By Kristi Cramer
Suspense, urban, murder, inspirational, kidnapping, police, female protagonist.
AJ & Storm: What did you love most about this story?
Kristi: I love my hero, Blue, and his "gentle giant" nature. He learns some hard lessons about life, and what he's willing to do to save the woman he has sworn to protect, and I feel for him when things don't go the way he tries to make them go. Does anyone remember the line from the first episode of Firefly? When Shepherd Book is with Inara, and he says "I think I'm on the wrong ship." Book put all this emotion into that one line, and he's a lot bewildered by the situation he found himself in. Blue is kind of like that. He has all the best intentions, but when he gets a chance to reflect, he wonders what he got himself into.
AJ & Storm: What is it you love most about writing?
Kristi: I love to let the characters tell me what they would do in the situations I put them in. They're kind of like armchair quarterbacks, telling me when I've done something wrong. I'll fight back by throwing them a curveball, and then let them tell me how they'd react to it. I've written myself into more than a few corners, but eventually the characters help me write them out of it. That kind of inspiration feels magical - if more than a little insane. I mean, I swear I hear voices in my head sometimes. But the end result is me re-reading my books and wondering if I really wrote them.
AJ & Storm: If you could invite any writer for lunch, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Kristi: I would love to have lunch with Elmore Leonard (in Heaven, I guess) and talk with him about the way his writing is, at its core, about people who unleash things they cannot control. From the first time I saw Get Shorty, to the first couple seasons of Justified, I just watched and marveled at the way things go so spectacularly wrong for people. From things literally blowing up in their faces, to picking fights with the wrong bad guy - or good guy. OH! And he writes such smart dialog, that I can't help thinking he would be the coolest guy to have a conversation with.
AJ & Storm: Tell us about a mistake you made in writing or publishing and what it taught you.
Kristi: I guess my biggest mistake has been that I trusted my own judgement about my covers. I lack any sense of what makes a book cover great, attractive, noteworthy, etc.
My very first cover I built using the cover creator feature. I took a landscape photo I had taken with my phone and uploaded it, tacked on the title and my name, and called it good. Then I remade it using some stock photo, but basically doing the same thing. I used a similar tactic for my second book.
By the third book, I knew I had to spend some money, and I hired a designer. I loved what she did, and she remade covers for the first, second, third and fourth books. But I still wasn't selling, and I was hearing murmurs from people I trusted that my covers just didn't express what the books were about. So I asked a group of complete strangers what they thought, and the responses were overwhelmingly negative. Combined with my blurbs, people were just confused. The cover photos looked romance-y, the fonts looked tacky, the blurbs suggested suspense. Just what were my books about? Nobody was inclined to find out. So I got recommendations for a new cover artist, and put him to work.
I like the new covers well enough, but when I put them out to the same group of strangers, the response was now overwhelmingly positive. So what I learned is that I know nothing about art, and the things I like aren't necessarily what is going to attract readers.
I also learned to ask strangers before friends, and find strangers who will honor my request for honest feedback. My friends are lovely, and not likely to want to hurt my feelings by telling me they're less than impressed with something I show them. But I find I need the brutal truth, so that I can make the best decision - which is to let someone else tell me what is going to help sell my books. Now, if I could just get a handle on blurb writing!
Kristi thinks represent the characters in her books.