Josi Kilpack, seasoned author, has been gracious enough to do a guest blog about her writing.
About Josi Kilpack:
Josi Kilpack’s first LDS novel was published in 2000 and has since been followed by 6 additional LDS titles. Her seventh novel, Sheep’s Clothing, won The Whitney Award for Mystery and Suspense in 2007. LEMON TART, the first book in Josi’s new Sadie Hoffmiller culinary mystery series released January 2009; book two, ENGLISH TRIFLE was released in August 2009 and the third book, DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE will be out in Spring 2010. In addition to her writing, Josi enjoys reading, baking, traveling, and snuggling with her sweetheart, Lee. They now live in Willard, Utah with their four kids, a dog, and a varying number of chickens.
Over the last ten years, ever since my first book was published, I’ve come to know a lot of writers. Most of them knew from the time they were young that what they wanted to be when they grew up was a writer, an author, a novelist! I did not set that goal, I never considered becoming a writer, and I certainly didn’t follow the traditional path to becoming one. For me, my writing came as a direct result of two things—a love of reading and sheer boredom.
I grew up in a large family; there was always someone to play with, something to build, or something a sibling built that you wanted to take apart. I had no time or patience for books. I knew HOW to read, I just didn’t like to do it, much to my mother’s displeasure. My mother was a reader; it was her favorite pastime and you could always tell where she’d last sat down because that’s where her current book was. The library was her friend and reading was the hobby she made time for.
I made it through elementary school having read a pathetic number of books all the way through—I think there were four. The other books I would skim for enough information to write a book report when I had to but books, as a whole, were a bother to me—a chore. Then I went into 7th grade and was taught horrible things like symbolism and characterization. We had to do a book report each term, and had to answer questions like “What elements of characterization helped communicate the protagonists motivations?” and “What was the theme of this story?” It was a miserable assignment so I put it off until the day before it was due (did I mention I was 13?). My parents are both teachers and while they didn’t bully us into getting perfect grades, we knew that we had to turn in every assignment. I hadn’t read a book for years so I lamented to my mom my situation, hoping she’d help me and we could use the book she was reading, but she didn’t go for it and instead handed me a book. She said I could read it that night and get the book report done in time to turn it in the next day. The book was The Witch of Blackbird Pond and I knew from the cover that I would hate it.
I pouted into my room, started reading, and four hours later turned the last page to find that it was over. That was one of those ‘pivotal moments’ Dr. Phil talks about. I had become completely absorbed in this story to the point that I hadn’t stopped. When I put it down, I wanted more and from that day on I was a reader. Unbeknownst to me, and everyone else, it was also when I started my education in writing. Through reading a variety of books on a variety of topics over the course of many years, I came to learn the basic structure of a novel. I didn’t notice it, of course, but it was happening all the same. I didn’t pursue writing, but I did get better grades in English than I got in Math. I attended a year of college and filled my schedule with writing classes—which might be one of the reasons I didn’t keep going; I’d taken all the fun ones and was left with statistics and human physiology. I got married just a year after high school and my husband and I jumped feet first into grown-up life. Writing went from research papers, to grocery lists and scrap book entries, with the occasional strongly worded letter to a company I felt had ripped me off. Writing a novel was about as realistic as becoming an astrophysicist. Little did I know the first part of what would lead me to becoming a writer was being strengthened with every book I picked up—and I picked up a lot of books. Just like my mom, reading became my hobby—my recess.
The second catalyst to my becoming a writer was that I had horrible pregnancies that put me on bedrest for several weeks. During my third pregnancy, when my sisters and husband were running my household while I laid like a lump on the bed and read books all day, I had an idea for a story. Having nothing else to do, I started writing it, thinking it would be a short story. But it kept growing and growing and growing until it was 300 pages long by the time my son was six weeks old. I was absolutely stunned that I had done something so amazing. I belonged to a neighborhood book group at this time and when they found out I’d written a book, they asked to read it. They did, they gave me feedback, and I promptly ignored it all and submitted the book. Hearing people say they liked it and telling me I should try to publish it had given me a rather annoying level of arrogance. I thought I was a aod (well, goddess) and that the book was perfect. It wasn’t. I submitted it to publishers and they all rejected it, but one of them sent a detailed rejection letter telling me why they rejected it. After I cried over the letter for a few days, my husband suggested I use what they said to improve the book. What a thought.
I did as he suggested and submitted to a small press that published in the faith based market I had written the book for. They accepted the book based on me paying a portion of the publishing costs. It made perfect sense to me at the time, so I jumped at the chance to see my book in print and then waited for the royalty checks to start flooding in. To make a long, sad, dramatic story a short and to the point one, the book didn’t do well. The editing was not good, the marketing was spotty, and six months after it was released I was left feeling embarrassed and ridiculous. But I had loved writing that book and I was determined to do one more and make it be one I could be proud of before I threw in the towel. I spent 3 years working on the next book, attending writer’s conferences, reading writing books, and becoming a very critical reader of other people’s books. I ended up publishing my second book with the same publisher (knowing what I needed to do to make it work this time) and after six months, I was redeemed with good sales and positive reviews. It was a much better book, better presented, better marketed and I knew then that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to write books I could be proud of. Because of that I have continued to learn the craft of writing—I’m amazed at how much I didn’t know I didn’t know and continue to learn new things all the time.
To date I have published eleven novels. The most recent three are part of a culinary mystery series featuring a spunky fifty-something year old sleuth and cooking aficionado, Sadie Hoffmiller. The books combine two things I love—mysteries and food—and they have been so much fun to write and hear feedback on. The third in the series, Devil’s Food Cake, centers around a murder that takes place on stage at a library fundraising dinner which Sadie has helped organize. Having found herself in the middle of two other murder investigations in just a few months time, Sadie considers herself an expert and can’t help but get in the middle of things. It’s funny, fast paced, and includes recipes for things mentioned in the course of the story (such as Devil’s Food Cake and Evil Chicken). We plan to do at least three more books in the series before we published “Sadie’s Little Black Book” which will include all the recipes mentioned in the books as well as a few extras thrown in. While the books are officially a series, they stand alone and don’t need to be read I any particular order.
It’s interesting to look back on these years and see the journey I never would have imagined I would take and it affirms my faith in the fact that if you want something, and are willing to work for it, you can reach for things that seemed too far away to even dream about.
Be sure and check out her latest book, "Devils Food Cake."