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.


#Hashtags: #historicalfiction #books #authors

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  1. Thanks, Red! It never fails to amaze how you always seem to ask the right questions. Are you ever surprised at the answers you receive in interviews? What is even more amazing is that you like good old dark’n’double. A true anomaly. Thanks again, Red!
    raymond alexander kukkee recently posted..Writing Life: Progress & Planning for Writer’s BlockMy Profile

    • I do love dark coffee, but I normally pass on the double unless it is mud 😉 You know, questions are my game. I ask because I want to know. I know I am not the only one…

  2. Very interesting commentary. I am thinking about self-publishing my upcoming second book and your comments are helpful! Thanks!

    • Check out more of the spotlight, Marriott. You will get a good look at both sides of the coin. Glad to see you today. I did not know the link to the widow’s post was kaphlooey when you were here :/

  3. Good luck in marketing it. In my mind, that’s always the most challenging thing, once the book is finished of course.
    Binky recently posted..Think Like A KnifeMy Profile

  4. Awesome interview – well done to both of you! I really can’t wait to read your story, Raymond – especially now. I’m curious as to what “experimental fiction” is.
    In reading your answers and interaction with Red, I get a better sense of how intelligent a writer you must be. Congrats on this final product and I hope for many more (best sellers) for you!!


    PS: What’s the “double” part of “dark and double”?
    BuddhaKat recently posted..Finding the Found Long Lost Friday Fractal Feature…My Profile

  5. Another illuminating interview at RedmondPro. 1950’s era is old hat to me. Now I am curious about Raymond Alexander Kukkee’s book. Hmm.

    As well, I’m enjoying watching these new up and coming authors blossom in this exciting and emerging environment. Two thumbs up (because I only have two).
    Tess Kann recently posted..Hot Flash x2My Profile

  6. Good luck Ray! 🙂

    God Bless!

    prenin recently posted..Wednesday – Vivid Dreams.My Profile

  7. Great Interview, I always learn something new and considering the Redmund authors are such a great working bunch, its neat to find out what their take on the process is. Keep up the writing and good work Ray and Red 🙂
    Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Weekly Photo Challenge; UniqueMy Profile

  8. Experimental fiction sounds fascinating, Ray, and set in my favorite time period. I was very interested to hear about your experience with your Beta reader, and how your working experience with them transformed and tightened your book to what it is today.
    Good luck Ray, and thank you for another great interview, Red!
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Review of A Month of Mental MomentsMy Profile

    • Thanks, Gail..yes, the Beta read was tough, but what a great learning experience. It resulted in my examining the FOW story in detail–and the process did transform and improve FOW–no doubt about it. Thanks seriously goes out to my beta readers and Red !
      Btw, Gail, a heartfelt thanks to you for doing the FOW trailer and all of the additional help you have provided to all of us. Much appreciated!
      raymond alexander kukkee recently posted..Writing Life: Progress & Planning for Writer’s BlockMy Profile

  9. Raymond, Congrats on FOW and here’s to a great success. FOW is next on my read list and I’m looking forward to it.

    Also a great interview Red. Nice Job all around.
    MJ Logan recently posted..Growing Like a WeedMy Profile

    • Thanks, Mike! We’re all hoping that FOW and the other new books simultaneously launched at RedmundPro are going to be best-sellers. They are looking good!
      I think you’ll enjoy FOW too…and hey, –send in a review, too, I’d really like that!
      Red never ceases to amaze– She has launched a couple of new books while helping us too–how amazing is that!
      Thanks again, Mike!
      raymond alexander kukkee recently posted..Writing Life: Progress & Planning for Writer’s BlockMy Profile

  10. Good luck with your books Ray…


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