Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Interview with Kate Milford - Kairos and Kickstarter
Today Kate Milford joins us to talk about The Kairos Mechanism, a Kickstarter project set in her Arcana world. The Boneshaker was one of my favorite reads from 2011, and I am eagerly awaiting The Broken Lands, out in September. I loved how the characters from folklore (good and evil) come to life. Just the right mix of fright, danger and adventure, with an excellent cast of characters. You also know me as a greedy little reader, so I want to get my hands on every story set in this fascinating world that Milford has created.
The Kairos Mechanism will be a novella featuring artwork by teen artists. I think this is awesome. Every now and then an author will put fan art on their blog and I marvel at the creativity. This is a great opportunity for us readers to get an excellent story and for young artists to get some experience and exposure. I'm also thrilled that the talented artist Andrea Offermann is working on the cover art - she also illustrated The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands.
I admit I am a complete and utter newbie when it comes to Kickstarter, so I am glad that Kate is here to tell us about how this project works.
Why did you choose Kickstarter to fund the project?
The idea of writing companion material to release alongside my “big” releases is an idea I’ve been kicking around for a long time, primarily because most everything I write is connected to everything else and I have so many ideas about what happens to my characters outside the main story framework. In February I discovered I actually did have an idea for a novella that would work nicely as a bridge between The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands, which left me very little time to put things together. I could’ve done it much, much cheaper if I’d let go of the idea of having a paperback edition, but I desperately wanted to have a paperback so that I could ask Andrea Offermann to illustrate the cover, and I wanted to print the paperbacks using the Espresso Book Machine, because I’m obsessed with it. When I ran the numbers, I came up with a minimum cost of a couple thousand dollars—I think it was like $3500. That’s not a nightmare amount of money, but my husband and I are in the final stages of international adoption, which is wildly expensive, so we couldn’t afford to pay for it ourselves.
I picked Kickstarter because I remembered a book McNally Jackson carried a year or so ago that was crowdfunded that way. It was a hardcover anthology called Coming and Crying (this is not recommended for my usual readership J). The editors used Kickstarter so they could raise the money in order to be able to pay the contributors. I also have a colleague at the bookstore (the kids’ buyer, Sarah Gerard) who used Kickstarter to fund a short film she and her husband made. After talking to her about her experiences and looking at other books and publishing projects that were being funded, I felt pretty optimistic. Once I decided crowdfunding was the way to go, I added the illustrated edition and started looking for young artists. Now I’m really hoping that, with the project funded and two weeks left to go (at the time of writing this, 5/24), I’ll exceed the goal by enough to be able to increase the kids’ payouts and put some money in the bank for the next novella.
What will backers get for pledging?
There’s a whole menu of goodies. In the end, I wanted to find things that were relevant and interesting, but that wouldn’t cost a ton to fulfill—so I tried to focus on making the rewards personal.
Kickstarter is based on the idea that the biggest reward is backing a project you’ll be able to see through to completion, so I focused on things related to the project. Everyone who contributes anything from ten dollars up gets a copy of the novella, The Kairos Mechanism, in either the digital or paperback format (although there is a very limited number of paperbacks, because printing them is the biggest expense in the project). Then there are copies of The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands and art from both books from Andrea Offermann in various combinations. I also have Skype and in-person school or library visits, and opportunities for people to pick the next thing I write for the Arcana series.
For the second month, there are some fun additions: students at my old high school have taken a bunch of bits and pieces of stuff from my writing room to make Kairos-inspired jewelry. Several of the young artists are contributing prints and/or original work. And I’m putting up a few advance copies of The Broken Lands. But my favorite reward idea is the $50 one, which includes a weird bit of ephemera from my collection of oddball stuff—and I have some cool, oddball stuff. There’s also a few copies of a handmade book with poetry that’s quoted in The Kairos Mechanism, The Boneshaker, and The Broken Lands—poetry really plays a big part in these books. And everything comes with a handwritten thank you.
Plus, then, when I start getting antsy, I go on Twitter and start offering things like cookies or poems. Last month’s cookiefunders got homemade macarons.
How did you find your teen artists?
I found them this time in all different ways. I got the idea because there’s a reader who contacted me through Twitter and who’s become a friend and who sent me my very first-ever piece of fan art. In February, she and another girl who I hadn’t met sent me completely different but equally amazing portraits of one of the villains from The Broken Lands, High Walker. And I think it was seeing those two different interpretations that started the idea in my head.
Once I put out the word that I was looking, they sort of found me: a couple via those first two artists, a couple were friends of friends, one came from Reddit.com, several are students of friends, and several just came right out of the blue. They vary in age from about nine to about nineteen, and each has a totally different style. I think it’s going to be a really neat collection of images.
If there are teen artists out there hoping to get involved in your next project, what do they need to do?
Well, the first thing they can do is really help to spread the word about this project—the campaign to fund The Kairos Mechanism—because the sooner I know there’s going to be a next volume, the sooner I can get started writing it.
They can also go ahead and contact me now, both so that I can put them on the mailing list and so that I can keep them in mind in case for any reason any of the current group of artists isn’t able to complete his or her illustration. (I hope that won’t happen, but it isn’t a bad idea to be prepared, I suppose.) The best thing to do (I haven’t developed any formal submission process) is just to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and include links to their work, or attached images, so that I can get a sense of what they do.
What future do you envision for The Arcana Project?
I love when there are additional bits and pieces of information, clues, apocrypha—extra content, basically, about a world I’ve come to love. And as I write more, and discover how my characters are related to each other, I get ideas about what they were up to at different times and how those stories might influence the bigger stories I’m writing.
So what I’d like to do is write a companion novella for each hardcover release, and maybe occasionally have one in between. These short novels will help to enhance the big releases, and will draw connections between characters and events in different books. They’ll give background, give history, and give a great little adventure, all wrapped up into one pretty little book.
As an example of how I might use these short books, in a hardcover release I have coming out in 2014, there’s a fictional collection of folklore that’s central to the plot. I’m writing that folklore book to release alongside. Also, since there’s a little over a year between The Broken Lands and that next title, I’m planning for a novella in 2013 to tide readers (and myself) over. I’m mulling over a couple of options for that one, but they’ll likely be related to characters from The Broken Lands.
We're nearing the end of the Kickstarter campaign - what are your thoughts about the whole process so far?
It’s interesting. On the one hand, it’s amazing to see so many people—friends and family and colleagues and acquaintances and total strangers—coming forward to help out. On the other hand, it’s very awkward to find oneself in a position to basically be asking people to contribute money to the project. Especially now—the project’s funded, and although I’ve met my goal, I still want people to know they can—and should, if they’re interested—back the project. At $7500 I can bump the kids’ paychecks up; then I calculate that at $9500 I’m in good shape to commit to a second volume of the Arcana series and at $13000 I can commit to a second volume with a reader-illustrated edition like the one I’m doing now.
My favorite part of the whole thing so far has been coming up with rewards. That part’s a lot of fun. Actually, scratch that—that’s my second-favorite thing. My favorite thing has been discovering that some of the people who’ve contributed that I didn’t know found the project because they or their kids had read The Boneshaker and they wanted more books about that world.
Anything you'd like to add?
Just that the campaign ends on June 9th, and you can find it here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/3548813/the-kairos-mechanism-arcana-1
Thank you so much for having me!