Combining her two passions of writing and composing, Shursen's first full-blown musical was produced in Minneapolis by a Broadway producer and went on to open in Sweden. Her second musical was produced in 2009. Plans are in the making to re-open "Eden" with a larger cast and orchestra.
With three grown, successful sons, Shursen has a background in marketing and shares her home in the Midwest United States with George and Gracie Burns - a Yorkshire Terrier and Bichon Havanese.
BRIAN: Kimberly, it’s wonderful having you at the Underground. I’m going to jump right in about your book, Itsy Bitsy Spider. Where did you get the idea for the novel? How long did it take from idea to publication?
KIMBERLY: Thanks, Brian. It’s fun to be home again as I remember when the four of is started Underground Book Reviews – the brain-child of Amy Biddle – it was so much fun to toss around ideas for this site that would review books and interview authors.
“Itsy Bitsy Spider” took a little over a year to complete—and then another six months for editing. For years, I’ve heard and read of abuse that mostly focused on lower socio-economic groups. I started to wonder how many adult children had gone to their graves not telling their stories because the abuser controlled them by using power or money. Thus the birth of “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” the story of the powerful Boston Mayor Jack McCallin and his step-daughter Claire. McCallin has threatened Claire that if she ever tells ‘the secret,’ bad things will happen.
BRIAN: Itsy Bitsy Spider is a contemporary action-thriller sent in modern day Boston. As someone who loves that town, I’m curious why you picked that particular setting?
KIMBERLY: Boston has such a diverse community from multi-cultured citizens to the established wealthy. My characters represent the diverse communities from blue collar to elite. I educated myself on the city by studying pictures and reading about the suburbs I wanted to write about. I mentally visited the JFK Library, the Globe headquarters in Dorchester, the St.Charles River, Harvard, and Larz Anderson Park just to name a few.
BRIAN: I’m shocked, because I just assumed you’d been there by how well you describe it. You obviously did your homework
Indie authors comprise a big slice of Underground Book Reviews audience, so I’d like to ask a few questions about your writing and publication experience. First, did you try to
publish Itsy through traditional means? If so, what was your experience? If not,
KIMBERLY: Yes, I did try the traditional method, but not for long. The wait for an answer to my query was harrowing, and even when I received a response it was a form letter. Unless I was a ‘name’, I didn’t stand a chance. Smaller publishing companies were interested, but wanted to know my marketing plan. I felt if I had to do all the work, why not publish the book myself?
BRIAN: You’re a marketing professional by trade. Marketing is a tough nut to crack for any indie author. Can you share your marketing strategy for Itsy Bitsy Spider with our readers?
KIMBERLY: I started pre-marketing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” six months before it was published. There’s a fine line between “oh my God, be quiet already” to “that’s a book I want to read.” Once a week, I posted on linked-in, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter with posts such as “soon to be released,” or “two more weeks before…” I invited people to become friends especially to Linked-In as I feel the site is the best way to find your readers. I also wrote dozens of book clubs finding e-mails on the net. A few months before the novel was published I gathered thirty authors together and formed a gorilla marketing group. I interview one of the authors every two weeks for my website. The rules are that each author has to market the interview twice a week for two weeks on all their social sites. Not only do the authors get exposure, but readers who read their interview will take a peek at my work. All the authors in this group are not only quality writers, but quality people, and it is a privilege to get to know them personally and professionally. The novel was released on May 1st. On Mother’s day weekend I offered the Ebook free to generate exposure and reviews. Imagine how elated I was to discover that almost 1300 books had been downloaded.
BRIAN: Itsy is tightly edited, but indie writers often get a bad rap for poor editing from the publishing establishment. Tell us about your editing process and, please feel free to promote any editing services you used.
KIMBERLY: Thank-you. Yes, I agree, if you don’t cough up money for editorial services, you will not have the reviews or readership you might deserve. There are always errors in every novel and I have found major, ongoing errors in some of the best-selling books. Ann Cooper-Westlake was my editor for Itsy Bitsy Spider. I feel it is important to have a relationship with your editor and Ann and I established a friendship outside of the editing process. She is very dear to me and can be found at http://writerscrampeditingconsultants.com/Books.html
BRIAN: You cover is excellent. Did you come up with the concept yourself? Who did it for you?
KIMBERLY: Createspace did the cover. I offered ideas, but the team developed the cover. Many women have written to tell me they have a phobia about spiders, but have to read the book. The cover of a book is key to someone picking your book. I know this from my experience in developing brochures and ads in marketing.
BRIAN: What’s your number one piece of advice for aspiring authors?
KIMBERLY: You can’t do it all. If you are creative, you don’t have to have perfect skills in editing, but it takes a village to put your novel out there. You, Brian, Amy and Katie were a part of the creation of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as all three of you were beta readers. When I left the underground, Katie became my beta reader. As a creative person, it’s difficult to take a step back from your writing however, whoever your trust to be your beta reader represents all readers and, if they don’t understand or feel the emotion you hope to impart, chances are neither will your readers. My advice to aspiring authors is to find a writing partner who’s writing you respect and open up to their suggestions.
BRIAN: Describe for our readers what kind of dog a “Bichon Havanese” is. I’ve never heard of the breed, but that’s a heck of a name.
KIMBERLY: Gracie Burns is nine pounds and looks like a miniature sheep dog. She is the sweetest dog ever unless George Burns gets in her way. Gracie is nine and George is ten. They are the first to hear what I have written as they sit at my feet when I write.
BRIAN: What’s next for Kimberly Shursen?
KIMBERLY: “Hush,” the present-day courtroom drama that revisits the Roe vs. Wade case that legalized abortion, will be out this fall. Penning out at around 100,000 words, the edgy drama that borders on a thriller took months of legal research. My editor for this novel is Joelle Walker who not only has years of experience as in editor in publishing companies, but worked as a paralegal. Staged in Minneapolis where I lived for over 25 years, the “Hush” will also travel to Geneva, Switzerland where one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world will do anything to stop this trial. Why? Well, you’ll have to read the book.
BRIAN: Kimberly, thank you so much for joining us today. For our readers, you can read my review of Kimberly Shursen’s debut novel Itsy Bitsy Spider here on Underground Book Reviews.
Kimberly Shursen Links:
Itsy Bitsy Spider on Amazon
Kimberly Shursen’s Website
Kimberly Shursen on Facebook, Twitter, Google, and LinkedIn.