Saturday, 31 August 2013

Mum, Will You Help Me With My Homework?

Wendy and Charlie Siefken are a mother and son writing team from Iowa.  They began writing together while Charlie was still in high school.  Charlie had issues with cross modalities and though he really liked writing stories he found it difficult to get his ideas from his head onto paper.  To try to help with this, Charlie’s school principal gave Charlie a challenge of writing and publishing a book.  Wendy got involved and took the lead on researching how to get published.  Five years on they are still working together and have published their first book, ‘Kai's Journey.’
Wendy and Charlie admit to knowing nothing about publishing when they started out.  They know they still have a long way to go yet, but they also recognise that they have already come a long way as well.
The Siefkens invited me to their Iowa ranch for this interview (actually they didn’t, we did all this through Facebook; but we can pretend can’t we).

Writing is generally a solitary business, so partnerships are quite rare, with mother-son partnerships even more unusual.  Do you each take an equal share of writing and marketing or do you have specific roles?
We each do our specific roles with the inclusion of letting each other know what we are doing. Charlie comes up with the story ideas and we collaborate together on them, fleshing them out. I take the lead on marketing but I talk things over with Charlie to get his opinion on things as well and so he knows what I do and how.

Do family ties or the generation gap present you with any creative challenges?
No we don’t think there is anything like that between us. We are both good at describing what we see in our heads. I have learned to explain differently to help another understand what I am thinking or seeing. He is very good at it too. He can explain verbally very well, but like I mentioned before he has problems writing those things down.

Similarly, have you been able to capitalise on your relationship when it comes to promotion and marketing or have you encountered any obstacles because of it?
We do capitalise on the fact that we are a mother and son writing team with the emphasis of Charlie being the creator of the stories. The only obstacles we have run into is they either want to choose one or the other to single out and not mention the other.

Do you write everything as a partnership or do you have solo projects as well?
We do write most things together because we feel we are better writers together then solo. We have written solo pieces but feel they don’t have the same feel to them.

You describe ‘Kai’s Journey’ as a YA novel suitable for young readers.  Did you deliberately target this growing market or do you simply prefer to write in this style?
I think that is just the style we like to write in. We feel most comfortable with that genre.

What lessons about working together have you both learnt from writing and publishing Kai’s Journey?
We have each learned our roles while keeping the other included on the day to day partnership. I keep in mind that someday he may want to be or wind up being a solo writer and I want him to be able to carry on. I have learned to make sure when editing that Charlie doesn’t see some of the changes and that we keep Charlie’s voice in the story. (sparkly dragons are a no no!) J

Has writing Kai’s Journey helped Charlie overcome the problems he has with cross modality?
Yes and no, It helped him to write better and he is better able to get his ideas down on paper, but since he has gotten out of school he has gotten away from writing and we just talk about the ideas. His writing in general his improved greatly though

You initially self-published Kai’s Journey through Createspace.  Why did you switch to Master Koda Select Publishing (MKSP)?
Because we knew that we needed a professional editor but couldn’t really afford a good professional editor. Although MKSP is a small publishing company and we are still pretty much in charge of marketing and such they have resources we just don’t have. A professional editor, a character developer, a book illustrator and a group of people that help out with the marketing and promoting as well.

You say you have a long way to go but have also come a long way.  Where do you see your current strengths, writing or publishing and marketing?
We see our strengths in writing. We have learned a lot about publishing and marketing but still feel writing is our greatest strength to date.

What are you both currently working on?
We are working on the edits for Kai’s Journey book 2. We are also working on the third book of the series of Kai’s Journey as well as a new book called Fallen Angel about a pirate crew who finds a spaceship with an AI on board.

Many thanks to Wendy and Charlie for their time.

You can find out more about Wendy and Charlie Siefken on their publisher’s website
on Facebook
and on Twitter


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