Amelia Kibbie is an author, freelance writer, and secondary educator. She was born, bred, and corn-fed in the great state of Iowa, but her heart is divided between France and New Orleans. Amelia’s short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including the pro-human sci-fi collection Humans Wanted and My American Nightmare: Women in Horror. The literary journals Saw Palm, Quantum Fairy Tales, Wizards in Space, and Intellectual Refuge have featured her work. Rustle, her first (and probably only) volume of poetry is available on lulu.com and amazon.com She also blogs for the parenting website mom.me and at akibbie.wordpress.com.
Amelia’s most recent publication is through Running Wild Press. Her short story, an LGBT historical romance called “Idylls of the King” appears in their second anthology of short stories. “Idylls of the King” is the story of two boys shipped away from London to avoid the Nazi bombings in WWII as part of a program called Operation Pied Piper. James and Arthur, along with their classmates, move into the manor of the Baroness, Lady Barlow. However, their woes and worries follow them there; James is relentlessly bullied and Arthur does not speak because of his stutter. It’s up to the Baroness and her war-veteran butler, Mr. Marlin, to help the boys realize that they are just as important and legendary as characters from the King Arthur myths.
Amelia has spent 12 years in public education. Her current position is as an instructional coach and interventionist. Working with students who struggle is her calling. She lives in Iowa City with her husband, two-year-old daughter, and three spoiled cats. They share the condo with a shy ghost. Her most recent obsession is Wonder Woman and the music of Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerard.
1. Will you tell us about your most recent published work?
My most recent publication is a short story in the post-apocalyptic anthology Enter the Rebirth. Rebirth is actually the third book in a trilogy of short story collections dealing with the apocalypse. The first one featured stories of the cataclysmic event itself, the second stories immediately following the event, and the third has tales of societies as they rebuild. My story is about a world ravaged by a disease that began and mutated in livestock. Very Iowa, I know. Some animals are infected carriers, and the most vicious are dogs. But the story doesn't revolve around that so much as two towns of survivors discussing how they might merge their settlements. Someone in the negotiations wants in both villages to change drastically in ways the other leaders aren't expecting.
2. What personal challenges do you face as a writer?
My issue is time. I have a full-time job and a three-year-old. It's very hard to find consistent time to write and still keep the house livable, exercise, cook healthy meals, etc.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Probably getting feedback and editing. Though, every time, that does get easier, and I am so grateful for beta readers and editors who give me feedback. It just takes a few minutes of fuming before I realize how valuable their comments are.
4. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I assume that means something I actually enjoy or cherish. Because I have plenty of things I'd be happy to get rid of! I guess if you want a tough decision, I would trade my cats for being able to write better. I would miss them a lot, and I do love them to pieces. But I wouldn't miss the shedding or the litter box.
5. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I've mostly published short stories. When my story "Duck Pond" won a writing contest and was published in a literary journal, I realized that yes, I can do this. There are people out there who want to read my work and identify with my characters. One thing that really changed my writing process was working with bigworldnetwork.com, which is a site that specializes in serialized fiction. They limit their weekly installmenst to ten pages, and I realized that was the perfect length for chapters. I used to write these long, chapter-less books where I didn't plot out where I wanted the emotional high points to be. Thinking about writing like I was planning out a season of a TV series revolutionized how I plan my stories.
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Will you tell us about them?
Oh my Lord, I have WAY too many! One I do plan to finish is called "Retinue of Lost Ones" which is a YA supernatural story. It centers around a kid who not only sees ghosts, but he can control them and make them do things. He meets a girl who has an angry spirit following and tormenting her, and he has to figure out more about his powers to understand how to get rid of it. I also have an LGBT historical paranormal romance that involves werewolves. When I turned 30, I decided that if I was ever going to make it as a writer, now was the time. So I wrote a novel called Cultbreakers. I queried that around and had some great and encouraging feedback. Technically I'm on draft three, but I have so many other projects I'm not sure that one will ever see the light of day. Maybe as a self-published piece. It's a historical paranormal thriller that takes place in an alternate past. An heiress tries to solve the ritual cult murder of her sister.
7. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
All the reviews I've read come from anthologies, so it's easy not to take them too personally unless they mention your story by name. No reviews I've read have mentioned my story specifically, which is good in some ways, and bad in others. When my own solo novel comes out, I'm sure it'll be a completely different ball game.
8. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
That is a great question! Yes, I do that all the time. There is a Bob's Burgers reference somewhere in Idylls of the King (the novel in progress, not the short story). I actually can't remember where it is, but it's there. Totally not fitting with the time period or the tone of the book, but it's so subtle pretty much everyone is going to miss it. I also obviously have a lot of Arthurian references in that story, some of which you'll have to look very hard to find.
9. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
It's been a true honor and a pleasure to get to know everyone from the Iowa Writers' House and the Writers' Rooms. I am friends with many online and have even met a few in the flesh. I'm part of some extremely valuable Facebook groups that are always full of camaraderie and good advice. The thing I never realized about other writers is that they are always willing to help if you have a question or a problem with something to do with the world of books. I have also met incredible people who just happen to be writers, people I've learned so much from about life, and who I can count on when things get rough. I didn't know how much I needed a writing community until I found one. The encouragement alone is priceless.
Celebrity name drops: My sister-in-law works with Tim Johnson's brother (he wrote Descent which was a recent bestseller). I met him once. I used to work with Heather Gudenkauf's (The Weight of Silence) sister as well. Also one time Anne Rice "liked" a comment of mine on Facebook. Well, that, or her assistant did. So that makes us pretty much besties.
10. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell her to get her head out of her ass, honestly. I used to take feedback and constructive criticism SO PERSONALLY. I could have perfected my craft long ago if I was willing to have my work read by beta readers etc. and actually taken the feedback. Also I used to get jealous when other writers found success. Over time, though, I realized that a success for one of us is really a success for all of us, especially us little guys who are querying and self publishing and working day jobs. There is enough success for all of us if we have the right combination of luck and grit.
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think a big one is getting stuck on a particular fandom or story archetype, or even a genre. It really limits you if you will only write one type of story. Also young writers often write solely for themselves, which is fine, but as you mature you realize that the market is a thing, and some of the weird crap you're interested in has a very niche audience. Also a lot of early writers aren't reading nearly enough. They're so focused on their own worlds that they aren't absorbing the master works of writing out there, and that is one of the best ways to improve your craft.
12. What’s the best way to market your books?
Yikes, I pretty much suck at this. I really, really enjoy going to author events and selling books, mostly because I like talking to readers about my work, and because you get to hang around other writers and creative people all day. There's a frenetic energy I really like. It's super draining, because I'm actually just a huge introvert who’s good at acting like an extrovert. But I always come away feeling exhausted but fulfilled. I mean, I haven't successfully marketed crap. I'm breaking even most of the time!
13. What is your favorite childhood book?
That's a really hard question. How can you choose just one? I definitely loved the Redwall series as a tween. When I was a kid, I was really into books that featured a substitute home or a secret space that was unconventional and private for the characters. For example,The Family Under the Bridge, The Boxcar Children, and The Secret Garden. I think I really gravitated toward having somewhere to go that was my own space, like a hidden fort or something. We lived in a small house growing up, and even though I had my own room, it wasn't private. You could hear everything because the walls were paper thin, and there was a one inch space underneath my door. The all-time best book I ever read as a kid, though, was "Do I Have to Say Hello?" by Delia Ephron. It's a hilarious book written in the second person and it's all about manners. So it asks you a question like, "You're at a fancy restroom, and you have to go to the bathroom -- what do you do?" and then offers you multiple choice answers, most of which are hilariously wrong, like "a. stand up on your chair and shout 'I HAVE TO PEE!'" I credit a lot of my humor to that book. Meaning that my humor is juvenile. That's probably how I managed to teach 7th grade for 10 years.