Kobo Writing Life Podcast (general)

Julie Czerneda, an international bestselling science fiction and fantasy author from Canada, was one of the Author Guests of Honour at the 2016 When Words Collide conference which takes place in Calgary each year in late summer.  

When Words Collide is an annual non-profit festival designed to bring readers and writers together in a celebration of the written word. Up to 10 tracks of programming, beginning at 1 PM on Friday and running through 5 PM Sunday, offer informational, educational, and social activities covering a wide spectrum of literature including Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Historical, Literary, Script-writing, Poetry, Comics, and Non-fiction. Roughly 650 readers, writers, editors, publishers, agents, and artists attend with over 200 presenters.

Kobo Writing Life has been a proud sponsor of When Words Collide for the past several years and are delighted to present one of the inspiring keynote talks from 2016 by Julie Czerneda addressing the “Dreamers” who were there attending the conference.

Julie’s keynote talk at When Words Collide addresses the world of dreamers and dream-weavers who are completely at home when at a book-related conference and how putting readers and writers together matters. That the things they revel in matters.

Julie Czerneda has written more than 20 books in multiple series, including The Trade Pact Universe, The Clan Chronicles, The Web Shifters Series,  Night’s Edge,  Stratification and The Reunification Series, with THE GATE TO FUTURE’S PAST (Book 2 in the series) being her most recent novel. (Look for Book 3, TO GUARD AGAINST THE DARK in the fall of 2017)

After the keynote talk by Julie, Mark talks to Julia Nethersole who oversees the Author Support Community at Kobo about some of the most common questions that authors write in to writinglife@kobo.com as well as some insights about better self-service tools and an author community forum that has recently been created to help authors help themselves as well as another way to connect with others from the community.

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_079_JulieCzerneda_OnDreamers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:32pm PDT

Mark Lefebvre, Director of Kobo Writing Life, interviews Young Adult Fantasy and Chicklit author, Katie Cross as she shares strategies about how she was able to keep writing, with even more productivity, in her transition from full time author to full time Mom.

In the chat, Katie and Mark discuss:

  • Her lifelong passion of writing and her recent passion of becoming a mother (which happened about a year and a half into her 3 years of publishing career) and how she juggles both with her 18 month old.
  • Some of the time-scheduling strategies she uses, which changes every month with such a young child. (For example, right now, she writes for a couple of hours during the day during nap time as well as after bed-time)
  • The concept of a Mom-swap with a few neighborhood friends. On a schedule with two other stay-at-home Moms who need time for personal errands/etc they rotate on particular days of the week where all the children are at a particular mother’s house for about a three hour period. This provides Katie with about 3 additional hours to write twice per week
  • Strategies in early childhood, actually holding her baby while he slept and managing to quietly tap away at the keyboard
  • Other strategies used, (involving intense multi-tasking) walking the dogs while having her baby strapped onto her and dictating story ideas into her phone. (Exercise, fresh air, getting the dogs and baby for an outing AND getting some writing work done)
  • How, being a Military Wife, she is able to arrange to travel to valuable writing and networking workshops like Superstars Writing Seminars
  • How having limited time has made her a much more productive writer
  • The way that hiring a virtual assistant has helped her maximize her writing time (Her assistant, Christina’s website is www.faithfullysocial.com
  • Katie’s initial struggle to grow sales and readers at Kobo and how, over time (about a year and a half), her sales began a slow and steady build (she has been seeing growth mostly at Kobo, iBooks and Scribd since going wide)
  • How, once she finished a young adult series (4 books plus a prequel and a novella) and created a bundle, the series seemed to have taken off
  • The comparison of being a new parent to being an indie author
  • The blog that Katie has which is meant specifically for author parents (IE: “I get it, I’m in the trenches with you”) kcrosswriting.com

After the interview, Mark reflects on the manner by which Katie has made writing a priority and how other writers who struggle with balancing multiple priorities might be inspired by her as well as a reflective writing quote that has been with him for more than 20 years.

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_078_KatieCross.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:08am PDT

From his role as a guest faculty member at Superstars Writing Seminars, Kobo Writing Life director Mark Lefebvre interviewed professional photographer Lauren Lang who was on site to help attending authors get a professional author photo. In the interview Mark and Lauren discuss:

  • Lauren’s start in the industry in journalism and her desire to use a visual medium as her preferred method of telling and sharing stories
  • The desire of capturing a moment in photography and causing an emotional reaction in the viewer/audience
  • Some of the differences between “posed” and more “candid” photography and Lauren’s desire to love people in the midst of emotion, catching them emoting and enjoying themselves in the moment
  • The methods that Lauren uses turning the “inherently unnatural” environment of posed photography into something where the subject doesn’t feel so uncomfortable or self-conscious
  • The importance of being real when Lauren is trying to draw the author and their story out as part of the photo shoot
  • Some of the tricks that an author might use when preparing for a professional photo shoot, including moving beyond the “getting an author head shot is something I have to do” to thinking about this as being something for their fans (even if they’re a beginning author and don’t yet have a fan base)
  • A look at some of the “do not do’s” and “mis-steps” that people make when trying to select a good head-shot, including using a photo that actually looks like you (rather than the way you looked a few decades earlier)
  • What an author should look for when finding a photographer to hire/work with
  • A look at expression in photography from a study from Photofeeler.com

Mark then reflects on the author photo, a projected image, authenticity and how that might all role into a larger picture of author brand.

Links of interest:

Jacobin Photography Website

Jacobin Photography on Facebook

Lauren Lang on Instagram

Lauren Lang on Twitter

Photofeeler.com Blog

Superstars Writing Seminars


Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_077_LaurenLang.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm PDT

On site at Superstars Writing Seminars, Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Lefebvre interviews Joshua Essoe, freelance editor. In their discussion Mark and Joshua discuss:

  • What led him to writing (the author’s notes at the end of a Piers Anthony novel he had picked up at an early age) and then, more specifically, what led him into editing
  • The role that Brandon Sanderson played, at the very first Superstars Writing Seminars in Pasadena, in launching Joshua onto the patch towards editing
  • The editing pitch that Joshua did to David Farland, which led to Joshua editing his Award-Winning Novel Nightingale
  • The struggle that Joshua deals with in making the time to write while having such a heavy editing workload
  • The benefit of consultation calls between a writer and an editor when the writer is at the early stages of working on their novel
  • The types of works that Joshua mostly works on, including the types of manuscripts he would like to see more of (horror)
  • The process of finding an editor who is a good fit for a particular writer
  • A look at the different types of edits that an editor can do, or that different editors specialize in
  • The benefit to a freelance editor of working with repeat clients
  • The most common errors that Joshua has seen that writers make (and where a good editor can help them)
  • Reflections on the difference between American English and British English
  • Some of Joshua’s forthcoming projects including an anthology Joshua is co-creating with James A. Owen entitled Magic Makers (including stories by Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, Peter Beagle)

After the interview, Mark shares some thoughts on how an element such as a post-text authors note can serve an important part in helping a reader feel more connected with a writer.

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_076_JoshuaEssoe.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:13pm PDT

Instead of the regular interview with an author or industry person, episode 75 of the podcast features Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Lefebvre pausing to look at some of the most successful Kobo Writing Life authors on Kobo for 2016.

He compiles a list of the top 5 things that the most successful authors in terms of both unit sales and net sales all have in common, and tries to break them down into things that you as an author might consider in your own business plans for success.

The items are:

1) Genres / Genre Fiction - the top authors are all writing books in genre fiction, with Romance and Mystery/Thriller/Suspense being consistently in the top

2) Series - many of the top titles are either books written in a series, or, if not, involve an aggressive production schedule far quicker than traditional publishing schedules

3) Targeted and Appealing Visuals / Covers - the covers for the books aren't just professional and attractive, but they're attractive to the right audience, to a very targeted audience or demographic that drills down, even into the sub-genres within a category

4) Author Branding / Series Branding - directly in line with the visuals, the author brand on a book makes a particular promise to a particular type of reader based on the way it is presented.

5) Inclusive Publishing/Promoting / Going Wide - obviously, the authors who were most successful at Kobo published to Kobo. Seems obvious, but drilling down into some of the more subtle ways not just to "go wide" but to "be wide"


Lefebvre then wraps up by taking about, particularly to insiders at Kobo, the important different between Unit Sales and Net Sales and why booksellers like Kobo might have a preferential lean towards one over the other.

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_075_Top5ThingsSuccessfulAuthorsHaveinCommon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:57am PDT

Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Kobo is the host for this episode, and introduces a memorable clip from Episode 279 of The Creative Penn Podcast where Joanna Penn talks compares walking the 100KM "Race to the Stones" with writing.

In her talk, Joanna goes into the details regarding 9 Lessons Learned About Writing from Walking 100K in a Weekend:

  • Deadlines and specific goals help you achieve more
  • It’s good to have a goal, but training (and the journey) is the point
  • Stamina builds up over time with practice
  • You need a support team, but nobody can do the steps for you
  • There are fun parts, but some of it will be hell
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. The race is only with yourself
  • Follow the path others have set before you
  • It’s worth spending money to get the right gear
  • A lot of people give up along the way – persistence is the key to success

Mark then talks a bit about the beginning and end of the year as common goal-setting times for writers, and shares 5 of the bigger writing goals he had set for himself in 2016. He goes into detail, explaining the highs of meeting deadlines and goals, and the struggles with not achieving a goal (including his own 10 year struggle with getting his novel A Canadian Werewolf in New York published - he started working on it on a series from The Writing Show Podcast back in 2006) - something likely every writer faces.


Links of Interest from this episode

The Creative Penn Podcast

Episode 279 of The Creative Penn Podcast with Roz Morris

Joanna Penn's books on Kobo (About Writing)

Joanna's J.F. Penn novels on Kobo

KWL Episode 32 - Interview with Dan Rubinstein

The "Getting Published with Mark Leslie" episodes of The Writing Show

Mark's A Canadian Werewolf in New York on Kobo


Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_074_WalkingTheWritersLifewithJoannaPenn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:29pm PDT

Colson Whitehead, is the author of Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award.

Colson is interviewed by Kobo’s Nora Parker about his latest book, The Underground Railroad, which is an Oprah's Book Club pick.

  • Whitehead’s decision to play with the quirky premise of “what if the underground railroad was a real railroad?”
  • The navigation of research and how it gets interwoven into the fiction; but the fact that this is not a historical novel and that it doesn’t stick to any real world chronology
  • The freeing aspect of not being beholden to reality when crafting a novel
  • The manner by which the novel addresses the two opposing viewpoints and biases that take the same passage(s) from the bible and use it to either oppose or support slavery
  • The choice of the opening setting in North Carolina and the different arenas for Cora to be tested, and how that allowed for the examination of different types of racism and social structures
  • The concepts of racism in pre-Civil War America to the concepts of racism as it exists today in modern America
  • The historic use of rendering of dialect in the dialogue between white and black characters compared to how it is done in this novel
  • The music Whitehead listens to while writing, when he listens to Purple Rain from Prince and Debut Nation from Sonic Youth and how David Bowie is in every book
  • How Whitehead felt about being selected for the Oprah Book Club
  • The adept characterization and relationships of the kids in Whitehead’s novel Sag Harbor and how the characters evolved from inspiration from real people into their own unique fictional characters within the novel

KWL Director Mark Lefebvre talks about the concept of writers listening to music while working and then asks KWL listeners to share their own habits and practices when it comes to listening to (or not listening to) music or other ambient noises while writing.

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_073_ColsonWhitehead.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:12pm PDT

Described as “One of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year” Affinity Konar’s MISCHLING is a novel about twin sisters fighting to survive the evils of World War II. As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele's Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.

Affinity is interviewed by Kobo Merchandising Coordinator, Nora Parker during an intimate Kobo Café gathering at Kobo just a few weeks ago. During the interview, Nora and Affinity discuss:

  • The genesis of the story and how it was in the author’s head for at least 10 years before she wrote it
  • The intersection between research, historical accuracy and the creativity of the fictional writing
  • How many times Affinity had “put the book down” and then other elements in her life kept bringing her back to it
  • How Affinity struggled for a long time on the manner by which to depict Josef Mengele in the novel
  • The question of justice which both twins end up struggling with at various points throughout the novel and the role that memory plays in that
  • The manner by which beauty figures as an antidote to the horrors of the world and how the author spent a lot of time dwelling on what exactly beauty was and is
  • Concepts of how language might be able to express, or perhaps even fail at expressing the atrocities and the author’s desire to have the reader consciously quibble with the particular word or words that she chose within particular passages as a way to illustrate, in a concrete way, that challenge
  • The origin of the title (Mischling) as a word Affinity came across when she was young, thinking it was a very pretty word and then, later, learning it’s horrific definition and use
  • How the book began with the voice of Stasha, and, when Pearl, her twin came along later, how conscious Affinity was regarding her voice and the satisfying challenge that came from that
  • How the moments of light and joy within the darkness of the novel came quite naturally to Affinity while writing the book (and the manner by which they both add to the experience of reading novel and were among Affinity’s favorite moments to write)
  • The real-life twins, Eva and Miram Mozes, who were very inspirational to the author


Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Lefebvre then talks about two specific points from the interview that he wanted to draw attention to for writers. First, he draws attention to the mention of the use of humor in this text and then outlines some things to consider when implementing humor into an overall serious or dark and disturbing narrative.

Next, Lefebvre talks about the “ten years” that were behind the creation of this novel and reflects on the fact that there is no one way for authors to write. That some writers can write a book in an extremely short time period while others might take a significantly longer amount of time to write a book. He reflects on the writer ailment of “comparisonitis” (as described by Joanna Penn) that can happen and cautions writers not to feel bad if their own process or timelines are different than other writers. There’s no one answer, there’s no one solution, there’s no single path to one’s own personal goals or successes in a writing career, and different books might call for different approaches. They key is not to compare and despair, but to discover what works best for you to make it the best possible book that you can.


Affinity Konar’s Books on Kobo


Affinity Konar on Instagram


Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_072_AffinityKonar.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:58pm PDT

Executive Vice President of Publisher Relations and Content at Kobo, Pieter Swinkels introduces a live on stage at Kobo “Kobo in Conversation” interview of Robert Harris about his latest book, Conclave. (As an interesting aside, Pieter was, at one time, Robert’s publisher in the Netherlands). Robert is interviewed by Toronto pop culture columnist, film journalist and television personality, Johanna Schneller.

In the interview Johanna and Robert discuss:

  • Brexit and how, though the public events surrounding Brexit are possible fodder for a forthcoming Robert Harris novel, he prefers to wait perhaps 10 or 20 years after such an event, because after such time, you can more properly see the patterns a lot more easily when you’re not as involved in them
  • The research involved in writing about a papal conclave, the oldest, most secretive election in the world, starting with the request for permission to see the places that aren’t normally open to the public
  • The overwhelming majesty of the setting of the Sistine Chapel and the Apostolic Palace
  • The bunker-like setting that the cardinals are sequestered in and the similarities to an Agatha Christie cottage mystery setting
  • The enormous power of the internet when it comes to researching a book such as this one, and how the entire process of gathering that research being hugely sped up
  • The writing routine that Robert Harris employs, starting with research
  • How this particular novel was written between January and July of this past year
  • Harris’s daily writing routine of starting sometime around 7 or 8 AM and then finishing at about half past noon, and his belief that one can do only about four hours or so of hard creative work
  • A reference to the Stephen King quote about the “boys in the basement” who are hard at work for a writer when the writer is not sitting at their writing desk
  • Harris’s strong belief in deadlines and how the fear and adrenaline helps him produce
  • A look into one of Harris’s earliest books, the non-fiction title Selling Hitler, an investigation of the “Hitler Diaries” scandal, which was published in 1986, and how it led to the author’s evolution into writing novels


Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Lefebvre then talks about something Robert Harris mentioned in the interview – the concept of the deadline and how he saw that fear and adrenaline as important elements in the creative process for him as a writer. Lefebvre talks about his own experience writing to deadline on his own non-fiction works and then considers the concept of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and that 30 day deadline to write a prescribed number of words (50,000). He talks about the critical nature of that imposed “deadline” and how it can help a writer actually sit down and get words written.



Robert Harris's website

Johanna Schneller on Twitter

Robert's books on Kobo

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_071_RobertHarris.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:44pm PDT

In episode 70, Christine Munroe interviews bestselling romance author Melissa Foster. Over 7 years of self-publishing, Melissa has tons of insightful advice to offer, including why authors should stick to their passion instead of chasing trends, and why she will always manage her own social media and all public-facing marketing efforts. Tune in to hear them discuss:

  • Melissa published her first book in 2009. She’s now released over 50 English-language titles, including 15 last year, and 13 in 2016
  • She started by approaching agents, and could paper her walls with rejection letters
  • Her first published book was Megan’s Way, and she sold over 100k copies of it over the first year
  • Today she works with a literary agent for her work in translation. She submitted one book for traditional publishers recently, but decided to not make a deal because they couldn’t offer more than she could accomplish on her own. “I’m pretty much indie to stay now unless something fabulous comes up”
  • One major concern about using a traditional publisher is the high list price – she wants to keep her readers happy with a price they can afford. That’s more important to her than getting a traditional publisher. They also can’t keep up with her publishing schedule – the best publishers could offer is once every 4 months, which isn’t enough for all of her series she has going right now
  • She’s a “chat-a-holic” on social media and does all of her social media herself
  • EverAfter Romance is handling her paperback distribution for her into bookstores
  • She works with a developmental and copy editor, then a group of 5 copyeditors, to make sure every book is clean before it hits the market
  • Why and how she has incorporated LGBT romance into her Harborside Nights series. There’s a lesbian couple and a gay couple – it never occurred to her to separate out a couple because of their sexual preference. Some authors warned her that she might alienate her core audience but that hasn’t happened
  • “I would encourage any author who feels passionate about a story not to hold back on writing it simply because other people think it’s not a good idea…my thought going into this is that I trust my readers”
  • Best advice for launching a new book: 1) Be everywhere. 2) Advertise outside of the typical avenues for your genre – look to the subthemes of your book and get a wider audience
  • Think of branding in a broad way. For example, imagine your covers being identifiable by site on a shelf. Also, brand at a price bracket - don’t start by putting all of your books at $.99; brand at the price where you want to end up
  • What she wishes she would have done differently along the way – she handed off managing her social media to someone for a little while, but that did not go well. She gets significant value from connecting with them directly, herself
  • She also doesn’t advise trying to chase trends and figure out what made other people successful. Publishing changes so quickly that if you’re writing for a trend, it may have shifted by the time your book is ready to publish. Also, often marketing efforts are happening behind the scenes, and you can’t know from external research what went into making a book or author successful
  • “Every authorship is different…. You have to figure out your readership and how you fit with them”
  • It is absolutely essential to get your book edited – you are a representative of independently published authors and books. Don’t rush to publish; if you can’t afford a good editor, wait to publish until you can
  • Your best marketing plan is always writing your next book

Melissa Foster writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance, new adult romance and women's fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Readers adore Melissa's fun, flirty, and sinfully sexy, award-winning big family romance collection, LOVE IN BLOOM featuring the Snow Sisters, Bradens, Remingtons, Ryders, Seaside Summer, Harborside Nights, and the Wild Boys After Dark. Melissa's emotional journeys are lovingly erotic, perfect beach reads, and always family oriented.

Direct download: Melissa_Foster_episode.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am PDT