Today I’m thrilled to feature author Kristi Helvig. Kristi is not only a wonderful author, she’s also one of my dear writer friends and a frequent attendee of all those writer brunches and author retreats I love going to.
Kristi Helvig is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist turned sci-fi/fantasy author. Her latest book, KILLER POINTE (Dark Edge Publishing) is an urban fantasy about a teen ballerina who plans to fund her dreams of attending Juilliard by serving as an assassin in a parallel fairy tale world. Kristi resides in sunny Colorado with her hubby, two kiddos, and behaviorally-challenged dogs.
Q: What inspired you to write Killer Pointe?
A: As a dance mom (but not like the kind pictured in the show), I’ve sat through countless ballet productions and dance competitions for my daughter who does ballet, jazz, contemporary, musical theater, lyrical and hip hop. She is in 8th grade and dances at least 20 hours per week, so I think many people don’t realize how intense dance is compared to other activities and how much strength is involved. It was entertaining one day to watch my daughter challenge her brother (a competitive athlete) to a plank-holding competition and blow him away. I’ve been so inspired by the dedication and commitment it takes to be a dancer and this book is dedicated to all the dancers in the world.
Q: Did you have to do any particular research for this book?
A: Yes, and I relied on one of my sisters who went to a school of the arts for ballet for high school and then danced professionally with a ballet company before going back to get her doctorate degree in physical therapy. Specifically, I needed a ballet move that could take down a bad guy. My sister knew of a woman who fended off a would-be attacker in New York with the same dance move I ended up using in the book. It was a fun scene to write.
Q: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
A: Most weekends, I’m usually found at the aforementioned dance competitions or at our son’s baseball games (he’s a pitcher). When I have rare downtime, I am usually curled up on the couch with my rescue greyhounds and a good book.
Q: What does your writing routine look like?
A: Every morning, my husband and I get up at 5:30am to take an hour walk. I am NOT a morning person, so this was a difficult habit to start but now I love it. It clears my head and gets the creative juices flowing. When I get back, I sit down with a cup of coffee and do a 5-10 minute meditation to get centered and then start writing. On weekdays, this gives me about an hour to write before I start my day job (I’m a Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist) and I shoot for 1K words each day. On the weekends, I can usually find larger blocks of time—last Sunday I wrote 4K and was happy with that. Sometimes, I read about these authors who crank out 10K words in a day and I’m just amazed. For now, I’ve learned to be happy with where I am. 1K is better than no K. 😊
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?
A: Sure. I queried what became my first published book, a sci-fi called Burn Out, to agents and was lucky enough to receive several offers of representation and chose an agent who was perfect for that book. That book and its sequel, Strange Skies, were bought by Egmont USA and I had a wonderful experience with everyone on that publishing team and can’t say enough good things about that whole process. However, shortly after my first book was published, Egmont USA was closed down by their parent company, Egmont UK. I learned so much going through all of that and about the publishing industry in general. Ultimately, I decided to part ways with my agent (who is awesome and I adore her) but I felt strongly that I wanted to do my own thing and she was very supportive and even managed to get the rights back to those two books for me (not an easy thing to do) after another publisher had obtained them from Egmont. So, that’s how Dark Edge Publishing came about. It’s been a blast—and also a ton of work. I love it though and really enjoy the creative control. I’m not averse to traditional publishing but it would take a lot to get me to give up the rights to my work again.
Q: Any advice for writers considering going indie?
A: Oh wow, that would be days of blog posts for all that advice. Most importantly, I would say to treat it like a business because is it. You don’t just write stories—you write ad copy, commission covers (if you don’t make them yourself), hire editors (please do this as you want your book to be as professional as possible), and of course, you build a readership and market the books. You wear so many hats as an indie that it can get overwhelming at times so be patient with yourself and hire out what you can afford, or don’t want to do. Take courses on marketing (there’s a great free one for how to do Amazon ads or Mark Dawson has a great paid course on Ads for Authors). And have fun with it—it’s not easy and some days will definitely be a grind—but you’re making up stories and getting paid for it. What could be better than that?
From the publisher: Dark Edge Publishing
Here are the two most important things to know:
1. I am going to be a professional dancer.
2. Every fairy tale you’ve ever read is a lie.
A prince didn’t rescue Rapunzel from her ivory tower nor did a huntsman save Little Red Riding Hood from a voracious wolf.
The men might get all the credit for it but I’m the one who makes bank. Sure, the official versions of these stories are altered in books but I’m good with that. I have bigger goals—like Juilliard School type goals.
Shifting between my world, with its ballet classes and homework, to the parallel world of Liralelle, with its witches and trolls, can be jarring at times but I’ve gotten the hang of it. That is, until the day a troll crashes my Sleeping Beauty audition and I’m asked to kill the most fearsome witch of all. Yet the pay for this final job will cover my entire Juilliard tuition—if only I can live long enough to make it there.