Crys is an American writer, but currently lives in Costa Rica with her son.
She’s been a full time writer of romance for several years and offers advice for writers of all genres.
She’s written for most of her life, but after she lost her job, she started writing full time. She has gotten out a large quantity of books in the last several years, which is what she attributes her success to, but also has led to some burnout.
[00:00:00] Crys: Are you working on your author career, but struggling to get that first book published? Does the goal of being an author seem too lofty? Or thoughts of having multiple books and making a full time living are as fantastical as living in Cinderella’s castle? Welcome to Discovered Wordsmiths, a podcast where you can learn more about the world around you.
[00:00:24] That’s where aspiring authors can be heard. Join Stephen Schneider as he finds and talks to authors you may not know, but authors that have gotten their foot on the author career path. Hear what they’ve done to get there and where they want to go now. Settle back. It’s time for a bit of inspiration and advice.
[00:00:42] Come listen to today’s Discovered Wordsmith.
[00:00:47] Stephen: Welcome to episode 60 of Discovered Wordsmiths, and this is another episode with a full time writer that has some great advice for newbies, somebody that hasn’t been doing it for decades and decades, but just [00:01:00] recently has become a full time writer, and I want to apologize that I tried to do these little Recordings talking before the episodes, but it seems like half the time I forget by the time I get through editing and listening to it, making notes.
[00:01:15] I forget to record this so. Any authors that I’ve interviewed that I have not, uh, done this on, I do apologize. It’s nothing personal. I just, um, forget sometimes. So, uh, I just wanted to welcome everybody to another new episode with a great author. And I hope that you’ll listen for another 60 episodes as I’ve got a whole bunch lined up and coming soon.
[00:01:43] So here’s Chris, who is, has a very interesting story of how she got started. Uh, Chris, thank you for taking some time coming on to talk to me. Uh, it’s good to see you and chat with you about some author stuff. Yeah, thanks for inviting me. First, uh, let’s tell everybody a little bit about [00:02:00] who you are and what you write.
[00:02:02] Crys: Uh, my name is Chris Kane and under a super secret pen name, I write romance, um, which I accidentally fell into. Um, And I teach some writing with, uh, the author success mastermind business stuff. I really have a passion for the author business and just any excuse to hang out with other writers.
[00:02:24] Stephen: Got it. And just, there’s a theme going on here.
[00:02:27] You’re like the third author from the author of success mastermind. So there you go. Anyone listening? Not part of that. You need to get on it. So how do you exactly fall into writing romance? I,
[00:02:42] Crys: I’ve been writing for a very long time, since high school, at least, and kind of fell away from it during college, got back into it after college, and started writing more regularly, but…
[00:02:57] I tend to [00:03:00] be all in on a project or all out. And it was really hard for me. I was not one of those people who was able to balance having a day job and completing writing stuff. So I had written this, I don’t know, 20 something thousand word novella in 2014, 2015, and it just sat on my hard drive and I did nothing with it.
[00:03:27] It was the first thing I’d ever completed. I was really proud of it. For that reason, and it just sat there and then in 2016, I had my son, I lost my job and, um, 2017, my now ex son and two dogs moved from Costa Rica, where we were living back to New York on the last pennies we had in our bank account to move into a tiny room in a house with my parents and my sister.
[00:03:56] And five days after I did that, [00:04:00] um, I uploaded this story with some tweaks. Cause a friend of mine was like, Oh, there’s this tiny niche genre that we should write. And I was like, Oh, I’ve read some of that. It would only take a few changes to this. Existing novella. I have to make it part of that niche. And so I put it out there cover.
[00:04:18] We’re going to co write on it, figured out a pen name. And I’d been following self publishing for so long. I’d been following self publishing for so long. And I knew that it was not realistic to expect to make any money on a first book. So I put it out there with no expectations whatsoever. But because it was so particularly this niche, I had my keywords, right?
[00:04:40] I had my cover, right? I had my blurb, right? It sold 20 the first day. And I knew how unusual that was. And I was still looking for new programming jobs at this point. It was like, if I just go all in on this, I don’t have to go back to an office ever again. And my then husband was like, well, like, let’s wait until like, you make like 3, 000 in a [00:05:00] month or close to making 3, 000 a month until we, you know, pull the plug on going and applying for jobs.
[00:05:06] And I was like, grumble, grumble, grumble. I’m like, I know that’s smart, but I also know. But that’s not going to happen. I’m going to make this work. And I did. Second month, I made 3, 000 and I have not made less than that since then. And it has been definitely quantity, uh, that has kept me solid, but, and it’s led me to several burnouts and I am trying to find a better way to approach my publishing schedule.
[00:05:32] But at the time it was definitely, I am terrified of being. Broke and next to homeless. I need to get my feet back under me. And that desperation energy just fueled
[00:05:44] Stephen: me. And I love that. Uh, I’ve talked to a couple other people that it seems like there’s two ways to do it. Jay is always talking about plan, make sure you’re ready, have that thing.
[00:05:55] And then there’s other people that say, well, if I just jump off the cliff without a net, I better build my wings [00:06:00] or else. But you didn’t plan for that. You almost were just like, you know,
[00:06:04] Crys: whatever. I got pushed off the cliff. That’s what happened.
[00:06:09] Stephen: And, and, but that’s, but you did want to write. It was kind of like a timing thing.
[00:06:15] I mean, it really, you know, six months later, a year later, you might not have done that. And you could be totally doing something different. Still, all your programming stuff.
[00:06:25] Crys: Absolutely. And I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’m like, Hey, I want to play around with the program again for fun, but it took me a while.
[00:06:31] That’s crazy.
[00:06:32] Stephen: I’m at the other point right now.
[00:06:38] You were doing programming before that. And I’ve talked to actually quite a large number of computer program people that now write. So what do you think that connection is? It’s
[00:06:49] Crys: the learning. It’s the correlation. We want something where we’re not bored. And that is why most of us go into programming because you’re always going to be behind.
[00:06:59] Because there’s [00:07:00] always going to be more to learn. And with writing, there is no done. There is only… Good enough and most programs are like that, too. I think one of the skills that I am so grateful that I’m the most grateful for. From my, uh, programming days are code reviews. And for those who don’t know what code reviews are, it’s, it, it’s kind of like a critique group for your code, except 10 times worse, just imagine the worst critique group you’ve ever been a part of, but then you, your code could mean like whether people accidentally lose thousands or millions of dollars, and so people are extra, extra like particular.
[00:07:43] About that review. There’s
[00:07:45] Stephen: lot of one upmanship also
[00:07:48] Crys: sometimes certain people. I had a really good team, however. And so when I first started being like the young and scarce, just out of college person, I was, and I, and I had to go through code reviews. My initial [00:08:00] response was very defensive, very F you.
[00:08:02] And then I, and then I learned to love the code view because I had people I could trust. And so I was like, all right, tear it apart. Tell me how to do this better. And I was able to take that attitude of the reviews. Aren’t bad. With me into publishing. And I am one of those strange creatures who goes on Goodreads to find my one star reviews when I need a giggle, because I love them.
[00:08:25] Stephen: And I love that analogy though, thinking about the code review, because so many people are afraid to put their work out. Oh no, it’s not ready. It’s not this. It’s not that, but I, like you, I found I, I get it out there. And if I find the right people to give me the feedback and even like Jay a couple times says.
[00:08:43] You know, okay, it’s going to be brutal. It’s rough. And it’s, and I was like, well, I’m not looking for daisies and for you to say, Oh, this is wonderful. I’ve got people to do that. And it doesn’t help me. If you, you know, if you want to be the professional, you’ve got to get those, that feedback, get the professional [00:09:00] feedback because you’re too close to it.
[00:09:02] That, you know, there’s how many times with code, the same way with writing, you’re looking at something for hours and someone comes up and says, Oh, you forgot a semicolon. Yeah. You know, in the same writing. And I think when authors are afraid to get that feedback that maybe they’re not ready for it, which is fine.
[00:09:21] But you can’t really then move to the next level or a couple levels until you start accepting that and getting that
[00:09:28] Crys: yes, and there’s a, there’s another phrase in programming, um, that I’ve found very pertinent for writing and it’s bring the pain forward. And this may not be a programming thing, particularly, but programmers say it a lot.
[00:09:41] Uh, at least a lot of the good ones that I like to. And that idea is, um. Do the painful thing more often. So it’s not a big pain. So it’s just a bunch of little pains. And if it’s painful enough, you’ll automate it away in programming. We can’t quite automate much away yet in writing, uh, for me, [00:10:00] publishing a ridiculous amount of books very quickly and getting those reviews back on those books from readers very quickly.
[00:10:10] Was one of the best things I could have done as a starting author, and I would not have had the time or energy to do that were I in a job, but I literally was, you know, watching my kiddo and writing and I had my whole family to help me watch my kiddo at the same time. So I had a lot of time for writing and we were published at least once a month for the first year, and I think my average has been over one a month for the last four years that I’ve been doing this.
[00:10:37] And bringing that pain forward and doing that very often, having that iterative development, that iterative process, I didn’t, you know, I’d spent years and years learning the art and craft of writing as a wannabe, but once I was in the trenches and I was finishing things, that’s where a lot of my true learning came in, because I was putting things [00:11:00] into it.
[00:11:00] You know, out there into implementation, seeing what worked and what didn’t. And then instead of trying to make the next book as perfect as it could be, I took what I learned from that book, applied it to the next book, and then just move forward rather than agonizing over any particular book being
[00:11:16] Stephen: amazing.
[00:11:17] Yes. And I I’ve hit that kind of myself. I’ve talked to other authors. I’ve seen a couple. Authors locally. I go to something at the library and oh, hey, how you doing? You know, it’s been a year. How’s your book coming? Oh, i’m still working on i’m like really that that was the book you were already working on for a year And i’ve come to realize that myself That you have to hit a level where you really do have to stop and move on the next thing because you’re not making it better um, do you and obviously You’re programming background kind of went along with that because you’ve got deadlines.
[00:11:50] You’ve got to get that code, learn it, get it out. It’s not quite the same, but very similar.
[00:11:55] Crys: Yeah. Thankfully we’re more in charge of our deadlines as writers. [00:12:00] I recently had just this past weekend, uh, one of the very few deadlines that I stressed about because I did have a pre order deadline that I need to hit.
[00:12:08] Um, and in the past I have been able to meet those just fine, but the. The exhaustion of 2020 is still clinging, and I ended up having to pull an all nighter the night before it was due to the editor, uh, to complete it, and I never ever want to do that again.
[00:12:25] Stephen: And you are in control. I am
[00:12:28] Crys: in control, so I don’t need to set pre orders anymore.
[00:12:31] Stephen: But I love to point that out. You are a full time fiction writer, uh, in the indie world, uh, at least in the circles I’ve run in that you’re in, that there’s not a lot of people that write full time fiction and nothing else. You don’t have a course. Well, you’re working on a few things now, but up until this point, you’ve done that, but you’re still…
[00:12:54] Treating it professional, you still have an editor, you still get beta readers feedback. You still do [00:13:00] the covers that are professional and all of that. I assume the first books weren’t quite like that. So what, why do you think that they took off and helped you do so well to get to the point where you could be more professional?
[00:13:13] Uh, one,
[00:13:13] Crys: it was definitely because it was romance and, uh, in a hot niche that I had a lot of luck with that. I can’t maximize, I don’t know what the word is that I’m looking for, but I can’t emphasize that point enough. Like, yes, I think I’m a decent writer, but I didn’t do all the research and figure out, Hey, this niche is really up and kicking and profitable.
[00:13:36] Let me write something in it. I just lucked out. I just happened to have something that worked for this niche and it. Worked out for me. Had I published in science fiction and fantasy where my, my love and my heart is, I don’t think I would have had the same experience. And when I do start publishing science fiction and fantasy, I expect it will be a much slower roll for income.
[00:13:59] Stephen: What, what type [00:14:00] of advice there would you tell some other new authors? Cause there’s probably some out there going, Oh, I’ve got three books out in something, mystery, science fiction, whatever, and it’s not happening. And here’s Chris, you know, she wrote a book and second month made 3, 000. Well, I want to do that.
[00:14:15] What advice would you tell them about that?
[00:14:19] Crys: If you’re excited about the challenge of writing to a trend. You can totally go ahead and try it. Not the challenge of making money, or the hope of making money, but the challenge of writing to a trend that you haven’t written in before. If that excites you, then go for it, because that’s going to give you capital and money and experience.
[00:14:38] But if you’re not the kind of person who is really excited about digging into a trend, reading a bunch of books, figuring out what makes them work, and then very quickly writing your own book in that genre, Uh, then don’t do that. It’s not going to work for most people. I have actually tried it in other genres.
[00:14:56] It really doesn’t work for me because I, I do have the excitement [00:15:00] and challenge of learning a new genre. But I don’t have the stick to it iveness once I’ve done one book. That’s the other thing. You’ve got those three books out. I’m sorry, like, that’s a drop in the bucket. Keep on writing. That first month that I published, um, my co writer and I published three different books.
[00:15:20] One was like 16, 000. One was… 30, 000, one was 26, 000, uh, between the two of us, we published three books that first month. We published two books the next month and that more than anything, I like really popped us up from like, Hey, we had one decent book because we were new on the scene in a hungry market to, Hey, we are consistently producing, uh, new on the scene in a hungry market.
[00:15:46] Stephen: Now, do you think in your thoughts, opinions that writers, professional writers, competent writers, someone who can write it, craft a good story can write in multiple genres, can write different genres? Cause that’s another [00:16:00] argument and debate that goes on at times.
[00:16:03] Crys: I think absolutely depending on the personality, I think everyone has the ability, but whether they have the enjoyment is a completely different question.
[00:16:13] Stephen: Agreed. Agreed. And I ask that cause I come from a music background. I have a music mindset at times. And when I was in school, I liked rock and roll. I played in a rock band. We did well, but when I was in school, I played jazz and I played classical and I learned how to play cello, which I thought was cool, but didn’t really want to.
[00:16:33] My, so my point is as a professional musician, you’re expected to be able to play multiple genres, to know the different styles that if you sat down with the country band. You would know the standard chord progressions. You would know the style and how to make it feel like a country song Even if you then turned around and went and played with the orchestra the next day And so that’s been my thought with writing.
[00:16:57] I know a lot of people disagree with that and I think [00:17:00] you’re right It’s probably partly some training probably some partly some mindset. Um, but I I agree. I don’t think somebody who Last year was writing sci fi while working a day job running a family and this year just wants to jump on romance Probably would not succeed as well.
[00:17:17] I agree with that.
[00:17:18] Crys: Yeah, and you asked me like, you know, how this I’m paraphrasing but basically how should new writers get started and My best advice is to figure out what true success is for you. That isn’t necessarily monetarily based. It’s not a number. It might be supported by the money. It might be my success is being able to stay home with my kids because they’re, you know, not school age yet.
[00:17:48] And, or it might be, I get to take an extra vacation when we’re allowed to go places again. Find what your visual of success [00:18:00] is, what it changes in your life, what kind of life you have before you figure out what that success number is, because the number is actually kind of arbitrary because you may be able to figure out how to have your successful life without hitting any particular number or that number may fluctuate on any given year.
[00:18:22] And trying to measure yourself against the numbers, especially if you’re a member of 20 books, 50 K where, you know, people are really open with their numbers, which I love, I’m a numbers nerd, but it can be really depressing to someone who is, I’ve been at this for three years and the most I’ve made in a month is 50.
[00:18:40] Stephen: And actually that’s funny you say that, that’s why I started the podcast, because all we ever saw on there was people making 500, 000 and all we ever heard on the podcast interviews was people making tons of money and successful. I said, well, there’s like thousands of new authors out there wanting to get their voice.
[00:18:59] And [00:19:00] those would help me, you know, as a new author to hear somebody else who struggled. That was really the podcast. Um, and I, I was just talking to Zach earlier today. People forget some of the benefits of working for yourself. Writing is just one choice. There’s many things you could do in work at home, work for yourself.
[00:19:20] He doesn’t have to pay for childcare. Like you said, he doesn’t have to drive his car every day for an hour. So how much money is, are you saving from that? You know, well, heck, instead of making 75, 000, you might only have to make 40 now and that, you know, it’s a totally different thing. And he’s home with his kid.
[00:19:38] He gets to go to the school stuff, which I’m sure you do too. And
[00:19:41] Crys: that’s my kid was not in school yet. He’s very excited about it. He’s been asking about it for two years. And I’m like, man, soon, soon.
[00:19:49] Stephen: It’s covered. So. You live down in Costa Rica. What, where’d that choice come from? That’s an interesting choice for me.
[00:19:57] Crys: There was a, there was a drunken [00:20:00] night of watching Robin Hood Men in Tights. Um, actually for reals, uh, a friend of mine had just recently gone through a pretty messy divorce and she had done all this research, she wanted to get her teaching as an English second language. Teaching English as a second language certification, she wanted to go somewhere that was a Spanish speaking country to get it there.
[00:20:20] She chose Costa Rica. And while we were delightfully tipsy watching this movie, she’s like, you should go to Costa Rica too. And I was like, I mean, me in a red hot minute, I’ve wanted to move out of the States just for fun for a long time. And, uh, my ex was very involved in local state politics in Tennessee.
[00:20:42] And so he was not ready. Most of the time, but we’d recently had like a crisis of life, which I’d expected two years previous. I did not expect him to stay in an office job that long at a crisis of life. And he’s like, can we actually do that? And I was like, let [00:21:00] me run the numbers. And it’s like, yeah, we can do that.
[00:21:02] Uh, we ended up leaving about three months from that conversation. We wrapped life up very quickly. And I kept my job. I told him, Hey, if you want to keep me, let me know how we do this. If not, I’ve got to look for another job. They’re like, yeah, we want to keep you. We made it work. And then I sent him down to Costa Rica three weeks before three weeks before me said, find me a bed and internet so that I can get back to work right away.
[00:21:28] And, uh, We were in the Capitol for four months, and then we came down to the tiny little beach town that I am currently in. And the plan was to be there three or four months and then go to Panama or Nicaragua. We were planning on slow traveling, and we just never left. This town’s amazing. And so we had our anchor baby who lets us have full residency in Costa Rica.
[00:21:48] He’s dual citizen. Here I
[00:21:52] Stephen: am. That’s a great, and I love, I’ve discovered looking back on my life, the [00:22:00] best things that have ever happened in my life is when I did what we said earlier, jumped off the cliff and built the wings, you know, some people would play. When your
[00:22:08] Crys: stomach, when your stomach is clenching nonstop, like it’s just the bottom is falling out of it constantly and your heart is racing, you’re generally on the right path.
[00:22:20] Stephen: Yeah, I agree. And that’s, I’ve worked from home for over 20 years and literally it was because I had a good job. I went into work one day and they said, you know what? We’re downsizing and you were the last one hired. So go back home. And it was like, well, I can’t do that again. And I started working from home and I made it work and I’ve got my kids.
[00:22:41] And you know, now writing is coming up in the amount of work I’m doing on it, uh, compared to everything else. So, yeah, it. I agree. Jump off the cliff, build your wings, just do it. Don’t say, oh, I want to do that someday. It’s it doesn’t work. Just do it. [00:23:00]
[00:23:00] Crys: Yeah. And I mean, if you’re looking to change all your life, I highly recommend moving out of the States to a cheaper country.
[00:23:06] I mean, Costa Rica is not that cheap. It’s Mexico, Guatemala, highly recommend it lower your income, uh, requirements. You don’t have to make as much. It’s exciting.
[00:23:18] Stephen: Yes. And that’s something else I’ve talked about our kids, uh, the way they’re going to work there, they’re go work from their phone. They’re going to have.
[00:23:26] Five different side hustles they do instead of working for one person and driving to work and they can live anywhere and they could travel. I mean, there are a nomad lifestyle. How many people now are doing RVs and doing their job, either programming or writing or something, you know, so it’s, it’s a changing workforce in the world and it’s a, it’s a global world, you know, people are collaborating on books in different countries.
[00:23:53] I love that. Yeah.
[00:23:54] Crys: My co writer and I write in Google Docs and she’s in Nevada and I’m here. That’s [00:24:00] great. But no matter where I travel, we keep working. It doesn’t, you know, I can work anywhere as long as there’s
[00:24:05] Stephen: wifi. Right. My, my cousin’s getting, his building is closing up. So he’s getting retired early and he said, April, he’s traveling.
[00:24:14] You want to come along? I’m like, I would love to, but my wife can’t, you know? So it’s like, oh, that’s too bad. So, uh, any other advice you would give new authors, uh, Chris? Don’t
[00:24:28] Crys: weigh your personal worth on people’s response to your books. Uh, that is something that I am going to be struggling with more as I do start writing, like publishing science fiction, fantasy, uh, under my real name.
[00:24:46] Um, a secondary, like, piece of advice, if you are worried about how people will look at you as a human because of your books, hide under a pen name. Writing romance has been the [00:25:00] best unpaid but hidden internship in the world. And I definitely wouldn’t trade the last four years for anything as far as that goes.
[00:25:11] Maybe the burnouts. I could do without the burnouts.
[00:25:15] Stephen: But again, you’re in control. So if you are getting burnt out, you can slow down and there are other things you can do in ways you can look at your stuff. I’ve, I’ve seen that. I’ve seen people say, Oh, uh, you should, everybody should write short stories.
[00:25:29] And there are people like, no, short stories don’t sell. Some people say, well, I’ve sold a lot of, you know, so. I don’t think there’s any one truth. Uh, there’s a way to make just about any of it work. If you’re thinking about it, looking at it.
[00:25:43] Crys: Yeah. A lot of the reasons that I had multiple burnouts or one long burnout with multiple slopes, um, was I had to come out of a fear of money, which I think.
[00:25:53] Americans in particular, we just have that regardless of whether we have a good job or not, most of us [00:26:00] have a fear of money. We have a fear of not having enough money and especially after losing my job and running out of money, running up debt and I was very, very anxious and fearful and worked myself harder than I had to because I was afraid to go back to that place.
[00:26:18] Um, I don’t have really much advice on like changing money mindsets. I’m still working on it myself much better these days, but that’s probably one of the things I think is the biggest pitfall for writers is money. Basing their self worth on the money that’s coming in and to. Needing money to come in that maybe isn’t coming in,
[00:26:46] Stephen: right?
[00:26:46] But that’s also one of the great things with writing as a side job or second career. Because if your main job is paying all your bills or most of your bills, you can use this to get other things caught up. So it’s a good, and [00:27:00] you don’t have to stop writing just because you hit retirement age. I know lots of people and I’ve interviewed several.
[00:27:05] I mean, I’ve talked to people who a guy who was a lawyer for 45 years, retired and wrote a book when he was 70, you know, I’ve talked to several like that. So it’s, it’s a great choice for people in their whole lives. Yeah. As a full thing. Absolutely. So, what do you like to read real quick?
[00:27:26] Crys: I like to read, I mean, science fiction, I’m all, I’m one of the all over the board readers, which I think most writers are, most writers seem to be all over the board readers.
[00:27:36] Readers might be particular genre readers, but we writers all over the board and I’ve had a real problem reading. Not fantasy, uh, fiction this year, but I’ve read a lot of nonfiction and I’m addicted to business books, to mindset books, to writing books. Um, but anything that just captures me, uh, and [00:28:00] in science fiction, fantasy tend to do that the most because it’s all the things I wish that could be.
[00:28:05] And they get to be real for me for a while.
[00:28:08] Stephen: Oh, just go back and read fantasy and science fiction from the thirties and forties, because all that stuff is real now. All that’s
[00:28:14] Crys: real,
[00:28:15] Stephen: except the flying men. Okay. There we go. All right. Well, Chris, I appreciate you taking some time and chatting with me today.
[00:28:22] Uh, it’s been great. We’ll talk again, Saturday. All right, see you then. See ya. Thank
[00:28:29] Crys: you for listening to Discovered Wordsmiths. Come back next week and listen to another author discuss the road they’ve traveled and maybe, sometime in the near future, it might be you.