I have come to the realization that The Legend of Kozlov will take at least two full novels to tell. I was telling my friend Jay-Cee I would like to create a series of exploits and adventures for Kozlov. He pointed out there's nothing saying I need to put all my effort and attention in to one long novel. It's quite acceptable to write a number of smaller novellas. This conversation sealed an idea I was also toying with. I am now working on "Kozlov, Tall Tales". The Tall Tales will be a collection of short stories about the character according to other characters. They are folklore type stories, far fetched and hard to believe, yet will tie in pieces of, The Legend of Kozlov which will be released afterword in it's entirety. Also, they are going to be graphic novels with my friend Steve Mills whom I interviewed here in the beginning of the year. Did I mention He's currently working on producing graphics for a graphic novel version of, The Quest for the Black Dragon
Welcome, Kirstin, to D.E. Dunlop. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
D.E.: Tell us a little about yourself.
Kirstin: Let’s see… I was born and raised in Southern California, and later graduated from Oregon State University (Go Beavs!) with a degree in Forest Management. I am happily married with two small children, 4 and 5. I believe life is an adventure, and try to make every day memorable.
D.E.: How long have you been writing, or when did you start writing?
Kirstin: I have been writing my whole life. It has always been my creative outlet… some people sing, some paint, some cook… I write. I didn’t start pursuing it as a career until a couple of years ago.
D.E.: Do you write primarily in one genre?
Kirstin: So far, my writing has focused on the fantasy genre. It is one of my favorites, and one that my mind is naturally drawn to. I love the idea of good triumphing over evil, Prince Charming waiting around the corner, damsels in distress, and that magic is as real as science.
D.E.: What compels you to write?
Kirstin: It sounds silly, but there are moments that I see something, and a scene or idea just pops into my head. In those moments, a story unfolds in my mind, and I am compelled to tell it.
D.E.: As a writer is there a particular obstacle you face? If so, how do you get around it?
Kirstin: My biggest obstacle is balance. I struggle to find the right ways to juggle writing, social networking, and marketing with my family life. I am constantly shuffling things, and trying to find a balance that works… I am still a work in progress on that. Ha!
D.E.: Tell us of your experience getting your first work published.
Kirstin: A couple of years ago, I started thinking about what I wanted to do when my kids were older and in school full time. With a blank slate in front of me, I started to think about what I truly wanted to do. There was only one thing that popped into mind. I wanted to write.
With that revelation in mind, I began to do what I needed to do… I edited my book, edited it some more, queried agents, edited more, queried publishers, edited more… after a year of this cycle I received a contract from Malachite Quills Publishing.
D.E.: How many books have you written?
Kirstin: I have written 2 books. The Escape of Princess Madeline and its sequel, The Battle for Princess Madeline. The third and final of this series should be ready Winter 2013.
D.E.: Are you self published or do you use a publisher? Kirstin: Both. My first book, The Escape of Princess Madeline is published through an independent publisher, Malachite Quills (Caliburn Books). The sequel, The Battle for Princess Madeline is being published directly through me. There are pros and cons to both... and I am grateful for what I have learned through both processes.
D.E.: Do you self edit or hire an editor?
Kirstin: Haha, hire an editor!!! I write the first draft, and the first round of edits before sending off to a team of beta readers. They help me notice any holes in the storyline or development. From there, I do another round of edits, and then send off to an editor.
D.E.: Are your books also available in print, or are they primarily in e-book format?
Kirstin: Yes! They are available in print and digital. Since my books are targeted for the upper elementary/ tween age, I find that having the paperback option helps.
D.E.: Do you have any tips or tricks to help keep your ideas in order or at least from being forgotten?
Kirstin: Write them down!!! I have a notebook that I keep in my purse, so whenever an idea, a bit of dialogue, or a new arc of a storyline hits I can write it down. I also use the microphone option on my cell phone, if I can’t write. When inspiration calls, I have to answer.
D.E.: Do you prefer pen on paper for drafts or do you stay strictly on a computer?
Kirstin: Mainly computer. I wrote my first book in a spiral notebook, and then transferred it all to the computer when I was done, and did my first round of edits in the process. I find having it all in the computer is nice, it helps me track my word count, allows me a quick reference back to certain areas, and speeds the whole process up.
D.E.: Do you have a favorite place to write or do you write anywhere and everywhere?
Kirstin: Yes! I call my website “The Literary Closet” due to the fact that my main writing space is in my master closet. It is one place that I can escape at home and have some quiet to write… on the weekends, I write in my car overlooking a wheat field.
D.E.: Do you have a writing schedule?
Kirstin: I am trying to get better at this and more disciplined for a consistent schedule. I try and wake up an hour before the kids and get up to have some quiet time, as well as after bedtime. During the day, I am 100% focused mommy.
D.E.: How do your stories unfold? Are they plotted first and then filled out or do they simply unravel as you go?
Kirstin: I am a plotter. Before I sit down to write my first draft, I have a clear outline of what is going to happen. The major story arcs, conflicts and twists are all designed. From there, I weave my words to follow the structure, but allow for sudden changes that may develop. For me, this keeps my thoughts more streamlined and plot holes a bit tighter.
D.E.: What are you working on now and what's next?
Kirstin: Right now I am promoting the release of the sequel, The Battle for Princess Madeline, which releases May 29th, and am working on the first draft for the third and final book in the series, The Dragon and Princess Madeline (Winter 2013)
D.E.: How do you go from a degree in Forest Management to being an author of Young Adult Fantasy?
Kirstin: Haha, well, I say every day is an adventure that you never know where it will take you. This is an example where I can say I have been a writer my whole life. I remember being in the woods on my lunch breaks, writing. I would be out on fires, and in the evening, I would be writing a story. I am an outdoorsy girl, feeling completely at home and at ease in nature. What I found, for me, was that working in the forest, took the enjoyment out of it. Having the joy removed from one of my favorite past times was too high a price… and so life took a detour, and a new career path.
D.E.: Where can readers find you and your work?
Kirstin: So many places!!!! I love to connect with new readers and fans.
D.E.: Let's hear some "Shout-Outs".
Kirstin: Who are the people you would like to thank? A big thank you to my husband, who supports me and stands behind me 100%, and to my kids. They teach me every day to be grateful for the little things, to believe in magic, and to live life to its fullest.
Thanks, Kirstin, for taking time out of your busy schedule. I greatly appreciate it. You've been exciting and insightful. May God bless the release of your new book and, of course, your family.
Today, as promised, I am interviewing K.A. Krisko. First of all I would like to say, welcome, Kathy, to D.E. Dunlop.com. We've got lots of questions for you so let's get started.
D.E.; How long have you been writing, or when did you start writing?
K.A.; Recently I was going through some boxes I had stored on an upper shelf, and I found a "book" written in crayon when I was six years old. I also found a sci-fi book I wrote when I was sixteen - pretty trite and terrible stuff! My mom taught me to type on an old manual Royal typewriter when I was six or seven, so she could read what I'd written (to this day I still pound on my keyboard like it's a typewriter!). She was an English Literature graduate from William & Mary, and she encouraged me to write as soon as I could do it. However, I didn't publish anything until 2005.
D.E.; Do you write primarily in one genre?
K.A.; I do at the moment - fantasy fiction. But my first published works were non-fiction short stories, and I'd already written a mystery (not published) at that time. Now I've got three fantasy-fiction and one book of short stories out, as well as shorts in four other anthologies.
D.E.; Where do you get your motivation or inspiration from?
K.A. I think from all the stuff my mom read to me when I was a kid and the stuff I continued reading as a young adult. I throw together the Oz books and Carlos Castaneda, Tolkien and Asimov. But I also get inspiration from music. Sometimes I'll be listening and a storyline will just start to evolve. Sometimes I ask myself a question, and the answer becomes an entire book!
D.E.; Tell us about your first publishing experience.
K.A.; After I adopted two rescued cattle dogs, I saw a request for the submission of stories about rescued animals on the rescue organization's website. I submitted two stories, one about my two dogs and one about another dog I had rescued. Those two were published in "Happy Endings One and Two", edited by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert. One of them, One Wet Dog, is available as a single now, too, and also was included in the Snow Deer anthology.
D.E.; How many books have you written?
K.A.; Well...I've written five, but only three are out. That first one, a mystery, may never see the light of day! Let's call it a practice piece...I also have four short stories and my own anthology of shorts out.
D.E.; Are you self published or do you use a publisher?
K.A.; Stolen and Crypt of Souls, the first two of a trilogy, were published by the Chimera Tales imprint of Malachite Quills Publishing. But The Snow Deer and Cornerstone are both self-published.
D.E.; Are your books also available in print, or are they only available as e-books?
K.A.; Everything's available in both print and ebook form. I read both, myself, and I like having copies of my books with the nice cover art to look at!
D.E.; As a writer is there a particular obstacle you face?
K.A.; Hmmm. One of my dogs likes to put his face on my computer and bring up hundreds of calculators...of course, there's the day job and all that other stuff, like walking the dogs, eating, sleeping, and chores, that I would sometimes prefer not to do. But I don't face any serious obstacles, fortunately.
D.E.; What is the most difficult for you to write about?
K.A.; Sex! I don't like reading graphic sex scenes and I don't like writing them either. So I usually just...don't!
D.E.; Do you self edit or do you hire an editor?
K.A.; Stolen and Crypt of Souls were both edited by a professional (Suzanne Baldwin) and I learned a TON from that experience! Some of my shorts were edited by the editors of the anthologies they were included in. But Cornerstone went through alpha/beta reading and not a professional editor. If you can afford it, I think it's important to use an editor, but I've also discovered that editing is a very subjective thing. One person can edit a section completely differently from another and come out with a whole different feel.
D.E.; Where did you get the inspiration for the "Stolen" trilogy?
K.A.; I was driving to town listening to The Hazards of Love, a Decemberists album, and the short story that became the first chapter started to form in my mind. I wrote it down that evening, but I knew there was more. Over the next month, I wrote the first draft of the first book, and went directly to the second one after that. I was actually kind of surprised. I finished the third one about nine months later and started submitting it.
D.E.; Tell us something about this trilogy we won't find on a preview page.
K.A.; The trilogy ends with a very strange relationship.
D.E.; What are you working on now? What's next?
K.A.; I'm working on a short story for an anthology, the proceeds of which will benefit Water Aid. I'm also beginning to put together my ideas for a sequel to Cornerstone, and I'm hoping to start working on editing the third book of the Stolen trilogy soon. I've got a few other ideas, as well.
D.E.; Do you have any tips or tricks to help keep your ideas in order or at least from being forgotten?
K.A.; I've recently started using Scrivener, which I really like. But of course, there's good ol' pen-and-paper for when I'm driving around or otherwise can't get to a computer.
D.E.; Do you prefer pen on paper for drafts or do you stick strictly to your computer?
K.A.; I type on the computer. I can't go fast enough with handwriting!
D.E.; Do you have a favourite place to write or do you write anywhere and everywhere?
K.A.; I used to write exclusively at a desktop with a full-sized keyboard, but after my desktop crashed, I started using my laptop more. Now I sit in my recliner with my laptop on my knees, usually the TV on and my dogs hanging around.
D.E.; How do your stories unfold? Are they plotted first and then filled out or do they simply unravel as you go?
K.A.; Both. I like to have an ending in mind, but the middle often just comes as I head out towards that ending. I do often write out character sketches, family trees, and I hand-draw maps and timelines so I don't get lost and mess up my consistency. I also write lists of words, places, and names and create documents as background. For the Stolen trilogy, some of those are available on the dedicated Stolen website, www.stolenworld.com.
D.E.; Do you have a writing schedule?
K.A.; Nope. I figure it happens when it happens. However, my most productive time seems to be early evening, around 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., so I try to at least write something in that time period.
D.E.; Let's hear some shout outs.
K.A.; I recently read several books by Indie authors that I really enjoyed and can recommend: two by S.J. Hunter (Longevity, a sci-fi novel, and The Ruthlessness of Cats and Dogs, a kind of cozy mystery); a sci-fi by Eric Dulin (Condemned), and a historical romance by Michele McGrath (Manannan's Magic - really a lot more than a romance). There are some good Indie authors out there!
D.E.; Where can readers find you and your work?
K.A.; I have a couple of websites. My main site is at www.kakrisko.com. I'm also on Facebook, I have a tumblr (www.castlestones.tumblr.com) and I'm on Pinterest, Shelfari, LinkedIn, and, of course, Goodreads! I recently started a Twitter account, but I'm not doing much with it at this point.
D.E.; My wife's dog has recently learned how to bay like a coyote when she wants more attention. Tell us about your dogs.
K.A.; That's funny! I bet it does get her attention! I have two Australian Cattle Dogs (sometimes called cattle dogs, heelers, blue heelers, or red heelers). One is an 11-year-old female. She is "red", has one floppy ear, and is a real sweety who loves people. She has her little quirks and she has eaten several of my plants and the spines off a bunch of my books. The second is a slightly-troubled drama queen "blue" heeler male, age three. He is currently on Prozac due to a little mis-wiring. He would be a great agility dog if he didn't forget what he was doing in the middle of it. I've had two other heelers in the past, too, and I've loved them all, although they are a real pain sometimes!
Well, that about wraps up my questions today. Thank you very much, Kathy, for your time. I do greatly appreciate it. I wish you all the best in your future.
Hello; Steve. Let me first say welcome to D.E. Dunlop and thank you for taking the time for this interview.
D.E.; Why don't you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
Steve; I just turned 40 and am happily married to my wife Tara, together we have two teenage sons and two wonderful dogs, Olive and Angel. We have lived in Guelph, Ontario for almost 15 years and truly love it here. It is a city, but feels much more like a small town.
I worked in the automotive manufacturing industry for 14 years before leaving the company I was working for to go out into business for myself as a graphic and web designer. Very recently, my wife and I decided it was time to push myself as a cartoonist as well.
D.E.; How long have you been cartooning?
Steve; Since I was 5 years old. I have always known I wanted to be an artist and I love creating cartoon characters. Until the last few years, it has really been just for me, having not shared my work with anyone, but it has been a burning desire in me for many years.
I became an expert at drawing “Garfield” while in grade school and gravitated to superhero drawing in high school. I then discovered web-comics in my thirties that re-ignited that fire once again.
D.E.; How did you get into cartooning or what inspired you to start?
Steve; I have wanted to be an artist since I was 5 years old. In fact, my mom has an old album filled with my school photos from kindergarten to grade 8 and every year I checked off wanting to be an artist when I grew up.
I discovered “Garfield” when I was younger and that fat cat inspired me to become a cartoonist. I remember how clean the lines were and how consistently the characters were drawn, and I just had to learn how to do that. I later discovered “Calvin and Hobbes” and was blown away by how different it was from “Garfield” but how I still loved it. At the time I felt that Watterson had created the perfect strip and that anything I came up with would never compare. That’s probably why it took me another 30 years to start.
D.E.; What is it you like most about cartooning?
Steve; I love the fact that I have readers who love reading the strip. Hearing that people enjoy your work is so amazing; I can’t truly describe the feeling. I pour myself into this work and try so hard to make it entertaining because I can’t let my readers down.
It’s really funny, but there are certain strips I have done that I felt weren’t overly good or funny, but have gotten big responses from. It blows me away sometimes, but then there are the strips that I spent hours on crafting the perfect set-up to the joke and… nothing. You just never know what is going to hit with an audience. I just stick with the adage to write what I know and do it because you love it then trust there will always be an audience for it.
D.E.; Is there anything you have trouble cartooning?
Steve; What? Preposterous! I can cartoon anything, anything I say! Except maybe cars, and motorcycles, or boats or any vehicle, to be honest. I have always struggled with drawing vehicles; they are just not in my wheelhouse. I tend to write stories that don’t have those things in them, but I certainly don’t avoid them altogether. Whenever a joke will benefit from the inclusion of a vehicle, I bite the bullet and get to work doing the best I can. I can say that I have improved over the years, but drawing vehicles is still my kryptonite.
D.E.; What type of education or background do you have in art, web-marketing, internet business or the like?
As a designer, I have used these skills to help other businesses with their marketing materials and of course, have learned a few things about marketing, SEO and Social Media along the way, but I would certainly not call myself an expert in those areas. In many cases, I team up with other business people to provide any service I currently do not.
D.E.; Tell us about digital drawing.
Steve; Digital is my current drawing method, but it wasn’t when I started “Worth it” back in 2009. My current set up includes a Wacom Intuous 4 drawing tablet connected to my iMac and I draw using Photoshop CS6.
When getting a Wacom tablet, the big criticism I heard was the learning curve of looking at your screen while drawing and not at your hand. I can tell you that the learning curve was very short for me. I was amazed at how quickly I adapted. After discussing this with colleagues of mine, I have heard the same thing, that it was very easy to adapt.
Wacom and Photoshop give me a lot of options and settings that make the experience as close to drawing with traditional media as possible. There are settings that allow me to draw as if drawing with a pencil, and then with a push of a button, it is like drawing with a pen.
D.E.; How does digital drawing compare to traditional methods of drawing? Which do you prefer?
Steve; Like I said earlier, the tablet has settings that make it look as if I am drawing with different materials, but it doesn’t give me the feel of traditional materials. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love drawing digitally and I currently have no plans to experiment with painting or printing in the near future, but I do still carry a sketchbook.
One thing a sketchbook has always meant for me was that I could always flip through it and see the good work and the bad. I could see ideas that I had before and forgot about. I could inspire myself with all the ideas I jotted down, but with digital media, you need to look for files and if you don’t like them, just throw them in the trash. There’s no sense of permanency.
D.E.; Does digital drawing limit you to your desktop or can you use a hand held device?
Steve; My current set-up does limit me to using my desktop, but that is not to say there aren’t hand held alternatives. I have been doing some research and the Microsoft Surface Pro seems to have very good pressure sensitivity. Meanwhile, Wacom, the makers of my drawing tablet are making their own hand held tablet for artists, so I am waiting for that to be released.
D.E.; Tell us about, "Worth It".
Steve; A slice of life tale with a twist, Worth it follows a middle-aged superhero sidekick who abandoned his own dreams and took the only job he ever knew in order to provide for his family. A member of “Justice Ltd” and partnered with ESP, a cantankerous and egotistical enchanted sock puppet, Kirby patrols the mean streets of Guelph, Ontario.
Thankfully, he has a supportive, if somewhat sardonic wife, Sue and two teenage sons, both of whom keep him guessing. Grayson, the elder is a boy in a mans body finding joy in all things immature while Drake, the younger, is beyond his years, finding contempt for what his father does for a living.
Together they have formed a bond that defies logic but defines family.
D.E.; What inspired you to start "Worth It"?
Steve; My wife. After years of talking about creating a comic strip, she was finally able to convince me to do it. The name came from the idea that even though I hated my job, it provided for my family, so it was worth it. Originally, the idea was to basically create a strip about my family. Whenever something funny happened that could be translated into a comic, my wife and I looked at each other and said aloud “Worth it”.
My original strips were sent off to cartooning syndicates to see if I could get into the newspapers and after a few weeks of waiting, I was rejected by all of them. Although that was a bit of a setback, I had discovered web comics, and some of my favourites, Scott Kurtz of PVP, Brad Guigar of Evil Inc, Dave Kellet of Sheldon and Kris Straub of Starslip had written a book “How to make Webcomics”. I read the book and decided to self-publish. Considering the newspaper industry right now, I’m glad I have taken this road.
I took the original idea of using my family, but added some bizarre twists, like the main character Kirby being a superhero sidekick and his partner is a magical sock puppet that he must wear. I also added some colourful characters to round out the superhero chicanery and recently, I have established that these fictional goings-on happen right here, in Guelph Ontario.
D.E.; How long does it take to create one installment?
Steve; Hmmm…tough question. It does vary depending on the subject matter, but I’m fairly confident in saying that my process usually takes about 4 hours. If I am creating a strip with 6 panels, since I do a 2 tiered comic. That will take longer, and if I am doing a single panel, that will obviously take less time.
D.E.; How long have you been writing it?
Steve; I have been creating my strip “Worth it” since 2009 at the same time I started my business.
D.E.; What are your plans for the future?
Steve; Funny you should ask, David. My future begins now. I have made changes to my business so that my cartooning will take centre stage. My goal is to build a business around my cartooning and illustration abilities and hopefully, one day soon, I can create “Worth it”, full time.
D.E.; What kind of advice do you have for other cartoonists?
Steve; I have some of the cliché stuff, like, never give up and believe in yourself, which, as hackneyed as it sounds is still advice you need to adhere to. But advice I think every artist needs is to keep a sketchbook and NEVER rip out any pages, no matter what. I look into my old sketchbooks and see pages missing and wonder what was on them. There are ideas I had that may not have been executed well back then, but I could go back to now with more skill and confidence, but are lost forever. Keep a sketchbook, keep a sketchbook and keep a sketchbook. Did I mention keeping a sketchbook?
D.E.; Do you have any "Shout Outs"?
Steve; First and foremost, my wife and business partner Tara. She has recently started actively working with me on the promotion side of things and has done an amazing job in the short while she has done it. Things are looking up for “Worth it”.
My parents, who have always been supportive.
Amy and Jen of The Dragon Comics and Games store here in Guelph. They are always supportive and have an original strip hanging in the store.
Scott Kurtz, Brad Guigar, Dave Kellet, Kris Straub, Mike Krahulik, Jerry Holkins, Danielle Corsetto, Lar deSouza, Ryan Sohmer, Stephen Silver for inspiring me to do this on my own.
Scott Chantler and Scott Mooney, who are fantastic local cartoonists who I have recently connected with. Very inspiring.
D.E.; Finish this sentence. "If I am not cartooning I am..."
Steve; asleep or dead.
D.E.; Where can people find you and/or your work?
Steve; You can find my work at
On Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Worthitonline
And on Twitter @ThatSteveMills
Thank you very much, Steve, for taking the time to talk with me. This has been great and informative. I look forward to seeing how things go for you and, "Worth It". Hopefully we shall talk to you again here soon.
Join us here at D.E. Dunlop on Wednesday March 13 for our first blog interview with Steve Mills, web cartoonist and creator of, "Worth It".
As a Canadian artist I feel I must say something of Tom Connors. First, if ever there was a man who instilled a sense of patriotism in my bones it was Stompin' Tom Connors. He spent most of his life travelling this great country we call Canada. He wrote songs of the people and the land. He took local stories and turned them into national legends. He is Canada. Or maybe Canada is Tom Connors. Some of his songs were just silly and fun while others were serious and even have the ability to bring a tear to your eye.
Some of my favourites;
The Coal Boat song
Sudbury Saturday night
Around the bay and back again
Big Joe Mufferaw
Every time I look at the list I see another great song. I'll stop here. After forty years he only managed to tally over three hundred songs. :D
I just can't say enough about the man. In honesty I've only known the music, but several articles have arisen, since his passing that are quite informative and moving.
Here are two.
R.I.P., Tom. You were and always will be THE true Canadian. You are already sorely missed.