Meet K.A. Tucker, the Author Taking on Life 500 Words at a Time
One hundred dollars could buy you some groceries, a nice dinner out, or maybe that new shirt you’ve been eyeing. Or, like in K.A. Tucker’s case, it could get you a writing career.
It was nine years ago, at the tail end of September, when she found a used laptop for $100. It was just what she needed to finally bring a book idea she had to life. So, she began writing.
“After months of stealing moments during naptimes, or late at night, or whenever I could pawn the kids off on someone to get a few hours respite, I had a rough draft,” she says. “It was terrible, but I felt that there was something there.”
After ripping apart what she’d written and putting it all back together again, she jumped onto the self-publishing train and put out her first book, all while working full-time in the corporate world.
“My hope was that a few people would read it, and maybe love it as much as I did,” K.A. says. “A few people read it, and then a few more, and a few more.”
By the time she self-published the second book in the series, she was contacted by an editor from Atria Books (Simon & Schuster), and within weeks she had a deal for the novel – plus three more in the world.
“I had to take the leap and quit my corporate world job because there was no way I could manage both,” she says. “I have never — not for a tenth of second — regretted that choice.”
Today, K.A. is the bestselling author of 17 books, including the Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series, He Will Be My Ruin, Until It Fades, Keep Her Safe, and Be The Girl.
Here are a few more things she shared with us:
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Five hundred words at a time.
Typing the first word of 100,000 words (or more likely 250,000 words, if you include all the words you delete in revisions) is daunting. While you’re in first “just get something down” draft, you’re living by daily word counts. My threshold is usually around 2,000 words per day, but sometimes even that is arduous. So I break it down. I set tiny targets for myself: “Five hundred words and I can go grab another coffee.” “Five hundred words and I can go jump on the treadmill for an hour.” Sometimes I’m on a roll and don’t even watch that box at the bottom of the screen. Other times I hesitate to delete a single word because what if I’ll never get it back!?
Even if I don’t hit my daily word target, the 500-words-at-a-time mantra helps me feel that I’ve accomplished something that day, and it’s all about the little accomplishments when you’re writing a book.
- How many books do you read in a year?
Anywhere from 20-40, depending on my writing schedule for that year, and on what series I might have discovered. I tend to binge read in between drafts when I need to escape my own fictional world so I can see more clearly. This number, of course, doesn’t include books I’ve started but haven’t finished. As a reader, I’m picky. I have no issues with reading the first one or two chapters of a book and then setting it aside if the author’s writing voice doesn’t click with me.
- What’s on your bookshelf?
Copious copies of my own books, books I plan on reading (Karin Slaughter’s latest, that I need to be in the right, dark mood for; The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon, which I’ve listened to half of on audio while driving up to a library event), a thesaurus that I never use (I always go online), Save The Cat by Blake Snyder, to help me loosely outline, and The Emotional Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglist — a writer’s bible.
- What does a typical day in your life look like?
I get my kids off to school and then I sit down with my coffee, sometimes my breakfast, and get through any urgent emails. Then, depending on where I’m at with deadlines, I’ll either dive right into my manuscript or I’ll jump onto social media for an hour or two, to catch up with people, share a few things, respond, that sort of thing. I try my best to respond to every reader.
- Do you prefer paperback or e-reader?
I prefer paperback but I do read a lot on my e-reader, especially while on vacation or at my cottage. It’s so much easier to grab my tablet and have my pick of whatever I’m in the mood for, and I am very much a mood reader.
- What’s your go-to meal or recipe?
I have a soft spot for penne pasta (with any kind of sauce, really). I swear it tastes different than any other pasta shape out there.
- What helps you get in your flow or zone?
Music, which was not always the case. I never used to write to music, and then I discovered that it actually helps me. I typically find one song that sets the mood for what I’m writing and put it on repeat.
- How do you handle failure?
I try to remember my overall goal, focus on what’s next, and treat failure as another step toward the bigger picture. Sometimes, especially in publishing, there are perceived failures (your book didn’t hit lists, your book wasn’t picked up by certain retailers, your book didn’t earn out its advance, you have mixed reviews, etc.) It’s easy and common for both authors and publishers to then label that book a failure. Sometimes an author gets dropped by their publisher for it, sometimes the author gets so wrapped up in those results that they can’t write.
Failure can be needed for long-term success. It can be the catalyst for forcing you to take a step back and evaluate what needs to change in order for you to reach your overall goal.
- How close is your offline life to your online life?
My online life is very much about books and my writing, though sometimes I share personal thoughts or things that make me laugh. I’m very much a “what you see is what you get” kind of person. To me, that’s the most authentic. I don’t post about everything going on in my personal life and I do try to keep it positive because people don’t follow me on social media to hear my complaints (unless it’s about my Keurig; you’ll know when I’m having issues with that). If I’m traveling or at my cottage, I always like to share bits — mostly the scenery and my wanderings. Occasionally, I’ll share something about my kids (a hockey medal won, a book that one of them is reading) but I keep it to a minimum.
- In real life, face-to-face interactions are on the decline as the world becomes more and more virtual every day. What are some ways you connect with your tribe? What do you do to ensure you’re having authentic face-to-face interactions regularly?
I’ll be the first to admit that most of my interactions with my “real life” friends happen over text. Part of that is because we’re all so busy, but it’s also because of distance. Since entering this book world, I’ve formed friendships with some amazing people, but they live all over the world. Most of us (myself included) abhor the phone, though I will jump on with them every once in a while to catch up. But mostly it’s via text.
That’s why I look forward to book festivals and signings. It’s a chance for me to see my friends face-to-face. We make the most of our time, enjoying dinners and drinks, or just hanging out in our hotel rooms, chatting. Those are my book world friends. For my “other world” friends — I feel like George Costanza with his worlds colliding sometimes — we usually get together twice per year for girls’ weekends away. No husbands, no kids (babies not welcome, no exceptions). It gives us a chance to truly be ourselves and talk, unfiltered.
With two new books in the works, you’re sure to be seeing a lot more of K.A. Tucker. We are especially excited for Be The Girl, a contemporary story about a teenage girl growing up in Ontario, which comes out January 21, 2019.
If you’re a chef or author, we’d love to hear your story! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance to be featured on The Journal.
Shannon Hodgen is a lifelong writer, DIY enthusiast, and homebody. She satisfies her need to put pen to paper–or, more accurately, fingertips to keyboard–as an agency copywriter, blog contributor, and freelance editor in Toronto.
Favourite Book: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Favourite Brunch Spot: Dirty Food Eatery in The Junction