Nestled in the northwestern corner of Washington lies the picturesque Orcas Island. This horseshoe-shaped island is home to breathtaking mountainous and ocean views, and home to independent author, Keary Taylor. A married mother of two, she has exhibited steadfast passion and discipline to self-publish seven novels, three shorter novelettes and companion pieces, and amassed over over three-quarters of a million downloads in the short four years of her career. But her career wasn’t always so successful.
Her childhood appreciation of science fiction television shows clearly permeated her writing. Her portfolio consists of a fallen angels fantasy trilogy, and a dystopian trilogy, and a standalone contemporary romance. All of her books are young adult fiction, but her readers come from all ages and backgrounds. She simply writes what she loves, and it is clear that her fans love it too. Nearly 1,500 fans follow her on Twitter, and over 4,000 on Facebook. Her following is tiny in comparison to traditionally published authors, but as she adds to her repertoire of works, her following grows. Self-publishing was not always her goal, however. Rejection pushed her to explore the growing movement.
Keary Taylor grew up in the Rocky Mountain foothills of Utah where she planned to be a nurse, and nurtured her writing hobby through Harry Potter fan fiction as a teenager. “I idolized JK Rowling,” she admitted. But the biggest influence on her love for writing was her junior high English teacher, Mr. Beeson. He challenged and inspired her to adopt a different perspective on what she thought and wrote. He praised her work and made her feel good about her work. She later immortalized his name in her books, with a character sharing nothing more with him than intelligence. Despite his influence and her love for writing, she questioned her future in it. “I always thought it would be amazing to be a published author, but NEVER thought I’d actually do it.” And she didn’t, that is, until she moved to Orcas Island in 2008 with her husband and two-month old baby. Leaving her hometown and large family left her with a void—a void she filled with writing.
“It was Stephanie Meyer who inspired me to try to actually write something that I could release for others to read,” she said of her writing journey. Keary’s first manuscript was Ever Burning, a historical fantasy set in the 1600s. She initially sought a literary agent to represent her novel to potential publishers. After unsuccessful submissions to 30 agents, she took another look at the novel and decided that the plot was weak and the quality was lacking. She decided to set the novel aside and start anew on a different project.
In 2009, she wrote Branded during her second pregnancy, while caring for her first child. It was the first installment of her first trilogy, Fall of Angels. After receiving positive feedback on the novel, she once again pursued a literary agent, sending out hundreds of query letters over six months. “I got a lot of requests to look at it, but it never turned into anything,” she said. “So I had to rethink things after nearly a hundred rejections. People liked the story, even loved it, and they wanted to read the rest of it.” In the face of surmounting rejection, she did not give up on her passion. Instead, she researched self-publishing—a growing movement of the writing world—and with nothing to lose, jumped in.
She attributes her steadfast passion to the faith in her stories, and the faith her husband had in her. “I knew my story was good and I knew I had the determination to make a name for myself and reach readers,” she said. “But there were a lot of times when that faith in myself wavered and it was in those times that my husband had faith for me. He never let me doubt myself and never let me get too hard or down on myself. He always told me to give something else a try.” That ‘something else’ was finishing her trilogy and jumping right into new projects.
Success didn’t come immediately, but she didn’t let that throw her off course. Her research on self-publishing helped her realize the importance of multiple books. She quickly got to work on continuing her trilogy, publishing the second book Forsaken in 2010. The year after that was a huge year for the growing author. She published her trilogy’s final installment, Vindicated, as well as her first dystopian novel, Eden. She made a name for herself in The Wall Street Journal as a Self-Published Bestseller in 2011. Electronic purchases and downloads of her books began to skyrocket. The year closed out by signing a deal with Black Forest Film Group to have Eden produced as a movie.
But writing at such a pace was difficult and tiring. “I take my writing very seriously, as seriously as someone who works at a bank, or an insurance company, or anywhere else,” she stated firmly. “I tend to write hard and fast when working on say, a trilogy. I have a hard time taking a break longer than a week in between projects, so by the time I finish a series, I am exhausted and depleted.” Her hard work and dedication don’t go unnoticed. Jenni Merrit, fellow independent author and friend stated, “Her work ethic is crazy. I think in the last few years, I have seen her NOT writing or working on a book maybe once. And even that was short. As soon as she finishes a project, she is instantly to work on another.”
The difficult writing pace was further intensified by caring for her young children. “I wrote Branded when I was pregnant with my now four year old son, and at that time, my daughter was just over a year old. I wrote half of it with her on my lap trying to smack the keys as well,” she recalled. Despite the challenges, she developed a schedule to balance her role as an author with the role of wife and mother. Now that her children are older, she writes while they’re at school. “It’s not a ton of time, usually three hours a day, but I write fast and furious. It keeps me always in the writing mind frame and keeps me productive.” When her children return home, she immediately checks out of author mode for the day. “When they’re home, the computer is off and doesn’t come back on until they are back at school the next day. I’ve been really lucky to find my ‘sacred writing time’.”
Despite her hectic schedule of juggling responsibilities with her career, she admits that breaks are vital to her success. “Sometimes the creative juices need to rest and simmer,” she stated. After her busy year in 2011, she took a step away from the fantasy genre and published a contemporary romance, What I Didn’t Say in summer 2012. The time away from her fantasy works and begging from her fans led her to the determination that the story of her dystopian novel, Eden was not over. She faced her fear of committing to another series and dove back into the world of Eden. In early 2013, she unpublished the book, and over the remainder of the year, released the story as The Eden Trilogy, consisting of The Bane, The Human, and The Eve.
Once again, the whirlwind schedule of her trilogy had left her feeling depleted. Following its completion, she took a two month break between the final book’s release in mid November 2013, before jumping into her new project. The break proved to be an incredible benefit to the growing writer. Today, she is barely a month back into her intensive writing schedule and she has already boasted a 40,000 word count and a productive research trip, despite admitting the week it typically takes her to find her groove with a new project.
Jenni Merrit admitted that her own pursuit of writing and self-publishing is due to Keary. “She lives and breathes it and was more than ready to share what she knew with me. Since then, she has become one of my biggest shoulders to lean on.” The friends have acted as readers for one another, and attended book signings and conventions together.
“Keary puts herself into her writing,” Jenni observed. “It is raw and real, and I think that is what first pulled me in. Her characters are living on those pages and she lives right along with them, feeling their happiness and pain and everything in between.” Like Keary’s fans, Jenni has been affected emotionally by Keary’s words, admitting to crying and laughing along with the stories. “I think that is a sign of an awesome author. When you forget that what you are reading isn’t real.” Perhaps Keary also forgets that about her stories. When she writes, she immerses herself in the world of her stories, consuming her senses with carefully selected music playlists and art that acts as the muse to her writing frenzy. She also consults her handwritten journal and whiteboard, where she pens her ideas while away from the computer.
When asked if there was anything about Keary’s personality that she enjoyed or admired, Jenni couldn’t pick just one thing. “Pretty much everything,” she started. “Keary has a huge heart, and I am lucky she decided to fit me into it. She cares so much about her friends and family, along with her fans. She is an amazing mom and active member of her church as well, all while balancing this book career she made for herself. Not to mention she is funny and crazy when the mood strikes.” Anyone can look on Keary’s social media sites and not only see that she takes the time to connect with her fans, but that she has a genuine personality that even shines through her simplest writing.
Keary’s unique stories and simplistic, but creative writing style have drawn the intrigue of fans from different generations and backgrounds, and have also inspired them. Her fans will remember her for the stories she told, but those closer to her will remember her for her perseverance. “Tons of people out there say they will someday write a book and they never do. Or they write one then fail to get an agent and that is the end of the road,” explained Jenni. “Keary has spent so much time and energy into these books, never gave up when others said no, and has independently made a name for herself.”
The dedicated writer isn’t planning on giving up her passion any time soon. The word count goal of her current project is 90,000 words, although she estimates it to end up over 120,000 words and the potential to become two separate novels. The sky is the limit for Keary, and that is a privilege she loves most about self-publishing. While she says she is open to traditional publication, she loves the control self-publishing gives her. She designs her own book covers, controls release dates and pricing, and of course, determines her own schedule. “Its been an amazing journey. I never would have imagined it would earn me the income it does now, or allow me to reach so many people,” said Keary.
When asked how she would want to be remembered, Keary said, “I just want people to remember me as someone who never gave up despite adversity, and as someone who worked hard and loved what she did.” Jenni’s honest question sums up the thoughts of many of Keary’s fans: “How can you not remember her?”