My debut novel, The Fletcher (The Arrow of Artemis Book 1), officially released January 3, 2018. As part of the promotion process, it was recommended that I establish an author brand to help develop a loyal following. Unfortunately I didn’t know anything about author brands. So I read articles and listened to podcasts, but the answer remained elusive. Who am I? How does my writing speak to the reader?
I’m a creator, and I always have been. But I’m not one of those pure artistic souls that struggles with manic passion and deeply depressive fugues. No, I’m positive in an average way. I’m balanced, equally artistic and analytic. I explored creativity with books as a child, devouring the written word because I was looking for an escape.
As I grew older and matured, I found escape in other arenas and my love of the arts blossomed. My creativity was as diverse as my reading tastes. I dabbled in a lot of things, drawing, pottery, sculpture, sketching, poetry, and singing. Each creative outlet was a different “voice” singing inside me. I briefly considered fiction writing but after a terrible short story attempt my sophomore year of high school, my lack of skill became obvious. That dream was scrapped, but lucky for me it wouldn’t stay forgotten.
I discovered an entire world of fan fiction at my fingertips in the early 2000’s and gave writing another try. But my writing attempts once again led to disappointment as I struggled to find my author voice. And the pattern of input (reading), and output (creative hobbies) continued. I began dabbling in photography, and even song writing. My girlfriend at the time simply laughed at my need to create. I was 30 when I finally started college, the same age my toxic relationship went into a downward spiral. And like clockwork, I picked up the pen yet again. I began an urban fantasy tale, inspired by Katie Reider. I even told Katie I was writing a book with chapters named for each song in her album, Wonder. I was going surprisingly well. When I was 40,000 words in, Katie died of brain cancer. It was about the same time my relationship died from betrayal. The story sat stranded in a folder on my computer, both of us lost. Thus began a time of author silence.
I did the creative dance for the next 5 years, picking up one passion as I set another down. But I always ignored that wounded part, the story that had been put away just like my heart. It was in those 5 years that I gained a lot of insight to my creativity and drive. Vital things were made known to me during my darkest hours alone in my apartment. A year after the silence, my lesson was this: “Starvation is not the way to protect yourself from the yearnings of hunger or the memory of a bad meal.” Two years later, the tone had definitely changed. “Not everyone is hungry when you are.” I was healing.
It was a little over 4 years ago, after uprooting my life to follow my heart, that I felt the spark again. Rudderless and lacking a routine, I craved the familiar. The need to create built inside me but it didn’t know how to come out. Photography was pointless as long as I was living in culturally dead suburbia. Poetry no longer called me as it did when I was younger and unhappy. I listened hard but all my previous artistic voices had nothing to say. They faded back in my mind, leaving only the one I had purposely muted.
Out of creative desperation, I finally let the author speak. I randomly began working on a Post Fin story about Xena and Gabrielle, started because I was so disgruntled by the ending of the series. Many were. Finishing that story set off a chain reaction that resonated from then to now, and is still resonating in some ways. That was the moment when the dream flickered back to life. Like a candle with a little glowing ember on the tip, it just needed a nudge or a bit of fuel.
The summer of 2015 was when I started writing. Real writing. The kind where thoughts and ideas, plots and dialogue, fell effortless from my fingertips and onto the keys of the laptop. I tried to explain what it was like to a non-writer once. I would stay up late typing as fast as my fingers would take me, eschewing a sane bedtime in order to see what happened next in my tale. With books, the story is printed or recorded and you absorb it into your brain by reading or listening. But when I’m in the thick of it, writing for me is a little like reading in reverse. Sometimes it flows so fast from my brain to my fingertips that I have no idea how a scene or plot line will turn out until it’s in front of me and the cursor finally stops.
This newly-discovered passion was accompanied by an obsessive need to finish that lost urban fantasy tale, to fix all that had been left undone and forgotten. And when I completed that book, I dove into the next. The ancient Greek world of my Post Fin piece wouldn’t leave my head so I wrote The Fletcher, my historical fiction set roughly in the same time period. It was my true passion piece, written completely as the “new me”, and it was everything. When the novel was finished, I knew that Kyri would probably stay with me the rest of my life. She is the reason I decided to find a publisher so I’m really glad it’s her story I got to share first, of all my other works.
But while looking at the collection of completed novels I have under my belt left me with a fair sense of accomplishment, it increased my branding dilemma. Some authors define themselves early as contemporary romance writers. Some define themselves as mystery writers. There are even cases where an author has to write under a different pen name when they want to switch genres, to avoid confusing their loyal fans. In those instances, genre becomes their brand. Or maybe the writer always writes in 1st person, or 3rd person, maybe the writer features animals or a certain flower in all their books. Those are all things they can cling to when the time comes to sell the body of their work to the public. However, in my first two years of writing, I completed 2 urban fantasy books, 3 historical fiction, 1 rom com, 1 sci-fi adventure, 1 dystopian sci-fi, and 1 dark contemporary piece. Therein lies the problem.
What if you have no defining similarities with your fiction? I had no single voice as an author. It was as if the mutterings from all my other hobbies lent themselves to the diversity of my writing. Picture a cacophony of disparate voices all clamoring for attention within my head. How does an author create a brand? I’ll be the first to admit that I get bored and I would find it difficult to write the same genre twice in a row. I can’t even commit to point of view. And while I love happy endings, I’ll confide that at least one of my books ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. (My girlfriend called it a “dick” ending)
So how do I define, K. Aten, the author? Maybe I don’t. In my search for the heart of my writing soul, I jotted down a single sentence which later became my logo. “Some words end the silence, others begin it.” Meaning that words prompt speech and discourse in the public forum. Books create movies in our head as each character shares their voice with us. But some words, and some books, delve deeper. Rather than prompting discussion, they prompt silence and thought. The logo itself lacks definition with its “this or that” generalization. Some writing does the same. I want my fiction to speak to the reader on multiple levels. I want to draw from them many responses, like emotion, discussion, and silent contemplation.
Perhaps that is the true nature of my brand. Maybe my logo should change with my new insight, to finally end the search. Some words end the silence, others begin it. These are my words, the response is up to you.
Born and raised in Michigan, Kelly is a latecomer to the writing scene. She works automotive industry coding in Visual basic, and her avid reading and writing provide a nice balance to the daily order of data, allowing her to juggle passion and responsibility. Her writing style is as varied as her reading taste and it shows as she tackles each new genre with glee. But beneath it all, no matter the subject or setting, Kelly carries a core belief that good should triumph. She’s not afraid of pain or adversity, but loves a happy ending. She’s been pouring words into novels since 2015 and probably won’t run out of things to say any time soon.