Sep 28, 2010

Meet "The Body Finder" with Kimberly Derting

A few months ago, I interviewed Kimberly Derting, author of The Body Finder and the upcoming Desires of the Dead (March 15, 2011), for my school paper. Now, I am posting the interview for my readers and Kimberly fans! Kimberly lives in the Pacific Northwest, which, she says, "Is the ideal place to be writing anything dark or creepy." Derting lives with her husband and three "often mouthy" children that "serve as an endless source of inspiration" for her writing. It is my greatest pleasure to introduce the lovely, the fantastic, the talented, Kimberly Derting.

Would you mind sharing a little biography of yourself?
Kimberly Derting lives in the Pacific Northwest, which is the ideal place to be writing anything dark or creepy. She lives with her husband and their three beautiful (and often mouthy) children, who serve as an endless source of inspiration for her writing.  

For those people who don’t know about your book, The Body Finder, please give a brief description.
The Body Finder is about a 16-year-old girl Violet Ambrose, who can sense the “echoes” that the murdered leave behind and the matching imprints that attach to their killers.

Who are your favorite authors? What authors inspire you and your writing?
My all-time favorite book will always be To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Although when I was around 12, I started my all-things-Stephen King phase. It probably could have been classified more as an obsession, but his books really hooked me on reading, and steered me toward writing horror/thriller/supernatural (basically anything creepy!).   I’ve mentioned him so much lately that I wouldn’t be surprised if I receive some sort of internet-stalking restraining order from his people at some point in the near future.

What pulled you into the world of writing?
I fell in love with writing when I signed up for Journalism in the 7th grade. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer in some capacity. First I thought I wanted to be a journalist, but somehow traipsing through jungles or war-torn regions just to get “the scoop” really doesn’t seem like me. Plus, there are all those facts you have to gather. And truth-telling. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I much preferred making stuff up.

After high school, I finished my first manuscript, which was an adult horror novel, and I even managed to get an agent for it.  What I didn’t know was that it would be a different novel, with a different agent, in a different genre, and in a different decade, that would be my first published work. Oh, and my first novel (forever locked away!) was called One of Them.  And it was awful.

What training did you go through to become a writer?
My training is spotty at best.  I studied journalism, creative writing, and was the Copy Editor for my high school yearbook. And while I took some writing courses in college, my major was actually biology…which is crazy considering that I’ve always wanted to be a writer!  But along the way, I was always reading everything I could get my hands on, and studying the way other writers crafted their stories.  And even in college, writing term papers and essays is incredibly good practice for any budding writer.

Do you ever have struggles on what point of view to write in, and how do you decide between first and third person narration?
I’m not sure I’ve ever given it a lot of thought.  I’ve almost always written in third-person, including in The Body Finder.  However, I recently completed a Young Adult manuscript in first-person, and I kind of loved it!

What surprised you most about the process of publishing?
There are SO MANY things that surprised me about publishing, but one of the things that surprised me the most was how little control even the publisher has over the final cover.

I knew the author had little or no input about their cover designs, but what I never realized was that the big chain stores (Barnes & Noble and Borders) really have the final say over what cover designs make it into the stores.  They can veto everything from font, colors, cover models, or just plain everything about the cover and make the publisher start over from scratch.  They spend a ton of money on market research and they know what sells!

What advice would you give someone who wants to get their writing published? 
Go for it! Really, that’s my advice. Life gets incredibly busy, but if you’re serious about writing, you can always find a little time, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. Keep writing, it’s the only way you can improve. And learn to be okay with rejections because everyone gets them!  Even Stephenie Meyer who wrote Twilight received rejections before finding an agent to represent her. (Although I’m sure those agents who rejected her are kicking themselves now!)

Please describe your relationship with your editor. What parts of writing did the editor help you with?
Basically, an editor is your creative partner, the person whose job it is to help you shape and polish your book into something that’s ready to be put on shelves.  My editor and I work very well together, and she is both my mentor and my biggest cheerleader. I’ve learned more about writing from working with her than I’ve learned from any class I’ve ever taken or from any manual I’ve ever read. Writing has gotten easier because I’ve learned which traps to avoid (like too many adverbs/adjectives), and how to give more oomph(!) with fewer words, and I hope to continue learning from her. Can you tell I adore my editor???

What inspired you to write a novel about murder and a girl who can find dead bodies?
It was actually my husband who first said: “What if there was a boy who could find dead bodies?” (In his head it would be this great middle-grade adventure!)  Of course, I had a different vision, and decided it should be a teen girl finding the dead bodies.  And then she needed to have a love interest because, well, I'm such a girl!

What kind of research did you have to do for The Body Finder?
I actually did interview a couple of friends who have decades of experience in all things police, fire, and rescue. They were so incredibly helpful! When I interviewed them separately, they both immediately switched into this super-professional mode which was a side of them I’d never seen before. Up until then, I had only seen their super-smart-alec modes!

How do you come up with your characters, from names to looks to personalities?
Mostly they’re made up.  All of the main characters, and even the secondary characters are all imaginary, even the names.  But for some of the tertiary characters I asked teens I knew if they wanted to have their names used. So several of the names that are only used once or twice (including the dead girls!) are people I really know.

What’s your thought process? Do you just sit down and decide to write? Or do you wait for the next chapter to just pop into your head? How do you do it?
It’s not so much a process as it is just sitting down and writing. I’ve never been an outliner, so mostly I just open whatever document I’m working on and go for it. But despite the fact that I don’t have a hard outline, I do have a very distinct idea of where I’m headed with the story. I may have even written it down (in not-too-many words) I just don’t always know exactly how I’m going to get there. That’s what revisions are for, to clean up my first draft mess. For the second book, Desires of the Dead, my editor requested an outline, and I did the best I could, but by the time I submitted the final manuscript it was NOTHING like the outline I’d given her.

What is it like for you to write a book that takes place in the area you reside?
The setting became almost like another character in the book for me, I loved writing about Lake Tapps and Mount Rainier and Buckley.

It was funny, though, because when it came to the details of the real White River High School, they don’t actually have lockers and I really wanted the high school in my book to have them.  I had to ask my editor if it was okay for me to basically “make them up.”  She told me it was fiction and I could do whatever I wanted!  So my White River High School totally has lockers.

How many books do you plan on writing?
Well, as I mentioned, I’ve already finished the second Body Finder book (Desires of the Dead), and I’ve started making notes (notice I didn’t say outlining?) for the third one.  That’s about as far ahead as I can see right now, at least in that world, but I certainly have other ideas I’d like to work on.

When and what can readers expect from the sequel to The Body Finder?

I can’t reveal too much yet, but I will say that it won’t be another “serial killer” storyline. I didn’t want to just repeat the same plot, so it’s really completely different this time.  Although, I will tell you that there will probably be a dead body. Maybe two.

What are the best and worst parts about being a writer?
I love almost everything about the job of being a writer, to the point of being almost obsessive about my work. I understand now how people can become workaholics, and I’ve had to set “work hours” for myself so I don’t completely neglect my family.

My least favorite part was the waiting. It was 18 months from the time I knew The Body Finder was going to be published until it finally hit shelves. That. Felt. Like. Forever!

Anything else?
Something that most people don’t know:  The “flower” on the cover [of The Body Finder] is really a three-foot wide fabric creation designed by the guy who does the wings Victoria’s Secret Angels.  Pretty cool!


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  2. I enjoyed this interview. It was very inspiring, and I look forward to her next book(s).


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