Please welcome local author Alexa Kingaard to the blog and enjoy getting to know her background and her inspirations!
You can read my complete review of My Name is Rose HERE, but in short…
I loved reading about the bucolic life on a commune, the space to explore, the sense of accomplishment that comes from being self-sustaining. The relationships were believable and heartfelt.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about human nature and family dynamics. I will remember this book the next time I make or smell homemade biscuits!
Thank you Alexa, for taking the time to answer our questions!
Q. Can you describe My Name is Rose in three words?
A. Heartwarming, Thought-provoking, Emotional
Q. Why were your compelled to write this story?
A. MY NAME IS ROSE is my second novel, and it was the comments and high praise I received after writing my debut novel, KEEP FOREVER, that gave me the confidence to continue writing. I never considered being an author until my 68th year, which was borne from the tragedy of my ex-husband’s suicide. In 2011, we were involved in an auto accident which triggered a PTSD episode, and seventeen days later he was gone. It took me five years to get the courage to reveal in a fictional format, the burdens our Vietnam veterans returned with, and the ensuing pain that shackled them and their families for a lifetime. It was never a best seller, but it did reach the intended audience in small measure, and my Amazon reviews have all been 5-STAR. I appeared on a local TV station, as well as a Denver radio station devoted to Vietnam veterans, and my book signings were well received. The highest honor was being selected to be the Keynote Speaker at the Veteran Arts Showcase last November at the FDR Library in Hyde Park, New York.
MY NAME IS ROSE was a story that continued to percolate in my head, a compilation of thoughts and experiences that I had imagined in various settings. I never lived in or visited a commune situation, but it’s my generation. The common thread between KEEP FOREVER and MY NAME IS ROSE is nostalgia. I love to write about the human condition, which I believe is the common denominator of our lives.
Q. What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
A. My choice of authors are those that can tell me a good story, in an uncomplicated manner, and keep me turning the page until the last one is read. I have always liked Hemmingway and Steinbeck, and classics like Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22, Gone with the Wind are favorites. I remember reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky when I was in high school, and we needed a guide to get through to the end! Without the classroom discussions and interpretive comments from the teacher, I would never have finished it! Because I enjoy a story that flows without too much effort, my goal is to do the same for my readers. I have my own style of writing and try not to mimic other authors, but I have been compared more than once to Nicholas Sparks – high praise!
Q. What book(s) are on your nightstand to read this year?
A. MY NAME IS ROSE was published with the assistance of a hybrid publisher, Acorn Publishing, LLC. They represent a variety of talented authors in diverse genres and we are all very supportive of each other. My list currently includes those authors, of which there are quite a few. It will take me awhile to read this stack.
Q. What does your writing process look like? Do you listen to music? If so, does it vary based on the book?
A. I write everything in my head first. I take an hour every morning to meditate – cup of coffee in hand, lights off, no music, just the thoughts in my head. I concentrate on the story line if I am in the middle of writing a book, and imagine dialogue that I hope I will remember for a few hours. When I am composing or editing, I spend the rest of the day writing the thoughts that occurred to me in the morning. Sometimes I write in long hand, other times it is directly on the computer. I am a fast typist and can complete 10,000 words in one sitting. I never worry about writer’s block and never force myself to write something that isn’t naturally evolving in my head. The words always seem to be there when I need them, even if there is a large time lapse between writing days.
Q. What do you do when you are not writing?
A. Let’s just say I haven’t been able to quit my day job. A realtor for 15 years in Carlsbad, CA, I must put my clients first and they are my top priority. Fortunately, I live on a flexible schedule, with peaks and valleys in real estate. I have learned to utilize my slow periods for writing, marketing, and learning more about the publishing industry. It’s a steep learning curve, almost like a second job. When I have free time, I take every opportunity to spend it with my two adult children, one local, the other in Nantucket. I would love to travel more, but take advantage of out-of-state book signings and family reunions to quiet my wanderlust.
Q. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
A. Originally, KEEP FOREVER was never meant to be published. I thought I would write this little story, self-edit to the best of my ability, and put it under my bed where my children would discover it when I died. I felt, at 68 years old, that I didn’t have the time to submit, get rejected, submit, get rejected, submit, get rejected for a decade by agents and large publishing houses. However, encouraged by my son and his unwavering commitment to me, we jumped into a very deep pool of information, competition, and discovery of what it meant to self-publish. Lordy…although unprepared and woefully uneducated in this industry, we picked through it one step at a time, oblivious to what we didn’t know, and chose a self-publishing company to produce the final version. The cover design was mostly ours, and I paid to have the story professionally edited, but included in their package was formatting, set-up advice, printing services, distribution and artwork. The budget for publishing your own book is self-regulated, but I soon found out that if you didn’t have the money to hire a publicist, or the instinctive ability to be a social media wizard, your book would go mostly unread.
Q. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
A. Although I am still somewhat baffled by social media, it is the most direct route to readership and visibility, regardless of genre. I have had to become shameless about promoting myself, and though necessary, is not intuitive to me. I created a raffle when MY NAME IS ROSE was released, and received over 3000 entrants in ten days, generating increased viewings to my website and newsletter registration. In addition, I employed the help of a professional for a blog tour blast. I found this tool to be most productive, as it added to my Amazon reviews, made MY NAME IS ROSE A #1 BEST SELLER for five days in a row, and brought me followers such as Jaymi with Orange County Reads!!
Q. What is something you cannot live without? (excluding computer or phone).
A. That’s easy – my children. I would be paralyzed if anything ever happened to either one of them.
Q. Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects?
A. Since I have learned so much through Acorn Publishing and the steps that I missed with KEEP FOREVER, my plan is to re-release it on Veteran’s Day, and market it in much the same manner as MY NAME IS ROSE. The cover will be revised with a subliminal patriotic message, I will get another professional edit, and change the genre to one that better fits my target audience of baby boomers, Vietnam veterans and their families. Women’s Fiction was too broad, so I will narrow the category to Historical Fiction and Historical Romance. I also plan to reach new readers with professional blog tours and Sweepstakes opportunities. It is my chance to fine-tune this story and reach the readers for which it was initially intended. Additional books are in my head, but I would like to ensure that my current novels have received their best chances to succeed before I get serious about writing another.
Q. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write whatever you feel like and don’t get bogged down by perfection. If your story speaks from the heart, it will translate to your readers. I believe it is much more gratifying to come to the end of a book, still thinking about characters and messages, than to have read a story that is mechanically correct, but lacking depth and emotion. And don’t worry about your competition. I understand that there are eight million titles on Amazon…at some point, you have to let that go, challenge your own creativity and ability, and forget about everyone else.
Q. Where is your favorite place to write?
A. Coffee shops. They smell good, feel, good, create energy and a positive mood. For the most part, everyone is happy, and I can block out the noise as soon as I put pen to paper. I did a lot of writing and soul searching at my veteran’s grave site at Miramar National Cemetery when composing KEEP FOREVER, but for current and future works, I find peace where others are mingling or working under the same roof.
Q. Have you always lived in Southern California?
A. I was born in San Diego (before there was a freeway!!!), and except for a small portion of my life spent out of the state, I have called Southern California my home.
Q. What would you like to say to your readers and fans?
A. Thank you for choosing to spend your free time reading and enjoying my novels. I know you are all caught up in your busy lives and have many options. I hope my stories resonate with you and you are able to relate to the every day situations I have created for my characters. One very complimentary reviewer wrote about MY NAME IS ROSE, “Undoubtedly, this book is pretty much about lessons of life, but I truly appreciate the author’s writing style. She manages to use the most uncomplicated vocabulary to deliver some of the most profound subjects.” That pretty much sums up who I am and why I write.
Q. Can you share with us the best way to reach you and where to learn more about your books?
A. I invite you to visit my website, www.alexakingaard.com, sign up for my newsletter, and follow me on Facebook and Instagram. MY NAME IS ROSE and KEEP FOREVER are available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Thank you for following and supporting me!
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