Lakeland author, Kayla Tirrell never imagined she would become a writer when she was child shivering under her bed covers reading spooky books. Today Tirrell has become a successful young adult contemporary romance novelist.
When she was a child Tirrell said she vacillated between wanting to be a lawyer or doctor or a stay-at-home mom. Now as the mother of three young sons, she began searching for a way to be that stay-at-home mom. “I wanted the freedom to stay at home so I could go and see them when they have field trips or events at school or a sick day,” she said. “Because I love reading, I thought I really want to try writing. It really started as a practical solution to a real problem.”
An avid reader, Tirrell understood plotlines and story structures and character development. She also joined several Facebook writing groups and some writing conferences to begin her writing career. She learned early on that self-publishing is much more lucrative than traditional publishing. Traditional publishers will do everything required to publish a book, including editing, cover design, printing and marketing, but the trick is to first find a publisher to buy the story.
With self-publishing or indie publishing, the author has complete control over all of these aspects of publishing. Traditional publishers reap a majority share of the profits, while indie authors bear all of the initial costs but earn a higher share of the profits. Indie publishing has become a $1 billion market over the last two decades. Because of the Internet, writers now have alternatives to traditional publishing. “It’s a big leap of faith when you’re getting started. You are paying a lot of money and hoping you will get some of that back and you’ll make a profit,” Tirrell said. “I have a friend who is a hybrid writer. She does indie and traditional. She was making six figures from her indie stuff and barely a four figure paycheck from a traditional book.”
Tirrell’s first book was called All the Things We Lost and her characters in the book have the some of the same experiences she had when she moved across country and when her mother passed away. “It was feeding a lot on my own experiences and I wanted to share the pain of loss,” she said.
It was soon followed by a second book called, All the Things We Found, and a third book, All the Things We Were. In the third book, the female character from the first two books gets to tell her story. “I felt like she needed a redemption story. She was more than just the mean girl that pushed the plot forward. She was not the person everybody thought she was,” Tirrell explained.
Although the books were successful with readers, Tirrell said she felt her first series of books was a learning experience in writing. “They still sell and people still love them, but I’ve had to move on because now I can see all the things I did wrong. I think I could go back and edit them to death. I’ve learned so much since this first book that it’s painful to read sometimes,” she said. “But they’re still reading it and I’m thankful for that and that the characters still resonate with people even if I want to tear it apart.”
Her next series of books was written with two other local authors she met through online writing groups. Together with Daphne James Huff and M.F. Lorson, the group wrote the Mountain Creek Drive collection of short stories about young adult relationships in the early 2000s before cell phones and social media. “I thought they were really good writers, but they didn’t necessarily have a big following. I messaged them both and said, ‘How do you feel about writing a series together? We all have our own readership and if we wrote one together we could bring our individual readerships together and give us all more visibility,’” she said.
The series did so well that the group of authors has gone on to write several more collections of short stories and plans to write a new series together every year. In February of this year, Courtside Crush was released and has been Tirrell’s best selling book to date topping young adult charts on Amazon. “My friends have been jokingly calling it Romeo and Juliet in basketball shorts. It’s my favorite one to date. It was my favorite to write. I probably wrote it the fastest out of any of my books. I couldn’t wait to get in front of the computer to write,” she said. “It’s done the best of all of my books, which is what you want. You want each book to progressively do better than the ones before. It’s really exciting.”
Courtside Crush is the first in a series again with Lorson and James Huff called, Varsity Girlfriends, which has a high school basketball theme.
Lorson’s book, Off Center was released last month and James Huff’s book, Rebound Boyfriend will be released this month. Tirrell is now in the process of writing a fourth book for the series called, Game Plan.
She is also now waiting to hear about her recently submitted query letter, synopsis and first chapter of another story to a contest through Harlequin’s Great Love Inspired Author Search. If successful, the opportunity could get her work onto retail shelves. Although Tirrell said she’s not looking for fame through her writing she wants to continue to be profitable so she can continue to be the stay-at-home mom she always wanted to be and to continue to hone her craft. “I want to push myself with each new book and hopefully, I will keep my readers happy.”