Interview with Kim Neville

Author of The Memory Collectors

Kim Neville was one of the first writers I reached out to about participating in my Author Interview series. I was so excited that she said yes! I wasn’t sure if any published authors would want to talk to an unknown blogger/writer. Before I continue, I’d like to say thank you to all of the authors who allow these interviews. I like to think they remember a time when they, too, were unpublished and grasping for advice, writing tips, and inspiration from successful authors.

Kim is from Canada and comes across as a very down-to-earth person that has remained “normal” after the success she’s had with her debut novel, The Memory Collectors. I think many unpublished writers wonder how life will change once they have a book (or more than one book) out. Kim talks about that in this interview. She also outlines the lengthy road from finished manuscript to publication, and it might surprise you!

I read—and quite enjoyed—The Memory Collectors. If you want to read my review on it, you can click here. Interestingly, one of the reasons it took Kim so long to find agent representation was that no one quite knew where to put the book, since it didn’t fit neatly into any one genre. Something to think about, but then again, had Kim changed to fit into a set category we wouldn’t have The Memory Collectors!

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L.A. Can you introduce yourself to my subscribers, tell them a little about

yourself, where you’re from, how long you’ve been writing?

K.N. My name is Kim Neville and I live in Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been writing

fiction for about twenty years. My debut novel, The Memory Collectors, was published in 2021.

L.A. Did you have a career before writing? If so, what was it, and at what point

did you transition over to writing full-time?

K.N. I did and still do have a career outside of writing, although I am lucky

enough to be able to work part-time, which leaves me a day or two a week

to focus on writing. I work at a local university, where I’m the

administrative manager for a multi-disciplinary research center focused on

aging and mobility. I’ve been there for about ten years.

L.A. When did you first realize you might be a writer?

K.N. I’ve always loved writing stories, but I didn’t seriously consider writing as a

career until I was in my twenties, and even then, it took a long time to get

up the courage to put real time and effort into it. It wasn’t until I was close

to 30 that I decided to try writing fiction with the goal of getting published.

L.A. How old were you when you wrote the first book?

K.N. I started developing The Memory Collectors at the end of 2012, so I

would have been 39 years old. It took several years for me to finish writing

the book, then a couple more to get an agent and sell the manuscript. By

the time it was released, I was 47.

L.A. Can you talk a little about your writing process?

K.N. I prefer to write in the mornings, so on my days off, I always protect a few

hours before lunch for some uninterrupted writing. When I’m working on a

first draft, I like to put in a bit of time every day to stay in the flow.

When I was drafting The Memory Collectors, I was working full-time

and raising a small child, so I woke up at 5:00 AM every weekday to write

for an hour before the rest of the family was up. It was hard and, for me,

not sustainable long term. Now that I’m working on book #2 and have a

fairly self-sufficient teenager at home, I can usually squeeze in an hour of

writing in the evenings.

We live in a small townhouse, so my desk is in the corner of the master

bedroom, and that’s where I do most of my work. But if no one is home, I’ll

take my laptop downstairs and sit in the comfy chair by the front window.

It takes me a long time to finish a book. Years! I’d hoped that would change

once I finished my first novel and figured out how this writing thing works.

Alas, I am still slow and am learning to live with this.

“If there’s no room for surprises while I’m drafting, lose interest.”

~Kim Neville

L.A. Do you write with music, or do you need it quiet while you work?

K.N. I cannot write with music. I don’t mind background noise (I love writing in

cafes, although I haven’t done so in over two years), but I find music too

distracting.

L.A. Do you outline your stories before you begin writing them?

K.N. I have tried both outlining in detail and winging it, and find that what works best for me is something in between. I usually figure out where my

character is emotionally at the beginning of the novel, and how I’d like

them to have grown by the end. This helps me outline some of the big

turning points in the story. Then I like to keep things loose while I write a

very messy first draft. If there’s no room for surprises while I’m drafting, I

lose interest.

L.A. Can you tell us about your experience getting a novel published for the first

time?

K.N. It took me well over a year and 67 queries to find my agents. The Memory Collectors is a book that doesn’t fit neatly into any particular genre, so a

lot of agents who liked the book felt they wouldn’t be able to successfully

market it to a publisher. When I spoke with my current agents, Melanie

Figueroa and Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary, I knew immediately that

they were the right fit because they already had a solid plan to position the

book as general fiction with magical elements, something I had never

considered.

Once I signed with them and did a round of light edits, we went on

submission in the fall of 2019. The manuscript sold to Atria Books within a

few weeks. I had an absolute dream of an editor in Melanie Iglesias Perez.

In fact, the entire team at Atria was wonderful and I’m grateful for all the

support I received while getting the book ready for publication. Even

though it was a longer journey than I imagined when I started out writing,

I’m glad that I didn’t give up.

“If I sound like a yoga teacher, I can confirm that I’ve been practicing yoga for over a decade, and it has deeply informed the way that I approach writing.”

~Kim Neville

L.A. How do you handle negative reviews and general criticism of your writing?

K.N. I don’t mind receiving criticism. I’m always trying to learn more and

improve at my craft. Negative reviews can still be hard, but I remind myself

that not everyone is going to like my style or will enjoy the type of story I

like to tell, and that’s okay. If I’m really feeling down, I like to read bad

Goodreads reviews of my all-time favorite books. There are truly no books

out there that are universally loved.

L.A. What advice would you give to someone who has writing ability, but is

stuck in fear and can’t go the distance with a full-length manuscript?

K.N. This was absolutely me for so many years. What helped me the most was to

approach writing as a practice that enhances my life regardless of outside

success. While I was still working toward publication, I knew that I would

continue to write regardless of whether I published, simply because I

enjoy the act of creating stories. Letting go of the outcome allowed me to

write with less pressure, and to appreciate the progress I made over time. If

I sound like a yoga teacher, I can confirm that I’ve been practicing yoga for

over a decade, and it has deeply informed the way that I approach writing.

L.A. What is the one thing that surprised you regarding becoming a published

novelist?

K.N. That I’m still the same old Kim, picking up my kid from school, slogging

home from the grocery store on foot, cleaning the bathrooms on Sundays.

Most people I interact with on a day-to-day basis have no idea that I’m a

published author. Of course, I knew logically that my ordinary life would

continue—very few authors are rich and famous—but it’s funny how

quickly that happens after the initial buzz of a book release. Despite this, I

will say that the feeling of accomplishment has not diminished for me one

bit. When I was a kid, becoming a novelist seemed like an unachievable

dream. But I did it.

L.A. Who are your favorite authors? (This can include who inspired you in the

early days, all the way up to what you’re currently reading).

K.N. I love to read widely and across many genres, although I tend to lean most

toward contemporary fantasy and literary fiction. Two authors I’m enjoying

a lot at the moment are Alix E. Harrow and Silvia Moreno Garcia. And I’m

currently reading (and thoroughly enjoying) The Cartographers, by Peng

Shepherd.

L.A. What are you currently working on?

K.N. As I mentioned, I am working on a new novel, but it will be a little while

before I’m ready to promote it.

A big thank you to Kim Neville! I enjoyed learning about your experience getting published for the first time, and was surprised at the length of time it took. We’re all certainly glad you persevered, though, because the end result is The Memory Collectors!

To learn more about Kim Neville, you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or her website