Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Interview with Mike Kalmbach: Author of The Caldarian Conflict

I met Mike through a mutual friend, and writer. She thought he'd make for an interesting interview, and she was right.

This interview is packed full of useful information for any writer at any stage in the game. And if you're a teen, he has a book for you to help get you started in your career as a writer. I'm going to pick it up too, to help me write for the teen readers. 

Below are the questions I asked him:

1.     What’s the oddest thing about pirates you found out, while researching for your book?

There were a lot of odd things--like the often-fatal punishment of keelhauling, which involved tying the offender to a rope, tossing them overboard on one side, and dragging them under the boat to the other, scraping the victim with vicious cuts from barnacles that grew underneath.  I guess when you're spending time at sea, your mind gets to wandering about more....entertaining ways to punish each other.
Somewhat less gruesome, but no less odd, were the superstitions many pirates held. Women and whistling were generally considered bad luck.

2.     Where or what has been the best place to promote your book?
Goodreads by far. I've met dozens of folks I wouldn't have otherwise by offering giveaways and having folks share what they think about the book. 
I also had the opportunity to meet with a couple of book clubs that selected The Caldarian Conflict as their book of the month, and it's a lot of fun to connect with readers that way. 

I promoted my latest book, Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories on Goodreads also, and people really responded well to those giveaways.

Honestly, for any author, the best promotion is for someone who enjoyed the book to talk about it with others. Think of one other friend who might enjoy it, and give them a copy. Word of mouth is a lot better than any promotion I can do.

3.     What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?
Fun question! I usually get up around 7:30, and if I'm relaxed I'll eat a bowl of cereal (Marshmallow Mateys, of course) or toast and strawberry jam. Occasionally I'm in a rush, so I'll grab a PopTart to go, but I really prefer a more relaxed meal.

4.     Why do you write?
I'm not happy unless I'm creating something. Writing is my creative outlet, and it's something I enjoy so much that I look forward to every night I get to spend writing.

5.     How much time do you have butt in chair?
In general, a couple of hours a day. I tend to fit it in between 10 and midnight, just before going to bed.

6.     Where do your characters come from?
Great question! They come from people I'd like to know. I don't knowingly model my characters after real people, but I do like to figure out how my characters think. It's a way to expand my own mind by considering different ways that other people would react to the same situation.

7.     Do you use an outline or free association, or other methods?
I use a loose outline, defining the major events, then allowing myself the freedom to create "between the lines" in the outline. If the outline is too rigid, I feel trapped, so I let the outline evolve as I write the story. That way, if I figure out a better or more interesting plot twist, I have the freedom to change my mind.

8.  How long did it take you to complete this novel?
The Caldarian Conflict took me fifteen months to complete--nine months for the first draft, then six months soliciting feedback from early readers and cycling through revisions.

9.  How many rejections did you get before it was published?

Halfway through writing The Caldarian Conflict, I decided against pursuing traditional publishing, so my rejection count was zero. 

I felt the audience for The Caldarian Conflict might have been too narrow to catch the eye of a traditional publisher, but would be just right for a first foray into self-publishing. So far, my instinct seems correct.

10. Who is your biggest cheerleader?
I'd have to say my critique partners are my most vocal cheerleaders, and I've met a ton of helpful folks via Twitter as well (too many to name). 
Behind the scenes, my wife takes care of a lot of things so I can have more time to write, so I'm really grateful to her for supporting my dream.

11. Do you belong to any writer’s groups or associations? If so, why?
I actually lead the Rochester Minnesota Writing Group in my current city, connecting over 80 local writers together. In today's world, you can't write in a vacuum. I've found the support and networking opportunities offered by the members of this group to be invaluable in helping further my writing career.
The other big benefit is that we critique each others' work. It's a wonderful opportunity to develop editing skills, and it usually improves the skill of every writer who participates. Writers love giving and receiving feedback.

12. What is your biggest downer about the publishing world?
I'd say it's the animosity that exists between some self-published authors and traditionally-published authors. 
Ultimately, we're all trying to help connect readers with books they love, so I'd like to see more friendships develop. I have a lot of good friends going down both routes right now, so I'd love for others to have the opportunity to share that experience. 

13. What do you think of e-books, and self-publishing?
E-books are simply wonderful. I love having virtually any book at my fingertips, just a couple of taps away from downloading to my e-book reader. That said, I also enjoy the texture of a good paperback book, so I tend to alternate between the two.
Self-publishing is a double-edged sword. I think it's a wonderful way to release work quickly that's appropriate for a smaller audience than is usually targeted by the Big 6, and it allows the author much more control over the final product. 
However, quality is a huge concern--I can't count the number of books that were released before they were ready. If writers are considering self-publishing, they need to develop (or hire) the experience necessary to find out whether their book is ready.

14. What website do you use the most when you are writing?
While writing, I try to avoid any Internet connection at all. It's too easy to slip in the trap of "I'll research this, then check my email, then see what's happening on Twitter or Facebook," etc. All too soon, an hour's gone by without me writing a word.
When I'm researching, I'll often start at Wikipedia or Google. From there, I try to find a few corroborating sources to make sure any facts I use are actually true.

15. Where’s the best place for a cup of Joe in Minnesota?
I'm not a coffee drinker (*gasp*, I know), but I love going to Dunn Bros for the atmosphere and an iced tea. It's comfortable, generally quiet, and great for writing. 
Plus, I tend to leave a book or two on their bookshelf for a reader to discover.

16. Did you use a professional editor before you published?
I'm a freelance editor myself, so in a way, yes, but I didn't hire anyone else. As a freelance editor, I know that I'm blind to my own faults, so I took the time to seek out critiques from fellow writers, and had another dozen fantasy fans read an early draft before I released The Caldarian Conflict.   
I used a similar process (though much shortened) on Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories. So far, both books have been received really well (all 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon).

17. What other hobbies do you have other than writing?
I spend as much time as I can with my son, who recently turned 1. I'm doing my best to enjoy the time I have with him while he's young--such a fun time!
Beyond spending time with family, I also enjoy teaching kids how to program robots, mentoring students and other writers, and training in martial arts.

18. What words of advice do you have for fellow writers?
Always strive to write the best story you can. If you can't be proud of what you've written, don't publish it. And never publish something before you've had an experienced writer read your work. They'll help you find problems in your work before your readers do.

Keep writing every day. If you don't get started, you'll never finish. So get started today. Write now!
I'd also probably be remiss if I didn't plug the fact I have an entire book (and another on the way) packed full of advice for writers. 
Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories (available now)  
Writing Advice for Teens: Editing Fiction (scheduled for October 30) are good resources for any novice to intermediate writer.

19. Is writing your full time job?
Not yet. Like most writers, I work a day job  to pay the bills. Until you have several books available for sale, you're probably not going to make enough to survive on the income. 
Unfortunately, working a day job means that you spend most of your energy doing something other than writing. I hope one day that my work is successful enough that writing books can become my day job. 
On the flip side, I enjoy my day job as a software engineer, and I'm also an active inventor (with many patent applications in process), so I have a few creative outlets besides just writing.

20. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?
If you think a friend might enjoy a book I've written, tell them about it, or better yet, give it as a gift. The best way to help an author is by talking, tweeting, or sharing material that talks about them. 
Also, if you read one of my books, please write a review and post it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.

21. What one word best describes you?


I'm constantly looking to create value for people around me, and I'll often invent something new to accomplish that. Sometimes it's a patent application, other times it's a book. In all cases, I hope my creations help people lead better lives.


Mike Kalmbach

My book, The Caldarian Conflict, is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and more!

Reading Minnesota blog:
Writers community:

**** News. Contest. News. ****

Mike has graciously offered to give away one signed paperback and five ebooks. 

This giveaway is International, and the winner will receive a signed copy of the selected book directly from the author. 

This giveaway is for a paperback copy of either The Caldarian Conflict or Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories, both by Mike Kalmbach (the winner can select either one). 

Five runners-up will win an ebook of either The Caldarian Conflict or Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories, and these ebooks will be gifted via Amazon. The contest will end on 7/28/12 at 11:59pm Central.

* One email address per household. 
* One Twitter account per entrant. 

Winner has 72 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. We will be checking and disqualifying any entries that are trying to cheat and game the system.

Participants can earn up to three chances to win:

Winners will be selected via the random number generator at

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