On August 4th, the Meredith Public Library welcomed author Killarney Traynor. She discussed her two novels, Summer Shadows and Necessary Evil, her writing style and the self-publishing process.
Killarney first started writing at the age of eight with different stories for different audiences. Often sharing her work with her ten siblings and her father who is an avid reader. She had created six novel length stories prior to Summer Shadows, and while she keeps all of them, she notes most of them are not going to be published.
Authenticity with regards to characters, motivations and factual background are all very important to Killarney. She noted, for example, that when reading herself, an author not accurately depicting historical information could negatively impact her view of the entire work. While some of her earlier writing experiences involved creating complex fantasy worlds, she has recently opted for locations that she is familiar with. She also uses writing as an opportunity to research particular topics. Rather than viewing this as a necessary chore, she notes the research is part of the fun.
Summer Shadows is based in Franklin, New Hampshire where Killarney worked for a time at a nursing home. Necessary Evil is based in her home town of Chester, NH. For Necessary Evil she did a fair amount of research on the Civil War era, specifically on journal writing, whether engagement rings were used, and what sort of codes were used during this period. The former was more akin to our than she imagined as spelling had been standardized by this period, engagement rings were just beginning to be used though they did not resemble their current form, and both sides in the war were regularly decoding the fairly amateur codes of the era.
Summer Shadows opens with an aunt who adopts three children and inherits a home in Franklin, NH. Across the street from their new home is a house that has been abandoned for twenty years since a murder occurred there and locals believe that it is haunted. Though the murder was believed to be solved, the threat from the house proves to be less supernatural, but more dangerous. While the novel is a mystery, a major focus is how the family comes together amidst tragedy. One of Killarney’s family friends favorably compared the book to the Mitford series by Jane Karon, creating a town of people who the reader not only becomes familiar with, but feel they would like to get to know. Killarney noted that she tries very hard to create characters that can be understood and even the villains can be empathized with.
At the heart of Necessary Evil is the pressure that builds both internally and externally through maintaining a lie, even if it is a lie that is done for good purposes. The main character tries to stop treasure hunters from invading her property by fabricating a letter after her uncle suffers a fatal accident on his horse at one of their clandestine dig sites. Killarney noted that writing a character so overwhelmed both by this burden and financial stress was difficult, because she was not a particularly likeable character even if you could empathize with what she was going through.
Her first novel took two and a half years to work through. The last parts to come in were the title and cover art. She noted that she knows some authors who will write an entire novel to fit a title, but this has definitely not been her route. In stark contrast, Necessary Evil took nine months to complete. For the cover art of Summer Shadows, Killarney used an image from her publisher, but felt it might be a bit too creepy a haunted house for the nature of the book. For her second novel, she found an independent artist in Spain who was able to capture both the feel and action of the book.
Both books were self-published in part because of a workshop she attended on publishing prior to finishing her first work. She had been aware of self-publishing, but was impressed with the strides it had made in both quality of work and the appearance of the finished product.
Author inspirations can often come from unexpected avenues. Killarney noted that one of her major influences was Charles Dickens and she quipped that she had his penchant for writing lengthy stories. She also mentioned being influenced by authors including James Lescroart (stylistically, though his works were often a bit too dark and depressing), James Mitchener, Mary Higgins Clarke, Anthony Trollope, and Ellery Queen. Music, television and movies can also impact her writing. She said the idea for Summer Shadows came from a soundtrack for a seventies film she had never seen, Flight of the Doves. When she did finally view the film, she noted that it was very different from her book, but thematically the soundtrack led her to write the novel.
Killarney has a fair amount of knowledge about films and her brother works with a film company. When working out the choreography of a violent scene in one of her books, she will often collaborate with her brother to create as realistic a sequence as possible. As an example she mentioned that she had broken her arm on several occasions, so the idea of climbing a ladder to get to the villain immediately after this was implausible. She has written a script for a mystery film following in the vein of English mysteries like Inspector Morse, but set in Portsmouth, NH. It will premiere in Exeter later in the year. She is also making a novelization of this and hopes to have it out early next year.
After the inspiration, Killarney will often mull over a story for several months before creating an outline. From the outline she begins writing the chapters or scenes sequentially, because she sees value in being able to adapt where the story is going, rather than going back and revising.
Killarney tries to not make characters directly after herself or people she knows, but will often incorporate aspects of individuals into her characters. She also notes that she will sometimes start acting like some of her characters. One anecdote she mentioned was a particularly indecisive character who she had to give some backbone earlier in the story than she intended so she could get back to her own regular decision making process. For both of her books the protagonist is female and she noted a greater comfort writing from this perspective, though the lead in her film project is a man and she has important male characters in her other works. In her desire to be authentic she notes she cannot always envision getting into a man’s head space and again authenticity remains a critical facet of her work.
While feedback can be important throughout the writing process, Killarney noted the value in only sharing a manuscript with two or three trusted people early on in the process. Everyone has their own ideas about the direction a text should take, and particularly at an early stage an author can be overwhelmed by too many helpful suggestions. After this initial period, once she has gained confidence in the overall direction of the work, Killarney mentioned the value in broadening the readership and ensuing feedback.
Both of Killarney’s novels were published through Amazon self-publishing services. An advantage of self-publishing and Amazon’s self-publishing particularly, is the author has both creative control and control of how much of the process to take on. Amazon offers editing services and marketing services, but Killarney has sought out an editor on her own and has done much of the publicity independently.
The need to find a good editor is very important. On the one hand, they need to be willing to cut material, something Killarney has found a necessity in her works. However, they also need to have a perspective that does not clash with the author’s or feel the need to try to adhere to the strict outlines of some of the larger publishing houses. Killarney said she was fortunate to find a good editor without a lengthy interview process and she has spent hours discussing how to make scenes and the overall project work with her editor. She has even taken some of the major cuts better than she imagined she would, though she also mentioned she keeps all of the previous versions and cut material as “deleted scenes.”
For publicity Killarney attends a number of fairs where she will sell books. She also collaborates with the Clean Indy Group that works on marketing books of all types except erotica. She also enters her books into a variety of contests and she was happy to report that many awards that had previously excluded self-published works are expanding. Some have separate awards for independent publications.
Killarney is working on a cowboy mystery as well as her film work and another work that was too early in the process to discuss. On behalf of the Meredith Library, I am grateful to Killarney for paying us a visit and wish her continued success in all of her endeavors.