Monday, 31 May 2010

Queen of the Midlist: Interview with Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Today we're suspending our usual Monday installment of Websites for Writers to interview longtime midlister Kathryn Meyer Griffith. Her latest horror novel, A Time of Demons, is just out from Damnation Books today. Websites for Writers will be back next week.

You've been a published author for 26 years. How have you seen the market change for midlist authors in that time?
Boy, have I seen it change! When I first started sending out manuscripts (in the days of the dinosaurs), typed on an electric typewriter with lots of spots of White-Out and then carefully stacked into copy paper boxes that I’d send expensively by snail-mail with self-stamped and addressed return manila envelopes also inside, it’d take anywhere from eight to twelve months to get an answer from a publisher; and then we’d go back and forth for another couple months before they’d give me a contract. Then I waited up to a year or more for it to hit the bookshelves and another year after that before I got a royalty statement. They’d take money off the top for returns. Never could figure out those darn royalty statements! Ech. I think of this every time I hit the send button and rocket my computerized manuscript right to my publisher or editor or when I get the edits in a neat file for me to use Track Changes on. No muss, no fuss. It’s so much easier now and I save all that postage, too.

And years ago the midlist author was respected, even courted by their publisher. I remember on my first Zebra book in 1991, VAMPIRE BLOOD, my editor found out my husband loved another of their author’s work (William Johnstone) and just to be nice he sent us the whole paperback series (14 books!) so my husband could have them. Sheesh. What editor would do that now for a midlist author? None. Truth is I don’t think there is a midlist anymore or midlist authors. They’ve gone the way of the dodo bird. Which is why I’ve published my last three (soon to be five) novels with E & paperback publishers. The bigger publishers don’t want you unless you’re a bestseller now. They don’t want to really edit your books or take any time to promote or build your career. It makes it truly hard to get published and make real money at it anymore. (As if I ever did! My best financial payouts were my Leisure and Zebra days from 1984-1994 and so far I haven’t come near those totals again. Maybe someday after all the E & paperback books for my older novels – *see below – come out I will.)

In recent years you've shifted more towards ebooks. What spurred that decision?
As I said, it’s really difficult to get published with the big guys anymore…even me…and I have 13 books to my name and more coming. I don’t know what the big guys want anymore but it isn’t me. In 2007, on a lark sort of, dejected and ready to give up writing forever, I decided to send a book, EGYPTIAN HEART, (that had been turned down by every big publisher in the galaxy) to THE WILD ROSE PRESS, a new E & paperback publisher who were really kind to me. Really loved the book. I knew the book needed a good editing and after their editor got done with it (she did a detailed, fantastic job, too, I thought) I felt it was a much better book. The cover, surprisingly, was beautiful and they’d actually asked for my input for it and on everything else, editing and all, during the editing process. Unheard of from my experiences with Zebra, Leisure and Avalon Books (my previous publishers that I did two hardcover murder mysteries for).

I remember my first novel from Leisure in 1984, EVIL STALKS THE NIGHT, was edited by some male editor and I never even saw the book during editing until it was printed and in my hands after the release date. The editor did a terrible job all in all and had actually put in three pages of his own without consulting me! They were awful and my readers to this day ask me about them!

And the covers of my Leisure and Zebra books were completely out of my hands. They made a cover for you and if it was horrible or you hated it…too bad. A few of my books, I felt, had awful covers. BLOOD FORGE. 1989. Yeck! THE LAST VAMPIRE. 1992. Awful! My experience so far with five e-books, on the other hand, have been, on the whole, excellent. I love my covers for EGYPTIAN HEART, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons and THE WOMAN IN CRIMSON. But the cover artist worked with me on each of them. They wanted what I envisioned on the cover. Amazing. Can’t wait to see all the new covers of all my older books that are being re-released in E & paperbacks.

So far there hasn’t been a lot of money in my e-books…but I see, feel, a change coming. Three years ago being e-published was looked down on from the publishing industry; now I think it’s beginning to become more respectable. All those little greedy machines out there clamoring for food! E-READS told me that this last year alone they’ve seen a 200-300% rise in their sales and they’re still rising! I’m catching the wave.

Tell us a bit about your two upcoming releases.
From DAMNATION BOOKS: BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons (new) out May 31, 2010. THE WOMAN IN CRIMSON (new) in September 2010 from ETERNAL PRESS.

BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons is an apocalyptic saga about traveling brother and sister musicians, Cassandra and Johnny Graystone, and their friends, who must fight evil demons, with the help of angels, in the end days (sort of like the Left Behind series or Buffy The Vampire Slayer). The sister is developing supernatural powers to aid them in the final war as they seek out and convince others with similar powers to join them.

THE WOMAN IN CRIMSON, a contemporary vampire novel, is about Willowwind, a beautiful Civil War era bed and breakfast, run by a loving couple, Adrian and Caroline Stone. It’s also haunted by a long dead Civil War era vampiress who was once a witch, Lilith, who believes the man, Adrian, is her reincarnated soldier/lover Jedidiah, and she’ll do anything to have him, body-heart-and soul, for her own again. But Adrian’s wife, Caroline, along with the help of a psychic and the ghost of her dead father, will do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I also have three e & paperback books available from THE WILD ROSE PRESS….more romantic but still spooky. EGYPTIAN HEART. WINTER’S JOURNEY. THE ICE BRIDGE. And two ghostly short stories, Don’t Look Back, Agnes and In this House.

And the rereleases: THE HEART OF THE ROSE in November 2010 from ETERNAL PRESS. THE LAST VAMPIRE in Oct. 2010…THE CALLING in March 2011…BLOOD FORGE in June 2011 and EVIL STALKS THE NIGHT in September 2011 from DAMNATION BOOKS. E-READS is going to bring out VAMPIRE BLOOD and WITCHES again by the end of 2010 or so they say; no real publication dates yet on those two and they’ve had them since October of last year (and they’re charging me a hefty set-up fee for both while DB and EP don’t charge a penny…I won’t fall for that again). Imagine…ESTN came out from Leisure 26 years ago. Whew. I’m sooo happy they’re all coming out again. I’ve worked really hard to get them all reborn.

What attracts you to write about the paranormal?
It’s what I’ve always loved to read. I recall one day when I was about ten or eleven years old and my grade school class had ordered hardcover books through The Weekly Reader (anyone remember those?) and I had ordered a book on ghosts; no longer remember the name or who it was by. I think it was short stories, though. I can still recall the shivery thrill when the cardboard boxes came in and the class opened them and our teacher distributed the books to the ones who’d bought them. I was in heaven!

Then…my beloved grandmother Mary Fehrt, the first real storyteller I ever knew, used to have my brothers and sisters and I (there were seven of us and we were poor) sit around in her barely lit basement when we spent the weekends (two or three of us at a time) and she’d tell us spooky stories. We also would watch Spook Spectacular with her over root beer floats or home-made ice cream sundaes. She’s the one who told me never to gaze into a mirror in a darkened room because something scary would be in them. And that’s when my love of horror began. But I love and write traditional supernatural horror…the kind about ghosts, vampires and eerie things that go bump in the night. I rely on the characters not gore, sex or curse words. Probably that’s why I’ve never become famous. Ha, ha. Thing is, I also write murder mysteries, romantic horror and time travel. Even once did an historical romance (The Heart of the Rose, 1985)…but it was about a woman perceived to be a witch in 15th century England during the time of Edward the Fourth. Go figure. No matter what I write a ghost, a vampire or a witch sneaks in somehow.

You've had 14 novels published. How has your writing developed in the course of all those projects?
Now that’s a really hard question as I’ve been writing for 39 years and published for 26 of them. Mainly, I don’t use as many adjectives.  Not as much flowery prose. More dialogue. More show not tell. And my great age has enabled me to write from somewhere else deeper inside myself. I’ve seen, felt more. Oh, yeah, the computer as compared to that darn old typewriter has really helped. I can rewrite so easily. Hey, I taught myself to type (I was an artist, you know, not someone who thought I’d ever need typing – I could kick myself now!). I still type with two fingers. Thank goodness my new publisher could scan in all those old books because they don’t exist on a computer or memory stick anywhere and, hey, I’d be two-fingered typing from now to doomsday. Some of those oldies are close to 400 pages each.

Where can we find you online?

Actually, I have ten social websites and now one official website so I won’t bore everyone with all of them. Here are the best of the lot where you can learn all you’ll ever want to know about me (and perhaps way more than you’d care to): See all my new covers and self-made book trailers; some with my singer/songwriter brother Jim Meyer’s original songs! See all my new covers and self-made book trailers; some with my singer/songwriter brother Jim Meyer’s original songs!

My e-mail: rdgriff (at) htc (dot) net E-mail me…I love feedback!

And Sean, it’s been nice of you to let me ramble on…nice to be here. Signing out, Kathryn Meyer Griffith The Queen of the midlist writers.


Su Halfwerk said...

Hi Kathryn,
Congratulations on your new releases.
It's interesting to see how the way the publishing world treated/reacted to authors changed over time. This has been insightful. Thank you!

Su Halfwerk

Lorrie said...

Hello Kathryn,

It's true, no mid-line authors today. I love to write, but sometimes I wonder if it's really worth it with the vast "I don't care" attitude of the presses. We all know we are not in it for the money, lol, but with all the rapid changes in the industry, well, I wonder...

Sean McLachlan said...

Being a midlist author is still possible! Not, perhaps, in fiction, except maybe media tie-ins, but it is possible to nonfiction.

Non-celebrity fiction authors now have to market themselves like crazy. They can't rely on modest regular checks from the publishers anymore.

Margaret West said...

Your typewriter and white out reminded me of me!! lol I was sending out MS when the dinosaurs were around too!! The postage used to be horrific lol I'm so glad enail evolved. Loved reading your blog and about all your work. I'm in awe.

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Kathryn! I learned a lot from it, and it certainly helps me realize why I can't get published either these days. I've been writing for 30 years, with only one short to show for it. And that, fortunately, was published by the Wild Rose Press, although I have had some problems with them. But I won't go into that. I've gotten so bummed out lately that I've all but given up on writing, too.

At any rate, your book sounds great. I'll head over to TWRP and check it out.

Congratulations on the new release!

Anonymous said...

Oops! Sorry, Kathryn! I realized your new release was through Damnation Books. But I'll still check out any e-books you have through TWRP and order your new book.


JL Walters said...

Interesting interview. I've also seen the change in publishing and embraced epublishing in 1998 and haven't looked back. Congratulations on your new release.ether

Yolanda Sfetsos said...

Kathryn, congrats on your new release. Yay! Cool interview, btw. :)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Kathryn,
Great blog. Ah yes, the old manual typewriter, carbon copies, I remember it all so well. How much easier is it now. I have five novels published with the TWRP, another two coming out in July and December respectively. all except one are historicals
I too find them great to work with, and their covers are gorgeous.
Good luck with you your ventures.


Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.