The Literary Corner: Janis F. Kearney


Janis F. Kearney

I am an author. Writing was what I was put on this earth to do. I’ve done a number of other things:  serving as a presidential diarist, a newspaper publisher, a managing editor, a freelance writer and a press director for state government. But the thing I knew I had to do and what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing is writing.  I’m convinced that God put this in my heart and my soul from a very young age. I’m grateful for every breath I’ve been able to take as a writer; every word, every page, every book He has allowed me to write.

I did not start out to self-publish, though, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be published by anyone else now.  I was blessed to have an amazing much-sought after New York agent in 2003, but my desire to get my book published while my father still lived, and the New York publisher’s timeline didn’t jibe. That was when my husband and I agreed that if I wanted my first book published that bad, I should do it myself. We did. Since that time, I’ve learned that while I’m usually an easy going, laid-back person, I’m very controlling when it comes to my books. God has this really dry wit. It was one of the scariest things I ever did, but also the most self-satisfying.

I write in multiple genres. My first book was a memoir; my second book was a memoir; my third book was a memoir; and after that, I wrote a biography and a novel. So, there is no one genre, though I admit that I’ve grown into nonfiction – biography and memoir.  I grew up loving fiction, especially murder/suspense novels. I guess I really do like using what I learned in both feature writing and straight news in my journalism background.

I’m yet to learn the secrets to marketing my books.  I have been pretty lucky to have people and organizations interested in my books since my first book in 2005.  What I do know is that I am the best marketer of my books. I use press, interviews, and of course, social media. I have FB pages for my publishing company. Over the last 10 years, I’ve also ghostwritten others’ books, and I try to market their books on my WOW Publishing website and a FB fan page.

My first book was in Chicago, and it was one that still sticks in my head. This Southern Baptist Christian held her first book launch at the infamous Playboy Club. The crowd was unbelievable. Some of the biggest names in Chicago were there – a crowd like you wouldn’t believe. After I came down off my high horse, I decided that most of the crowd probably were more interested in the venue than my book. But it was a very successful event.

I don’t do a very good job of investing in myself. I didn’t grow up understanding that women taking care of themselves was a good thing.  Workaholic is my middle name. It came with the Kearney DNA. I work until I’m dog-tired.  The thought of going out, having a fun time has never really turned me on. My brother told me once I was born old. Also, I’m not a prissy-girl: the manicures, pedicures, and massages are something I do every once in a blue moon if someone shoves a gift certificate in my hand. I read. I write. Those are my passions and my joys in life. I spend time with my grandchildren when I can. They bring me great joy. I spend lots of time with my family.  That gives me joy.

The hardest lesson: No one is the same as your family or your “village” you grew up with. It sounds trite, but that was a hard lesson for me. My parents had pretty much taught us that most people were good, and if you treat them nice, they will be nice. So, I was someone who always tried so hard to be “nice,” and fair to everyone. What I had to learn was that sometimes it’s not about you, but about other people’s life experiences. I may remind them of someone who treated them horribly in life. Everyone isn’t nice, and that’s reality. I don’t let it bother me the way I once did.

I’ve expanded my income streams by accident. One of the things I learned about myself when I started my publishing business was that I have no business acumen.  Thank God for my husband, or I would certainly be a starving artist. I have been lucky, though. My books opened up the possibility of me doing public speaking around the country and even outside the country. I’ve also been asked to do writing workshops and seminars and even had the honor of teaching at a university.   As I said earlier, over the last 10 years, I’ve been sought out to ghost write others’ books, and that can be quite lucrative if you really work at it. Unfortunately, I decided last year that I would ‘retire’ from all other writing except my own books.

The worst advice I was ever given was from me. I talked myself into marrying the young man who I was in love with and pregnant by, but knew in my heart we weren’t meant to be husband and wife. We remained married for 16 years, and I was blessed to have a wonderful son, but it was not a happy marriage for the most part for him or me. We’re really good friends now.


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