Author Kory M. Shrum: So Baddass, She Kills Her Characters While Wearing Pyjamas

27 May 2016

Today, our guest is contemporary fantasy/paranormal/mystery (all in the same book) author, Kory M. Shrum. Kory’s series, Dying for a Living, features a strong female protagonist, has a unique premise and mixes action with humour. Kory shares her love of writing by teaching college students and is also an active member of the SWFA and HWA. We can’t wait to find out how Kory came up with the idea for her series, and what books she has planned for the future. Please welcome Kory.

Hi, Kory. Thanks so much for chatting with Booktastik. This isn’t an original question, but one I can never not ask; when did you start writing and why?

Originally, I thought I started writing in high school as a way to process those angsty hormone driven feelings that so many of us have to deal with when we’re that age. In my teens, I wrote mostly vampire stories, emo poetry, and effusive love notes to my crush of the week. However, apparently I started writing even before this. Not so long ago, my cousin unearthed a poem I had written about children playing in summer. I was probably nine or so. I’d argue this particular poem was more sophisticated than anything I wrote until college. If was definitely better than the high school poems (Oh my pain! In the rain! Who’s to blame? YOU!).*shakes head* We all have to start somewhere.

LMAO! I have some tragic teenage poetry stashed in a bottom drawer too. I’m sure it helped us survive our teenage years ;).

I love the premise of your Dying for a Living series, and I know I haven’t read anything like it before. Can you tell our readers a bit about it and how you came up with the idea?

Sure. Dying for a Living is a novel that follows Jesse Sullivan, a 24-year-old death replacement agent. She has a neurological disorder that wakes her up when she dies (assuming the brain isn’t injured) with a series of hypnic jerks (those jerks you get right before you fall asleep). So she dies, pulse-pulse, and then she’s alive again, stiff and grouchy and in need of coffee. She uses her gift to die so other people don’t have to. But when she is murdered and blamed for a crime she didn’t commit, she has to solve the mystery before the killer catches her again.

The idea stems (very) loosely from the zombie myth of people dying but not staying dead and the scientific component of that. I knew before I even started writing the book that I wanted to write a tough heroine whose best weapon is her sarcastic humor. Once I figured out what her job would look like, I built the world from there. I asked a lot of questions like “So what does it mean to die for a living?” “She would probably have a handler. And the rules would be…and the dangers would be…” etc. I just solved each problem as it came. (How would they ‘process’ her body differently for a replacement? Would they send it to the morgue or the hospital? What happens if someone was buried by mistake…? How do they know someone is about to die and needs a replacement agent?) For a world like Jesse’s there were a lot of (really fun!) questions to answer.

Your books are bestsellers and have loads of reviews. Were you successful from the get-go or did it take time to build an audience?

Oh God no. It takes time to build an audience. Overnight sensations are rarely overnight. And it pays to start early. I begin building my mailing lists and twitter followers in December even before my first book came out (in March). And it’s only recently that things have gotten exciting. So it took me at least two years to build my platform, and I still have a lot of ground to cover. Marketing is never-ending.

You’re also a writing teacher. In a week, how much time do you get to work on your novels, and how much time do you devote to teaching and all the stuff that comes with it?

Ideally I try to set aside about two hours a day to get the writing done. This is good because I can write about 2000-4000 words in that time and that’s about all my brain can do a day anyway. A lot of writing happens when I’m not writing (while walking the dog, washing my hair, unloading the dishwasher, or folding underwear, etc).

Because I teach writing to college students, it’s usually very flexible. The classes only meet twice a week, or if it’s an online course (they are so popular with universities today!), I can work from home in my PJs. So a super flexible teaching schedule means I can usually balance teaching and writing fairly well. It’s the business side of writing that can really eat into my time. I’m self-published, so I’m a one-woman show.

Hmm, so you have two jobs you can do in your pyjamas. Nice work!

How many books are currently in the series, and do you envisage more?

There are five books currently published in the Jesse Sullivan/Dying for a Living series:

Dying for a Living
Dying by the Hour
Dying for Her: A Companion Novel
Dying Light
Worth Dying For

I have two more planned before the series ends: Dying Breath (Book 6) and Dying Day (#7, the end of the series). I may go back and write an 8th book from Caldwell’s (the villain’s) perspective, and I think it would be really fun to write a collection of short stories outlining the 66 replacements that Jesse did before Book 1, Dying for a Living, opens.

Wow, 66! She’s done a hell of a lot of dying. I feel for her right now.

Other than this, I don’t have much envisioned for the series. No, that’s a lie. I would love to do a novella from Gloria’s point of view, but I don’t know if I’ll manage it. She’s very tight lipped as a character and has rejected my offer of the spotlight several times already. Not everyone wants to be a diva.

Do you have a special room or place to write, or you just set up your laptop anywhere and go for it?

A lot of the writing happens in my beautiful office. I love it. It has built-in book cases and soft green walls with white trim. My partner and I bought our first house in September of this past year and I knew I wanted this room right away. It’s big and has a gorgeous fireplace (a must in Michigan), is all around the prettiest writing space I’ve ever had. But I do write on a laptop, so I can write wherever I like. So sometimes I write on the couch, or bed, or in the sun porch with the breeze coming in through the windows.

Congrats on the new house! And I love fireplaces and book cases. Sounds like the perfect set up.

What do you enjoy the most about being a writer?

Making up the stories. Writing them down can be hard, but the imagining/planning part is a blast. If I could just make up stories and have someone else write them, that would be amazing. But editing can also be pretty rewarding, when it’s going well. Knowing that I made a book better (by editing) is a little like standing on the scale and seeing I’ve lost a pound or two.

What’s one thing you can’t live without when you’re writing? (mine is coffee, which I know is such a cliché).

Coffee is great. I’m a BIG fan of soy lattes and frozen frappuccinos. But my MUST HAVE while I’m writing isn’t food. I really need good music when I’m writing. And it can’t be just any kind of music. It has to set the mood for whatever I’m writing, helping to create the atmosphere. So sometimes that is Beyoncé. Other times it’s Florence in the Machine or Nine Inch Nails. You never know!

If you could only read one more book, what genre would it be?

What?? This is such a hard question. You may have guessed by reading Dying for a Living that I love a lot of genres. Science Fiction and Fantasy and Crime/Mystery. But I also love historical fiction and even nonfiction books. But for the sake of answering your question, let’s say mystery/crime. I want to read the last Bill Hodges book that Stephen King has coming out next month. It’s called End of Watch (so excited!)

Averagely, how long does it take you to write a book?

It depends on the book. Dying for a Living took 2 years. The last three Jesse books only took about 3 months each. And I have another book — a YA witch book — that I’ve been writing for years and it’s still not done.

When you’ve just put out a new release, do you take time off from writing, or do you just keep going with the next one?

I usually take time off of writing. Not on purpose though. It’s usually just that so much post-release marketing has to be done that I get distracted.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Sure. I’m working on a new series that starts with the novel What Comes Around. It’s centered on Louie Thorne, another 20-something woman with a dark past. In fact, I’d argue that this series will be a lot darker than Jesse’s books. I hope to hold onto the humor and snark, but we are definitely wading into deeper waters with this one—pun intended (keep reading).

What Comes Around is built off of a limited edition short story that I released a while back titled Dive (it’s been revised and scheduled for re-release as Shadows in the Water). In the short story, we meet Louie, a girl with the ability to “slip”. She is able to teleport whenever she is submerged in water or in darkness. This ability saves her life when her mother and father, a DEA agent, are murdered by the crime lords he busted. Louie decides to cope with her loss (and her growing power) by using her ability to enact revenge on the bad guys. The series is all about Louie making the bad guys pay and whether or not Louie can find peace with what she’s done.

If you or any of your readers are interested, I’m giving away copies of Shadows in the Water to everyone who signs up for my mailing list.

That’s a great idea. For everyone that’s interested, we have the link at the bottom of this interview.

What book-related stuff have you got planned for the next twelve months?

In the next twelve months I hope to publish the “last” two Jesse books—Dying Breath and Dying Day. And launch Louie’s series, starting with What Comes Around.

Wow, talk about busy! Although, I bet your readers are excited that you have so much going on. There’s nothing worse than loving an author’s books and having to wait and wait and wait for the next one. Good luck with all your upcoming releases, and thank you so much for visiting Booktastik, we’ve loved chatting to you!

Readers, if you’d like to check out Kory’s books, just click on the book covers below. Alternatively, you can sign up to her mailing list here, visit her website, and say hi to her on Twitter or Facebook.

DyingforaLivingDying LightWorth dying for


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