UNMASKED – by Independent Author EM Kaplan
Review and Interview
I recently committed to downloading and reading self-published authors with a goal of reviewing their works on Amazon. I realized that I had been focusing upon well-known authors only. As an author myself, I reasoned, if I don’t choose independent authors how can I expect other readers to pick up my novels, and read them?
I chose my first novel from my Twitter contacts, and found a wonderful fantasy novel by EM Kaplan, UNMASKED. I was intrigued by the novel from the beginning and found her style of writing very attractive. The world in this novel is very close to our world, but just enough different to keep the reader engaged. EM Kaplan brings her characters to life in the mind of the reader. UNMASKED contains action and love interest between the principle characters. We see fantastical powers displayed by the most unlikely people as well. I could not predict the ending from the beginning, an important trait of any novel, to me. Thank you EM Kaplan for your wonderful story. Check out her website here.
I recently had the opportunity to connect with the author and she graciously agreed to an interview. I always want to know what makes an author “tick.” Everyone has a unique story and EM Kaplan’s is a great read.
Q. How long have you been a writer?
A. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a bus driver, a ballerina, or a writer. No lie. While each of those career options comes with its own unique brand of mental quirkiness, I am barely tall enough to reach the gas pedal in an import, never mind a bus. I’m too interested in food to wear a tutu. But oddly, I’ve always pretty good at putting words together. So, writing it is.
I remember taking one of those military career assessment tests early in high school and thinking it was a load of baloney. My test results said I needed to be either an architect or a technical writer. At the time, I already wanted to be a novelist, so I loudly poo-pooed the idea, which must have tipped the scales of fate against me. Less than a decade later, I dropped out of architecture school to take my first job as a tech writer in Silicon Valley. I still work as a tech writer to this day, so I try not to mess with fate anymore.
Q. What prompted you to write a novel?
A. None of the three books I have out so far is the first novel I wrote. That monstrosity is under lock and key in a vault in my basement. I hope it never sees the light of day. It’s painful to read, endless, and overly layered with symbolism. I wrote it directly after graduating college, when I was unemployed and unhealthy. It’s my Great American Novel before I switched goals to aim for writing a Great American Best-Seller. In my opinion, it’s not consumable. Why did I write it? I think I had to. It was a compulsion.
Later, when I was getting my Master’s in Creative Writing at Arizona, I mainly wrote short fiction because that’s all we had time for to critique in our workshops. Writing short, Carveresque (Raymond Carver style) stories over and over made me want to stretch my legs and go for a longer run, so to speak. I feel like I can hit a better stride in a novel.
Q. Have you tried the traditional publishing method? If so what was your experience?
A. I tried for about a decade to get an agent to respond to my query letters. During that time, admittedly, I was distracted by having kids, pets, and all the sleep deprivation, chaos, and lowered I.Q. points that come with the territory. In all those years, I don’t think I ever received a personal response from anyone. Truly depressing and a waste of postage. But since then, self-publishing has really evolved. I count myself lucky to be able to take part in it.
Q. Do you do all the work yourself or do you have a panel of readers, editors, artists?
A. I have a lot of support. My husband is JD Kaplan, a contemporary fantasy writer http://www.thedreamside.com/. My mother-in-law is editor Esther Kaplan http://www.out-basket.com/. My sister is a graphic designer who did the cover for my book, Unmasked, which was a finalist in a cover competition. I’m also lucky to have a group of friends who are great proofreaders, librarians, and teachers. I try to rotate through them and not to ask the same people to be early readers every time so I don’t wear out my welcome. I did the covers for my mysteries myself, which was fun.
Q. What is/are the source(s) for your writing ideas?
A. For The Bride Wore Dead, I had heard a story about a friend of a friend in Arizona. You know how stories go, so I don’t know how much of this actually happened, but this is the kernel, the pivotal scene of that book.
Spoiler alert here.
One night, as this guy was sleeping, a man broke into the house. Supposedly, it was a man from another city who had been sent to kill him, either for revenge for stealing a woman or money. The usual motivators. The guy jumped out of bed, overpowered, and disarmed the hired killer. They went out into the desert where the guy made the hitman dig his own shallow grave. The guy then shot the hired killer with his own gun and buried him. When it was done, he returned home and went back to bed.
Whether it’s true or not, it’s a pretty good story.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I’m working on the follow-up novel to Unmasked. This book has Mel again, but I have some new characters, too. It’ll be action-packed and take readers to unseen parts of their world. Monsters. Forces of nature. Supernatural talents. And possibly gadgets. Is that crazy enough?
In the summer, I plan to write another Josie Tucker mystery. Earlier, I hinted she might take a BBQ tour of central Texas. But suddenly, I have something else in mind for her first. I’ll have to wait and see what pans out.
Q. What advice can you give to a burgeoning author about writing and publishing?
A. Read and write often. Try writing exercises. It’s OK to emulate people or styles that you like until you find your own voice. Find people who write well and listen to their criticism, even if it hits you in the gut. Later, you might find out they were full of baloney, but then it’s just a lesson learned. Just keep trying.by