Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview with Christina Boyd for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
I first met author producer Kes Trester via Twitter when I saw she was offering free query letter help. The tweet said something like "tweet your book pitch in the comments" and if she was interested, she would help as many authors as possible in a certain amount of time as her way of giving back. Of course, I pitched my Woman in the Painting, and she responded, and after a few email exchanges we reworked my bloated and meandering query. Not long after she released her YA novel The Nine, and I was none too curious to read and review. A page-turner indeed. I can easily see this translated to film!
CHRISTINA: What is your current project or latest release?
KES: The Nine: Alder House, book 2 in the multi-book contemporary romantasy series, THE NINE, comes out Sept 26 from Owl Hollow Press!
CHRISTINA: What do you think is your strength as a writer?
KES: As a former feature film development executive, I once lived and breathed cinematic structure. If you have a 90-page commercial screenplay, you can pretty much breakdown to within a page or two when the inciting incident should occur to propel you into the second act; where the character beats should hit to build a satisfying arc; how to connect scene after scene so each one feels inevitable rather than manufactured; and so on. This ingrained knowledge factors heavily in my work, which is why readers often tell me my books should be TV shows, and why my debut novel in particular—A Dangerous Year—keeps getting optioned by film/TV producers.
CHRISTINA: What comes first, plot, or characters?
KES: It’s always plot spawned from “What if…?” followed by what character would be the most interesting to follow in the gauntlet I plan to set forth. I must add that I will no longer write a book that doesn’t have a great title from the outset. My publisher and I spent months trying to find a more marketable title for The Nine that succinctly conveyed the story, but for some reason they rejected CLAIRVOYANT COLLEGE FRESHMAN IS DRAWN INTO ROMANCE, INTRIGUE, AND MURDER WHEN SHE’S DISCOVERED BY AN ANCIENT PARANORMAL SOCIETY ON THE BRINK OF CIVIL WAR. I can’t imagine why!
CHRISTINA: How has the publishing industry changed since you started?
KES: I was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2013, so it’s safe to say I’ve been in the mix for at least ten years. During that time, the two biggest influences to shake up the industry have been the rise of self-publishing and the advent of TikTok, both creating new opportunities for amplifying marginalized voices. That in turn attracted new readers who never before saw themselves reflected in stories channeled through the mainstream, and that’s a win for everyone. I am less optimistic about the expected impact of AI, but I don’t fear it. A writer’s work is filtered through layers of personal experience, a unique perspective ChatGPT and the like currently lack.
CHRISTINA: How did writing your first book change your writing process?
KES: While I come from the world of screenwriting, it took me two years to learn how to write a book. Like many new novelists, I plunged in with an idea, but after eight months of writing in circles, I came to understand the value of an outline. The three to four weeks I now spend plotting a book is an investment that pays off significantly in time saved during drafting.
CHRISTINA: Best advice for new writers:
KES: Stop giving yourself arbitrary deadlines! “If I don’t publish by 30, I’m done,” or “If I don’t get an agent within six months of querying, I’m shelving this book.” There is so much we as writers can’t control, but one of them is not letting rejection and/or disappointment derail our goals. My first rejection sent me to a friend’s house to drown my feelings of inadequacy in a bottle of excellent Chardonnay. Later, disappointment was met with a glass of whatever was open. Now, I just shrug and get back to work.
CHRISTINA: Accepting rejection like that is pretty healthy. For me, it depends on the day and who is doing the rejecting. Some are easier to take, I think.
What are you reading now?
KES: Audiobooks! I am admittedly late to the party, but the more time I spend writing, the less I want to look at a page or another screen at the end of the day. I initially resisted audiobooks under the misconception that listening rather than seeing wouldn’t offer the same opportunity to critique and absorb lessons learned by consuming the prose of others. Now whether I’m walking the dogs or running errands, I’m deep into a murder mystery, thriller, or rom-com. Recent favorites include Lessons in Chemistry, Book Lovers, and the "Thursday Murder Club" series.
CHRISTINA: I love, love, love audiobooks. More than I thought I would. Perfect on dog walks, while doing mundane tasks like folding laundry or weeding the garden.
What do you owe the real people whom you have based some of your characters?
KES: Are you even a writer if you don’t name your villains and fools after people who have wronged you? When I do occasionally name characters after people I like (bad guys included), I always ask permission. In The Nine, Khalia, a kickass bodyguard with the personality of high grit sandpaper, is named for a warm and lovely actor/dancer friend in New York. In Alder House, shady character Matthias is the namesake of an up-and-coming Italian film director. He said he was honored to be in one of my books!
CHRISTINA: Ha! I love that so much. Not just the part about naming characters for people you admire--but the other part about villains and fools.
If you could tell your 21-year-old self anything, what would you share?
KES: Buy Apple stock! That, and to take more risks. While I’m very fortunate to have had many wonderful adventures leaving me with few regrets, my early days were more about playing not to lose rather than going for the win. It wasn’t until my thirties that I purposely sought out high risk/high reward challenges that came with a considerable probability of failure, but I won more than I lost. It taught me to roll with the punches and to dust myself off when I stumbled. Come to think of it, it was excellent preparation for life as a writer!
CHRISTINA: Ah, yes! If we all hadn't been like Forrest Gump and bought some of that produce stock.
Thank you for your time and being so available to these questions. And again, thank you again for helping me fine tune my query letter last fall. It meant so much to me that someone like you would be so generous with your expertise. Best of luck with The Nine: Alder House.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A native of Los Angeles, Kes Trester’s first job out of college was on a film set, though the movie’s title will remain nameless because it was a really bad film. Really.
As a feature film development executive, she worked on a variety of independent films, from gritty dramas (guns and hotties) to steamy vampire love stories (fangs and hotties) to teens-in-peril genre movies (blood and hotties).
Kes produced a couple of independent films, both award-winners on the festival circuit, before segueing into television commercials. As head of production for a Hollywood-based film company, she supervised the budgeting and production of nationally broadcast commercials (celebrities, aliens, talking animals!) and award-winning music videos for artists such as Radiohead, Coldplay, and OKGO (more celebrities, aliens, and talking animals!).
Kes’ contemporary novels are cinematic, fast-paced, and above all, fun. Her well-received debut novel, the young adult boarding school thriller A Dangerous Year, has been optioned for film/television. Her next book, the contemporary YA fantasy The Nine, will be released by Owl Hollow Press in fall of 2022 with books two and three in the series scheduled to be released in 2023 and 2024, respectively. She is a four-time Pitch Wars mentor and an SCBWI Susan Alexander Grant award winner. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found in the company of an understanding husband, a couple of college-age kids, and a pack of much-loved rescue dogs.
You can connect with Kes via her website and her social media.