K. B. Hoyle is a wife to a wonderful husband, a mother to three little boys, and a classical educator. Her favorite genre to read and write is Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction, and from this passion comes The Gateway Chronicles, published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House. She seeks to inspire and is always brainstorming for future stories.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to start writing? How did you begin?
K. B. Hoyle: I started writing The Gateway Chronicles in 2008 in the summer between my first and second years of teaching. I already had a lot of notes for this series, as I’d known for several years that I wanted to someday write a fantasy series like this, so when I sat down to begin writing, I began by organizing and editing my notes. From there, I made a plan for each of the six books, wrote synopses, and wrote my outline for book 1. Then, at last, I was ready to begin actually writing.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you study writing in school? How did you learn your craft?
K. B. Hoyle: I did not officially study writing in school, although I took several literature and writing classes. I was a history major, actually, and I teach history today. People have often asked me why I did not major in literature or composition or something of that sort, but for me, being a fan of fantasy literature, the study of history was much more fulfilling. History is just true stories, and learning about civilizations that existed in the past captivated my imagination more than learning story structure and literary analysis. I’ve learned my craft, therefore, through a lot of independent study, and I’m still learning more every year.
How long did you write until your first sale? What was that?
K. B. Hoyle: I wrote The Six (book 1 of The Gateway Chronicles) in the summer of 2008, and then I took a year to attempt to sell it to a publisher and/or an agent. As I was trying to sell it, I was also editing and revising, and allowing my students to read portions of the text and provide feedback. After a year of non-responses from all the places I queried, I finally decided to self-publish the book. I had it up for sale via Createspace on Amazon in November of 2009 and immediately sold several hundred copies. That felt good. Going it alone is very difficult, however, and I was very inexperienced as to how to market and promote my book. It wasn’t until December of 2011 that I was picked up and signed by The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House. By that time, I had already self-published The Six, The Oracle (book 2), and The White Thread (book 3), all three of which are being re-published by TWCS over the course of this spring and summer.
SFFWRTCHT: What aspect of The Gateway Chronicles came first? Characters? Plot? Setting?
K. B. Hoyle: Characters and setting simultaneously came first in conceptualizing this story. Both of these things are based on my childhood and teenage summer camp experiences, so I immediately had the setting (a camp based on the real camp I attended) and my main characters (based on my real camp friends and the friendship dynamics we shared). Those things became the springboard for the fantasy plot I concocted.
SFFWRTCHT: What sort of prewriting did you do for The Six? Did you outline?
K. B. Hoyle: As I mentioned above, I do all sorts of prewriting. I keep journals full of notes that come randomly to mind, and those notes form the basis for my outline, which I then flesh out with purposeful brainstorming. I tend to write a thorough outline before I begin, but I allow myself to deviate from it as necessary. I always, however, stick to the end I have planned. I think it is very important to know how your story ends before you begin writing because you have to have that beacon pulling you back on track when you do deviate. I also plan out ahead of time what symbols I want to use and how I will use them. Most simply put, this consists of breaking my outline into three parts and aligning various symbols with the beginning stage, the middle stage, and the end stage.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like? Planned time? Grab it when you can?
K. B. Hoyle: As a mother of young children, it consists of both planned time and grab it when I can time. When I wrote The Six, I only had one child, so it was easy enough to write in the afternoons during the summer while he was taking a nap. I set a page goal for myself for each day, and then it became something of a daily game to try and exceed that goal. Now that I have three children, my writing time is much less consistent. It’s frustrating for me to have to “grab it when I can,” as I’m a systematic writer and need to have time to do certain things every time I sit down to write, but I’m adjusting and know that it will get easier as my children get a little older.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you use any special software or music playlist?
K. B. Hoyle: Nope! As to music, I write best in absolute silence, so I avoid it whenever possible. This is because I am highly distractible, and even classical music can carry my away if I let it. I only listen to music when I’m writing if I need to drown out some other, more distracting noise.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you deal with writer’s block?
K. B. Hoyle: A New York Times bestselling author once told me that the only way to deal with writer’s block is to write, and I really took that to heart. You can’t let writer’s block be an issue. He told me to treat writing like my job, especially if that’s what I really want it to be. As a teacher, I can’t say to my principal, “You know, I’m really not feeling it today, so I’m just not going to teach.” As a writer, I have to keep that same mentality – especially with how limited time I have to write. Whether or not I’m “feeling” my story on any given day, I simply have to plow on ahead. This is when careful planning and a good outline are so beneficial. If you have planned your story out adequately ahead of time, you should never come up against an impenetrable wall. You might not know how you are going to get your characters from A to B, but forcing yourself to keep writing at least keeps your brain in the game. And who cares if what you write during your time of “block” is any good or not? Chances are that when you go back for revisions, you will know exactly how you want to fix it. That’s my philosophy on writer’s block.
SFFWRTCHT: What role do beta readers play, if any, in your process as a professional author?
K. B. Hoyle: Beta readers have been very helpful to me. It is often through the input of beta readers that I have been able to catch discrepancies in the stories. They also offer me valuable insight into the mentality of my readers – what they like, and what they don’t like. I’m often too close to the project to catch the sorts of things that they do.
SFFWRTCHT: What advice would you give an up and coming writer?
K. B. Hoyle: I think a lot of what I would advise is already apparent in my answers so far. Plan, persevere, and treat it like your job even if you have never published or sold a single book. Fiction writers tend to be artistic, right-brained people – myself included – and sometimes left-brained activities like outlining and planning are counter to our nature, but they are absolutely necessary if you want to succeed, I think. You can have the best story idea in the world, but if you don’t execute it on the front and the back end, in addition to simply writing the story itself, chances are it’s not going to go anywhere. Plan the story from start to finish before you start writing, write the story without allowing writer’s block to bring you to a stop, and persevere in selling your book. This may mean starting out self-published, as I did, but sometimes that leads to much greater things in the future! My goal was to get picked up by a publishing house, and that is where I’ve ended up. And perhaps someday I’ll even get sold to a large publishing house, who knows? If I’d allowed myself to quit in my early discouragement, I wouldn’t be anywhere right now.
SFFWRTCHT: Are you involved with cons and fandom? Cosplay?
K. B. Hoyle: Nope! The closest I’ve ever come is with all the Harry Potter stuff – I’m a huge Harry Potter fan – but I’ve never really had time for that. It’s difficult enough trying to keep up with being a wife, mother, teacher, and author.
SFFWRTCHT: Where did your love of specfic and fantasy in particular begin?
K. B. Hoyle: As I hinted at above, my interest in history is partially responsible for my love of fantasy. I remember being fascinated by two historical things in particular as a very young child – ancient Egypt, and the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those are two very different topics, I realize, but they both seemed distant and fantastical to me. I also read primarily fantasy literature as a child, and I simply loved the escape of it all. I always felt that real life was rather boring, and getting to escape either into the past or into a story where kids like me were heroes and heroines were my greatest childhood pleasures. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love fantasy.
SFFWRTCHT: Who were some of your favorite authors/books growing up? C. S. Lewis, by any chance?
K. B. Hoyle: Yes, C. S. Lewis was probably the most influential author that I read, and certainly his influence is apparent in The Gateway Chronicles! The Chronicles of Narnia were the first books that successfully suspended disbelief for me. I used to go into my closet and push on the back wall to try and get into Narnia, even long after I was old enough to know better. A story that can transport you like that is a precious commodity! I was also highly influenced by reading The Hobbit, The Princess and the Goblin, The Archives of Anthropos, and Greek mythology.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you define fantasy? “Epic/High” fantasy?
K. B. Hoyle: Fantasy is so broad a genre these days, which I absolutely love because it seems that there is something for everybody. Epic/High fantasy is certainly how it all began, but so many fantasy novels today fall under different headings. Just look at all the paranormal stuff out there today! I don’t really classify Harry Potter as High Fantasy, either, but it’s arguably the most influential fantasy series of the modern age. Or what about the new dystopian genre? I love the diversity in the genre, and in writing The Gateway Chronicles, I tried to hearken back to classic Epic/High Fantasy, but with a more modern feel that belongs to books such as Harry Potter.
SFFWRTCHT: Can you tell us about sequels to The Six? How many are available now and how many will there be?
K. B. Hoyle: There will be six books in The Gateway Chronicles, and like Harry Potter, they tell a complete story that builds one to the other. The Six is now available and the Oracle is up for preorder, coming available on June 14th. Book 3, The White Thread, will be available on August 16th.
SFFWRTCHT: What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
K. B. Hoyle: I love the new dystopian genre and have plans to write a dystopian trilogy once I am finished with The Gateway Chronicles. I have not pitched it to TWCS yet or anything like that; it’s really just a glimmer in my eye. But if I get the opportunity, yes, a futuristic dystopian trilogy is where I would choose to go next.
To read our review of The Six, click here.
Michelle Ristuccia writes short fiction of all speculative fiction genres in between chasing her toddler from tree to tree. The shorter the work, the better, because 200 words looks very long on her cellphone and that keypad is very, very small. You can find out more about her rabid love of Star Trek, podcasting, and raising future geeklings at her blog, wakingdreamsblog.blogspot.com