My friend Debby is a witty, bold writer who – in her own words – takes no shit, but who is also the same as you in many respects. Her writing is often deeply personal, so it strikes a chord with her fans (a lesson for us all).
Enjoy my chat with D.G. Kaye, also know here as Debby
- DAN Let’s start with the easy stuff. What’s the working title of your next book?
D.G. Kaye: I’ve been working on the sequel to my first book, Conflicted Hearts for the past year on and off while working on my latest book release, Have Bags, Will Travel . The sequel is a grueling emotional write, and won’t be published until late next year. The working title is, Broken Legacy.
- Your stuff is often deeply personal. Where did the idea come from for the latest work in progress (WIP)?
This WIP was a book I knew I would write after my mother’s passing; after I could assess my conflicted feelings for her. I didn’t want to begin writing it until I experienced what I would feel after she died; having not spoken to her for the last eight years of her life. I left Conflicted Hearts with a door open, so to speak, being that it was a memoir about my struggle with living under her narcissistic, imposed guilt trips my whole life, even when I wasn’t speaking to her. When I published that book, my mother was still alive, and my fear of her didn’t allow me to write certain incidents, or express my deepest opinions regarding certain matters without feeling discomfort in the thought that she may be reading the book. It took a lot of hesitation and guts for me to publish that book while she was still living.
- Writing takes guts, but that takes even more. Very brave of you. Let’s lighten it up now. Which is the more important of these two: write drunk, edit sober?
Ahh, good old Hem. Why of course, I’d have to say, edit sober! I don’t think there is any particular way to write written in stone. Every writer has their own preferred method of writing or perhaps a particular poison of choice to aid in their writing. Some writers prefer total silence (like me), and some may prefer to write in a crowded cafe, drinking copious amounts of coffee. Perhaps some writers like to imbibe, or take a few tokes of marijuana. Whatever turns their crank and stimulates their imagination is a personal choice. But editing, editing must be done with a clear and concise, sound mind.
- I think editing actually corrupts a sound mind, since I am editing right now and going bonkers. Tell me about your writing process. How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I never just decided to sit down one day and write a memoir. It began growing a life of its own when I was in my mid-teens, when I began keeping notes while trying to analyze my mother’s behavior and how it was affecting the people in her life — mainly her children, and my father. It took me years of analyzing and journaling to realize my mother’s narcissistic nature. Since her dominant personality prevailed over me my whole life, even in her absence, I felt the need to put the book together as a cathartic cleansing. It was only after I published the book that I came across so many other writers and readers that grew up with a narcissistic parent and could relate to my stories.
- What makes you so damn interesting anyway?
Lol Dan, that’s quite a question. I’m not exactly sure, but I’m often told that I am, so here are some possibilities:
I’m a good storyteller.
I’m a bad joke teller. I always forget or ruin a punchline to the extent that it becomes funny anyway.
I’ve done many crazy things in my life, both daring and bold. I speak my mind, and I don’t take shit from anyone.
I’ve survived and cheated death a few times. I lived to tell.
I’m eccentric and eclectic. I’m fashion savvy, not trendy. When I’m put together and out in public anywhere, be it a grocery store, airport, subway – anywhere – I’m often stopped and paid a compliment for my bold and sometimes loud attire, whether it be a pair of shoes I’m wearing, large mod sunglasses, and most often just to be told someone loves my hair color. In my writing, I always advocate for kindness and overcoming adversity by learning to catch life’s curveballs.
- A lot of my blog readers want to be authors, and many want that indie author badge of honor. What’s the best part about being an Indie author?
I’m my own boss, which gives me great pleasure in celebrating my victories, and owning up to my failures. I don’t require anyone to motivate me. I know what must be done. I set goals for myself, for tasks and writing deadlines. I’m a go-getter and a doer, and pretty darn crafty when it comes to searching for how to do something when I’m stumped. I don’t need to wait nervously to see if someone will accept my work to publish. If I work hard to build my platform and readership, put out my best work, and self-promote, why would I want to give up part of my royalties? To me, it’s a no brainer. But people shouldn’t be under the impression it’s easy, because it’s not. It’s a lot of darn work to write our own books, manage a blog, read books and review, and publish our own work. Publish is a small word with a lot of weight. Publishing for me begins when first draft is written. Under the umbrella of publishing, I place revisions, edits, blurb writing, picking the appropriate title, cover art searching, formatting, and marketing. These things all have to be done professionally if we want to attain credibility as authors. But would I trade it for anything else? No way!
- Hard work never killed anybody, right? (I say, why be the first one?) What’s something most readers would never guess about you?
My outward appearance is bold and can sometimes be mistaken for intimidating. My struggles with low, or no self-esteem while growing up still linger within, no matter how much I’ve overcome.
- I guarantee they wouldn’t guess that. So it adds to the book marketing/selling struggle. Why do some authors sell well and others don’t?
It’s a fact that as writers, we have to put out our best work, that’s the first step to success. There are oodles of writers with millions of published books in the world for readers to choose from. It can take years to rise above the cream to get noticed, so I believe there is also a lot of luck involved – timing – serendipity when it comes to becoming a bestseller. Traditionally published books seem to have a leg up on us as Indies. As Indies, we have to find our audience and build our tribe of readers. This all takes time. Success is not to be measured by the amount of books we sell, but from the satisfaction we gain from knowing that however many books we sell, they’re making readers happy. Happy readers are the people who like to tell other people about books they’ve read. If we have happy readers, then inevitably our book sales will grow.
- You have lots of happy readers! How did you choose your genre? Or did it choose you?
It chose me. I’ve been a storyteller and an advocate for truth all of my life. I’ve always tried to better myself and empower the underdogs with kindness and advice. Writing in memoir and nonfiction comes natural to me. I suppose I could write fiction, but it would always be depicted from my real life experiences, so I figure, why not own it?
- Okay, now the serious stuff: Can you wash light and dark clothes together? Have you even turned a bunch of stuff pink in the washer?
No and no! I’m much too anal for that. I’m obsessed with being tidy – a neatfreak. Everything has to be just so. I have a bad habit of letting paper scraps and notes pile up on my desk. If I don’t clear stuff away regularly, I gasp as though I’m suffocating when there’s too much stuff piled up and I can’t concentrate. Does this sound like someone who would put dark and light clothes together? LOL
- I can tell. No accidentally-pink socks at the Kaye house! And that structured approach spills over into writing. What ‘person’ do you like to write in? First or third etc. – and why?
I write in first person because all of my writing involves me telling stories.
- I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?
One of my biggest passions is traveling to different places. Okay, I’m going to rephrase that — I don’t enjoy the actual traveling part anymore, but I enjoy the actual part of seeing new places once I’m actually there.
After traveling to many places, I discovered where my heart feels happiest – in the desert, looking at the mountains. My hub and I went to Arizona last year for the first time after numerous trips to Las Vegas for years prior. When we discovered how much we loved it there, we knew we wanted to spend more time there. As my husband is approaching retirement and our desire to get away from Toronto in the winters escalated, we plotted to find a way to become snowbirds there. We came home from Arizona and within three months, we sold and packed our house and moved to a rented condo so we could have the freedom to take off for the better part of winter. I’m very excited to be going for two months this coming winter. Besides the beautiful weather and the scenery, I just know it will bring me new inspiration and possibly some new connections in my writing world. There seems to be a lot more going on there for writers, like bookfairs. It will also allow me more interaction with some of my other writing friends I’ve made who live there. I have great expectations. My writing life here in Toronto can be lonely at times, writing in solitude with no real-life interaction in the writing world. Many of my writer friends live in the U.S.
- In addition to your books, you have a blog that is pretty popular. How did that start?
While working on first draft of Conflicted Hearts, my first book, I also spent a good year or so following and learning about self-publishing from some of the pioneers of the Indie world. I subscribed to numerous newsletters, watched many podcasts, and partook in many webinars, as I learned the importance of building a platform, which of course included having a blog.
At first I wasn’t sure about what to write about, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the prospect of putting myself out in cyber world publicly. But I began posting about things I was learning as a writer to pass along to other new writers. Intermittently, I posted stories about incidents that happened to me or affected me in my real life, and eventually as I continued to blog, I kept the same theme.
- Now, I am terrible at naming characters, awful at choosing book covers, and nearly as bad at coming up with titles. How do you decide on a title for your book?
I’d like to say that I have a knack for titles and headings. I extract the heart of my book, usually about half-way through writing it, and use it as a working title. I then play around with that title, making several versions, while paying attention to keywords, as well as the subtitle (which gives me more keywords for searching).
- What do you do for cover art? Do you hire an artist or use pre-made?
I’m a firm believer in originality, so I have my book covers designed for me, but I do a lot of the legwork involved. When I’m nearing completion of edits, I usually have envisioned what I want on the book cover, encompassing the meat of the story. I can visualize the cover in my mind, but I can’t draw or work with graphics to save my own life. I begin scouting out photo sites to gather photos for suggestions to my artist with ideas I’d like to see her make something with. By my searching around for her, this saves time and money. After a few back and forths with her submissions and my tweaks, my cover is usually ready within two weeks. I find by doing my own search for pictures and sending her the blurb, she gets a good idea of what I’m looking for. Let’s face it, the artists don’t have time to read our books, so it’s up to us to give them the best information we can so they can get a good feel of what the book is about. I’ve been lucky with great feedback on all my covers. My book, Words We Carry won a gold star badge for nonfiction from TheBookdesigner.com .
- Continuing on with the “what all is involved in the process” theme, what about editing? How has your experience with editors been?
Hiring an editor is imperative. Even editors need editors. But finding the right editor is just as important. I’ve been lucky and extremely satisfied with my editor and our working relationship. The most important part for me is that she doesn’t strip my voice. I was fortunate to find my voice naturally because I write in first person and I want to sound like me. In some of my first reviews from my first book, Conflicted Hearts, they stated that reading my book was like sitting down for coffee with an old friend. I was elated because every author strives to find that comfort zone with their readers. With this being said, when I finished my second book, Menowhat? A Memoir , an author friend suggested I may want to try her new editor, which she described as ‘kickass’, and felt her new book was kicked up a notch. I strayed from my editor because who wouldn’t want their books to be kickass? Well it turned out to be a nightmare for me. The book was practically rewritten, and it didn’t sound at all like me anymore. After paying for that disaster, I put my tail between my legs and went back to my original editor to put the book back together. Lesson learned: What works for some, doesn’t always work for others. It’s important to look for an editor who specializes and enjoys reading the genre we write in and to have a comfortable working relationship with them.
- What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions of being an Indie writer are?
The stigma that Indies put out unedited books has yet to disappear. I think when the Indie revolution broke out, many people thought there was nothing to writing and publishing a book and called themselves writers. This snowballed into an influx of lesser quality books, which began a bad labelling of Indie writers. I suppose there’s always going to be a bad apple in a bunch, but to categorize all Indies in that group isn’t fair.
I do think though, in the last few years with the public shaming of badly unedited books etc., that many writers have taken heed to the public humiliation. With so much information being shared on social media etc., about publishing, I think in time, the situation will further diminish and perhaps the stigma may disappear. One can hope!
- now, a big one: Plotter or pantser? And prepare to defend your position.
How about a plotser? Yes, that’s my word. It’s sort of a combination for me. I’ll roughly outline the topics I want to include in the book — key points, chapter headings, etc., to keep me steered in the direction I’m going. When the writing begins, I let the pen take over (yes, I write in longhand), and when I begin each new chapter or essay, I refer back to my notes to make sure I didn’t leave any relevant points out.
- I think a lot of authors would admit to being plotsers (if it didn’t sound like such a silly word when you say it out loud). What about the early days? Who helped you most, getting started?
When I first began writing my first book, I happened to befriend a very helpful and upcoming Indie author, J. Thorn. I watched a podcast with him being interviewed about self-publishing. I left him a question on the chatbox and we became friends from there. I began to look up to James as a mentor. He taught me a lot about the ropes of self-publishing and the Indie world. I was ecstatic when he agreed to beta read my book before publication and offered to endorse it on the cover for me. You can only imagine how stoked I was that an already established author in the Indie world wasn’t afraid to put his name on my book. J. Thorn’s first book was a memoir, before he became a well-known horror writer in the Indie world.
- You strike me as a morning person. What time of day do you prefer to write?
I’m definitely a morning writer. That’s my creative time before my head gets jumbled up with my to do list. On writing days, I go directly to coffee, breakfast, and writing. I don’t dare turn on the computer until I’ve finished my writing goal for that day or it’s not going to happen. I don’t impose writing for a certain amount of time or word count. I write until I’m finished creating an article or finished a chapter or two on my book. I also like to leave off my book writing by starting a new chapter with a sentence and leaving off there for the next session so I have a thought to begin with next time. I’m sure Stephen King does this too!
- How do you develop characters?
It’s certainly not hard for me because I’m a memoir writer. I’ve lived with or known all my characters, they portray themselves. I just bring them into my stories.
- And do you have author friends you confide in?
Gratefully, the answer is yes. Thank goodness for online communication. I have many wonderful and supportive author friends. And like many of us, I am lucky to have a handful of faithful really good author friends that I can bounce ideas and dilemmas off of.
I’m blessed to have many friends (yes, like you Dan), but extra lucky to have a few I can share my work with and get feedback from. We are all so busy as writers, and I’m always overwhelmed with the generosity of my friend’s sharing their precious time with me when in need. With my first book, I don’t think I would have learned so much without the help of J. Thorn. In the blogging world, I’ve made some very dear friends. Many authors have been supportive of me through my book-writing journey, like Carol Balawyder, Deborah Jay, and author/editor, Deborah Bowman. The two Deb’s helped me immensely while trying to reconstruct my latest book, Have Bags, Will Travel . We’re known as the three Deb’s with red hair, lol.
- Having author friends makes all the difference, because other people (normal people) really just don’t get it. Meanwhile, if writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?
I’d keep writing of course! But I’d hire an assistant so I could write more. And, I’d definitely move to Arizona. Then I’d have enough money to convert my assets from crappy Canadian dollar value to American so I could live there.
- Time to get personal. Tell us about yourself. Who IS the real Debby? And not typical boring bio stuff. The dirt. Like, when was the last time you did laundry?
The real me is bold, opinionated, justice seeking, humorous, and a person who always looks for the bright side of a crappy situation. I have many friends (I don’t get to see much of them because I always seem to be home hibernating as a writer). And oddly enough, or not, my friends aren’t really interested in my writing life. Go figure a reader and writer has friends who aren’t big on reading books; how does that even happen?
I am nicknamed by a few friends and family members; all given to me because of a funny moment or incident we may have shared. To name a few, I’m called: Cub, Eenie, Nor and Booben. Yes, I answer to all of these names, and only by those who’ve christened me with them. In the writing world I’m known as D.G., as I write with the pen name D.G. Kaye. D.G. are my initials and Kaye is a shortened version of my maiden name. Shortly after becoming friends with someone online, they stop calling me D.G. and call me Debby. Deborah is my full given name, but that name makes me shudder, as it was used by my mother when I was in trouble.
Oh, and I do laundry every Sunday, and because of my compulsion with being a clean-freak, you’d never catch me mixing dark with light clothes in the washer!
- 50 What’s a favorite quote of anyone besides you, and one from you?
- What was the most fun interview you’ve done and why?
Why, yours of course Dan! I enjoyed being able to share my experiences with writing here; especially that it was fun and comfortable here in an informal atmosphere. It was just like sitting down and having coffee with an old friend.
We enjoyed it, too Debby! It takes a lot of time to sit down and go through a grilling like this, so I appreciate the time and the many valuable insights. My readers will definitely benefit from this, and that’s huge to me. Thanks for sharing and good luck in your continued success!
Gang, you can find Debby (D.G. Kaye) and her books on Amazon.
Conflicted Hearts: www.amazon.com/dp/b00hdtppuq
MenoWhat? A Memoir: www.amazon.com/dp/b00kwanpzk
Words We Carry: www.amazon.com/dp/b00oqjge42
Have Bags, Will Travel: www.amazon.com/dp/b015hp1r6s
Find D.G. on her blog at: www.dgkayewriter.com
Follow D.G. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pokercubster
Friend and follow her on Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/dgkaye
Visit her author page at www.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7.