Special Guest Friday: Mindy Klasky!

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Before I introduce our special guest for this week, let me remind any of you who will be in the Charlotte, NC area this weekend that Faith, Misty, and David will be appearing at ConCarolinas.  Stop by and say hello!

Our guest today is Mindy Klasky, the talented and versatile author of the Jane Madison series (Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft, Sorcery and the Single Girl, and Magic and the Modern Girl, all published by Red Dress Ink), the Glasswright series (The Glasswrights’ Apprentice, The Glasswrights’ Progress, The Glasswrights’ Journeyman, The Glasswrights’ Test, and The Glasswrights’ Master, all published by Roc), and Season of Sacrifice, a stand alone fantasy published by Roc.  Her newest project is the As You Wish series.  The first book, How Not To Make a Wish, will be released in October by Mira.

Mindy has been kind enough to share with us the story of her unique and at times challenging career path from full- (and I mean FULL) time attorney to full-time author.

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Thank you, Magical Words, for allowing me to visit!  As a small gesture of appreciation, I’m giving away a copy of MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL to one person who posts in comments below.  (I’ll choose the winner using the Magic Random Number Generator some time after midnight on May 31 – if you’re not logged in to the system when you post your comment, please leave an email address so that I can reach you!)

And without further ado…

Once upon a time, I was a lawyer.  I practiced trademark and copyright law for seven years at a large D.C. firm.  I loved my job.  Until 1994, that was.  The year the Case From Hell consumed my life.

I had ethical qualms about the Case.  I spent a summer in Kansas City humidity.  We were understaffed.  I was overworked.  I billed more than 3000 hours in one year.  (Yep.  That works out to more than 8 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Nope.  I didn’t lie on my hourly records.)

But the worst thing of all:  I had no time to write.  For twelve months, I put my novels on hold completely.  No world-building.  No character-crafting.  No creative writing whatsoever.  The loss of writing time was soul-deadening.

When the Case finally ended, I knew I needed a different career.  Something that would give me time to write.  Something that would let me use my hard-won legal knowledge.

And so, two semesters and a master’s degree later, I became a reference librarian in a law firm.  I loved my new job.  I learned new things every day.  I found story ideas lurking in the oddest of research requests

I had time to write.  I sold my first novel, THE GLASSWRIGHTS’ APPRENTICE, which ultimately became a five-volume traditional fantasy series, and a stand-alone traditional fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE.  I wrote the Jane Madison trilogy, which walks the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Over the course of twelve years, I moved up various law-firm ladders, until I was managing a staff of twenty-six librarians, serving 1500 law firm employees and lawyers in fourteen offices.  Alas, though, we were understaffed.  (Sound familiar?)  I was overworked (again, sound familiar?), spending two weeks of every month on the road, visiting my staff in other offices.

And I realized that the worst thing had happened again:  I had no time to write.

A year ago, I made my second major career change:  I became a full-time writer.  So far, it’s working out well – I’ve sold four new novels, launched an editing business, and I do some freelance legal writing on the side.  I have time to keep my website – http://www.mindyklasky.com – up to date, and I can post regularly on my blog – http://mindyklasky.livejournal.com.  I’m happier with my professional life than I’ve ever been before.

I certainly wouldn’t trade away the time I spent as a lawyer, though.  Astute readers have noted that THE GLASSWRIGHTS’ APPRENTICE begins and ends with “trials”, with legalistic inquiries into right and wrong.  The balance of logic and justice permeates the entire series and much of my other writing.

I wouldn’t forfeit the time I worked as a librarian either.  Jane Madison, the heroine of GIRL’S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, is a reference librarian who finds out that she’s a witch.  The concepts of information management, collection development, and reader’s advisory flavor all three Jane books.

If you’re a writer, how do your current or former day-jobs influence your writing?  If you’re a reader, do you perceive authors’ “real-world lives” in their work?

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20 comments to Special Guest Friday: Mindy Klasky!

  • I’ve been a physical therapist for 22 years and I find that my knowledge of anatomy, movement, injury and healing and sensory perception really helps me in describing physical actions and reactions. One of my pet peeves in reading is when characters fight or get injured without showing any pain or aftereffects.

    One of my stories is a near-future medical thriller and it was fun extrapolating what I know from my training to medicine in 30 years.

  • I don’t tend to see it when reading, but when I find out later it’s one of those “ah, I see” moments. Like with Faith and the jewelry work and her character in the Rogue Mage series. Though that’s not really her job it still sort of has the same feel as finding out a person who wrote a big military book was a Navy Seal or someone who always has certain animals in their stories used to be a veterinarian. Sometimes I will wonder at whether a scene was first hand knowledge or just good research, but usually it doesn’t hit me till later.

    My current job doesn’t really influence my writing, as I’m a stay at home dad. Though I am considering, and have started working on a few books for children based on my daughter and a young reader story as well. It’s not quite YA, but I guess could cross that line. My skill set makes me perfect for artistic endeavors like writing, retail, or stay at home dad, alas.

    I worked too many years as a produce clerk in the Kroger Corp, which ruined parts of my bod and made me a bit cynical about portions of the human race in general, seeing some of the worst of the human condition while working there. I guess a personality from that time sometimes sneaks into my writing, but I’ve never really given any of my characters mad produce stocking skills…at least not yet. 😉

  • LJ – Funny you should mention physical effects on characters! My First Reader is a professor of physiology and anatomy. Over the years, I’ve been amazed by the mistakes he’s highlighted in my writing (especially in action scenes…)

  • Daniel – Actually, I think developing target audiences for your writing is one of the major side-effects of any job (or pastime)! I recently spent a week with my 3-year-old nephew, and picture book ideas all came bubbling to the surface… (As for the grocery – sometimes our day jobs give/gave us insight into how to torture our characters 🙂 )

  • Great post Mindy! I love hearing career paths! I was also a lawyer and also had the trial from hell (I found myself writing in the 8 minutes it took for water to boil for mac’n’cheese) before I switched to a new practice area so I’d have more time to write (which I also ended up leaving to write full time). I’m fascinated by how many ex-lawyers are writers!

    I agree with Daniel that I find it so interesting after reading a book to realize what influences the author had. I also love learning about things I’d prob not know before because the author brings that unique knowledge or viewpoint. As of yet I haven’t had the chance to use law in my writing (except, perhaps, knowing what it feels like to be a zombie…)

  • Thanks for the great post, Mindy. I’m wondering about the after effects of that “soul-deadening” time of no writing. I would imagine that while you weren’t writing, you were still getting ideas. Once you began to write again, did you find that you had a backlog of material? Did that prove to be a fertile time for you? Or did you find the opposite: that having gone for so long without writing, you had trouble getting started again?

  • Been wanting to read that book…enter me please! (I was gonna just post and say, “Gimme!” but I figured politeness wins out over rude grabbing most of the time.)

    Great post. Glad you moved from soul-deadening to writing!

  • Hi Mindy! Great post!
    >>If you’re a writer, how do your current or former day-jobs influence your writing?

    Under my AKA Gwen Hunter, I wrote a medital thriller series and used my hospital experience in that. It was neat blending my two halves into one.

  • Amy

    I’m an eyecare professional and I tend to find that I make far too many references to my character’s eyes – the colour, what they’re looking at, the way they express their emotions through them. It’s something I’ve had to seriously try to cut back on, because it started to get silly!

    However, it means that I have a lot of knowledge about the brain and how it works to play with, too, which is really enjoyable when writing. When I give my characters particular powers, I like to work out how they’re possible biologically, so I can then project that into how they would work and what their weaknesses are likely to be. It makes them a lot more grounded in reality.

  • Carrie – There are a shocking number of us recovering lawyers out there! I think that a lot of us creative-minded people got channeled into law as the “generic professional school” program, and then we all decided to break free… Either that, or we all wanted to be Scott Turow when we grew up!

    David – For me, the “soul-deadening” impact on my writing worked on a reverse bell curve. At first, as work consumed my life, I had tons and tons of writing ideas and the corresponding frustration of not being able to use them. Then, as I realized I was stuck for the mid-length haul, the ideas drifted away. I became sort of numb. When I could glimpse the end (of the Case From Hell, then the legal career), the ideas came *flooding* back. Adding a new course of study through librarianship really increased the flow of story possibilities. (I wouldn’t wish that numb trough on anyone, though…)

    Maria – “Gimme” works for me 🙂 I have monthly drawings on my website, so if you don’t win here, feel free to enter over there!

    Faith – I think all of us writers are somewhat schizophrenic. I’d think that hospital experience would be greatly different from the solitary pursuit of writing, but I can see how the details would greatly enhance a novel.

    Amy – The first book in my new series, HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH, had an *incredible* number of references to lighting – overhead lights, lamps, glints on eyes, etc. I realized as I was doing my final round of edits, that I’d been researching energy-efficient home lighting at the time I wrote it! Edit, edit, edit… 🙂

  • I am an Accounting Tech, and I did write a short story named Two Plus Two about a governemnt accounting guy taking a trip to the Moon. Although I think the greatest influence has been nipping character quirks from my co-workers and using the logic of math/accounting/auditing to keep my story’s logic in line.

  • I worked on a horse farm, and I definitely have used my knowledge of horses and horse anatomy.

    I also have a huge pet peeve anytime someone uses “reigns” and means “reins.” >:)

  • Donna S

    As a reader sometimes you can see the authors “real world lives” in their work. If they are writing about something they know or experience it tends to make it more believable. If its something they know nothing about and you do and they totally change it, it can turn you off and make the story less interesting.

  • Hi, Mindy! Great post! I’m a pharmacy technician by day, and I haven’t as yet used any of that knowledge creatively; but it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. More of a “How can I use this?” than any real ideas, though.

    Unless you count a general idea of office life. I’ve been toying with an urban fantasy short story set in a cubicle farm environment recently. That’s been fun.

    On a side note, a friend forced me (nearly at gun-point I might add!) to read GLASSWRIGHTS’ and I thought it was wonderful. Thanks to you & Magical Words, I have more stuff to add to my wish list!

  • Robin

    I loved Jane–to the point that I started to wonder if I’d missed my true calling and should go back to school to be a librarian! My current career, of course, is as a lawyer (public defender)–but I could never figure out legal research in the books, so I’m not so tempted to be a legal librarian. I dream of escaping (I keep having trials from hell over and over again) and becoming… yeah, a full-time writer/SAHM. But I’m still learning the craft and I have a long way to go, alas.
    And now I need to read Glasswrights. 🙂
    Thanks for the post!

  • Barbara

    Mindy – First of all, I loved the Glasswright’s Apprentice series and Season of Sacrifice. Gotta catch up on your other works, too!
    About career/life wriggling into my writing, I’ve spent years studying learning styles (I’m a corporate trainer) especially a theory known as neurolinguistic programming (NLP)which explores our sensory preferences for absorbing and understanding the world. The world in the novel that I’m working on relies heavily on this, and I didn’t realize I had done this for quite some time. Primarily, it focuses on the sense of sight. Also, I LOVE giraffes, so they are a main force in the story – even though everyone keeps telling me that giraffes won’t work. They have a keen sense of sight – see?

  • Kimberly B.

    Great interview, Mindy! I’ve been really enjoying the Jane Madison series, in part because I have so many friends who are librarians, and I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming one myself. It’s always cool when the protagonist has a job you appreciate and understand. And all the Shakespeare references are great!
    As far as your occupation playing into your writing, I’m an ancient historian, and I’m working on a dystopian novel which uses a lot of what I know about how women were treated in classical Athens. I don’t see myself writing straight up historical fiction, though, because I want to keep the two worlds apart, at least for the moment. But I might write someone who is a professor someday.

  • Yeah, Mindy, glad you made it to the site!

    I’m a research/planning director in higher education. So far, my work hasn’t made it into my fiction, though some computer geek stuff ended up in my first romance novel (I formerly worked in IT).

    Glad to hear the move to full-time writer has been good to you. Keep the words coming!

  • Ach – one of my replies from the weekend got eaten by the Internets, and then Life consumed Sunday… I apologize for not getting back to posters more quickly!

    Mark – I agree that the logic of certain day-jobs shows up in writing as plot structure. I have consciously worked to increase the “meatiness” of my plots, and I find that a lot of that work feels like my old days doing computer programming, following the logical flow of “if/then” statements…

    Kara – Most homophone typos drive me nuts! My first reader is a professor of physiology and anatomy, and I’m often surprised by the scientific “saves” he commits, reminding me that characters wouldn’t have the ability or stamina to do the things I want them to do. When I wrote traditional fantasy, I often worried about how I was distorting horsemanship!

    Donna – The devil of writing *is* in the details. When I’m familiar with a subject, the details are at my fingertips. When I’m working with a subject unknown to me, I enjoy interviewing trained professionals. Lots of times, they don’t realize that the tiniest details they share are more likely to end up in a book, rather than the grand sweep of general facts!

    Melissa – Thanks for the kind words about GLASSWRIGHTS! I find that a lot of my “how can I use this” thoughts get shelved for weeks/months/years, only to emerge in totally transformed shape in some future work. Keep notes on your ideas now!

    Robin – As a public defender, you must be reaping huge harvests of story ideas! It’s funny – I was a great legal researcher using books, and I resisted some of the online technologies, but I came to love them over time… Librarianship isn’t the solution for all lawyers, but it sure worked for me! 🙂

    Barbara – Many thanks for your kind words! The synesthesia that Rani and Berylina experience grew out of my direct interest in learning styles and language interpretation. As for giraffes – I haven’t seen them used often in fiction – this is *your* chance! 🙂

    Kimberly – Thanks for the kind words! I’ve loved double-checking those Shakespeare references and keeping the game between Jane and Melissa fresh! As for classical Athens, I have a trunked fantasy novel that I *love* that is based, in large part, on libraries of the ancient world. I have dreams of reworking it some day, turning it into something sell-able…

    Christina – I love the cross-fertilization of computer geek stuff and romance. It’s important for us to continue to find new ways to educate romance readers! 🙂

  • And according to the Random Number Generator Kara (of the horses) is the winner of a signed copy of MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL. Kara – email me (mindy@mindyklasky.com) with your street address, and who you’d like me to sign the book to (lousy grammar there…), and I’ll get it on its way!

    Many thanks to all of you who commented, and to the Magical Words folks for letting me visit!