K.D. McCrite is another author I’ve learned about via Diane Windsor of Motina Books, and I’m glad I did. So many things that K.D. says resonate with me. According to K.D., she writes “about the people we encounter daily, those ordinary folks who make us laugh and cry while they keep the wheels of life turning” and “thinks there is no finer life than to create and share her stories with others.” That’s a sentiment that most of the authors I interview would agree with! K.D.’s latest book, Charlotte & Mr. Abernathy, launched in January and is the recipient of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Children’s Literature award. She’s also the author of the Confessions of April Grace series (about a tween, April Grace, who, as some readers have said, “can easily get under your skin”) as well as others. K.D. is hard at work on more writing, so many thanks to her for taking a break and allowing me to probe for information!
Christina: Congrats on the publication of Charlotte & Mr. Abernathy! The story is somewhat of a feel-good ghost story for children. What inspired the novel?
K.D.: Thank you so much for your good words! I can’t think of any one point that inspired the novel. I’ve always enjoyed a good ghost story, so I decided to write one for kids. Charlotte and the ghost of Mr. Abernathy pretty much arrived fully realized in my mind. They had great chemistry, which made the story practically write itself. E.Z. was an unexpected character who showed up on his own, metaphorically speaking, a couple of chapters into the book. He brought with him so much depth, sweetness, and an unsettled, somewhat mysterious history, that I wanted him to be a regular cast member.
Christina: In addition to children’s books, you mentioned that you write “cozy mysteries, paranormal, and gritty and upsetting domestic tales.” What do these genres have in common? How do they differ? What genre calls to you the most and why?
K.D.: I love to read a wide variety of fiction, so it just seems natural to write different genres. My favorite is regional fiction because it allows readers to become family or friends in a place that could easily be “home.” I love for my readers to become attached to my fictional people and places. Nearly all my books have elements of regional fiction in them, no matter the genre.
About writing cozy mysteries—I more or less fell into that when I was asked to write for a publisher’s line of mysteries. I wasn’t too sure how to write a cozy, but I jumped in with both feet and have thus far published fifteen mysteries with them.
As mentioned above, tales of ghosts and hauntings have always been of interest. Oddly enough, I’d never written one until I wrote Charlotte & Mr. Abernathy.
There is no shortage of fodder for “gritty and upsetting domestic tales.” These subjects poke the bear or explore the dirty underbelly of people and institutions, and I feel compelled to write them. Because they are so different from what I consider my “family-friendly” fiction, they are published under a pen name, so readers won’t expect the humorous, sweet tales associated with the author name of K.D. McCrite.
But as different as these genres are, my intention is to bring entertainment, information, inspiration, and some sort of redemptive quality to each story. I hope readers finish my books with satisfaction and maybe a more open view of the world.
Christina: You’ve been making up stories for a long time. When did you know you wanted to write them down and publish them? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?
K.D.: I’ve made up stories for myself almost as far back as I can remember. Everything around me was fodder for stories or situations or certain people/creatures. It wasn’t until I was twelve years old or so that I decided to stop keeping my imagined worlds and lives in my head. I asked one of my teachers to read the first story I wrote, and she liked it. “Really good. Keep at it!” That’s what I needed to hear, and I realized then I was going to be a Real Writer someday. Maybe some of my books would be as embraced by readers as I’d embraced so many wonderful stories and books.
From the beginning I ran into a lot—and I mean a LOT—of resistance from my family. But I knew I had what it took if I didn’t give in or give up. I wrote every day, continued to read voraciously, studied how words should be put together to their best advantage, and I submitted my work. Those first books were pretty bad, but each one taught me something, and when editors began to give me advice instead of standard rejection letters, I knew I was onto something.
Avalon Books published me first, then Thomas Nelson (now a division of HarperCollins) and DRG (Annie’s Attic, now renamed Annie’s). I moved to a small press. They published a few books but the professionalism was sadly lacking, so I moved on. At this point, I’m working closely with Diane Windsor, publisher of Motina Books, and I’m pleased.
Christina: You were born and raised on a Grade-A dairy farm, and you mentioned that you “miss farm life.” What do you miss about it? What was the greatest lesson you learned on the farm? Does anything from farm life inform your writing?
K.D.: I miss the quietness of the woods and the fields, the smells of spring, new mown hay, the lowing of cows and calves, the frogs’ songs at night. I miss having the animals around—the neighbor’s rooster in the morning, the baby calves running and playing in the pasture, and all sorts of wild critters who show themselves only long enough to disappear again. I miss my daddy and mama. God bless them, they both had full time jobs, along with the farm. They never complained, at least not in my hearing. My mom was the BEST COOK ever, and I sure miss that.
The greatest lesson (other than a respect for our environment) was a strong work ethic and independence. Sitting around and thinking of things to do gets nothing done. Willingness to work, learn, and dogged determination is key. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
I take much of my experience, memories, and observations of the rural life and weave them into my series about April Grace Reilly. She’s a witty, smart, sassy farm girl, and usually says what others are thinking but dare not say.
Christina: Pets are always fair game for these interviews! You love animals and have several pets. Would you share a little bit about these friends of yours?
K.D.: Right now, we share our home with three others – a Great Pyrenees, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and a cat. Oz, the Pyrenees, was a throw-away puppy, and we found him in a shelter in Hollister, Missouri. He was so small, I could hold him in one hand. Today, he weighs in at over 165 lbs. (and still thinks he’s a baby.) He is protective and watchful, just as a watchdog should be. Brody, the Cav, is two and a half years old and life with him is like having a toddler in the house. Everything goes in his mouth. Then there’s Barney – he’s been with us for over ten years. I found him as a kitten in the parking lot of a busy gas station. The clerk told me he’d been there all day long. So I scooped him up and brought him home. He’s sweet, spoiled, lovable and aloof, and if he really likes you, he gives you a strong nip on the head. He also seems to think he needs to edit my work, or at least give me a critique. One time he sat on my keyboard while I was out of the room, and when I returned, he’d added 100 blank pages to my manuscript. His editing isn’t too good.
Christina: What’s your writing kryptonite? And what tips do you have for writers just starting out?
K.D.: Distractions are something we all have learned to live with. I can usually write with noise and chaos going on, but I’ve found it absolutely impossible to write, think, create, or edit, with interruptions. When I write, I enter a world other than the one I’m in. A story unfolds and it’s like being in a deep sleep, involved in the details of a dream. A sudden noise, a phone call, a husband asking where the milk is, the dog prancing because he needs to go out. All of it yanks me awake. I am lost, confused, sometimes maybe even a little shaken up. It takes a while to get back into the zone. Sometimes, it takes all day.
To those who write as a hobby, I say dive in and enjoy yourself. That’s what hobbies are for.
But for those who aspire to be successful, published authors, you must take it as a job not a hobby. These days, it’s easy to have your work published. You can do it yourself, but you certainly don’t want to offer the world something awful. I mean, do you like to read bad writing or a dull story?
So, if you want to be successful and have loyal readers, it’s going to take commitment and work. A lot of both. Here’s what I suggest:
- Daily writing/editing/polishing.
- Learn constantly, because no one knows everything, and there is ALWAYS something new.
- Choose your market carefully and choose to submit to publishers of good repute. If you’re uncertain about a particular publisher or agent, a little online investigating will help.
- Keep your ego shackled. If you love fiction, writing it should always be about the story and your characters, not about you.
- Do NOT resent editor’s critique. Work graciously with them and be open to their suggestions. You needn’t take every suggestion, but you need to consider its merit. Remember, editors have nothing to gain or lose by critiquing your work. They know what sells and what does not, and they are trying to help you get your story to a point it’s ready for sale.
Christina: What’s next for you?
K.D.: In June, 2022, my next April Grace book—Messy Malodorous Malarkey—will be released. Then, a new April Grace Series, “The Misadventures of April Grace” will launch in November with the first book The Biggest Trouble Ever. These are a series of chapter books rather than full-blown novels, but with the same spunk and sass readers are used to. The books in this series will be released approximately three times a year.
Of course, there is another “Charlotte & Mr. Abernathy” in the works—Charlotte & Mr. Abernathy Shake the Family Tree. Also, be on the lookout for the next “Chronicle of April Grace,” Upside Down and Whopperjawed. I can’t give you release dates on these at this time.
I am also working on an adult ghost story (Epilogue). It’s a little unsettling, but there is far more going on behind the story than a mere haunting. It is gripping, suspenseful, scary, and satisfying.
As an aside to all this, I wish someone would invent a few extra hours in the day, another couple of days in the week, several more weeks in the year, and years that last a long, long time!
K.D. can be found in multiple places:
Thanks to K.D. for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.