Yesterday afternoon, I attended Wordup: Long Island Litfest at the Madison Theater at Molloy College with two author friends, Kimberly Amato and Lisa Diaz Meyer. This annual event, in its third year, featured popular Long Island authors and was kicked off with a choice of two free writing workshops. My friends and I selected the Storytelling Workshop presented by Tracey Segarra of the Now You’re Talking Show. After treating the attendees to one of her own stories, Segarra broke down the structure of a story and invited everyone to try two storytelling exercises. The first consisted of prompts to help generate ideas. The second was a group activity involving object description and active listening. Although the workshop was short, it was quite informative. Segarra also invited everyone to her May 6 event, The Tipping Point, at the Merrick Theater and Center for the Arts at which several authors and storytellers will share stories.
The main event of the Long Island Litfest commenced at 1 pm and ran to 4:30 pm. It consisted of two sessions of speakers followed by questions from the audience, book sales, and author signings. The Emcee and first speaker for the event was Barry Dougherty, author of How To Do It Standing Up, The Friars Club’s Guide To Being A Comic and other books on comedy. The first-session speakers included Caroline Leavitt, author of the novel Cruel Beautiful World and New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow, Pictures of You, and many other works; and Steven Gaines, co-founder and a past vice-chairman of the Hamptons International Film Festival and author of numerous books, including Philistines at the Hedgerow and his memoir, One of These Things First. The last two speakers of the session were Cathi Hanauer, New York Times bestselling author of three novels and editor of two anthologies, The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth about Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood and Marriage and the recent The Bitch Is Back:Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier;and Gail Sheehy, author of seventeen books, including internationally acclaimed best-seller Passages, named one of the ten most influential books of our times by the Library of Congress. Hanauer and Sheehy spoke alone, and then Hanauer interviewed Sheehy about her recent memoir, Daring: My Passages,.
Session two featured George Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, writer, actress, producer, monologist, and Internet radio host, and author of A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George; Bill Scheft, Emmy-nominated and long-time staff writer for David Letterman and author of five humor novels, including his latest, Shrink Thyself; Alan Zweibel, an original Saturday Night Live writer, who has won multiple Emmy and Writers Guild of America awards for his work in television, which includes It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Late Show With David Letterman, and Curb Your Enthusiasm and has also won a Tony Award and the Thurber Prize; and Dave Barry, Pulitzer-Prize winning humor writer whose columns and essays have appeared in hundreds of newspapers over the past 35 years who has also written a number of New York Times bestsellers including the recent, For this We Left Egypt, a parody of the Passover Haggadah, co-authored with Alan Zweibel (and Adam Mansbach). After Barry spoke, he and Zweibel opened the floor to questions.
Welcome to the Literary Library Lounge where I interview fellow authors. Today, I am chatting with Kimberly Amato from Hicksville, New York who I met at a local author signing at the Levittown Public Library this past summer.
Thanks for joining me, Kimberly. Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable.
Do you have a pen name that you use or do you write under your real name?
I write under Kimberly Amato, but I am working on a Graphic Novel/Comic so I am considering the pen name of K.C. Kompass.
How long have you been published? What titles have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.
I am 100% self-published since 2014. I wanted to go what many consider the normal route, but I was impatient. I had my first book, Steele Resolve, done and edited already. I had worked on it for over a year and wanted it released. I had emailed many agents and publishing companies with cover letters. They tell you a specific amount of time for a reply; but, at a certain point, I was months passed that. So I hired a company Deranged Doctor Designs to do my formatting and cover. Then I released it on my own to Amazon. My second Book, Melting Steele, was released the same way. Recently, I published a spoken word video on YouTube about the 2016 election. It has been getting positive feedback. In the end, you have to do what you feel is best for you and not be afraid to try something outside of your comfort zone.
That makes a lot of sense. Large publishers are so swamped with materials and most will not even look at authors without agents. The query process is so time-consuming. I’ve had a little luck with small publishers, and I recommend them to new authors. However, I am aware that some people who self-publish do quite well.
Tell us a little bit about your books — what genre you write, if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.
I love the crime/thriller genre – but I have several things outlined that span so many more. My series, The Jasmine Steele Mystery Series – or just the Steele Series for short – has Breaking Steele coming soon. After that is released, I am focusing on my Graphic Novel/Comic and In The Shadow of the Needle – a crime novel set in Seattle. I’ve also started outlining a new series based on my mother’s RV travels entitled Granny’s On The Go – a fun mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie and Murder She Wrote. I wish I had specific dates, but I am at the mercy of editing.
I can relate to that also. It sounds like you are quite a versatile author. I also don’t like to conform to one particular genre, although my series is considered a cozy mystery. I have a psychological thriller in the works that I’m also editing. Your Steele books sound very interesting, and I’m looking forward to reading them.
Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
My goals… I want to be able to write as my primary career. I want to create stories that are vivid, richly detailed and thought-provoking when meant to. I hope to continue to entertain people and have them truly enjoy reading. Over the next few years, I would love to have an agent and several books released. I am actively writing, outlining like mad and investigating my options in regards to agents that fit my needs and vice versa.
I create very sketchy outlines, but I know they work well for many authors. I also would love to write full-time, but I also enjoy my work as a librarian and hope to do both for quite a few more years. I’m currently working on presenting my psychological thriller to an agent once I have it polished and have crafted a good synopsis and query for it.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
I know I have specific genres for different books, but I hope to attract any kind of reader. The fact is, everyone who is odd, different, part of the masses etc – everyone can understand the emotions in my books.
I think my Steele Series would be for anyone who enjoys crime mysteries with psychological undertones. My untitled Graphic Novel would be more for those who enjoy dark, super hero type of comics.
My ultimate goal is to entertain everyone with something I have written at some point in my life. A lofty goal, but I think it is possible.
I think that’s a great goal. I hope to attract more readers and that’s my main reason for hoping to publish with a large publisher one day. By having my work available in more formats and more widely distributed, I can reach more people.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
Listen to your heart and head. People are going to tell you so many things from “It’s not what we’re looking for” to “This is exactly what we want!” or “You can’t write yourself out of a closet.” You have to be willing to listen to your head when it comes to the marketing, the money people might want from you and the reality of how good your story really is. Then you use your heart to ensure that you protect your product. It sounds overwhelming, but the simple truth is – no one protects your best interest other than you.
Very well said. I totally agree.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
I find it so difficult to believe in myself. I had my first book written. I had cold emails out to agents and publishers. I was getting rejections back from some and nothing from most. I was sitting here trying to figure out why anyone would care about Detective Jasmine Steele other than me. I put it on Amazon because I thought if my Aunt Christine (a published author herself) said it was good – it had to be worth a sale or two. I still struggle with my confidence in my stories, but I feel more comfortable about putting them out there.
That’s a common issue with most authors. I still feel nervous about how the “public” will receive my work, but I realize not everyone will love it but those that do make it all worthwhile.
Have you taken any writing or publishing classes? If so, please provide information about them and if you feel they helped you further your professional skills.
I took a creative writing class at Hofstra University but other than that, no. I went on to earn my Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College – so my writing was limited to various reports, psychological exams and things like that. I beganacting and writing scripts for productions with my business partner in crime Michelle Tomlinson. I know it might not have been the normal way people go about writing novels – but I think it works for me.
I don’t believe there is a “normal” way for people to go about writing novels. I started with articles for my student newspaper at C.W. Post and then wrote for pet magazines. Every author has their own path to publishing. Yours sounds very interesting.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
I love creating things. As I mentioned before I work with people on films and other endeavors. That helps keep my mind sharp on the work front. Truthfully, I love video games. I love the stories, the gameplay and being online with friends playing. That, gardening and minor house renovations always keep me relaxed.
Interesting. I used to be very active in the virtual world of Second Life where I met librarians from all over the world, and I still have a pet memorial center there. I have less time to participate at this point, but I still maintain that area. I wrote about it in my very first book, Cloudy Rainbow.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
The least – marketing. I know I can do it but it can be overwhelming and so tiring. I think this could also be my toughest challenge. There are only so many hours in the day and marketing can demand all of it on certain days. Sometimes I just don’t have the patience for it, but it has to be done.
What I like most… the fact that people are giving me the opportunity to share these whacky ideas in my head. People spend their hard-earned money on my books. That feels amazing to me. Especially when I’m at an event and I get to meet people and other writers in person. I really love that part.
Yes, it’s great to meet readers and other authors, and marketing is definitely something most writers dislike because of the time it takes away from their writing. When I first began talking at libraries, I was a nervous wreck, but now I actually enjoy that part of marketing, the part where I connect in-person with people as opposed to the social media marketing which is also necessary.
Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc.