MF 413 : Writing series: Kimberly Charleston
We kick off season 10 with author Kimberly Charleston. Today, Kimberly shares several novels she's currently writing, including an exciting thriller that blends elements of action, romance, and sci-fi. We discuss Kimberly's road to writing and she shares some great tips for getting started, overcoming "imposter syndrome," and staying on task with your writing. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
Kimberly is an author who blends many genres, including romance, suspense, and even sci-fi. Originally, I invited to have Kimberly be part of the writing series last year but the timing didn’t quite fit so we agreed to stay in touch and table her appearance on the show. Like a good sequel setup, Kimberly reached out towards the ends of 2022 and I decided to have her story kick off season 10.
Speaking with Kimberly, you can hear the passion in voice when she talks about her writing. As she explains, this goes back to her youth when one of her teachers observed that her "imagination was larger than life” and even suggested a future career in writing. Though, she claims it wasn't meant it as a compliment, I think her teacher would be proud to see that Kimberly has followed that advice and has worked hard in doing so.
Like me, Kimberly started out in the corporate world where most of her writing was structured prose with little room for creative expression. However, throughout her life, she maintained that love of storytelling, and had several tales percolating that she wanted to eventually share with the world.
Last year was her "aha" moment. She made the decision to leave the corporate world and pursue writing full time. Since then, she has written or is in the midst of writing several books, including her current WIP (work-in-progress), a suspense thriller about a bitter detective and a rising FBI agent who “share a scorched past.” They must find a way to put aside their differences and work together to uncover a plot involving a corrupt politician, and, an extraterrestrial threat! Her other WIP is a five-book series, starting with a first novel called Mistaken Identity, involving a CIA agent who crosses paths with a librarian who is looking for a fresh start following a bitter divorce. Kimberly has already penned drafts of the first three books with the remainder mapped out, and recently signed with an agent who is shopping the series to publishers.
Kimberly reveals that her inspiration for writing these books stem in part from her lifelong respect for those work in civil service. For her, creating characters in this world is a way to honor those individuals and say thanks. Further, she explains that all writers gather inspiration from their own life experiences. While she never chased down fugitives (or aliens), she met many individuals who did. In particular, Kimberly recalls a next-door neighbor from her childhood, a retired FBI agent whose walls were adorned with memorabilia from his time in the bureau. Kimberly was tasked with an important duty: pet sit his cat. This slice-of-life interaction would later serve Kimberly’s writing, helping her pair larger than life characters and themes with contrasting genres and people, notably romance and librarians.
“It is interesting how we as human beings have people in our lives or brushed shoulders with something or someone ... it’s an interesting connection that happens by chance that leads to an ongoing five book series!” -Kimberly Charleston
Traditional or self-publishing: that is not the question
As noted, Kimberly recently signed with an agent and is pursuing the traditional publishing path with her book series. I was naturally curious as to how and why she decided to go the traditional route, and if she ever considered self-publishing. Kimberly’s answer showcases that it’s not a simple back or white decision.
“I always considered both and still consider both ... Who knows what tomorrow will bring.” -Kimberly Charleston
Kimberly explains that while she is pursuing traditional publishing with her Mistaken Identity book series, she is open to alternate publishing avenues for her other written work. Rather than box herself as one or the other, she prefers a "hybrid approach;" combining traditional and self-publishing depending on the work. To that end, Kimberly was recently presented with an offer to co-author and self-publish a book with a best-selling author. Kimberly's perspective and experience demonstrates that this does not have to be an either-or decision. Today, writers can and should consider all avenues to get their work out there.
As with many of the writers I’ve spoken with, I was curious to learn more about Kimberly’s writing process. Specifically, whether she is a “plotter;" someone who maps out her book before writing a first draft vs a “pantser;” a writer that lets the character and story flow from the writing itself. Similar to her her hybrid publishing philosophy, she does a little of both. For the book series, Kimberly used a "pantsing" approach, letting the story tell itself. In contrast, with the current WIP, the one that blends thriller, romance, and sci-fi, she adopted more of a "plotting" methodology. However, as with publishing routes, she doesn’t confine herself to one or the other but has taken elements of both to create her own unique methodology, which she calls “quilting.” She defines the process of "quilting" as imagining specific scenes or scenarios that come to her while doing everyday activities such as taking a walk or grocery shopping. She then writes these down, creating a collection of scenes that are not in any particular order. She describes these as “patches of a quilt” so to speak, which she later integrates into her novels.
Kimberly doesn’t experience writers block as writing comes naturally to her. However, she does sometimes struggle with "imposter syndrome." This is a common ailment that many of us experience when taking on a new objective. "Imposter syndrome" is an internal struggle, in which your inner voice tells you that you are not worthy to participate in a particular space, especially one filled with so many skilled and talented individuals.
“It’s really feeling as if YOU don’t necessarily belong to that world ... and you start to question ‘am I good enough to be on this playing field?’” -Kimberly Charleston
While daunting and potentially debilitating for many writers, Kimberly shares two things that her overcome "imposter syndrome:" 1) an “unwavering passion” for writing, and 2) a wonderful support system of friends, fellow writers, and family, which includes a very supportive spouse. The former allows her to put aside the "imposter syndrome" and keep writing. The latter illustrates that writing isn’t done in a silo. Who you surround yourself with as important as the endeavor itself. Kimberly’s support system provide an important source of encouragement.
“I have this unwavering passion to share stories with the world.” -Kimberly Charleston
Accountability and accomplishing your goals
Kimberly is very goal-oriented, a habit that’s carried over from her corporate days. She sets goals and milestones with word counts and deadlines. Part of this is borne out of a desire to finish the task but also recognizing that she has a team that she’s accountable to, including agents, editors, and others who help bring her books to life. Kimberly also has accountability partners within the industry who meet with her every two weeks to ensure she stays on track with the goals she sets out. This is again a reminder that who you surround yourself with, whether part of the writing process or not, can be key to accomplishing your goals.
Advice to writers
“Just do it, don’t overthink it, just rip off that bandaid and go for it, and believe in yourself. Trust me when I say, ‘if you don’t do it know, then when?’ … you have to really enjoy the journey.” -Kimberly Charleston
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