7 Questions With Author D.E. Knightley
D.E. Knightley is a former lawyer who, despite this handicap, managed to live on multiple continents and learn to speak multiple languages. She eventually met a wonderful man and settled with him in Australia, where they produced one wonderful, though very bossy, child.
She is now more of a peacemaker by trade instead of a corporate warrior, and recently published her first novel, Strategic Entanglements: an action-packed, sexy espionage thriller set on an alternative Earth.
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Are you a plotter or a pantser?
In life, I’m definitely a plotter. I hate leaving anything to chance. With my writing, I’m both, but a lot more of a pantser than people who know me well would expect.
I have always had a very fertile imagination, and with my writing I let it run wild and don’t try to steer it in the way it should go. My brain tends to kick in and entertain me with stories when I’m bored. It creates fully developed worlds and characters, and they go off and do things without my intervention.
The world of Terra and the main characters of the series first popped into existence around the time we first moved into our house and I was doing a lot of gardening to whip the place into shape. It all percolated in my head for a while. As the characters came into their own and gained complexity, they began to do things and have conversations, and scenes started developing around that.
I started writing them down as they occurred to me. Over time, a plot emerged. Eventually, I had an outline of the whole story, and only then did I start to organise the whole thing in a coherent whole. After many, many re-writes, my first book, Strategic Entanglements, was born!
Just how much research is there behind a novel? Tell us how it looks behind the scenes.
In my case, not a lot in the formal sense. The thing that fascinates me, the thing my writing highlights and comments on, is human behaviour in all its glory and ugliness. For that, I rely on personal observation and experience (which fortunately I have had a lot of, having led a varied and adventurous life), and material that I read on the subject entirely out of personal interest.
For example, I am fascinated by topics like personality disorders, reflexive behaviours, and techniques of manipulation, and I have read widely on the subject. This knowledge is used in my books to give character and world building authenticity and spice. My novel is set in the world of espionage, which is gritty, high-stakes, steeped in amorality and deceit, yet also bravery and sacrifice.
I created a world – an alternative Earth – populated it, gave it its nations and continents, its history and geopolitics. And I use that world, Terra, to comment on things like politics, race relations, women’s place in society, the way the genders relate to each other… Anything that takes my fancy, really. Its fantastic. A tiny bit akin to being a god!
How do you imagine your target reader?
The Kenda Veiss series fits well with the new adult demographic. I think people in that age group will best identify with the main characters. They will love the intense emotions, the struggle to find where you belong. The agony and the ecstasy of finding that magic connection with the one person in the world that completes you.
They are open-minded, highly intelligent and like to be challenged to think and learn and discover. The book aims to be sexy and huge fun, but also thought-provoking. It’s gritty and no holds barred, and I think Millennials are not intimidated by that the way some older groups are.
Strategic Entanglements is written from a female perspective, following closely Kendra’s thoughts and actions. It reflects how a woman experiences the world. From casual sexism to using sex as a tool to get what you want, from being underestimated to unwillingly being attracted to the wrong man, women get it and identify with it. Kendra is a glorious woman, and the series is, in my humble way, a tribute to women.
It’s also a tribute to amazing men, like Aran. The kind of men who impress me, personally.
What should readers expect from your next novel?
A red-hot battle of the sexes. Passionate sex between gorgeous people. Cat and mouse games. And of course, as befitting a book about the lives of spies, all kinds of intrigue that will keep you glued to the pages late into the night.
How do you deal with negative feedback or negative reviews?
I won’t lie, they hurt! But after taking a moment to feel sorry for myself, I get right in there and try to learn all the lessons I can learn from it. What exactly is the person unhappy with? How justified is their criticism, and what can be done to address it, as quickly as possible? For example, I welcome negative feedback from beta readers. It’s actually the biggest blessing in disguise for a writer.
One needs to keep a sense of perspective as well, and a sense of humour. You can’t please everyone. You should focus on pleasing people you want to please (your target audience) and try to avoid marketing the book to people it wasn’t meant for.
This can happen for example when the presentation (cover, blurb, genre in which it’s listed) of the book doesn’t communicate clearly enough what the reader will get, and a reader who wouldn’t actually like your book ends up buying it. They tried it and it wasn’t what they expected, so they’re angry. This is a lesson about marketing, and one I’m still learning myself.
Is there anything you learned from reader reviews?
Of course! If I don’t try to learn everything I can from reader reviews, I won’t grow and improve as a writer. I care deeply about what readers think about my writing, what makes them happy (or unhappy) about my work.
As my fist book was only published recently, I have not had mountains of feedback yet. But one thing I have learned, to my relief, is that readers do indeed welcome and like a strong female lead. One hears conflicting things about that. I’m glad that it’s the case. Women especially love and admire Kendra and find her inspirational. That makes me very happy, because it’s exactly what I hoped for.
How do you manage to juggle life and writing?
At the moment – very badly! I took a few months off work to publish my first novel, as there was an overwhelming amount to learn and do. It still completely took over my life, and I have been neglecting my family, who have patiently indulged my workaholism for the last four months. Or, actually, for as long as they’ve known me…
We have all been looking forward to things getting back to normal – but I’m now realising there’s still a mountain to climb in promoting the book, on top of finishing my second novel. Sigh!
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And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.
She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills.
Read the full blurb here.