Solo Disaster, the final book in Victoria Kimble’s Choir girl series released last month. The other books in the series, in order of release, are Soprano Trouble, Alto Secrets, and Harmony Blues. This was the first completed series that I worked on, and I’m so excited to see the positive reception that it’s received! We have all fallen in love with Summer and her friends. Now that their story has reached full circle, it’s time to learn more about the author’s story.
1. Victoria, how did you end up choosing to publish your series with TouchPoint Press?
I was in the query process for Soprano Trouble, looking for an agent. I queried Sheri Williams and didn’t realize that she was a publisher. I was quite surprised to receive a book contract! It seemed too good to be true.
2. Well, I’m so glad that you found us. How long did it take you to write each book in the series?
I wrote Soprano Trouble about seven years ago when my two oldest girls were very small. I honestly can’t remember how long it took me. But the other three books each took about four weeks to write.
3. Four weeks? Wow! It sounds like you would enjoy participating in NaNoWriMo. Did you plan out the whole series before you starting writing or did you plan it out as you went along?
I was mostly a pantser when it came to The Choir Girls series. A pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, as opposed to those who outline and plan every scene. I didn’t think too much about each story ahead of time. But when I finished one, the next one just came to me, so I wrote that one too.
4. Another NaNoWriMo term. I think I’ve discovered another NaNoWriMo author! You’ve talked a lot in the past about how your connection to your middle school memories inspired your books, but I bet you also wrote for your young daughters. Is that true?
Absolutely! There are a lot of truths and messages I want to communicate to my three girls, but I know that sometimes they won’t be able to hear or understand, simply because I’m their mother. You know how kids tune out their parents sometimes. I hope they can hear the messages through stories. Honestly, I hope all kids hear the messages in my stories that parents wish they could communicate.
5. Yes, the positive, faith-filled messages in your books are so important. You have a strong message that you wanted to impress upon your younger readers. Do you feel like you’ve succeeded?
Based on the reviews of the books, I think I have succeeded. Readers have picked up on the messages, so I’m hopeful most readers will be able to pick up on them too.
6. The key to how well you have been able to connect with your young readers and impart these important life lessons to them is your authentic characters. You really nailed what it means to be a middle school girl dealing with these types of problems. Can you tell us which character was the hardest to write and which one was the easiest?
Brittany was the hardest to write because her experiences are so different than mine. I often found myself thinking, “Really? Could this really happen to someone?” But I’ve heard enough stories from other people to know that those things to happen.
Summer was the easiest to write because she’s the most like me: a middle sister, someone who has grown up going to church, and who loves to sing but not the solo.
If you haven’t read Victoria’s books, I hope that you’re getting excited about all of the hints we’re dropping.
7. Can you give us any hints about any future writing projects you’re working on? Will we ever see the choir girls again?
I won’t give a hard no to The Choir Girls, but I don’t have any plans for them right now. I’m working on a couple of things, the first being a story about 9-year-old Daisy, who wants to be a chief meteorologist when she grows up. You know, the person on TV who tells everyone about the weather. Her aunt is a chief meteorologist for a local station, and Daisy enjoys the fame that comes with being the girl with the aunt on TV. But then her aunt announces she’s leaving the TV station. Daisy’s fame and future are doomed unless she can find a way to get her aunt to stay.
8. That sounds really exciting. I can’t wait to meet Daisy! Over the course of writing your series, did you learn anything that changed the way that you approach writing? What is one invaluable lesson that you’ve learned?
I have learned the unmeasurable value of a critique group. I didn’t get much feedback on any of The Choir Girls series, outside of what my editor gave me. And that worked out okay. But now I have a critique group who pour over each chapter of the stories I’m working on now, and I feel like my writing has gotten much better. So the lesson is, find a critique group. It will make you a much better writer.
9. You are another author who was inspired by books and started writing at a young age. How do you feel about those stories now? When did you first feel like a “real author”?
Those stories make me laugh, simply because I’ve learned so much about writing. I have a few short pieces that I wrote as part of my coursework for the Institute of Children’s Literature, but I’m not sure I want to show them to anyone. I first felt like a “real author” at a small writer’s conference in March of 2016. It was there that I received my first encouragement from an outside source; you know, someone who wasn’t a family member. They liked my story, and I felt like I could actually be the writer I had always dreamed of being.
10. Receiving feedback from people outside of your immediate circle is so important. I’m glad that you were able to get the encouragement that you needed to pursue writing. Now that you’ve published four books, can you tell me what moment as an author you will never forget?
Seeing the cover art for Soprano Trouble. Getting the contracts was pretty amazing, but seeing the cover art made me feel like my story had come to life. That was a crazy fun day.
11. Can you describe your writing desk and/or bookshelf for us? Do you have any specific writing habits?
I mostly write at a corner desk in the corner of my kitchen. It’s a tiny desk, and it is covered in receipts and school papers. I dream of having a real office with a real desk someday, but for now I really just need a place to set my laptop. When I sit down to write I first listen to a worship song. I know that my writing ability comes from the Lord, so I always want to connect with Him before I write a single word. Then I turn on my writing music, which is usually an instrumental soundtrack of some type. My current favorite is the soundtrack for The Secret Life of Pets, and in the past, I’ve listened to the Moana, Tangled, Titanic, and Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks.
12. I love that you mention stopping and bringing yourself realigned with God’s purpose for your writing. I think that’s an often overlooked step in the writing process, and it’s even more important when you write faith-based books. What is one book that you would never sell from your bookshelf?
I will never sell any book by Robin Jones Gunn. I don’t have all of her books, but I do have most of them, and I read them over and over.
13. It must be hard balancing your writing life with everything else, including your family life. How do you find time to get everything done?
My family is very supportive. I get up at 5:00 every day in order to create space for writing. During the summer and school breaks this allows me to write from 6:00 to 7:00 every morning. During the school years, this allows me to get everything done so that I can write between 8:00 and 9:00, when I put my youngest daughter in room time. I fit in all the other author tasks (marketing, networking, etc.) throughout the day when I can.
14. It’s important to come up with a schedule that works for you when you’re determined to write a book, and it sounds like you’ve nailed this skill. You’ve talked about the invaluable support and positive critique that you learned to seek out in the writing community. How do you handle negative criticism? Which is more important: positive or negative feedback?
So far all the negative critique I have gotten has been in my best interest. It’s been done from people I know to be kind and supportive, so I’m able to look at their critique and know they weren’t saying it to hurt me, but because they genuinely thought something needed to be fixed. Most of the time I agree. Sometimes I don’t, but I appreciate their insights.
15. Finding that balance between listening to criticism and trusting your gut takes time. You’re right. It’s important to find people that you can trust to be supportive but honest. If you have to pick something that was your “author kryptonite,” what would it be?
Lack of results. I’m much more motivated to write when I see tangible results from what I’ve written, whether that’s a book sale or a comment on a post or a book review. But so much of the author life is about waiting, and if I go too long without seeing some kind of result, I lose all motivation. It’s then up to me to find a result, which is best done by submitting a chapter to my critique group or digging deep to find another way to tell someone else about the Choir Girls books.
16. How does it feel now that your series is complete? Are you taking some time to breathe and relax or are you eager to move on to your next writing project?
It feels surreal to have the series complete. I’ve been eager to have people read the end of the full story, and now they get to! I’m not really taking any time to relax, although sometimes I wonder if I should. I’m doing my best to stay consistent with my writing and learning about writing.
17. So that means we’ll be seeing a new series from you soon, right? Does what your bookshelf mirror what you’re writing? I’ve found that the answer isn’t always yes. If you didn’t write middle school Christian fiction, what other genre would you want to write and why? How did you make the Choir Girl Series stand out from other books in the same genre?
My bookshelf is actually filled with contemporary adult fiction. But when I go to the library, I’m always in the juvenile fiction section. So the answer is yes. My bookshelf doesn’t mirror what I write, but my library selections most definitely do!
If I didn’t write middle grade fiction, I would probably want to write YA or adult contemporary. In fact, I’m putting together ideas for a YA novel that I’m getting pretty excited about.
18. I know that you feel a connection to juvenile fiction because of how much you feel in love with books when you were younger. It’s great to hear that you have a wide taste in books, but you aren’t afraid to still feel that pull towards what you’ve loved for years.
And finally, what does “literary success” look like to you?
Literary success is tricky because it’s so intangible, but I think I will feel a measure of success when I hear of someone who has zero connection to me reading and enjoying the book.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Victoria Kimble today. You can purchase all four books in the Choir Girl Series on our TouchPoint Press bookstore and Amazon, and check back soon for news about the Choir Girls box set. It’s a perfect gift for the middle school girls in your family!
Learn more about Victoria Kimble and her books here: http://www.victoriakimble.com/