Interview: Mily Ketchum
This week we had author and Architect, Mily Ketchum, sit with us. Once we warmed her up with some easy questions we found out why it’s taken her twelve years to write her book and how she manages to balance her creative and logical sides.
CJ: Mily, thank you so much for joining me today. Let’s start out with you telling me a bit about yourself.
Mily: Oh, starting with the hard questions! Well, I’m almost 30 years old and I’m a single Mom of 2 girls. I work full time during the day as an Architectural Drafter at an Architectural firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. I make time to write when my kids are playing on weekends, or in the wee hours of the night after I have put them down for slumber. Sometimes I fall asleep when I’m getting them to bed though. That can make it hard to write!
CJ: Yes, I remember those days. My own kids are grown now, but they never outgrow your heart.
Mily: Well that’s good to know! About them never outgrowing your heart. This means that all these times will always be precious memories.
CJ: Absolutely. So, what is an Architectural Drafter?
Mily: An Architectural Drafter is someone who works in the software that Architectural firms use to create building construction sets. I work primarily in a program called Revit, and while there are other programs, from what I’ve experienced on the job with our consultants, the industry seems to move toward using Revit primarily.
CJ: So you’re not a programmer, right? You do the drawings using the software?
Mily: Correct. I don’t have the patience for programming. I’m grateful to those who do because they took a hand drafting job and made it a hundred times more efficient and convenient. It’s a joke in my office that when people ask me what I do, I just tell them I draw lines. Because basically . . . that’s the gist of it, but it all adds up to what makes a building.
CJ: That sounds fascinating, but definitely not something I think I would ever have the patience to do outside of a Sims game.
Mily: Haha! You might be surprised. I actually knew I’d enjoy it because I enjoyed house building in the Sims!
CJ: Well that is definitely good to know. Maybe I should quit my job! A joke….I really don’t have the patience for visually artistic things that I can’t do without a sticker book and some crayons.
Mily: That’s funny! It’s definitely not for everyone. Our Architects actually have drafters (me) to do that stuff for them because they’re busy with other things. Some of them don’t have the patience to be as meticulous as we need to be. The software can measure things down into the 1/300th of an inch (so far that’s the smallest I’ve seen). So, yeah, sometimes it can get monotonous. But when I drive by a building and know that I contributed to the staff inside getting a good, comfortable work experience it kind of makes it worth it. Even though being a crazy famous author pays better, I’ve struggled to let go of the idea of leaving my day job to pursue writing exclusively. At least, so far.
CJ: Well it definitely sounds like you enjoy your day job and even though I still have questions, let’s get into why you’re really here…your book! Can you give us a description of it?
Mily: Ahh, yes. That thing. The book. Well, without doing a copy-paste of the blurb . . . It follows the story of Ayathesti, a geneticist, who navigates through her anxiety and inner conflict of the means necessary to save the planet she lives on. There’s a secondary main character, Tiamet, who leads the entire expedition. There’s a bit of a love interest there but it tends to complicate things in a major way. What Ayathesti has to do is create a new species to mine gold for the atmosphere generators on their planet. She’s not too happy with creating a ‘slave’ race.
CJ: Wow, that’s definitely a description with a whole lot of information. It sounds like your book is one a reader can sink their teeth into. Is it a standalone or is this something readers can get more of?
Mily: It’s a book that readers can get into if they enjoy experiencing a lot of frustration with realistic characters and situations. Most of my readers have said that the situations almost feel too real. Others have said, “Sometimes I just want to reach in and slap those two!” Which, I guess is pretty good that they seem real. This is just the first book of a series. Initially, it would be about three books but now that I’m about 12,000 words into book two it may be longer than that. Things are going in a direction I never envisioned when I started writing Extension(book1) in 2012.
CJ: 2012? It took you that long to write it? Is there a story behind that?
Mily: Isn’t there! Yeah. Back at that time I was really just using writing as a method of anxiety relief. I didn’t really know I was experiencing anxiety at the time. I just knew that writing fictitious scenarios between multiple people was therapeutic for me. It made it easier for me to go to work and converse with people without feeling like I was going to throw up. The book did take me a long time to write, and that’s mainly due to half of it being done after I became a single parent and the other factor was putting myself through school.
CJ: So when you were writing these scenarios … I assume that there was a common theme to them and that’s how the book came about. Or did you look at several different ones and realize it was the same idea?
Mily: I actually wrote the story as the story, interestingly enough. I was inspired by a Katy Perry music video. HA! Writing the tense conversations in the book just ended up being close enough to real life for me for it to be therapeutic.
CJ: What was it that inspired you about the music video? I’m wondering if there’s more to it than just a simple video because your story is anything but simple.
Mily: Well, it was the E.T. music video with Katy Perry featuring Kanye West. The music video is about an alien and the lyrics kind of insinuate there’s an intimacy there. The end of the music video has a mythical creature holding hands with a robot. That image just sparked this idea for my book. Two unlikely beings finding humanity to survive together. Though my book strayed from that initial thought in a big way.
CJ: I see where the premise came from. Was there anything that gave you the idea for the harvesting of gold and creating a new race?
Mily: I was raised in a household that thought alternatively and holistically. Naturally, a fair bit of conspiracy theory comes into that at some point. I don’t know if it’s that way for everyone raised like me, but that’s how it was for us. Lots of talk about alien beings and following intuition and all kinds of stuff. I just thought back to ancient societies and (with a little research, I admit) picked something that history tells us they found to be valuable. In this case, gold. I don’t want to say too much on that topic because then we’re kind of getting into book three territory. Extension takes place in our past. About 350,000 years ago-ish.
CJ: Gotcha, we don’t want to give anything away! I would like to delve a bit into your decision to self-publish instead of going the traditional route. Can you walk us through that?
Mily: Absolutely. After looking into the traditional vs. self-publish options, it quickly became clear to me I would likely be a self-publisher for a while. I wrote throughout high school, just short stories, but I had no professional writing experience outside of that. So, my confidence in finding a publisher was low. I wasn’t sure it was something a publisher would be interested in trying to get on shelves. Another thing that was probably the biggest influence of all, is the timeline. Sometimes I only get 1-2 hours of writing per week. If I’m on a deadline from a publisher, I would be a walking meat sack of stress and that’s not really good for me (or anyone around me). I guess another factor was not wanting to have this big thing looming over me about selling a certain number of books and having all the up-front costs being covered by a publisher that have to be paid back if the book doesn’t do well and such. I honestly don’t even know if that’s how it works, but that’s what it seemed like from what I was reading. And trying to support a house on your own is hard enough these days. So I saved up piece by piece and go the DIY route. I found some excellent resources for artwork and could network to find my editor. Which, everybody says, are the two major things you can’t skimp on, and I agree wholeheartedly. I thought my story was good. But after my editor got her hands on it. . . there’s no comparison. Haha. So Yeah. I guess those are the reasons I went the self-publish route. Though the marketing giant still terrifies me I look into it a little more every day and I’m confident I can eventually have enough knowledge to put it to good use.
CJ: I think those are two of the biggest reasons authors I know self-publish. I know for me; it was about being able to say I’ve created something and get a quick turnaround on it. That way the only thing inhibiting my progress was me. I’ve had some wonderful editors and some not so wonderful editors and that’s definitely something I agree 100% on doling out the money if you can afford it.
Mily: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Being the only thing stopping myself from getting it done has been a struggle on its own. But pushing myself through those slumps has a bigger reward for me. I know I can do things for other people easily, but I’ve always struggled to do things for me. This book is something that I’ve cared about for a long time and with a little encouragement from those who are close to me, I could find my motivation to do it for me, not for them or anyone else. And I have to tell you, the way I felt when getting my first print in the mail was indescribable. I cried.
CJ: Yeah. It’s overwhelming to finally have your baby in your hands. You can touch it and smell the pages. When I got my first book, I slept with it under my pillow for like the first week. I literally carried it everywhere with me so I could show it off. I was that excited about it.
Mily: It is exciting! And good for you. I still kind of have a hard time talking about it to people I know. Where I grew up people were quick to judge so I learned early on not to talk about myself or my accomplishments much. But to those who I know were supportive, I showed it off like nobody’s business! I’m actually a little overwhelmed by just how many people are supportive. After posting about it on Facebook and stuff, I was getting messages from people I didn’t even remember being friends with.
CJ: That’s amazing! Looking over your website, I see that you have both a creative side and a logical side. How has that helped or hindered you with your writing?
Mily: That’s a great question, actually. I think creativity is there, and it’s necessary to draw readers into an imaginary world. The logical side of things, for me, I think, is just as important as that creative side. The reason for that is that I like sci-fi. There’s a certain level of logic that has to come into that genre, I think. Another way that my logic helped me is that I go on these mini topic binges. Like information obsession about things where I learn as much as I can about that thing until I can’t keep my eyes open and I have to sleep to process any of what I just learned. But one thing that’s been a consistent topic of interest is psychology. I don’t know if people would argue that it’s creative, but I think it takes a creative mind to understand the logic behind it. If that makes any sense. I was interested in psychology in high school and even had one teacher get upset with me when I dropped his second class for it. He took me to his office and gave me like this ‘daddy scolding’ type of discussion about how it’s an excellent fit for me. I guess knowing the way people’s minds work and trying to find the motives behind the choices they make is just fascinating. I think because of that, I could create characters that were so realistic to readers (from what I’ve heard so far.) And back to creativity, weird names just come to me super easily. I know when I’m going through the writing communities people often ask for advice on what to name someone or a place or an event. I don’t really struggle with that. I can really easily just spew names out and if it doesn’t quite have the right feel immediately, I usually do a variation of the name until it feels good. For example, I have like 10 projects started (HAHA) and one of the main characters is a 23-year-old female living in the future. It’s kind of like a cyberpunk industrialized future. Not dystopian like most future books about lead females, but whatever. She’s an aerospace engineer, and her name is Leeor Casten. Kind of funky and futuristic, but still feminine. I think I also like to find names that can easily have a nickname since real-life reflects people always calling people by something other than their actual name.
CJ: I love how you’ve been able to take two very distinct parts of yourself and merge them together. The result of that has been fabulous. I haven’t had a chance to read your book yet, but I hear lots of brilliant things about it. I see that we’re running low on time so let’s finish up with you telling us a fun fact about you. Do you have any phobias or crazy ticks?
Mily: Wow, the time has flown! Hmm, phobia for me would be sinkholes. Primarily the ones in water. They freak me out. Like underwater caves? Nope, I’m good without that, thank you very much.
CJ: You won’t catch me anywhere near any size body of water. Nope. There are sharks. I saw Jaws when I was little and refused to even get into a bathtub for several years because of it.
Mily: Oh wow! My mom kept all of her kids away from the scary movies until we were well into our teenage years. I don’t think I saw Jaws until I was 17. I’m glad I’m not the only one who won’t go into the ocean though.
CJ: I won’t even go to the beach…or a lake…or a river…or a creek…it’s bad.
Mily: Oh that’s too bad! Sometimes little babbling brooks can be fun to watch the little fishies in. But, I grew up in the country and I learned how to swim in the river.
CJ: Well I’m glad you’re not as traumatized as I am! Thank you so much for spending time with me tonight. I really enjoyed our conversation.
Mily: It’s my pleasure! Thanks for having me on. I really enjoyed getting to talk about this stuff! Even though I’m not used to doing it, I’m getting better. I’m honored to be interviewed and I look forward to seeing what else you have coming down the line for interviews and books posted! I use your site as a resource :).
CJ: Now that makes my heart happy! All I want is to have a place where people can find their next favorite book written by an Indie author.
Mily: Which is great. I think it’s hard for indies to navigate the big scary world of Amazon and B&N alone. So having a place where all that is collected for exclusively indie authors is amazing and I’m grateful to be included. So thank you!
You can connect with Mily via these avenues: