Author Spotlight: A. K. Downing Talks Into the Air, Young Adult Adventure Novel
I’m thrilled to be featuring another great writer in my Author Spotlight series today – this time, in the young adult adventure genre. In previous spotlights, I’ve featured authors that have written science fiction, children’s picture books, middle grade historical fiction, financial literacy, memoir, fiction with a mental health theme, guide books for addressing different family topics and spiritual self-help. Thanks for reading and now…
Meet A. K. Downing, author of the novel Into the Air, an intriguing read in the YA genre, yes, but perfect to be enjoyed by adults as well. The novel weaves a story about a world after life as we know it now – a world in a dark, underground compound with allotments on everything from light to food. A strong female character named Mia Bryn leads readers through a story about journeying into the dangerous unknown, surviving surprising obstacles along the way, and learning to trust your instincts.
In this Author Spotlight, Downing gives us the inside scoop on her inspiration for writing in this genre, her experience with the publishing process as she navigates through as a first-time author, and advice for others hoping to write a book.
Buy Into the Air on Amazon and find out more about A. K. Downing at http://akdowning.com/.
Is this your first novel? Tell us about your inspiration for writing the book.
First I’d like to thank you, Mandy, for highlighting Into the Air on your Author Spotlight series. I am so honored to be asked!
Into the Air is A. K. Downing’s first novel.
Yes, Into the Air is my first novel. Over the years, I’ve written creative content for clients, but never a work of fiction. The inspiration for Into the Air began as my kindergarten-age daughter and I walked home from a play date. She was making up a story and mentioned a name. For some reason the name stuck with me, and later that night I wrote it down the best I could remember. Around the same time, my husband and I became hooked on “prepper” shows. I started to wonder what the earth would look like a hundred years after a catastrophic event. I was even more interested in how people would resurface and rebuild. A few months later, bits of the story started to take hold… and the name my daughter made up suddenly had a purpose
What was your writing process like for this book?
I didn’t have much of a process – at least initially. I didn’t create an outline. I didn’t start at the beginning and work chapter by chapter. Ideas came in jumbles. Bits of dialogue woke me up at night. At times, the ideas came so fast it almost felt obsessive. But the story evolved organically, which allowed it to build and become more complex as the years passed.
Almost all the writing took place after my daughter was in bed, or was jotted down while sitting in traffic during my morning commute. When I thought the story was in a good place, I asked 5 people to read it. Each person responded with relevant insight and comments. I rewrote large amounts of the book based on their input. Then, during the final year, I was fortunate to be introduced to an editor who pushed me to rewrite, revise and rethink. Rethinking the story three years into writing it was incredibly hard work, but it made the novel stronger and much more engaging.
What publishing route did you choose (self-publishing, traditional publishing via an agent, crowdsource publishing) and why?
I promised myself I would initially try traditional publishing. I sent queries to agents – 75 of them – which as any author can tell you, is a long and tedious process. During this time, an author friend sang the praises of self-publishing. She reminded me that even if I was fortunate enough to be picked up by an agent, there was no guarantee that agent could “sell” the book to a publisher, or that the publisher would successfully market the book. The more I heard, the more self-publishing appealed to me. Amazon has a fantastic print-on-demand book division called CreateSpace. They also offer Kindle Direct. Working with these two online resources, I was able to design my own cover, format the inside of my novel, and publish it in both print and Kindle versions.
Tell us about how you’re marketing the book? (website, book signings, videos, etc.)
My online efforts revolve around a novel-focused website and pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. By design the site has minimal content. It features a short video and a few reviews, but my goal is to use it as a jumping point to Amazon and Goodreads. In the next few months I hope to add a blog feature to the website, which will focus on items in the novel. For instance, do underground compounds actually exist? Yes, they really are out there.
Other than social media, my marketing efforts have just begun. Like the book, they are evolving organically. Friends have introduced me to gift shop owners, teenagers I know are talking about forming Into the Air study groups, and a book group in Nashville made it their next read. Recently, IN Community magazine agreed to run a story about the book, and there are other local publications I plan to contact, as well as the local libraries. As someone who has worked in an agency for longer than I care to admit, I know that marketing isn’t a race. It’s a slow drip that continues to spread.
Are you working on other projects now?
I am currently working on the sequel to Into the Air – and it feels so good to be writing again. The second book is roughed out. I know the sequence of events and Mia’s path. Just the other day I had an ah-ha moment that changed the focus of chapter 2. All I can say is Mia and Archer’s adventure continues with new characters, returning faces, and more mysteries revealed.
What advice do you have for other writers who may want to write a book?
Six months into writing, when I foolishly thought my book was close to completion, my husband burst my bubble and told me that the average first book takes 3 years to complete. I thought he was joking. My advice for other writers is to stick with it. As you can imagine, I had low points while I was writing – times when I wanted to quit. But I also had some amazing feel good moments. Writing isn’t a race and if you love your story and your characters, the work is worth it. The other thing I learned is not to underestimate the power of a good critique. Negative feedback hurts to hear, but if it festers long enough, you’ll start to see how the story can evolve and become better.
What has been your favorite part of this journey so far?
I love these characters. I love Mia’s naivety and spirit. I love Archer’s strength and determination. It is an amazing feeling to know they are out there for others to discover. A friend recently told me that she had a huge crush on Archer. At the time I laughed, but the idea that she connected that much with one of the characters made me feel giddy. I guess mostly I feel immensely lucky to have had a story emerge the way it did, and to hear that people who have read Into the Air are ready to read more. Stay tuned!
Thanks again to A.K. for taking the time to share her insight with us.
I want to read more Author Spotlights!