Episode 121B – Kristina Rienzi – Writing Fiction and Non-Fiction

Overview

Kristina has written both fiction and non-fiction. This is more than most authors, so we have a great discussion on what it’s like to write both – how they’re different and what to expect.

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Transcript

Let’s do some author talk. So before we get onto our topic You’ve been writing for a while and you wrote fiction and now some nonfiction.

So what are some things that you have learned that you’re doing differently than when you started?

Kristina: Okay when I started out writing fiction, I was very much by the book. Everything was, I would take a class and I would follow the rules and it was holding me back. And what I’ve learned to do is trust myself.

And now, although I will still outline cuz so for a thriller, it would be plotting, right? Plotting a little bit outlining, but for nonfiction, you really have to have everything figured out. You can’t just go by the wayside BEC just go in circles and write in a circle because you’re never gonna get the point across.

It’s a little bit more structured and needs to be. So I’ve taken what I’ve learned from plotting. Thrillers and what works for me and my voice and translating that into non-fiction by doing something very similar, completely different content, but I really need to make sure that my book is outlined before I even write a word because it for non-fiction, it’s a very specific message you’re sending and you wanna make sure that somebody’s getting out of it.

What you intend. And so it just going through that process and writing thrillers, I had to translate that over to nonfiction and just having exercised that for so many years was really helpful. Also the casual conversation. Writing in a casual way, like I’m speaking to the reader very helpful, and non-fiction, it’s easy to get bogged down in science and data and facts.

And I think you’ve gotta be able to translate that. So like anybody who’s reading it will understand. And so that was so helpful for me. And just being, just learning all of those things about writing and the art of writing and the craft of writing. It works. What, no matter what you’re writing, it works. You’re obviously not doing character development in a nonfiction book, but you’re still telling a story. There’s an element of storytelling. A lot of my nonfiction is telling my story and why this is important and what I learned and how it can be translated for the reader. So there were a lot of things that kind of actually did work from just years of training and editing and taking classes and fiction.

Stephen: Nice. Yeah. Something, we could talk a little bit more about in a bit. But the skills you learned in one translated to help with the other, and you even mentioned your non-fiction trying to do it in a narrative fashion. And I think that’s a not trend necessarily, but I think more non-fiction is doing that nowadays.

It’s not so cut dried business. Like they’re making it in the story, making it accessible for people. I think that’s a big thing that’s changing in the non-fiction. Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So what software and services do you use?

Kristina: So I use velum. I also use Scrivener. I have. So a Scrivener is really where I was using writing my fiction.

So I still do a little bit in there, but I really have trans vem is really the product that will produce the book. But I also like writing in there because I feel like it gives me a visual. I’m very visual with things. So I need to see what my cover’s gonna look like. That motivates me. I wanna see the chapters.

I wanna see what they’re gonna look like. And that just it’s almost as if when I plot it out and I put everything in vem because it is showing you what the book’s gonna look. The book is already written, even though I haven’t written it yet, I have my chapters. It gives it pushes me forward.

It’s already done, so you have to finish it. It’s just a psychological thing. A trick. I play on myself to get through it, but absolutely velum. I love, I always, Scrivener will always be my tried and true writer software. I do work with people. People make people that make this book, world thing happen.

I have an author assistant who helps me. Everything from my website to proofing my book, to getting it up on the platforms. I also work with an editor of course, and it a little bit different for non-fiction, but I have an editor who has written. Technical nonfiction who writes thrillers also, who understands me.

And you get, you have to have somebody who gets you also because a lot of editing is asking questions. What are you trying to say? What where is this going? I think you need more information. Like you want the editor to ask the right questions, not just edit it for line edits. So I have somebody who knows me, so sh we can have conversations and she can push me. And I never feel like. Defensive. I just, I wanna get the product out the way that it needs to get out. And then of course, and I do work with a public relations person, because I’m really terrible at promoting.

And I think when you’re an author, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are. And one of my weaknesses is. Promoting my stuff. And I know that’s more of a skill. Like you just, you there’s, there are things you can learn to do, but for me, it’s just, I’m not good at it.

I’m not good at that. And I need to push myself to do that. So I have somebody who helps me with that, but it is its a team effort.

Stephen: And so that’s a smart thing. People always say don’t skip an editor find an editor, somebody that can edit your story. And same with marketing.

If you’re not good at you, don’t enjoy it. If you hire somebody that can help with that, it takes the burden off of you.

Kristina: Yeah, and I’m not good. And you know what it is. I would like it. I don’t mind it. I really don’t. I like connecting with readers, but I never know if what I’m doing is worth doing are people paying attention?

What should I be sharing and not sharing and I’m getting there. But I think because I was I’m so like many authors concerned about the product I’m putting together and selling, but just tell people that you have a product. And what the value is. And yes, and also with audio books, hiring an audio narrator, audiobook, narrator.

That’s not what I do. And I’m very good about Hey, this is your expertise, not mine. I trust you. I value what you’re trained in, do your job. And I’m here to support it. Like vice versa. I’m writing the book you have to help me with getting that message out. So yeah, it is important. I think we do try to take it all on.

And I think when people hear the word self-publishing or indie publishing, they think, oh my God, I would do everything. The truth is everything’s gonna fall on you anyway, if your book’s gonna be successful. But at the end of the day, as an indie author, you have control over who those people are, whereas with a publisher, and we can talk about this separately.

I know we wanted to touch on this. It’s a little bit different, but at the end of the day, you’re not doing everything yourself, there’s a team of people,

Stephen: So besides doing podcasts, what are some of the other marketing things you’re doing?

Kristina: So I have my email list. I do, I am on social media on Facebook and Instagram and I try to post pretty regularly.

I will do podcasts. I will also do presentations. I’ve done workshops. I wanna do a little bit, I wanna do more of those because those are really fun. And now that it’s COVID is on its way out. I hope, or at least things are opening up more. In person has been great to connect with people, but I absolutely have no problem doing things online.

Just trying to connect with people on the message of my book and as many people as I can get to, to talk with about that I’ve also done, I’ve submitted my books for awards and actually five happy choices, one a book award which was great. And things like just getting the word out is more, I think, than just Emailing or sending stuff out on social media, it’s connecting with people about your message and people who need to hear it or wanna hear it.

That’s how word of mouth spreads. That’s how things happen. And I think that’s not something you can control. And I know people always say, at least in the book world oh this book was so great because word of mouth and you can’t really control that. You have some control over what you put out there, but it’s not that one thing that hits the right spot in the market and for people and takes off.

It could be anything there’s a little bit of luck involved and it isn’t. And I wanna say this to authors who are listening. It is very frustrating. I understand cuz I’m an author also to try to control the end of that process. Like you wrote the book, you put it out there now you are trying to control sales.

It’s very hard because you cannot control sales. You actually can’t control anything that happens after you put the book out there. All you can do is show. Give your tell everybody what your message is, what your book is about and hope for the best, do the best that you can with what you have.

But what, however, the world is gonna accept your story is how it’s gonna be. And they may accept a story that you didn’t think was that great. Or you were thinking this isn’t the one I thought was gonna be so big and be a hit. And so you just have to trust in your ability and what you’re doing and put the best product out there and make sure you tell people about it in a way that is genuine and authentic.

And whatever happens from that point is out of your.

Stephen: And you mentioned that you’re doing the non-fiction book self-published, but you’ve worked with a publisher and you just kinda hinted at differences in what you’re. So what are some of those differences? Why did you wanna do this? Self-published and what control are you finding different or what things do you wish that you had more help with, that you used to have?

What, some of those differences before we go into fiction nonfiction part.

Kristina: Yeah, sure. That’s a great question. And everyone has their D own experience, right? So the first book that I published, the first book I wrote my debut novel, choosing evil was the first book that went to a publisher. I didn’t know any better.

And I say this in a way there’s nothing wrong with self-publishing, but I didn’t even think of self-publishing. I’m like I have to get a publisher. And I was following in the footsteps of all of my traditionally published friends. And I did a lot of different things but what worked for me for this book was a Twitter pitch.

I did a Twitter pitch, I got a bunch of requests and then I had a publisher pick up choosing evil and it’s sequel breaking evil. And it was a wonderful experience. I didn’t know any better meaning. I just did what I thought I was supposed to be doing. And I got lucky that somebody wanted my book and paid me for it.

And all of those kinds of things. But this was also when self-publishing had just started getting big. And I didn’t realize all of the benefits that could come from that. And by the way, I have several friends who are ridiculously successful more than traditionally published with self-published books.

So there’s, you can do it anyway, right? There’s no right or wrong. It was a great experience. I loved my editor. I loved the people I worked with. They were very supportive. They were very helpful, but I had very little under my control. There were things I had to give up control of and I was totally fine with that.

Cuz again, I. Asked I didn’t know any better. I hadn’t had any other experience. This was my experience. And while I was with the publisher and I did two books with them, I went out on my own with novella learning shadows, and I decided to go under a group of self-published authors and we did a multier novel.

So in other words, a multi standalone series. So every book was its own book, but it was part of a bigger. Series. So the series was just the location and the characters, and you could cross pollinate characters, but it was all different stories. I wrote thrillers. A lot of them wrote romance. That experience was so much fun for me because I got back to do the cover I wanted to do.

I was able to do a lot with the story that my publisher wanted me to do different things with my story. Like they wanted it to be in a different genre than I had written. And so it was just a little bit more controlling and what, as a new author, I was gonna go with the flow I’m gonna do what you tell me to do.

Cause I wanna sell books. Yeah. And I didn’t, and there was nothing wrong with any of it. They didn’t do anything wrong. It was all good. But I think having had the experience of indie publishing and I am a planner, I’m a driven person. I like to control the things that I have a responsibility.

What bothered me, and this is me and nothing against I, I would definitely do the traditional route again in the future, but what bothered me was that my name is on this cover and I have like very little control over the book. The cover. Would it look like the edits? If there was an error things like imprint, anything.

I had very little control over and there were some things that I was happy with and some things I wasn’t happy with. So with there’s more responsibility with indie publishing, cuz it’s all you, but I have more control over it and I have multiple people looking at it. And so I take full responsibility.

If something isn’t perfect or something happens, but I had a say in it. And that is what I wanted. Again, I wouldn’t turn it down. It’s just for this, at this point in my life where I wanted to do what I wanted to do and experiment creatively. I could write in any genre I wanted, like I was writing in thriller, but I write science fiction, paranormal.

I write domestic psychological thrillers, domestic thrillers, like I’m writing all these different genres. That’s not fitting under your typical brand with a traditional publisher. So it just was easier for me to indie publish and I got my rights back and I indie published those two books.

Stephen: Nice. Okay. For our topic we were to talk fiction versus nonfiction, and I think it’s interesting because I know a lot of authors just stick with writing non or writing fiction or non-fiction and what I seem to see is when they write fiction, it’s several books, a series, several series, that type of thing.

Non-fiction, it’s one, two or three book. It’s a limited number of books, but if they cross a lot of times, authors get the thought in their head. I’m an author. I write fiction. I’m going to write a non-fiction book about how to. And they stick with that type of topic, but you went something completely different mental health issues, helping people be happy.

So why make the choice to go non-fiction first of all when you’ve been successful with fiction and why choose the mental health and something like that, as opposed to the million other things you could have. That’s

Kristina: a great question, cuz I do, I have seen, I don’t know if you agree, but I have seen a lot of fiction authors venture out into non-fiction not and in the writing, but I’ve also seen some touch on other things.

They’ve had experiences with PTSD or anxiety, things like that. Which is interesting to me, they usually partner with somebody who’s got the background, but so yeah, that’s a great question. I didn’t, I don’t feel and I’m gonna be very honest about this. I don’t feel like I’m. Expert on writing in any way, shape or form.

I have my way of writing. I like to write it’s great. That’s not my calling or expertise. Like I, wouldn’t not that I wouldn’t teach help somebody with that, but I feel like where I Excel, where I’m educated, where I have experience is on the psychology side is on the mental health side. And so writing thrillers was a passion of mine.

I love it. It’s so exciting, but I had a lot to learn and I learned from all of these people. I feel like whatever you’re gonna write in non-fiction, at least for me is what you’re driven. To do in life. What you’re calling is what you’re good at, what you’re educated in. Like you have something to offer.

So for me, it was this. I had something to offer that I wasn’t sharing. I have I’m going for my doctorate in psychology. I have my master’s in psychology. I have a certified professional coaching certification. I have a certificate in happiness studies, which again, took me all year long to get these aren’t little things I did online in like a class.

I go in all in, I love this stuff. This is like all happening behind the scenes. As I’m writing my thrillers. And my experience in work I have, I’m not gonna say how many years it’ll age me, but a lot of decades, a few decades of experience in leadership, in behavior, in performance, in all of these things.

So I have all of this stuff that no one’s getting from me. And by the way, any friend who calls me is called me about that stuff, I need help with this. What do I do about that? I’m coaching people. I’m helping them with employment things. I’m not sharing it with. So I thought, you know what? This is crazy for me not to share.

I want to share what I’ve learned and what my experience is. And by the way, I’ve also struggled with anxiety. I have panic attacks that’s a real thing. I had a really difficult time dealing with grief. When my mom died with COVID, I went into a panic. I’ve had my own experiences. I could be educated in everything in the world, but guess what?

I’m human. Things are gonna happen. And I have had these experiences, so I thought, why not take my writing? Training my writing voice, my writing platform and use it for good versus evil. No, but I’m writing thrill or evil, you know what I mean? And I say that as a joke, but it’s true. It’s like, why not use my powers for good.

And yeah, I’ve really wanted to just share what I’ve learned and what I have to offer. And that was what I had a lot of other writers have writing. Experience to share. And that just wasn’t my place. I didn’t feel like that was where I fit. I feel like I fit here. And so I went with that. I trusted my gut and I said, this is where I’m gonna, I’m just gonna go out and limb.

It was a big jump. It was uncomfortable for me because it wasn’t my comfort zone. I hadn’t done anything like this before, but I knew every the material, like it’s very comfortable for me to talk about to live. I live my life like this learning, working on myself, all that. Experiencing things and figuring them out.

That’s just my whole life. I lived this way. So it was very natural for me to write this and very comfortable in that sense, but sharing it was difficult. Because I hadn’t ever shared anything. And you would go through it. We talk about imposter syndrome all the time. I had major imposter syndrome with nonfiction.

Who am I to write this? Who am I, everyone look at me. Like you have seven degrees in psychology. What do you mean? Who are you? But it’s real. Who am I? Like, why should I be writing about happiness? Why I’m not a BNE brown or whoever that and they’re established people in the marketplace with their books, but it doesn’t matter.

You’ve gotta. Come from a place of authenticity and passion and drive. And if you’re of service and you wanna help people, you gotta get your story and information out. You’re sharing information who what’s so bad about that. I feel like that’s

Stephen: I? Yes, absolutely. And I love that you’re using your training putting it into this format, but it sounds like the book isn’t So dry and textbook that you, we talked about this, you wanted to put it into more of a narrative.

Do you think that is helping make it more successful than it would’ve been? Or do you think that people look at it as, eh, it’s not real book or real self-help or anything like that? What’s your thoughts, feelings on that type of thinking?

Kristina: I don’t know. I, and this is my personal opinion, cuz I’ve only, this is my first.

I wanted, it was very important for me to get something out that was short, simple and simple. I absolutely put references in there for different studies that were done. And just a little bit, I didn’t wanna go heavy with that because I thought this isn’t a journal article. I do think it resonated with people cause I spoke to them.

It was I don’t, I write in the third person. And thrillers. Okay. This is first person, obviously it’s actually second person, cuz I’m saying you it’s second person. And I’m talking about my story. So it is more conversational. It is if you pick this up, I’m talking to you, I’m like I’m talking to you right now.

I feel like what I would not what I would do differently for this, cuz this was meant to be a very. Quick and easy guide that you don’t have to spend hours divulging into. You can just go and find it go, okay, this makes sense. Here’s a story that I can relate to. Okay. Let’s move on. That’s what I wanted it to be.

But I do think in the future, my goal, and especially being in school now and learning is to still do that conversational talk, but put a little bit more backing to. That is based in even more science and data and examples. I just didn’t wanna weigh it down. This was a five happy choices. It’s a, it’s called the simple way to a happier life.

I didn’t wanna make it the complicated way to a happier life. I don’t want any book I write to be boring, but I think. Depending on the topic, you’re gonna have a heavier content behind it. This was something for me to, that was easy and quick to do the Journal’s even bigger than that, because it’s all a workbook.

But yeah, I think some people are no, one’s, you can’t please, everybody. Some people are gonna say, oh it’s not enough science. Other people are gonna say it’s it’s just the right amount of science or it’s too conversational. I. To read a journal article those kinds of things.

And everybody it’s, if it’s not for somebody, they shouldn’t buy it. I really, I don’t I feel very strongly that this book is gonna. Be a book that speaks to you or doesn’t and if it speaks to you, that’s great. If you buy it I hope that it helps you, but I don’t want anybody I want whoever buys it to be getting something out of it, like the whole point was to help you.

If you read it , if you don’t think it’s gonna help you, then I don’t then that’s not something that I would want you to spend your money on, cuz you work hard for your money. I don’t care if it’s a dollar or $10, like everybody works really hard for their money. Spend it on things that are going to make your life better.

And if you feel like my book is one of those things, awesome. I’m happy that you picked it up. But that’s how I feel. I feel like it’s gonna go to people who need it. It’s gonna go to people who are looking for something to help them. And that’s really my goal in writing. I could break thrillers forever.

And that was fine for me. Just like you. I chose to do this for a different reason. It wasn’t a be, and it never should be in my mind about making money. It’s about sharing your gift with the world. This is what I believe truly in my heart and how I live my life. My part of my gift is writing, but part of my gift is connecting with people and understanding people and having empathy and helping them.

I’ve always been a helper. And so I feel like that was my goal. If it sells one copy, great. If it sells a million awesome. But at the end of the day, I’m so happy, truly and blessed that I finished it and got it out there. That was my goal. Nice.

Stephen: Did you find writing this easier or harder than writing your fiction?

For me, because why do you

Kristina: think it was easier for me? Because it wa so all my life, I have already been doing this. This is what I’ve been writing. I’ve been writing nonfiction forever, whether it’s at work or in school or writing a blog post I could write a blog post in a minute.

Like it’s oh, this topic pick a topic done. And it’s powerful because that’s comfortable for me, thrillers and writing fictions. Isn’t so easy for me. I have to, I struggle with that. I always say. I’m a C student, really working hard to be an a in thriller, I think in non-fiction. And not that they’re not good.

I don’t mean it that way. Like my books are terrible or anything, but I mean that it’s, I work really hard to get them there. It’s not my second nature storytelling is, but getting it just perfectly on the page, I’m like an overthinker I overanalyze everything cuz of the psychology and so I can’t get outta my own way.

We know what that’s but with nonfiction, it was just, it was almost. I’m having a conversation with you, and this is the message and that message just came out so easily on paper. And of course I had to do the work and back it with science and make sure it made sense and everything tied together.

But it’s very easy for me to write, like if I had to write a blog post for somebody, or I had to write some, an article like that comes out nothing so simple, but to write a short story, It takes, I love it. And I really love when I’m done with it and how much I am grateful for, but it takes a little bit more effort on my part.

That’s just my skill level and being honest.

Stephen: And that’s good because I think a lot of people that start fiction and moving the non-fiction think the opposite that the fiction starts coming easy, cuz they’ve done it and they, their mindset is that. But and you said you’ve got a couple degrees in you’re working on your PhD.

So obviously you’re a professional in your field. Which I think is wonderful to know that you’re writing some books like this. Are you going to continue. What in the fiction world, we get series. So in the non-fiction you’ve got this beginning of a series. Are you gonna continue with the same type of book in the happiness, mental health?

Are you thinking of doing other types of

Kristina: non-fiction? I’m gonna stick with this. I think it’s gonna be it, everything nowadays is branding. And what is your tagline? All that. And I, you think about this stuff all the time, right? But honestly, happiness is a bigger, there’s a bigger picture to happiness.

It’s called psychological wellbeing. That’s what really five happy choices is about. I’m not gonna go out there and say five psychological wellbeing choices, right? That no. One’s reading that. We’re not picking that up, but I think behind the scenes, It’s all about psychological wellbeing. It’s all about health and wellness, psychology, which is what I’m going to school for which all ties together.

And I think everything I write will be based on that. It’ll be based on getting you from point a to point B in that you’re gonna feel good and you’re gonna live a a life that is good. A living well feeling good. Happiness is a feeling we can’t be happy all the time, but living a happy life.

Living what they call the good life. That’s what it’s like. It, it’s referred to as the good life. It’s really about just moving through life in a way that feels good and enjoying your life. And that isn’t always, doesn’t always mean you’re happy all the time, but yes it’ll be around psychological wellbeing cuz that’s where my education is.

That’s what I believe in. I believe that we are all searching for a happy life or to live a happy her life or to be happy. And how do we get there is through. These things that we can do and actions we can take for our psychological wellbeing to be balanced. And that is part of mental health, for sure.

It’s one of the pieces of mental health and happily, there are things we can do to affect that. It’s something we can change. It’s something we can take action on. And I think when people hear that they want, they feel hope because I think it is very easy, especially with COVID and everything.

We’ve all. And not just COVID everything we’ve been through in the last, let’s say five years. There’s just been a lot of turmoil out. And it’s very easy. And especially if you’re someone who’s sensitive energetically to what’s going on and you watch the news and you get upset or you just there’s, you go on Facebook and people are arguing.

There’s so much of that heaviness in the world. And a lot of it is for good reason, but it still can weigh on us mentally. I think we need a way out. And we don’t want to spend three years. Therapy’s amazing and everybody who needs it should go and I highly recommend it, but we want something we can use while we’re going to therapy.

We can use in our everyday moments because your therapist isn’t there 24 7, right? Your coach isn’t there 24 7, your family and friends, they don’t always want or have the emotional capacity to give to you what you need. So I think we have to learn to give to ourselves. And to figure out what we need and take those steps.

And so I will absolutely, I long-winded answer to your question. I think it’s important for me. If I’m writing non-fiction to stick with what I know and share what I know, that’s my contribution that’s my niche where I’ll go with it.

Stephen: Nice. Great. Or I love that. Your book sounds great.

And I hope, wish you the best luck in it. And I hope some people listening will go pick it up. That’s the whole idea. Introduce people to new books and authors. So before we go, do you have any last minute advice you would give to a new author? That’s saying, Hey I don’t know what to do. Can you gimme some advice?

Help me?

Kristina: Yeah. You know what? This is like advice for life, but it’s advice for writers and what’s always helped me when I struggled with, what do I write? How do I write? What do I do? It’s first of all, if you wanna write something, just write it. Don’t worry about it. Do not worry about how good it is.

It doesn’t matter. You’re gonna write it down and you’re gonna fix it later. Get if you’re writing fiction, get that story out. And the story you pick to write is the one that gets you so excited. Like it, it just, you feel it in your gut. This is, I wanna write this story. That’s the one you focus on and just write it down, just get it out.

It’s gonna be garbage. Because everything’s garbage. The first draft, very few people write an amazing first draft. Just get it out. You fix it later. Editors will help you fix it, get that story out. And if you’re writing, non-fiction no matter what degrees you have and you don’t have to have any at all.

That’s not a requirement, whatever you’re writing about. Share your knowledge, share what share it with the world and do it from a place of authenticity and a place of something that you have a passion for whatever that is. That’s my recommendation, it’s don’t let anything hold you back.

If you have something to say, if you have a story to tell, or you have information to share, just do. You can clean it up later, but get it on paper because that’s the hardest part is holding ourselves back and not putting something on paper because we’re afraid of what are people gonna think? I will tell you this right now.

It’s not your job to control what people think and how your books received. It is your job to share your gift with the world and put it out there and whatever it does. If it’s a number one New York times bestseller. Awesome. If it sells no copies, that’s okay, too. You did your job. You shared your.

So don’t not share your gift, cuz you’re afraid of the outcome. We have no control over the outcome. All we have control over is whether we write it or we don’t. So write it.

Stephen: Wonderful. I love that. Thank you. I appreciate it. All right, Christina. Thank you for being on. It’s been wonderful talking with you and I hope some authors picked up some things about non-fiction moving from fiction.

So I appreciate you being on. Thank you.

Kristina: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to be here. I appreciate it. Great.

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