Today’s spotlight shines on the ever thrilling Kelly Manfredini, who writes as K.M. Hodge. The Texas neighbourhood where she lives, is no stranger to high suspense. Apparently she keeps her neighbours up all night, practicing her theories before putting pen to paper!…without further ado, here’s…Kelly!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Detroit, where I spent most of my free time weaving wild tales to spook my friends and family. These days, I live in Texas with my husband and two energetic boys, and once again I find myself writing tales of suspense and intrigue that keep my readers up all night. My novels, focused on women’s issues, friendship, addiction, regrets and second chances, will stay with you long after you finish them. Besides my own Syndicate Born Trilogy and several novellas that will be coming out soon I also cowrite the Book Cellar Mystery Series with author and good friend Melissa Storm. When I’m not marketing, writing or being an agent of social change, I read independent graphic novels, watches old X-files episodes, and binge-watched episodes of my favorite shows on Netflix. I absolutely love to hear from readers. Tell me what you think and what you are looking for in suspense and mystery novels.
How did you get started on your writing journey?
I wrote my first novel at 17, but it took me the next 18 years to finish! When I had finally completed it I was encouraged by a good friend and Indy author to selfpublish it. About seven months later I wrote the next two books in my trilogy and signed a contract with a small press, Evolved Publishing, for the whole series. In the last year I also signed on with Melissa Storm and Blue Crown Press to write a four part light suspense/mystery series that takes place in Texas and is geared towards fans of Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girls and Desperate Housewives.
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
I am always inspired by poetry and music. I listen to lots of music and read a lot of poetry. Some of my favorite poets right now are Melinda McIntosh, L. J. Diaz, and Mimi Zollars.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
The novel I am going to talk to you about today is Red on the Run, the first book in my Syndicate-Born Trilogy. Here is a quick blurb for the book: …because sometimes all you can do is run. In search of redemption from his sordid past, FBI Special Agent Alex Bailey takes on a new secret mission and partner, Katherine Mitchel. Before they are assigned their first case, Katherine uncovers damning evidence against a major crime ring, known as The Syndicate. The group, which controls the police; Congress; even the FBI, will stop at nothing to protect their interest. With his partner’s life threatened, Alex secretly has her placed in the witness protection program. But there is no hiding from The Syndicate. In what becomes the most dangerous investigation of his career, Alex must ask himself how far he is willing to go to stop the Syndicate and keep Katherine safe?
How is the title significant?
The novel, originally titled Seasons, was retitled Red on the Run. Red is the nickname for the main character Katherine, who has as you might have guessed it, red hair. Her family and friends all call her red. Throughout the novel I point out that color a lot. Red, Katherine, is also on the run for most of the novel as she tries to avoid being killed by the organized crime group, The Syndicate. The other novels in the Trilogy all have a color in the title: Black and White Truth and True Blue Son.
Where did inspiration for this come from?
I was inspired to first write this novel over 19 years ago. I was reading a lot of suspense novels and watching the X-files obsessively. I combined these interest into a FBI suspense series that I hope you will love as much as I do.
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
The novel has alternating points of view and the chapters are split up into time stamped vignettes. The main character though is Alex Bailey, a recovering sex addict who is working with the FBI to take down The Syndicate, a large organized crime ring that is run out of Virginia. The other main character, Katherine Mitchel is a FBI agent, trapped in an abusive marriage, who stumbles upon shocking evidence that could destroy the Syndicate. The two agents work together to try to bring an end to the Syndicate.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
I write suspense for women. My readers tend to be aged 25 to 65. They are prolific readers who enjoy reading suspense and series. My Syndicate-Born Trilogy is specifically aimed at readers who enjoy shows like Castle or Criminal Minds and read books from authors like Lee Child and David Baldacci. My Book Cellar Mystery series is specifically aimed at readers who enjoy Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and Desperate Housewives.
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
All of my novels and novella’s are written for women and give voice to issues women face every day. For years I worked at a women’s shelter and I heard countless stories of the atrocities women endure every day and they stuck with me. In my novels I try to amplify the collective female voice and tackle such topics as domestic violence, sexual assault, addiction, loss, and so much more.
What is your writing process like?
Whenever and wherever I can write, I write. I write one my phone, my laptop, and on notebooks. When I get a free moment I take it. Raising two small children means I have to get creative about how I use my time.
How do you go about editing your story?
I always make about three passes of my works in progress before passing it onto my Alpha readers who give me content notes. Once I have addressed any holes that my readers have found I then pass it on to one of my amazing editors for a full professional edit. NEVER skimp on this. After my editors have done their thing I pass it on to my two proof readers who go over it with a fine tooth comb.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
I stumbled upon my cover artist, Mallory Rock, by accident. I totally Facebook stalked her. I will never use another artist if I can help it. Please check her out. She is an amazing artist and so easy to work with. She also does all my interior formatting because I do not have the time nor the patience to deal with that.
How did you go about getting published?
I first self published, but after a few months I began to see how much my WIP really needed a professional editors touch. So when it was suggested that I should submit my work to Evolved Publishing I sent it in. They liked it and signed me.
What was your self publishing experience like?
I learned a lot! Through a lot of trial and error I figured out editing, formatting, marketing, branding and so much more. The biggest thing I learned is that the business is always changing and you have to be on top of all the new and exciting things that are happening out there. I talk with a lot of authors, belong to way too many Facebook groups and read at least 10 to 15 trade articles a week. I am also taking a couple of courses in marketing to help promote my brand and my books.
What are the pros and cons of self publishing?
The only con to self publishing is the upfront cost of doing everything the right way.
How do you go about promoting your book as a self published author?
I make engaging graphics with catchy copy and promote them on all the social media forums. I am currently taking a Facebook ads course so that I can add that tool to my tool box. I also commit to writing at least one guest post a month a one author interview a month.
Is there something about the whole process you wish someone had told you before? Good or bad?
I wish I had gotten my novel professionally edited.
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self publish?
Get your work professionally edited by someone you have vetted. DO NOT use an English teacher or a self proclaimed grammar Nazi. Get it professionally edited and formatted for print and eBook. Also make sure that you have a professional cover that meets the requirements of your genre. Do not try to look different to stand out, it has the opposite effect. Covers tell the reader what to expect to find inside. This is why they all look the same. It becomes a psychological thing that happens for the reader when they see a certain typeface or imagery that keys into their subconscious that this might be a good book. Build your brand the same way. All authors who have been successful have done so through proper branding. Lastly, keep writing and don’t stop.
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
I have two novellas in the works and another brewing in my mind. I will be self publishing my novellas, which will all take place in the past.
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?
K.M. Hodge truly enjoys hearing from her readers, so don’t be shy about dropping her an email or say hit on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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