Took some time to catch up with Matt Kilby, author of The Road Cain Walks, a new suspense/horror novel releasing on Amazon this week! I met Matt during a critique group, and got the opportunity to exchange some works with him. Since his book is releasing, I asked if he’d answer a few questions for my readers, and he’s graciously agreed!
Additionally, feel free to follow Matt on Twitter:
SYF: How did you get started writing?
My first attempt at a novel was around age 12, but I don’t remember much about the story. I just remember all the characters were my friends and I, and the main character’s love interest changed constantly to fit whatever girl I had a crush on at the time. I’m not sure I want to know if there is a surviving copy of that somewhere. Then, in high school, I got into writing poetry, which was mostly Jim Morrison knockoff stuff, but it kept me interested in writing and eventually led me to try prose again.
SYF: Is this your first book? If so, what were some of the biggest challenges
you faced while writing it?
This is my first book but is actually a major revision of a version I self-published in 2003 (more on that in the next question). My biggest challenge was finding my voice. When I found that, I learned the difference between putting words together and really writing a sentence. The Road Cain Walks is the start of a much larger story, but that isn’t so intimidating now that I understand how to tap into that part of myself.
SYF: How long did it take you to write? How many drafts did you go through?
I started the first draft in 2000 but didn’t spend every day of the past 16 years on it. As I mentioned before, I self-published in 2003, which was to make it easier to give the book to friends and family who were interested in reading it. I also sold a few copies to cover the print costs, but that only made me forget it was still a first draft that needed a lot more fleshing out. But I put it down and drafted another novel, this one more in the fantasy genre, and it got me thinking about the potential for connecting the two. I went back to this one around 2007 to start that process, but there were plenty more missteps between then and now. I lost track of the exact number of drafts, but I’d guess there were at least three full rewrites (meaning tossing the whole thing in the garbage and starting fresh).
SYF: I’ve read *The Road Cain Walks*, and you have so many fresh and different
characters. How did you keep them (and the immense plot) straight while
Thanks for that! I started this final rewrite (and decided it was the final rewrite) at a pretty pivotal time in my life. I lost my grandfather to cancer and found out I was going to be a dad early in this draft, so grief and fatherhood became major themes in the story. Though each character is individual by their actions, I think the real thing that helped me keep them separate was how they related to those two themes. In every chapter, one or both elements are present in some form and define the focal character’s interactions with the world (and plot) around them. As for the plot itself, I credit that to throwing out the advice I always hear to write a full first draft before editing any of it. That might work for some writers, but I needed more control of how each chapter developed. Revising each as I went helped me do that and keep the events straight as the story progressed.
SYF: I definitely can relate to needing to find your own path when writing. Do you use any specialized software or other tools in doing your writing?
I’ve tried several over the years, but for this final version, I was pretty bare bones. I used Word to write and the notes app on my phone to keep track of any ideas that popped up along the way. I think the fanciest I got was using a seriously outdated version of Photoshop Elements to add color to my cover (which was hand drawn by an artist friend named Justin Doring).
SYF: What made you decide to self-publish?
These days, there are plenty of great reasons to choose self-publishing over traditional publishing, and I could cite them all as influencing factors. But the ultimate reason was that my book clocks in at about twice the upper limit of what agents and publishers will consider for a first-time author. I’d have to cut it in half to even get my foot in the door, but then The Road Cain Walks isn’t the book I want it to be. For better or worse, that’s an option we have now.
SYF: Any other words of wisdom or advice you’d like to give our readers?
Just write. Too many writers are caught up in becoming writers, building a platform, etc., when it really is as simple as putting the time in and words on paper. As with anything else, the more you do it, the better you’ll get. Write what satisfies you. This isn’t your job and you don’t have to treat it like one. A major turning point for me was accepting that I wasn’t making any money at it yet so it was technically a hobby. By definition, you should enjoy your hobbies and not let them stress you out, so that’s how I approached my writing. Most important, there are no “rules”. Anything you read about writing is nothing more than a suggestion and should be treated as such. Try it all and take or leave what does or doesn’t work for you.
SYF: Here, here! Thanks for your time Matt, and good luck!