An Interview with Author Kendra Saunders

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Welcome all!
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing the lovely and talented Kendra Saunders, author of Death and Mr. Right, Inanimate Objects, and Overlapping Visions. Her work is also featured in Holiday Magick: 20 Holiday Stories with a Twist, and The Stroke of Midnight.
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Hi Kendra, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about why you wanted to be an Author?
As a little kid I remember realizing one day, while sitting in the backseat of a car, that there are other people having other lives than mine out there. My little mind was blown! And I from that moment on I started imagining what life was like for others, what they might be doing or trying to do… Plus, storytelling just seemed to be in my blood. My mom loves to tell people about how I would tell her a story every night about my “Can’t See Mice”, which apparently played out like a soap opera with lots of drama, weddings and funerals involved!
That’s so adorable! What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’d love to have strangers read my work. As a new author, you mostly share your work with the people around you, but I’d love so much to see my work in the hands of people who don’t know me. I’d love for The Unlove Spell to be quoted on tshirts and websites. I’d like to write a book every year or other year and travel for research. I’d like to speak at events and share the things I’ve learned with others, because everything I’ve learned has been from the ground up!
Besides writing novels, I’d love to interview more of my heroes, because there’s nothing more exciting than having a conversation with someone you admire about how they made it and what inspires them. And, you know, meet Neil Gaiman.
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Which authors inspire you?
Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury are the pillars of my writing inspiration and have taught me to balance humor and horror. Anne Rice taught me to fall desperately, fanatically in love with everything and everyone I write. Sophie Kinsella taught me that being funny and feminine is totally okay. Elizabeth Wein taught me that you can write a life-changing story in very few pages (“The Winter Prince”, one of my favorite books) and, most recently, Erin Morgenstern taught me that romance can still be romantic, breath-taking, unabashedly beautiful, heartbreaking and swoon-worthy (enough that I finished reading “The Night Circus” while sitting in my car in the gym parking lot on a VERY cold Valentine’s Day, sobbing).
Indeed. I love a book that brings that kind of emotion out of me. So, what are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished The Unlove Spell, which is by far my favorite thing I’ve ever written. Right now I’m finishing a new poetry and short story collection with a theme of two people who find each other through various realities and lives. I’d like to write a book or two more in the universe of The Unlove Spell, if the muse will strike me. But mostly I’ve been working my tail off on interviews, both for radio and for my blog, with fashion professionals.
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Excellent! What genre are your books?
My books can be described best like this: Real life, but with a little magic.
What draws you to this genre?
I’ve always wanted to write about people I’d LIKE to know, rather than people I do know. And my imagination is so strong that I’ve always had a strange view of the world. I paint it over with bits of magic and mystery, search for a prince or illusionists, even in crowds of grumpy morning commuters. It just seems to come naturally!
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead characters from Death and Mr. Right?
I could see Harry Lloyd as Death! And I wrote Wellington to be Michael Fassbender, Lillian Gale to be Florence Welch, and Michael the ghost is Jason Bateman. So those ones are easy!
How do you research for your stories?
It depends on the story. For Unlove Spell, I spent a lot of time reading about Russian history, fairy tales from around the world and listening to videos of people speaking Russian to get more of an idea of the flow of the language. Of course, I also visited NYC as many times as possible… for ‘research’. Ha!
For Death and Mr. Right, I visited Boston and Salem, looking for locations that felt inspirational, and read about Pandora’s Box (which was actually a jar!) and mythology in general!
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Why do you write?
To spend time with people and places and things I don’t get to in real life. To escape. To understand. To empathize. To live a hundred lives in one. To rant in a safe space. To mourn in a safe space. To be a better version of myself, somewhere.
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That’s great Kendra. You write some amazing stories. Where do your ideas come from?
I’m very inspired by photographs… in fact, I would say almost every book I’ve written could be traced back to a photograph that gave me the inspiration, including for Death and Mr. Right and Unlove Spell! Therefore, most of my ideas center around the characters first, and then I flesh out the world around them, as they begin speaking to me.
That’s very interesting, and an unique approach to writing! Do you ever get writer’s block?
Oh, all the time! I’m stuck in it right now, in fact. I wrote Death and Mr. Right and Unlove Spell back to back… finished D&MR last October 31st and started The Unlove Spell the next day. After finishing the latter, I haven’t been able to write a full book. Writer’s block can come from a number of places, but I find that opening your mind up COMPLETELY to new ideas helps… and experiencing new things. Go somewhere new, meet new people, read something new, eat something new. New is usually my cure for writer’s block- but I’ll get back to you when I work on a new book, ha!
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Absolutely! None of us can deny it for a second. And you know, a lot of people probably don’t like Death and Mr. Right’s cover (which I made the concept for, styled, and was on set for), but it fits the tone and content of the book, so they probably aren’t the audience for the book, either. A few people with opinions that I respect have expressed they really like the cover, though, and I love it. Plus, when I was at BEA with my guest, Dmitry Sholokhov, he asked me if I’d designed the cover and he said he liked the colors. Coming from someone whose job is all about architectural art and color and clean lines, that was a huge compliment!
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Personally I think the cover for Death and Mr. Right is right on… What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Here’s the truth: you need a good book. Either way, you need a good book, and either way, you need an even better editor. If your book is amazing, polished and edited, you’re now on equal footing at the crossroads. The big question from there is, are you a good businessperson? Can you sell your book? You’ll be required to sell your own book either way, which is a big dirty secret that people don’t want to talk about. Most publishers don’t have money or man power to sell your book the way it needs to be sold. You WILL need to use social media. You WILL need to arrange events for yourself. You WILL need to contact all sorts of people and sell your book to them, whether bookstores or libraries or schools or local newspapers or whatever.
If you’re not good at that kind of thing, don’t even think about self-publishing.
If you’re good at it, and you don’t mind that a lot of mainstream bookstores won’t stock your book (at least until you ask them to), then self-publishing is the way to go. You make, on average, 3x the profit for a print-on-demand title than a traditionally published one. Or more! People in the industry don’t like talking about this, but I’m asked financial questions by complete strangers all the time now. “Oh, you must be rich!” “How much was your advance?” “How much money do you make? A lot, right?” Writing is a poor man’s art. Selling is what takes you to the next level. This is a secret of the business that I’m giving you now, in case no one else will.
That is great advice for aspiring authors. Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Giving Inanimate Objects an amazing new cover, a while back. Sexy guys in eyeliner WILL sell more books, girls and boys. Take notes.
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Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
Many times the books don’t fit the crappy formula that’s trending at the moment, which is too bad. Thank goodness we have books break through the ranks, though, like The Night Circus, but it’s depressing sometimes to see how unique concepts are treated.
What is your favorite book and why?
I have two favorite books! The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of them, because it’s time travel, an incredible sexy male librarian protagonist and one of the most tragic love stories I’ve ever read. The other is The Winter Prince, which is probably the most striking story of familial complexity, love and hate that I’ve ever read. I’m certain Elizabeth Wein is probably sick of hearing me gush about her book, some ten years after I first read it, but I can’t help it. Everyone should read it at least once.
I’ll have to check it out! So where can you see yourself in 5 years?
Living in Manhattan, writing a sixth novel, interviewing cool people for radio, TV and print, visiting with friends more often, attending parties on rooftops, and, of course, supporting my favorite fashion designers (Dmitry Sholokhov, Fabio Costa, Melissa Fleis, Miranda Kay Levy) and owning a Dolce & Gabbana… well… anything. And meeting a few sexy male protagonists of my own.
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Kendra, I can totally see all those things happening for you and more. How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Thank you very much Kendra for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
Thank you for having me! It was so much fun, you’re one of the coolest bloggers out there, so it was an honor!
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