Writer’s Spotlight: Second Glance

LatteClaret was certain Red had the order wrong when she poured a dark-n-double. Who orders regular coffee besides Red? She was cutting pats of butter into maple leaves. Add that to cranberry muffins and the only candidate is Raymond Alexander Kukkee. Red was surely going to ask about changes, parenting a character and beta reads.

M3: FOW contains a convincing setting of the 1950s. How much research did you need to do to support an easily studied era?

RAK: A little bit, for sure. That era was a decade of post-war social transplanting as thousands had returned home from war with great economic expectations. The good life didn’t materialize for everyone.

That relatively new media, television, made it easy to buy into dreams of white picket fence suburbia, cars  and the idealistic but unrealistic good life, while real families were often shattered, shuffled and  left to struggle with poverty.  I’m guessing my early lifetime hobby of observing humanity and social development made writing FOW easier.

M3: Your characters tackle coming of ages issues with the twist of transient parental role models. Do you feel this can be equally applied to today’s youth?

RAK: Transient parental role models still apply in the societal village today,  perhaps now to an exponentially greater degree.  Historically, role models  passed on cultural values, a sense of identity and belonging.

With societal roles changing so dramatically, teens are left on their own to drift.  In the extreme they have only dysfunctional, abysmal parenting at best, exacerbated by equally confused and negative peer pressure. Transient parental role models –however imperfect they may be– fill a serious gap today just as they did 50 years ago.

The Fires of WaterlandM3: Your cover changed pretty significantly from your initial concept. How did you like working with the artist to get your cover art?

RAK: My original concept for the cover of FOW focused on a tiny, quaint historical building –unfortunately demolished before I could photograph it as “the ideal cover”. I couldn’t replace that image, although I tried.

Let’s face it: we all have a “perfect” cover image preconceived, and I’m no exception.  Bottom line, the artist made excellent suggestions and created a design which really is better. Some of the elements from my preconceived image are on this cover. I liked that –and enjoyed the creative process.

M3; Change is all over FOW, all the way down to the title, since The Fires of Waterland was not the title on your manuscript. How did this title come to grace your cover?

RAK: True. For the record, the original title of FOW morphed from Livman as a file name to Livvy  and then to  Liv Manlin with a subtitle.  I have to admit I did not know what to call it.  At one point I had considered The Waterland Fires— close, but I dismissed it as boring.  I wanted it unique, even weird, so I stuck  Liv Manlin a.k.a. Down at the Puffery on it. The whole book was an experiment.

When all else fails, add a subtitle?  (grin)

The final title was suggested for more than just the observable fires in the story. The fact is, to that point, I simply had not thought about it that way.  It was a great suggestion. The Fires of Waterland is the perfect title for this story.

M3: Let’s flip the book over. How important is the jackback text to a successful novel?

RAK: Jackback text is absolutely critical. Most people pick books off the shelf and instantly flip them over to read the jacket back. I know it’s the first thing I do.  It’s the reader’s instant impression of the book -so the text must offer a good hook–the best possible. The importance of the jackback text cannot be overemphasized.

Raymond Alexander KukkeeM3: Even the publishing on this one represented change for you. How was FOW different from your last novel?

RAK: Publishing Morgidoo’s Christmas Carol offered it’s own pain on a number of counts.  Publishing MCC  on Smashwords and KDP Amazon platforms simultaneously called for different requirements. With the complication of large photos it was difficult. The total file submission size was restricted, the photos had to be re-sized and sadly, in some cases eliminated,  skewing  text layout.  I wasn’t happy. The detail work was incredible.

Being tech-challenged and new to publishing didn’t help.  For FOW, it was text-only with access to professional help. The technical issues were resolved by Redmund.  I found it much easier.

M3: Hackers on the team do wonders. We have some love-hate hackers as well: beta readers. What did you learn about FOW during beta?

RAK: I learned FOW  is a far more complicated story than I thought when I wrote it.  I also discovered selling a story line to a beta reader can be difficult.  I know saying so may seem counter-intuitive, but it almost felt like I had to defend or justify the intrinsic worth of the story line, the characters, their societal system, and even where the protagonist stored his hat. I wasn’t convinced the beta reader(s)  liked the story concept at all, –after all, FOW was totally experimental.  That would not have been surprising.  The story wasn’t typical or straight forward.  Clarifying tiny details suddenly became critically important.  The beta read was difficult -but proved to be an incredibly valuable learning process.

M3: Sometimes learning what people really get out of what we write is painfully enlightening. How important would you say independent (not friends/family) beta reading is to story continuity?

RAK: It’s critical to have an independent beta reader.  I’m sure capable family beta readers exist, but there is always a potential for error if the reader has been previously exposed to the story to any degree.  It makes sense that a non-related, independent beta reader will be more objective about content, and less concerned with hurt feelings, or, heaven forbid, having to point out fatal errors in continuity, story line glitches, or that a story is just plain boring. A dissociated beta reader is not compelled to offer false praise to protect other relationships.

Flash in the Pan CoverM3: How will the editing process affect the way you write in the future?

RAK: That’s a burning question. I’ll probably keep more notes and details, no doubt.  Also, I’ll try to resist formatting manuscripts –and  I’ll certainly be a lot more selective about which word-processing software I use.

M3: All good ideas. What are you working on now?

RAK: I’m exploring the problem of marketing and looking for more 5-star reviews. (grin)  FOW needs to be put out there, and meantime I have two new and very different  novels in progress.  I  blog , of course,  and I’m  working on setting up my complete writing portfolio on the IncomingBytes  website, so I’m keeping busy.

M3: Speaking of reviews, how do you feel about the reviews thus far?

RAK: I’m amazed but “wowed” might be more accurate.  I always felt this was a good story –but frankly I was blown away to see 5-star  reviews and super comments actually materializing.  Writers all dream about writing a bestseller, don’t we?  I’m happy to see the potential FOW is offering so early in the game.

M3: What social media are you planning on using to capitalize on that potential?

RAK: Facebook,–to get the word out– at least so far.  I’m looking for outside reviewers.  I have Twitter, G+ and LinkedIn too. Being new to social media for self-promotion, I’m only guessing that Facebook may ultimately prove to be the most beneficial. G+ seems to have a pretty fair potential for an extended reach too.   I’m looking forward to a lot of great advice from more experienced authors –and my favorite publishers –to optimize and capitalize FOW.

M3: There is certainly more of that in the works. Who should read The Fires of Waterland?

RAK: Any mature reader who enjoys gritty character-driven experimental fiction should read FOW.  It’s a good story; it’snot for the overly-sensitive.

M3: Sell it to the M3 Readers in 15 words or less.

RAK: For the pure enjoyment of character-driven experimental fiction.   Everyone should read a bestseller.  (grins)

M3: Just a couple more before you go. Anyone you need to give a nod before we open the floor for questions?

RAK: I would be totally remiss if I did not mention the patience of my family and the capable help of the artistic and technical people at Redmund.  I was totally distracted and immersed in FOW during the publishing process. Only success with  FOW can repay that much tolerance and kindness.

M3: Since this is not your first novel, and you launched two titles with RedmundPro, what advice do you have for the budding authors in the crowd?

RAK: Believe in your story, believe in your voice and be unique.  Trust your instincts when you are writing.  Write and polish. Get a good beta reader and look at criticism as a gift, a potential benefit. Be patient. Don’t get discouraged, be persuasive and persistent.  Don’t get mad. (Famous last words) Come to Redmund. (grin)

M3: We would certainly love the company!

Dearest M3 Readers,

Take a few moments to get to know Raymond Alexander Kukkee and browse The Fires of Waterland, Flash in the Pan and Flash in the Pan 2. You can pick up your copies from RedmundPro today.

Connect with Raymond on his blog and Facebook.

Thank you for your continued support of the authors and artists of the M3 Coffee Shoppe.


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  1. As always, the interview brings out exactly what we most want to know about the author, the process and the book. Very well done both of you.

    Thank you Ray, for you thoughtful answers and taking the time to consider them before answering. Good luck on selling FOW, marketing is the key!

    Red, as always spectacular.

  2. this interview is so well balanced, the apparent literary chemistry between interviewer and viewee seems painless.
    smooth writing, the book and the author are insured success, somewhere down the slow recovery of these times.
    thanks for the expose and for the hope infusion. ns

    • Thanks, Nadine! Red always seems to know which questions to ask, and our process always infuses hope. There is little doubt FOW is headed for success. We certainly hope your book is coming along soon too! Have a wonderful day! ~R
      raymond alexander kukkee recently posted..Issues: PennilessMy Profile

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