Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
This week we are featuring Kathy Ide! To enter to win a copy of her book, Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, leave a comment on this post.
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I am married to an amazingly supportive husband, and I have two sons—both grown and out of the house (out of state even). So I’m technically an empty nester. But we live in Southern California, so our nest is never empty for long. All of our out-of-state relatives love coming to visit us. And we thoroughly enjoy being the “bed and breakfast” for family members to come and play tourist.
I’ve been a full-time freelance editor since 1998. I’m also the founder and director of two organizations for editorial freelancers—the Christian Editor Connection and The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network. I also teach and speak at writers’ conferences across the country six to eight times a year. So I definitely have to carve out time for my own writing!
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest . . .
I love lots of genres. When I first met my agent, I pitched her six manuscripts—all different types! I had my book for writers (which became Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors), a ghostwritten memoir, a near-future speculative novel, a coauthored women’s fiction, a health book, and a devotional. She loved all of my ideas. And she helped me figure out which ones to work on first.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
It never occurred to me until a friend of mine from church asked me to help her stuff envelopes and fill binders for a conference she was putting together. When we finished, she told me I’d been such a great help I could attend the conference for free. I asked, “What’s it about?” When she told me it was a writers’ conference, I said, “But I’m not a writer.” She replied, “Maybe you are and you just don’t know it yet.”
At that conference, I met people whose names were on the covers of books I had at home. I felt like I was meeting celebrities! When I realized they were people just like me . . . and that authors weren’t folks who went to college and majored in creative writing and then got 8–5 jobs at publishing houses . . . I decided to try my hand at it. When I sold my first article to the first publisher I submitted to, I was hooked!
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
I’m not sure that first article I sold ever got published. I never did see a copy of the magazine with my byline in it. But at my second writers’ conference, I learned about play publishers. I discovered that the companies I’d been buying scripts from for my church drama teams (which never quite fit my needs, so I ended up writing my own most of the time) bought those scripts from freelance writers. So I started submitting. I ended up selling almost every script I’d ever written. Then I sold almost every script my drama team director wrote (which I rewrote for publication and split the profits on).
But my dream was to get a novel published. I worked on it in my spare time while holding down an office job and writing articles, short stories, devotionals, and Sunday school curriculum. Whenever I walked into a bookstore, I’d gaze at the fiction shelf and focus on the spot where my book would be someday—right between Angela Hunt and Jerry Jenkins!
When I lost my day job, I got into editing, hoping it would support my writing habit. Instead it kinda took over. I found that I loved working on other people’s manuscripts, and I really enjoyed helping writers achieve their publishing dreams.
To help my editing clients and fellow authors, I wrote Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. I still haven’t found a publisher for that novel yet! But I haven’t given up hope for eventually getting that spot between Hunt and Jenkins.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I’m not a coffee drinker—but I am addicted to chocolate!
I’ve tried various routines over the years, but the most important thing I’ve learned is to start each day having focused quiet time with the Lord. I have to do that before I go downstairs, because as soon as I get anywhere near my office, I’m drawn like a magnet to the computer. And once I start checking e-mails, I’m in “work mode.” So first thing every morning, I pray, write in my prayer journal, walk from room to room singing praise songs. In addition to praying for friends, family, and colleagues, I talk to God about the things at the top of my to-do list, asking Him for wisdom and direction on what He wants me to accomplish that day.
I spend most of my daytime hours editing other people’s manuscripts, so I have to intentionally schedule time for my own writing. Since I get fewer e-mails on Fridays than any other day, that’s the best time for me to write. So if I get enough editing done Monday through Thursday, I reward myself with a whole day off to work on my own projects.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
My critique group was a tremendous help when I started writing. But writers’ conferences were even more beneficial. The training I got from workshops was invaluable. And I always bought recordings of workshops I missed so I could listen to them later. That helped me take the “spirit” of the conference home with me. At conferences, I felt like a writer. Then I’d come back to “reality.” But when I put on a conference recording, I got that sensation all over again. It kept the writing dream alive.
And networking at Christian writers’ conferences with people in the industry—fellow authors, agents, editors, publishers—was amazing. I got the feeling that everyone there actually wanted to help one another succeed. I mean, if God wants your book to get published, I honestly want to be a part of making that happen. And if God wants my book to get published, He’ll make it happen for me. I don’t need to step on anybody to get there. And I don’t have to worry that someone else is going to take my spot on the bookstore shelf or steal my publishing contract from me. So I don’t need to closely guard my secrets of success. I can share them freely. I love that about this business!
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
Not at all! Like most people, I bought into the image of a writer spending all day on the beach or at a park or in a beautifully decorated room, sitting in a comfortable chair and creating one well-crafted sentence after another. After putting all that brilliant prose on paper, she’d submit her manuscript to a publisher, and the next thing you know, she’s autographing books for a long line of excited fans. I had no idea how hard it was to write a book, how long it would take, how many rejections writers get, and how many things an author does besides write—especially all the marketing.
I sometimes wonder whether I would have gotten into this business if I’d known in advance all that would be involved! Guess that’s why God leads us “step by step” and encourages us to walk by faith. But to be honest, there’s nothing else on earth I’d rather be doing. I love everything about working in this field, and I thank the Lord every day of my life that I get to do something for a living that I love so much.
What are your biggest distractions?
Relatives who come to visit and want me to go to Disneyland with them. And my totally adorable five-year-old goddaughter, who always wants me to take her to Disneyland. But those are pretty cool distractions!
What was one of the best moments in your career?
One of the best moments in my career was when one of my editing clients—a dear, sweet woman I’d come to know as a close friend during the editing process—called to tell me that the book I’d helped her write had made the New York Times best-seller list! And I was the first person she told, after her immediate family, because she said it couldn’t have happened without me. I felt so honored to have played a part in her accomplishing that dream.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
I love being involved in something that has such tremendous potential to touch people’s hearts and change their lives. When I see e-mails from people who’ve read something I wrote or edited, and they talk about how they came to know the Lord or turned their lives around or experienced a major blessing from God because of it, that makes all the work totally worthwhile!
Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors isn’t the kind of book that you’d think would change someone’s life. But if it can help a writer get a manuscript polished enough to land a book contract for it, or enable a writer to get the message in an independently published book across more clearly, or help someone build a successful proofreading/editing business . . . that’s reward enough for me!
What is the role and importance of an agent?
I think an agent plays a number of roles. To me, one of the most important is to be an encourager. Not to give false encouragement, of course, but to honestly evaluate an author’s ideas and provide input into which ones have the highest chance of success. The best kind of agent knows the industry well enough to advise his or her clients about what to focus on and how to package it.
I love having an agent who really communicates with me. She answers my e-mails promptly. She calls or texts me with important updates. She delivers bad news (rejections) with a positive spin, reminding me that although it’s not what we were hoping to hear, it just means this isn’t the place God has in mind for that particular project. When I get good news, she sincerely rejoices with me.
I thought my agent’s work on a book would end when I signed the contract, but mine has continued to help me in my dealings with the publisher, which I greatly appreciate.
She is my liaison, my advocate, and my cheerleader.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Pray. If this is what God wants you to do, He has a reason . . . and a purpose. He knows who is going to need to read what He has called you to write. And He knows that now is the perfect time for you to start learning the craft and honing your skills. He knows how long it will take for what He’s called you to write to get written, polished, and published. He knows how it will get published. And who will read it. And when. If you take one step at a time, and each step is the one God wants you to take, then the message He has given you will reach exactly the right readers at exactly the right time. Since His plan and His timing are perfect, you can relax. You don’t have to get upset about rejections, or worry about how long it’s taking for your book to get published. Just keep working on your craft. Learn how to do it really well. Pay attention to detail. Network with other people in the industry. Glean wisdom from them. Trust in God’s plan. And enjoy the ride.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
Are you interesting in writing a book yourself? Whatever genre you’d like to write in, you’ll want to make sure it’s free of typos and that all the words are spelled right and the punctuation is in the right place. Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors has great tips on finding mistakes in your manuscript, which will ensure that your message or story gets communicated clearly to your readers.
Lisa Tawn Bergren
Lena Nelson Dooley
Suzanne Woods Fisher
Gail Gaymer Martin
Kay Marshall Strom
What’s on the book horizon for you?
If Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors does well, I’m planning to make it the first book in a series: Editing Secrets, Publishing Secrets, Marketing Secrets, Keyboarding Secrets . . . and maybe Secrets of Best-Selling Fiction Authors, Children’s Authors, etc. The possibilities are almost endless.
I’m also working on a series of devotionals with a unique twist. If I get a contract for it, I’ll definitely let you know!
And I haven’t given up on getting a publisher for that novel I’ve been working on for years. It’s near-future speculative, which is a bit of an odd duck. But I truly believe God has a plan for it.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
And I’m very active with my two organizations for editors: The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network: This is a professional support organization for aspiring and established editorial freelancers, offering tips and tools on the website, a free e-mail discussion loop, online courses, and added benefits for contributing members. Christian Editor Connection: Here I personally connect writers, agents, and publishers with established, professional freelance editors who fit their unique needs.