Jaclyn DeVore’s coffee chat with romance author K.S. Thomas revealed some of the hopes and challenges that many modern writers have for their work: finding an editor who loves the worlds they create, experiencing a smooth path to publishing, and making time to weave magical stories in between family, work, and . . . well, life. Jaclyn spoke to the busy author of the newly released novel Fruit Punch Kisses to learn more about her time as a writing mom, the “why” that inspires each writing session, and the ups and downs of traditional publishing.
On Mom Writing Life & Showing Up
Jaclyn DeVore: So I want to talk about mom life and balancing writing as a mom. Can you say a little bit about that? How do you find time to write?
K.S. Thomas (Karina): It definitely evolves based on my daughter’s different ages. So when she was a baby, anytime she was sleeping, I was writing. And, actually, I completed my first novels when she was a baby because all of a sudden I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband at the time worked out of town. Monday through Friday, it was just me and an infant in the house. So when she was sleeping, I was writing. And that worked really well. Then, obviously, as she got older, she needed a lot more. She was a lot more active. So I wrote midnight to 4 a.m. My writing time was after the house was quiet. If I’m anticipating that somebody’s going to need something, I can’t really devote myself to the creative process. And that includes dogs, if I know the dog is going to need to go outside or need water. Everybody’s needs have to be completely met before I can write. Now that’s she’s older, she stays up later. But she does her own thing a lot. She has friends and they’re FaceTiming or whatever, so I’ve tried to find my new writing schedule. Now I just kind of write in the evenings, usually until midnight.
JD: You said something when we’ve talked before that’s kind of related. That you just have to write. You just do it. You don’t talk about it, you just sit down and do it and commit to it and make it happen.
KST: Yeah. I have a laptop that I take with me everywhere. So for the longest time, if my daughter had gymnastics when she was a toddler or if she’s at dance class or something like that, if I’m there, sitting for an hour either in the car or in the waiting room, my laptop is out. That’s how everybody meets me for the first time. I’m sitting on the floor somewhere with headphones in and I’m writing. That’s my life. There are pictures of me on picture day for dance, and I’m in the background behind all the kids in their dance costumes on my computer. But that’s how it gets done. And I don’t have to miss any of her stuff. I get to be a part of it all.
JD: You make time for it and you show up to it when you can. That’s amazing that you were, Monday through Friday, single-momming and writing. That’s a lot to do. But it sounds like writing for you is more than a job; it’s a calling, it’s something that you do that also takes care of you.
KST: Absolutely. If I don’t get to, then I miss it.
JD: You did say for Wild in Her Eyes that you read some parts of that to your little one, which isn’t necessarily true for some of the romance you write.
KST: Yes. She’s always liked hearing my stories. Now she’s less interested in what I’m doing. But when she was little, I’d have to change out parts when I read it to her as I was telling the story. My grandfather also reads all of my books, so I’m like, Oh, really? You like that? Ok!
JD: That’s funny. We all like to escape into stories. It’s how we’re wired and it’s how we understand the world.
On the Writing “Why” & Real-Life Inspo
JD: So what’s your “why” as a writer? What is it that keeps you coming back and showing up?
KST: The stories. I’ve always said, even as a kid, my favorite way to play was imaginary play. I didn’t really need toys. I just liked the stories and I liked to make up characters and imaginary friends and that was my thing. Now, the more stories I write, the more stories come. And if I don’t write them, what’s the point of having them?
JD: Right. Sharing those with others. It’s sort of like sharing your imaginary friends. I love that.
KST: Yes! Also, anytime I’ve struggled in life, that’s my safe place. To go to those stories. So I kind of look at it that way as well. If I write heavier content or different stories, it’s kind of a mixture of my life but also kind of where I found healing, really. So I can give that to someone else.
JD: You said that you write some from life and some from your imaginary friends. I’m guessing that you blend them. You write what you know, and we all do to some extent, until you find something new and different and interesting to explore. You posted something the other day about Fruit Punch Kisses, which is your upcoming book that we’re copyediting right now, and you talked about how you found the title. Can you say something about drawing from real life but also making it your own?
KST: So for Fruit Punch Kisses, I had a fruit punch kiss once and that kind of popped into my head and I thought, Oh, I could do something with that. So I did. I took one incident and turned it into a whole story. But I like taking real-life things. And I think what I wrote was that I want to create fairy tales not for escape, but that you can believe in. Something that seems like it could happen, like it could be real.
JD: I love that so much. It’s like the new fairy tale. We give Disney a hard time for selling us fairy tales from the time we’re really little, and I feel like you’re kind of challenging that. You’re saying, Here’s a fairy tale, but it’s a real one.
KST: Yeah. It’s real people. Everybody has flaws and everybody makes mistakes, and we can still make that work.
JD: It’s also a good lesson. You can take one sensory experience, one fruit punch kiss, and create a whole world around it and let it guide you. That’s really cool and that’s sort of the pivotal moment of the story—when she’s describing the fruit punch kiss. It’s really exciting that you’re creating these new-generation fairy tales for the grown-up little kids.
On Adventures in Traditional Publishing & Self-Publishing
JD: So you started writing when your daughter was really little. Is she why you started writing and publishing?
KST: I started really because, for the first time in my life, I had time to actually complete something. Up until that point, it was always something I did just when I had a moment. I wrote a lot of poetry, a lot of short things that I could complete; I hadn’t ever completed an entire novel. So when she was born, all of a sudden I had time to really dedicate and not have to go to a day job. And then I started publishing when my husband and I were splitting up. Things got really ugly and I was in a place where I needed to figure out what I was doing, and that was what pushed me out into the publishing world. I kind of went in blind. I knew nothing. I had no budget. I had nothing. I just kind of went for it, and I was winging it for awhile until I found my way.
JD: How did that go, at first? Was it scary? You’ve been self-publishing. So you’re just like, I’m just doing it!
KST: Yeah. It was scary and weird. You don’t know until after you know that you didn’t know. So I mean, my covers were horrible and my editing was family members proofreading. But I got it out there. And shockingly, I made money. People bought the books and the reviews were not horrible. So it gave me enough faith in myself to really continue pursuing it, so that was awesome. But huge learning curve. Lots and lots to learn. And then I submitted to a small publisher out of England, I think my third book. I went the traditional publishing route. And that was a huge learning experience but it also wasn’t for me.
JD: So you were publishing with a house and you’ve gone back to self-publishing? You prefer it?
KST: Yes. But it definitely was a great way to get the inside scoop on everything that was going on and to learn all the steps they took for publishing and book writing. It was like, Oh, okay, this is how that works.
JD: That’s so interesting because so many writers are like, I need to be published by someone else to be validated or to be a writer and author. And I know not all authors feel that way, but I know there is a tendency toward that thinking. You’re saying you went that route, you learned some things, and now you’re back to independent publishing and you prefer it. I mean you get so much more control over the process. So you’ve been doing this since 2012, is that right?
KST: That’s when my first fiction novel came out, yeah.
JD: So you’ve been doing it long enough to have learned what you didn’t know and to adjust going forward. What do you think is the biggest thing that you learned from the publishing house?
KST: Editing was a huge, huge eye-opener because I was really kind of winging it up until that point. Now this was also the editor that hated my work, so it was a mixed feeling. And even cover artists. I was kind of getting an idea of covers, but they had an in-house cover artist that produced something completely different than I had access to before. It made me understand the value in investing in those things.
JD: I like that you use that word because that’s exactly what it is. You’re investing in your book. We get a lot of people who contact us for editing and then they’re like, I can’t afford that, or That’s too expensive. I think sometimes some people who are self-publishing forget that you’re producing a product. A book is a product and you invest in that product and get return on that investment. It may take a few tries. You’ve written so many books in the last seven years. How many books?
JD: Yeah. I remember you did that Instagram challenge where you shared a book you’ve written for every day of the month. You’ve written so many! Thirty-ish books in seven years. That’s incredible. It’s very prolific. But you know, you’re kind of to a point where you are offering a product and you want to invest in that product. And what do we always say, Don’t judge a book by its cover. But what do we all do? We totally do. And you want to make sure that you keep people reading because with Kindle Unlimited, for example, you get paid based on how far into your book someone reads.
KST: Yeah, you get paid by the page.
JD: That’s one thing that we are looking at and that’s why we specialize in self-publishing with independent writers. We know that, and we want to make sure your readers keep reading and you don’t lose them. It’s not the first thing we think about, but it is something we are considering. So we’re not just about making sure you have a profitable book, but that’s one of the things we want for you. We want to help you tell your story and make sure that people are investing in it because you’ve obviously invested in your stories, emotionally and monetarily.
KST: And time, everything!
Want to get to know this inspiring author? Read her books! Dive deep into her novels by viewing the K.S. Thomas collection on Amazon and say hello on Instagram by following her at @romanticmosaics4yourrebelsoul. You can also grab a free ebook when you visit her website.