Posted on 05/25/2016 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Authors come from all walks of life and all sorts of career paths, but Kyle Pratt’s background certainly stood out more than the average writer’s.
Pratt wrote his first two novels while working as a teacher in Eek, Alaska. The village of about 300 people isn’t accessible by car — there are no roads leading into the region — so fans of Titan Encounter and the Strengthen What Remains series will have to take a bush plane, snowmobile, or river barge to see those novels' "birthplace."
About a year after Pratt first self-published, sales took off enough to convince him to resign his post and become a full-time speculative-fiction writer. The decision has paid off, with awards and Amazon rankings rolling in ever since.
Here’s what Pratt had to say about his figurative and literal journeys.
SADYE: How does one go from serving in the Navy to teaching in an Eskimo village?
KYLE: While in the Navy, I bought land in a nice part of Washington state. The plan was that after my military career, my wife and I would build a home on the property and I would teach in one of the nearby communities. ... (But) when my teaching license was in hand and the house was built, what I didn’t have was a job.
Then I received an email from the Lower Kuskokwim School District in Alaska. They said they had openings and asked me to apply. Since I didn’t have a job, I applied, and they offered me a job in the tiny village of Eek. My new plan was to teach in Alaska for a year and use my spare time to write.
SADYE: You said teaching in the tundra was an almost-24/7 job. What were the biggest challenges you faced there, both in terms of finding time to write and living, period?
KYLE: The first year I taught there, the district was still building teacher apartments. I lived in a small unused classroom. The rest of the staff already had homes near the school. My first weekend there, the fire alarm sounded.
There is no fire department or 911 center in the village, so I wandered the halls looking for flames and wondering what to do when I found them. Eventually, I discovered carpenters in the school kitchen burning their breakfast on the stove. After resetting the alarm, I joined them for their next attempt at cooking the morning meal.
On Monday I asked a veteran village teacher what to do if there was a fire in the school. She frowned and said, “If there’s a fire, put it out.” It soon became clear that teachers here did much more than in the lower 48. During my time in Eek I cooked school meals, fixed plumbing, stacked tons of supplies in storerooms, shuttled teachers and cargo via snowmobile, got frostbite, and much more.
The school is the biggest building in Eek, and it’s the social center of the village. School starts early, and events often go until six or seven in the evening. More than once I stood at the doors of the school urging students to go home because I was tired. Every student knows where you live and, even after I moved into the teacher apartments, they would regularly knock on my door.
SADYE: You thought writing would be a hobby, but it’s become a self-sustaining job. What marketing moves do you think played the biggest role in connecting you with readers?
KYLE: Of course you need to write a well-crafted book that people are interested in reading, but unless readers know about your novel, sales won’t grow. As an indie writer, I need to market the book using Fussy Librarian and similar services.
Beyond that, I need to collect reader email information. Having an email list allows me to market directly to my readers when I release a new book. But the most important thing I need to do is write another interesting and well-crafted book.
SADYE: What has been your proudest moment as an author?
KYLE: When sales of Through Many Fires skyrocketed, I decided to seize the moment and resign from Eek School. That was both my proudest, and scariest, moment as a writer. Sure, sales were fine now, but would they remain good? Could I write another book that would sell?
There have been good months and bad, but since I resigned from teaching, sales have grown each year.
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Categories: Author Interview