Debut Diary #5 – Home Sweet Home

By K.J. Howe

Home sweet home.  It has been a while since I’ve been there, but no complaints from this debut author.  When you launch a novel, there is a window of six to eight weeks around publication during which you can promote your novel most effectively.  Once that time passes, other shiny new books claim the spotlight.  Given this narrow timeframe, it’s best to put aside sleep and other luxuries to push yourself during this critical juncture.  As I tried to do with THE FREEDOM BROKER, say yes to every opportunity to speak to booksellers, readers, and anyone else who might be interested in your novel.  Build your fan base one person at a time, and hope that fan tells friends who tells more friends. Word of mouth is your best venue for spreading the word.

When we left off on the previous debut diary, I was headed to Phoenix to do an event with Stephen Coonts and Charles Cummings.  It was a spectacular evening, and I’d like to thank the lovely Barbara Peters and her incredible team for her warm welcome to the Poisoned Pen.  We had a fabulous crowd, and the event was Livestreamed for readers across the country.  Phoenix is a special place for me—and not just for the beauty of the surrounding desert.  It was the site of the very first ThrillerFest, at the Biltmore, and little did I know that one day I would be the executive director of this fabulous conference.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, was next, and it was a highlight of the tour. David Morrell is the reason I wanted to be a writer, and he has been an incredible mentor to me.  David and his lovely wife Donna gave me a tour of Santa Fe, and the eclectic mix of American Indian and Mexican architecture make it a unique and fascinating place.  We had a fun event at Collected Works—and being on stage with David was a special moment I’ll always treasure. I owe David a huge thanks for being such a gentleman.  Instead of the original plan for me to take the train to Albuquerque (which I hear can be a little dodgy late at night), he kindly drove me to town where we had a circuitous journey trying to reach the airport hotel.  But, hey, I was with Rambo’s Daddy, the M60 parked in the backseat.  I felt safe.

San Francisco was a busy stop because I had an event at Book Passage (love that store!) with John Lescroart, and I also attended the San Francisco Writers Conference.  John was an incredible “in conversation” partner, celebrating the release of his standalone book FATAL, and I cherished seeing my friends Heather Graham, Kathleen Antrim, Ursula Ringham, and Lisa Sawyer. 

Seattle is a gorgeous city, and what a first visit I had.  Famous author escort Jeff Ayers showed me around the city, and we did stock signings at every B&N in the area.  I also did an event at Seattle’s Mysterious Bookshop where I met the fabulous Fran—she was so enthusiastic and welcoming, a real treat.  I met Jeff’s family while I was in Seattle, which was a highlight.  And then I was lucky be in conversation with Robert Dugoni at Third Street Books.  Robert’s novel TRAPPED GIRL is a sensational read. 

While visiting all these cities, I worked on my second novel, SKYJACK, since it was due upon my return.  I can’t say it was easy to be creative when I was running on a deficit of sleep and flying all over the place, but I had to use the time to focus on the book.  I also did radio interviews, wrote blogs, and tried to keep up with email and social media.  It was a non-stop 17 days away from home.  I’m incredibly grateful for the experience, but it was intense. 

Back home, I had the honor of being “in conversation” with Peter Robinson, my former teacher and the talented author of the DCI Banks novels.  After five days of catch-up and laundry, I headed to Raleigh where I had the pleasure of doing book signings with General AJ Tata and Mark Greaney.  I’m writing this post from Left Coast Crime in Hawaii where I’ll be able to meet some old friends and hopefully make new ones—and I’d like to soak up a little sunshine and relaxation while I’m here before I head off on some new adventures.

I’ve learned so much about the publishing world in the last few months, including how authors have to work to reach readers in many different ways, whether it be from live events or the radio or social media channels.  Writing the book is one step, but marketing it is another.  Although we are in the internet age, nothing replaces face-to-face contact, so it’s key to work on your public speaking skills.  You have to challenge yourself to be creative with publicity. Leave no stone unturned.

My warmest thanks to Jenny Milchman and E.A. Aymar who offered me this wonderful opportunity—and to all the people supporting me on this journey.  ITW is a special organization made up of generous people, and I hope to pay the kindness that I’ve received to others. I worked for years on my writing, trying to hone my craft, learn about the industry, and find the right story.  All of those hours were well spent. 

If you’re working on your first book, find a topic you’re passionate about, something that will inspire you when times are tough.  For me, kidnapping was an absolute passion, and I wanted to create awareness about all the hostages out there who have yet to come home.  We all need a place to call home, and I’m honored to call ITW my second one.  Please drop me a line anytime via my website,

Next up, you’re in a for a real treat as Kellye Garrett carries the torch for the next installments of the debut diary.  Tune in to hear about her tales as a debut, and know we’re all here to help you realize your dream.

KJ Howe is an avid tennis player, cyclist, and swimmer. Travel and adventure still rank high on her priority list. She has had the pleasure of riding racing camels in Jordan, surfing in Hawaii, ziplining in the Costa Rican jungle, diving alongside Great White Sharks in South Africa, studying modern combat in the Arizona desert, and working with elephants in Botswana. Home is in Toronto, Canada, but she is often missing in action.

To pre-order a copy of THE FREEDOM BROKER, click the cover below.