Hello there! Thank you for all the kind comments on my brother’s graduation. I can’t wait to fill you in on the rest of our Memorial Day weekend, but first I have another fun post to share with you!
A couple of months ago, I spoke with Kyle Rutkin about his four lessons in book publishing. He had a lot of great stories and advice to share, and now he is here with some exciting personal news. His latest novel, A Life Told From The Cloud, just announced a Kickstarter project to raise money for editing, cover work and layout design, as well as a first run of printing and promotion.
In honor of the project’s launch, I thought this would be a cool opportunity to speak with Kyle about what his writing process is like, as well as what inspired his latest manuscript. I’m sure you’ll find his answers as interesting and thought-provoking as I did.
A Life Told From The Cloud
The Year is 2045 and CJ Williams, a professional writer in his sixties, decides to send his editor one last manuscript: a book written over two decades prior but never published. This is a story that would define his life and ultimately bring him back to the girl he would marry.
The lost manuscript begins when Williams (then 34 years old) is diagnosed with cancer. With an uncertain future, Williams embarks on one last project – a memoir from the cloud. Using his own Facebook timeline, he retells his life story and the people he’s loved along the way. In the novel, Williams uses six profiles from the people in his past: his best friend, high school sweetheart, college girlfriend, “the one who got away,” his runaway mother and his most recent breakup. Using the data stored on Facebook, Williams describes the impact these relationships have had on his life and his final days leading up to his surgery.
What inspired you to write A Life Told From The Cloud?
In January, Facebook released its timeline feature, which was the first time I fully grasped that everything I was posting from the beginning (2003) was being stored and documented to retell this linear story of my life. As I looked back, it was all there – all the moments I shared with friends and ex-girlfriends from the ages of 18 to 27. Those AWESOME pictures of me as a freshman, holding cheap handles of vodka like I was starring in an under budget rap video. Those embarrassing wall posts and messages as a college kid that I never deleted. My confused post-college quarter-life phase, and that life decision to switch from government employee to creative writer and entrepreneur. It was all stored in the cloud. That was the moment it really hit me that our generation and the generation after us will have the majority of our lives told and documented in the cloud. That’s really the premise and inspiration of the book.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while writing? Biggest rewards?
The concept of the book was the easy part. I loved the idea of a novel told entirely through a Facebook timeline with a futuristic look at how these social media timelines might play out. The challenge was in finding a great reason for him to retell his story. Was he telling his kids? Was he retelling someone on a bench like a scene from Forrest Gump? Was he faced with a life-threatening illness? Finally, I decided to do a little bit of everything. In the Prologue, the main character, a writer by trade, shares that there is one book he never gave back to the world. A story that defined his life and ultimately led him back to the girl he would marry. A story he wrote after being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and had no way of knowing how much time he had left.
I think the greatest reward was being able to tie in so many themes that are important to me: love, heartbreak, how social media is affecting the way we live and how important it is to chase down your dreams in order to serve the world. The story follows the main character from ages 18 to 34, in which time he deals with all the universal themes of growing up: first love, college debauchery, post college anxiety, the realities of adulthood and also the craziness of trying to find your place in the world. It was really fun tying all these things together using the various Facebook profiles of the meaningful people in the main character’s life. The ending was also really exciting for me to write. It was one of those ideas like, holy cow, this is the perfect way to end this story.
Explain a bit about your writing process. For example, do you have a specific time you write every day? Do you outline before you write or just dive right in? Any other thoughts on your process?
My writing is defined by one word: momentum. If I’m not 100% committed to an idea, I will start and stop like a kid playing Red light/Green light. On the other hand, if I love what I’m writing and have a good Spotify playlist to accompany it, I will slam the keyboard day in and day out until the story is done. I was taught by Steven Pressfield to write from beginning to end like the devil himself is chasing you down. I took those words to heart. In the case of this book, I woke up and went to sleep every day thinking about the book. I found that I can usually write 1500-3000 words in one sitting without the screen becoming too blurry, or the writing getting too sloppy. When I was close to the end, I usually did two of these sessions a day.
The book was done in three months, which is by far the quickest I have ever written a book. As far as outlining, nothing is done on the first draft. I like writing like I was reading my own book for the first time, and I like to be surprised by the ending as well. In this case, I really had no idea which girl the main character would end up with until the very end. However, once I start editing, that’s when the real outlining and shaping takes place.
When did you decide to take your new book to Kickstarter?
Once you self-publish, it’s really hard to accept the idea of a traditional publishing deal, especially with the massive shakeup that’s going on in the industry. After the book was done, I flirted with the idea of traditional publishing because I really wanted the quality of a traditional book printer and not POD (Print On Demand). But then I came across Kickstarter.com, and the rest was history. Where else can you find a community of creative entrepreneurs supporting each other in bringing their projects to the world? Besides funding, I think Kickstarter’s greatest appeal is being able to connect the dreamer/artist/entrepreneur with other artists and supporters, as well as building a platform before the final product goes to market. It also keeps the creative integrity of the project with me, and that’s super important.
What are your goals with the Kickstarter project?
The first goal is to get enough money to cover the editing, layout, cover design and first run of the books. I would be stoked just to get this far! And if the stars aligned, my second goal would be to take my publishing company to the next level and continue my mission to bring authentic, inspirational stories to the world. If I doubled my goal, I would be able to make a hard copy run of my first manifesto, “Way Outside The Lines,” which is a story about defeating self-doubt and fear to bring your art to life. I would also love to bring one additional writer on board in 2013.
Learn more about Kyle’s Kickstarter project by clicking here. I wish him the best of luck with it and look forward to seeing the hard copy version of his book!
How much of your life is in the cloud?
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this topic, especially given the fact that many of you are also bloggers and/or social media fans who post pictures, share stories, etc. online like me!