Author Kimberly Stuart writes romance novels. Lots of romance novels. Her latest book, ‘Heartland’ is her eighth. Think Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, PG level stuff. Mike caught up with Kim to talk about the creative process. Soon they recognize the similarities between what she does, and what so many entrepreneurs face each and every day.
This episode will answer:
- What it’s like to step out of your comfort zone (being creative) and stepping into the reality of the business side of writing.
- How much of her time is spent writing vs. the business of launching and selling books?
- How she pivots when a book comes out to mixed reviews.
- How she deals with feedback and how does it affect the creative process.
- How faith falls into her writing.
- What kind of support network she has during her creative projects.
Much like every entrepreneur on earth, Kim has faced pressure to change her approach and modify the end product to suit whoever’s perspective she happens to be talking to. For her it’s publishers, for entrepreneurs it may be investors. Whoever it is, the pressure often comes to be something you’re not. In Kim’s life, publishers wanted her to push the boundaries on ‘romance’ and spice things up, but as a Mom and spiritual person, she’s found it so important to stay true to her DNA, her beliefs and her comfort level no matter what the cost.
It’s a Business
As much as she loves the creative process, Kims wrestled with balancing the business reality of publishing. Growing up with an entrepreneurial dad who taught her the importance of using ones gifts in a way the delivers something that can generate income so you can keep doing what you want to do.
Kim grew up around a DNA of generosity and learned the importance of getting your gift out to the world, to bless and serve the people it was meant for. In the business of writing, she quickly learned that the author is required and expected to promote their work even more than the publisher now that Social Media has such an influence on. Where she first thought she’d simply have to write and the publisher would take care of the rest, she now recognizes the changes in the landscape that affects all creative individuals.
Her parents taught her to work really hard and to just be kind. “You need to be kind to everyone around you. Say thank you, get your nose down and work hard while letting go of everything you can’t control to stay in a peaceful place”.
As a fiction writer, her marketing is different to those of us who write non-fiction because she doesn’t have a built in platform based on expertise or experience which makes it harder to launch new books. After launching 4 books, she leaned into a friend who was a business ‘ninja’ instead of looking at authors and publishers for insights and it was a game changer. This helped Kim begin to see things more from a business point of view, vs. the creative / writing point of view. Ultimately, marketing and selling your creative work is something that no-one will be as passionate about as you.
If social media makes you uncomfortable as a creative, it’s like a surgeon saying ‘I don’t like blood but I really want to be a surgeon’. You’re in the wrong line at the career fair.
You need to decide how you want to approach things, and what your will be, but being honest with yourself early on and recognizing that business is part of any creative process is something you’ll have to come to terms with.
Getting uncomfortable was something else that surprised Kim. Getting speaking invitations sounds great, but writing and speaking are two completely different things! More often than not, she’d speak about her faith or the craft of writing, depending on the event type but either way, she continually has to push herself out of the ‘comfort zone’.
Although a Christian, Kim doesn’t see herself as a ‘preacher through words’ and so doesn’t layer faith all over the characters overtly, trying to make her writing ‘Christian’. However, she does find ways to bring strong elements of her faith out through the characters and stories she writes about. Think grace, love etc. that are relatable to every reader.
Delivering the best creative work possible without imposing limits and boundaries helps Kim find contentment in the finished product. Where does she go to find strength and support when facing decisions that challenge her creativity? She goes to death and her faith, looking at the eternal, long term perspective.
She avoids the roller coaster of emotions that comes with a book doing well vs. not doing well. One way she guards herself is to recognize that she loves what she does but it’s not who she is. She avoids reading reviews to protect her mind and heart given our natural inclination to focus on the one negative review vs. the hundreds of positive reviews out there.
This applies to entrepreneurs equally, who often find themselves becoming their journey, their startup. But there’s no win there and pain will follow if you can’t learn to disassociate. For growth, she listens to editors and other authors with the experience and expertise that allows them to speak into her life.
- “Am I doing this to check a box or am I doing this to write something I love?”
- “In any sphere what is the North Star, what is the thing that God wires me to do”.
- “Writing is something you do 50% of the time and the other 50% or maybe more, is getting your book into the hands of people who will love it and that rests firmly on your shoulders”.
- “It’s a constant struggle to find how to tell a story worth telling, in a voice that is true, and at the same time just know who I am and keep writing into that even if folks are saying you’re crazy”.