Inkling Interview: KL Burd
Every week I get so excited about the interviews I get to do, because no writer’s story is exactly the same. I’ve been looking forward to interviewing this particular writer since connecting with him through Twitter. What I notice most is that his tweets are truly thought-provoking; he has started some really cool dialogues (particularly about writing and race) on his timeline. He’s not afraid of confronting conversations, and he’s always respectful of others, so I decided I wanted to know more. Please welcome, the cool and collected, KL Burd.
KL, I’m going to ask what I always like to start with: where are you at in your writing journey, and how did you get there?
I am currently working on my second manuscript and it’s so much fun. About a year and a half ago, I started my first manuscript and it took me 10 months to complete. During that time I was in a writing class with some local authors in Austin and they kept pushing me towards the finish line. It was a wonderful experience but then I joined Twitter in May of last year and that changed everything.
Right? Me too!
I had no idea what querying was or that you needed 4,5 or maybe 10 revisions of your manuscript. In my naïveté I started to query my MS but it really wasn’t ready. I realized that I needed to do some major edits so I put it on the shelf for a bit to create some space. Then came #NaNoWriMo in 2018. I loved participating in it the previous year, so I had to do it again. That lead me to start my current MS and I’m glad I did.
Yay! NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2018 was the first time I completed it! Can you pitch your current project? Are there aesthetics?
So, let me answer the second question first. No aesthetics but I wish I had some. I’m simply not great with those but I admire all the ones that I see online.
That is a-okay!
Currently, I am working on Chasing Lincoln which is my first YA novel. You know what - Let me just pitch it to you. This is a super rough draft of what I have planned for the next Twitter Pitch party:
“When a police shooting kills his best friend, DeMarcus discovers that our world is an alternate timeline. In the original one, President Lincoln was never shot and life is drastically different. Now, he must fix the timeline to save his friend and the country.”
My plan is have Sci-Fi in all of my novels and this one combines SFF and historical fiction with the current themes of social justice and the need for police reform in America.
Please note: THIS IS WHY WE'RE FRIENDS. I love this concept and can't wait to read this. Seriously. So of course, my follow up question to that is about how you write stories like this; what is your writing style?
Ha, I am absolutely unsurprised. Okay, Mr. Cool & Collected: what are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?
My favorite part of the writing process is definitely outlining and the first draft. I’ve never been an author who struggles with ideas. I have ideas for at least 10 books in my head right now and I love getting to put those ideas to paper.
First of all, whoa. Ten? That's awesome. Secondly, that's interesting that you enjoy draft #1!
My least favorite part is querying. Oh man, that can break your spirit if you aren’t ready. I found that out quickly. Fortunately, it just made me dig deeper and I’m confident my my next round will go much better.
I don't know many people who like the querying process, but you're right; you learn a lot and it's sort of a "What doesn't kill you" thing to me! Now KL, let's tackle the obvious here. You're a Black and man and you're writing about American police brutality. Can you talk about how your identity and background impact your writing?
My identity and background completely influence my writing. It’s a central theme in every story that I plan on putting together.
As a young Black boy, I loved Sci-Fi and mystery. However, there was one thing that was missing in every story I read: a Black protagonist.
At some point in elementary school, I was introduced to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor and that book was life changing. It was the first story that I ever read with all Black characters. It also connected me to history as I didn’t know about sharecropping and the struggle of Black families in the early 1900’s. That story still holds a very important place in my heart and it is part of the reason I am an author now.
SUCH a good book. And man, I feel for you. I too remember looking for myself in books as a kid with little to show for it. I don't say this to shame anyone who's part of the majority, but for those that don't know that feeling... it sucks. Not being able to see yourself as the hero of the story ever just sucks. SO glad we're changing that as a community.
25 years later, I have the opportunity to do the same for some young Black boy or girl who is looking for themselves in a Sci-Fi novel, or a Thriller or a love story. What’s even more amazing is that my stories will be relatable to children of all races and they will get to see that marginalized people can also be heroes.
Hooray! *Insert fist pump and dancing*. Now KL, as you write, and as you plan to participate in upcoming pitch events, obviously there's serious commitment involved. How do you manage life and other responsibilities alongside your writing?
That’s a great question. I don’t. Ha!
Actually, I have a great support system. My wife completely believes in my writing and she gives me grace when I say I need to stay up late and knock out 1500 words. I usually have to sneak in my writing late at night, after my two sons have gone to bed, or during my lunch break. Writing with a full time job and a family can be difficult but I also use it as a time to relax and clear my head.
I really admire writers who are also parents. I've worked in childcare briefly and it is NOT for the faint of heart. Major kudos and I'm so glad you have such a wonderful support system. Writers: you can go to every conference and master class there is, but you won't get far without a support system. You need it especially when receiving critiques. What’s the hardest critique you’ve ever received, KL?
Silence. There’s nothing like sending a manuscript to a beta reader and never hearing back. In my mind that means one of two things: A) They didn’t like it and don’t want to hurt my feelings or B) They got bored and put it down. Either way, it leaves a lot of room for self-doubt and negativity. Thankfully, I have a few trusted folks that help to keep me encouraged when that happens.
Man. That is really hard. I guess this is a good time to also say that if you raise your hand to be a beta reader, always err on honest rather than saying nothing! I admit I've been guilty of this before and looking back, I regret it and endeavor not to do it. Okay, happier things! Would you rather have the power to be invisible or fly?
Fly. 100% This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I want to skydive one day because I feel like it’s the closest I’ll ever get to doing the real thing.
Ooh, you are way braver than me. I will enjoy the view from the ground. (Invisibly muahaha) Getting back to writing for a moment, I'm curious: What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
Persistence is the key. I love that I am being interviewed in the middle of my journey. So many times we only see the success stories and think that we are unworthy because we haven’t reached the mountaintop. I know that I will get an agent and a publisher in my next go around. There is zero doubt in my heart about that. In this current moment though, I am just like every other aspiring writer out there. I am doing the hard work of creating a manuscript and participating in things like pitch parties and blind queries.
I am smiling ear to ear!
For those of us from underrepresented backgrounds, it is imperative that you do not give up. Everything in this industry is stacked against you and it is what it is. It’s been that way for a long time but your voice is needed right now. Your story is needed. Your book matters.
When you think about giving up because you received another rejection or a harsh critique, remember that you matter. Use that opportunity to dig into your circle of writer friends and let them lift you up.
Speaking of writer friends, I have been fortunate to find lifelong friends in our amazing Twitter writing community and am so grateful for groups like Team #DViants. The hashtags #amwriting, #amediting, #amquerying and #writingcommunity have also been gold for me. The people that use these tags have taught me everything I now know about what you do after you type “The End.” Use them and find people who have your back. Reach out to me, if you like. I’m here to encourage any writers out there.
He really is you guys. Of course, you know I had to ask: what’s your “anthem,” the song that would play if your life was a music video?
I would have to say “Touch the Sky” by old Kanye. (Nowadays you gotta specify which Kanye you talking about.)
I’m over here howling with laughter at “the Old Kanye” haha. But also I'm playing it right now and bopping. (You guys know I love to dance!)
It’s a fun, vibrant beat and it’s all about feeling good when he had nothing and still feeling good when he has all the money in the world. I’ve just had that kinda easy-going, free spirited life where the sun is always shining. Sure, there have been plenty of dark days but overall I’m all about the fun.
I love it! (And I really need to create giant playlist of all the awesome music recs I get). Okay and...bonus question! You have a tree in your backyard that will grow whatever you want forever, what grows on it?
Is this a trick question? How can the answer not be money? Ha, in order not to be cliche, I’m going to say that it grows book ideas that are guaranteed to make millions. That way I could one day pass Stephen King and his 30 or so #1 best-sellers.
That would be...awesome. But I feel like at that level you get some hardcore fans that are a little scary haha. It was just as fun to interview you as I thought KL. Thanks so much!
Next up: It's one of my favorite guys: Clyde Andrews!