whenever I pick up a book. As far as ideas go, they sort of just… appear. For some reason, I’ll get story ideas when I’m doing the most mundane of tasks—showering, folding laundry, washing the dishes. I’m very go-go-go, so it’s like my brain actually has a chance to slow down and make its “big reveal” to me.
Do you have a schedule for writing, or do you write only when you feel inspired? How often do you manage to write and when you do, how many words can you manage in one sitting?
It really depends on what “season” of life I’m in. Sometimes I’m more business/content-focused and sometimes I’m more book-focused. During the times where I have given myself a writing deadline, I prefer to keep a schedule. I usually manage to write 6 days out of the week (that one rest day is crucial to keep me from burning out), and I am a big proponent of segment-blocking my writing time… which means that I only write for one hour at a time. In that hour, I tend to get down between 800-1,000 words. In the past, I’ve managed close to 2,000 words in one sitting, but I find I don’t enjoy writing as much when I’m forcing myself to sit for 2-3 hours at a time and bust out my word count. I much prefer to segment-block and write multiple times throughout the day, with solid breaks in between. It’s better for my creativity flow, too!
Writers are often labelled as loners and introverts; in your opinion, is there any truth to that?
I certainly think so, although anyone can be a writer, not just introverts. I myself am an extroverted introvert, which basically means that I can be social when I want to be, but that I prefer to be alone (and that I also recharge when I’m alone as large crowds can be particularly draining). Writers are most definitely not loners though—we have a plethora of friends, even if they are only in our heads!
...wherever there’s consumption, there’s judgment.
What would you say are the easiest and hardest things about writing a book? What do you love and hate the most about what you do?
For me, the easiest part is writing the first draft. The hardest part is rewriting/editing, especially because that process can be one that you end up repeating 7 times over. Of course, I respect the editing process because that’s where you really make the book a book. What I love most about being a writer is creating the book itself—when I’m in my writing cave, completely and utterly alone with my art. Not that I “hate” any part of the process, but if I had to choose my least favorite, it would be publishing the books—not because I don’t appreciate my readers, but because it’s no longer my art. It becomes content… something that can be consumed. And wherever there’s consumption, there’s judgment.
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long did it last and how did you overcome it?
I’ve never had a stint where I couldn’t write for days or weeks on end because of writer’s block, but I have experienced those moments where I’m just sitting there, staring at a blinking cursor. If the words aren’t flowing, my remedy is always the same: do something else and come back to it later. Go for a walk, swing in the hammock, read another author’s book, do the dishes (seriously, the mundane tasks get me every time!)—the next time I sit down to write, I’m good to go.
When you finish writing a book, how long do you wait before beginning the editing process and why? Do you edit your own work, or hire someone else to help you?
I prefer to wait at least a month or two before starting the editing process, just to give my brain some breathing room. That way, I can come back to the manuscript with a fresh set of eyes. I self-edit, as well as work with professional editors.
Journal Prompt: Rachael has a six-read rule for editing your own manuscript. Write about an editing rule you use when facing a completed draft.
Many people advise not to judge a book by its cover. As an independent author, what are your thoughts on cover quality? Would you say it plays an important role in sales?
As an independent author, the book cover is a critical piece with regard to book sales. Since selling books online is a key piece of the indie author business model, the first thing that readers (who are shopping online for their next read) are going to see is your book cover. If it looks unprofessional or like an amateur did it, they’ll likely skip right over it. The cover is what draws them in. My advice is to invest in quality covers and a reputable cover designer. Your quality story deserves quality artwork. Simple as that.
Some people believe independent (self-published) authors produce books of poor quality in comparison to traditionally published books, often down to editing and cover design issues. What is your opinion on this; what would you say to those people as an independent author?
I’ve read some poor quality traditionally published books, and I’ve read some poor quality self-published books. I’ve also read some fantastic self-published books, as well as traditionally-published books. Is it a bit more difficult to come by quality editors and cover designers who will agree to take indie authors as clients? Yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or that all indie books should be lumped into the “poor quality” category. One major advantage that a lot of indie authors have capitalized on is building their readership through an online platform. Doing this provides a more personal connection between the reader and the author, so there’s a level of trust established there that I don’t always see with traditionally published authors. At the end of the day, though, it’s up to the reader as to which books they prefer to buy.
I also enjoy having full creative control over the entire book creation process, as well as owning all of the rights to my work.
What is your experience of publishing so far? How have you chosen to publish and why? What do you feel are the benefits of this method?
I’ve only ever self-published and overall, I’m very happy with this decision. It can be a hassle, yes, but once you have the process down, it’s really quite simple. I also enjoy having full creative control over the entire book creation process, as well as owning all of the rights to my work. I’ve certainly considered becoming a hybrid author, but I’m not querying any manuscripts at the moment.
If you were asked to give advice to primary school children about writing creatively, what top tip would you share with them?
Read and write as much as you can. Never stop asking questions. Do not shy away from your curiosities. The more you experience the world, the more you’ll have to write about. And the more you write, the better of a writer you’ll become.
If you were asked to give advice to secondary school children about writing creatively, what top tip would you share with them and would this differ at all to the previous question?
My advice would be exactly the same (and really, it goes for anyone, of any age!)
Lots of authors struggle to market and promote their book/s. Do you have any top tips you can share with them, and what have you found to be most effective?
Hands down, having an online platform and collaborating with other authors in your genre are sure-fire ways to market and promote your books. When building an online platform, remember that people come (and stay) for the 2 Es: education and entertainment. If you can teach something pertaining to reading or writing, build your online platform that way. If you’d rather try your hand at entertaining (like bookish character skits on TikTok, for example), go for it. I took the education route, helping writers become authors via my YouTube channel, so many of my readers are also interested in writing their own books. It’s worked out quite well for me, seeing as I write books full-time now.
...remember that people come (and stay) for the 2 Es: education and entertainment.
What is your opinion on the benefits of writing on mental health issues including anxiety and depression? Would you recommend it as a form of self-therapy; of looking inward and reflecting? If not, why?
I think that writing, no matter what it is you’re writing about, can be a form of self-therapy. I know that for me, it’s a creative outlet, a way for me to express the many thoughts and feelings I have. Writing is a wonderful tool for reflecting, even if you don’t originally intend for it to be. The way I look at it, each of my books is like a snapshot in time. It’s interesting to reread them because I can immediately tell what kind of head space I was in when I wrote it. Actually, I find that my “darker” work—those times where I was really struggling with my mental health—makes for some of the most captivating art. At the end of the day, it’s all just a representation of energy, those words on the page—and “darker” energy, in particular, can certainly be transmuted into something beautiful.
I’m a firm believer that we can learn anything, so long as we’re willing.
Do you believe that writing can be learned, or that you must be born with a passion and/or talent?
I believe that writing can be learned. I’ve always had a passion for writing, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I was “skilled” at it in my younger years. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned more about the craft of writing, and I’ve implemented all that I’ve learned into my creative process. I’m a firm believer that we can learn anything, so long as we’re willing.
Do you believe that it's more challenging to write about beliefs, morals and values that conflict with your own? How do you feel about books that explore unusual, 'risky' themes? When reading these books, do you feel at all uncomfortable?
It can be challenging to write about beliefs, morals, and values that conflict with our own; however, in doing so, I believe we can grow as writers (and as human beings). When you take the time to look at something from the “villain’s” point of view, let’s say, it can really broaden your perspective, even take you to a new level of understanding that you didn’t have before. For that reason, I enjoy books that explore unusual, risky themes. Sure, there might be a slight level of discomfort at times, but I trust that the author is exploring that theme for a reason. If we never talk about the hard stuff (or the taboo stuff), life would be pretty cookie-cutter… and if there’s one thing I know about life, it’s that polarity is non-negotiable. We would not know light if we did not know dark, and vice versa.
World-building applies to all genres, even to those where it is not necessary for authors to create unique societies, landscapes, and species. No matter your chosen genre, what top tip can you give aspiring authors when world-building?
The more you can visualize and see yourself in that world—your world—the more real it will be for the reader. In any world I build, I always put myself inside of it. Who would I be? How would I act? How would I feel about society? The more you can gather your own perception of your world, the easier it is to channel that into your characters, whether they differ in opinion from you or not.
Journal Prompt: if you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
How do you view and define success? What does it mean to you, and do you currently feel successful? If not, what would you need to achieve to reach success?
I love this question because success is different for everyone. For me, success is a feeling. As long as I’m living with intention, purpose, and joy, I consider myself to be successful. Doesn’t matter how many things I mark off a to-do list, or how many books I publish, or whether I hit bestseller status, or whether I sell out of a pre-order… that’s all trivial compared to how I feel every single day. If I feel intentional, purposeful, and joyful, especially when I’m writing and creating my art, then that’s what I consider as success. So far, so good!
What is the secret to becoming a bestselling author, if you believe there is one? Do you agree an Amazon bestselling status counts, even if that status was for a free or discounted book?
I don’t believe there’s a “secret” to becoming a bestselling author; but I do think as long as you write the story you want to tell, have the guts to publish it (or have it published), build a readership and connect with them, and continue to write… your chances of hitting a bestseller list will only increase with time. As far as Amazon bestselling status and what counts versus what doesn’t… if your book made it on that list at all, it counts. Doesn’t matter if it was free or discounted or for pre-order or whatever. At the end of the day, you still had enough people choose your book to make it on that list. The term may indicate “best-selling”, but it’s not about “sales”, it’s about the number of readers.
How do you deal with rejection, criticism and bad reviews from friends, family, and strangers? What would you say to someone struggling with a lack of support, or worried about online negativity?
Look, you’re not going to be for everyone. And that’s a good thing. As readers, we all have different preferences—things we like, things we don’t like—and that’s the beautiful thing about art. Art is subjective. It always will be. I’ve had people tell me I’m the worst writer in the world, and I’ve had others tell me that I’m their favorite author of all time. I don’t focus on the naysayers. My work isn’t for them. My art isn’t for them. So why would I waste a single second caring about what they think? It wasn’t written for them.
If you’re struggling with a lack of support or you’re worried about online negativity, I want you to remember two quotes. The first is by Zen Shin: “A flower does not think about competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms.” The second quote is anonymous: “Someone who is more successful than you will never judge you for wanting more.” In a nutshell, be the flower and write regardless. And if someone has a problem with you wanting to write a book, they’re just upset that they’re not brave enough to do what you’re doing. We’re all just mirrors for one another. The sooner you understand that, the easier it’ll be to get your work out there. As long as you’re proud of it, that’s the only thing that matters.
Journal Prompt: Kristen says above that art is subjective. In less than 250 words, write why this is a good thing.
Want more? Let's get to know Kristen in this bonus round!
What question/ comment do you hate receiving in relation to writing? Why do you think it frustrates you so much, and have other authors agreed with you? What answer/s do you usually give?
The question I get all the time that drives me up a wall is some variation of: “Hi! I love your videos. Do you have any writing advice for me?” *crickets* Why yes, as you just mentioned, I have an entire YouTube channel with hundreds of videos dedicated to building a creative lifestyle as a writer. If you’re going to take the time to email someone and ask for advice, be specific about what you’re looking for. I don’t respond to vague questions like the one I just mentioned. The questions that ask something specific, whether it’s about the self-publishing process, ISBNs, character development, and so on, are the ones I respond to. If you’re not going to take the time and effort to ask a well thought-out, somewhat-researched question, I’m not going to take the time and effort to respond with a well thought-out, researched response—and I think most anyone (not just writers) would agree!
Who is your favourite author and why?
Colleen Hoover – Her indie novel, Verity, is, by far, the most captivating and psychologically thrilling book I have ever read.
Tea, Coffee or Hot Chocolate?
Tea (honey vanilla chamomile is my favorite!)
What are you currently reading?
House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1) by Sarah J. Maas
What is the last book you reviewed?
I write books, I don’t review them
What is your favourite writing food?
A cheese, cracker, and grape plate
Give us a quote you live by and why.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford.
Pretty self-explanatory, but I’m a huge believer in creating our own realities through thought and inspired action. Any time I give power to anything outside of myself, like external circumstances, or if I’m playing the victim, I remind myself of this quote. Every day, we have the choice to choose empowering thoughts or debilitating ones. If you ask me, that choice right there is the only one that really matters.
Why not answer some of these questions yourself and post them on your blog?
Kristen's latest book is titled Soulflow, and can be found in the self-help/personal growth section for adults. ISBN/ ASIN: 978-0997909272
"All of our goals, dreams, ambitions . . . where do they stem from? And why are they such an integral part of the soul's journey during our limited time here on this Earth? So often, we seek answers outside of ourselves. We fall into the “when I” syndrome. We believe that when we make a certain amount of money, live in a certain size house, drive a certain car, hold a certain job title . . . that we'll finally be happy and fulfilled.
But what if true soul fulfillment doesn't lie in the goals, ambitions, and dreams, but in the simple everyday moments? How would your outlook on life change? Would you choose to live differently?
Kristen Martin had her first spiritual awakening in her late twenties. Exhausted and overwhelmed by societal pressures and expectations of who she "should be", she realized it was up to her—and her alone—to break out of the mind-numbing, soul-dimming box society had tried to force her into. In these pages, Kristen shares her own journey in overcoming the expectations and judgments of others, breaking through self-limiting barriers, and finally tapping into a level of truth so profound that she had to invent a word to encompass its depth and meaning. It's time for you to discover your soulflow, embrace all that you are, and live the life you so wholly deserve."
Available At: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, Books-A-Million
Thank you so much to author Kristen Martin for sharing her insights on writing and publishing books again! If you would like to support Kristen and her work, please consider purchasing one of her books.
An older interview from 2018 with this author has already been posted on this blog. You can go back and read that interview here.
Find Kristen on social media - like, share and follow!
The 2018 interview was originally posted on www.erachaelhardcastle.com - January 24th 2018. It was re-posted here by Rachael Hardcastle for your information and enjoyment.
If you would like to complete and submit an interview of your own for the blog, get in touch today through this website's contact form.