Monday, November 12, 2012
Great Interview with Award Winning Author: Kai Strand
Please welcome Kai Strand. Stay awhile and enjoy her Twenty Questions with Kai Strand interview that I am priviledged to share. She is an award winning author for kids and teens and offers great insight into being a writer for kids.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an author.
My professional background is from both corporate America as well as non-profit. It was a difficult transition to the non-profit world because you have to bring your professionalism, but still have a heart. Oddly, those two things can be very conflicting. I was a stay-at-home mom between those two chapters in life and that is when I started writing. I’ve always written things, usually personalized short stories or poems for going away presents or retirements. When I had three of my four kids in school, I felt like I had SO much time during the day, so I sat in front of my computer and wrote a novel.
Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary.
The Wishing Well: Another Weaver Tale is set in the same village as my first novel, The Weaver, where the villagers speak in story. There is a return appearance from the odd little gnome-elf, Unwanted. Other than that, the story is a stand-alone. You don’t need to read them in any specific order. In The Wishing Well, the main character, Molly, is treated horribly by her mother and sisters. The only thing that keeps her sane is her art and the unfailing support of her best friend, Riddle. When Molly meets Unwanted, she asks him to grant her a wish, but she doesn’t think it works at all and she realizes that only she can fix her home life. Just like with the wish she made, in the end communication is key.
Save the Lemmings is a contemporary fiction. Eighth grade inventor, Natalie, becomes an overnight sensation when her Texty-Talky goes nationwide. At first she is the media’s sweetheart, the mid-west Whiz Kid, but then they turn on her, start reporting lies and camping out in front of her home. It gets so bad, even her closest friends start to believe the outlandish news stories. It is up to Natalie to figure out how to take control of what is reported about her and set the story straight.
Can you tell us about your publisher and how the process worked in getting published?
The Wishing Well is my second book to be published with Guardian Angel Publishing, a small press located in St. Louis, Missouri. Guardian Angel publishes for children to age twelve. Featherweight is a small press in New York publishing for children and teens. My experience with both publishers has been really great. I feel like I’m one of those authors who is always ‘asking’ things – hopefully I’m just paranoid. Regardless, I’ve had great support from the time the contracts were signed past the date of publication. And I’m thrilled with the end product. Such pretty, pretty books that smell so good.
How did you get the idea for this book?
The Wishing Well was inspired by readers of The Weaver, my first book. Time and again I was asked if Unwanted – the misunderstood gnome-elf – was going to make an appearance in another story. Who am I to refuse the readers?
Save the Lemmings came to me during the night. Not in a dream, it just formed in my subconscious while I slept and then rudely awakened me before the sun one morning. Heck, I wasn’t even at home! I was sharing a hotel room with my sisters on a trip to visit our dad. So I tend to credit my sisters with the inspiration, even though they were sound asleep.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
I’m not sure there is a typical day, but I suppose most of my days start with coffee at the keyboard: visiting social media sites, promoting any online activity that needs to be promoted, read and comment on blogs. Then I walk and shower and dress in something that isn’t pajamas or workout clothes. I write, eat, write. Social media again (if I haven’t obsessed during the day – sometimes I don’t!), and then I like to read. I usually close the computer and put my feet up on the couch around 4:30 or 5:00 and read for as long as I can get away with it.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
The creative process of the first draft is by far my favorite part of writing. I’m mostly a panster (I don’t outline my stories-just write by the seat of my pants), so the discovery of where it is going and how it gets there is just as much a surprise to me during the first draft as it is to the first time reader. I love that.
What is the most difficult part of writing?
I’m not a huge fan of the editing process. I’m not convinced I’m very good at it, first of all. Plus, I miss that discovery process from the first draft. There’s little that surprises or thrills me during edits.
How has publishing a book changed your life?
I always have a pretty colored pen in my purse and a box of books in my car. When I Google myself, I get me. And my kids must call me “The Great Literati.” Yeah, not much has changed, but I didn’t expect it to.
What are your plans now?
I have a young adult novel, King of Bad, coming out next year that I’m excited for. I hope to finish the second novel in that super villain series very soon and pen another Weaver Tale novel. Plus I keep myself occupied as a staff writer for www.Knowonder.com, an online magazine that delivers a story a day for children to ten years of age.
What is your best tip for aspiring authors?
You know how everyone says, “Never give up?” Well, I say it’s okay to give up every now and again. I had ‘quit’ writing when I met Lynda Burch, the owner of Guardian Angel Publishing. We had a wonderful time talking about children’s book publishing and I was so relaxed, because I had nothing to pitch to her. It was about two months after I met her that I thought, “Oh, The Weaver would be such a good fit for GAP…Crap.” Then I dusted off the manuscript and unquit.
However, if you’re going to be a writer, give it your all. Be a bulldog with your teeth clenched around your aspiring career. If you’re not going to be a writer, let it go and move on. Don’t do anything only halfway.
What advice can you give adults, children and/or teens as they prepare for life?
Kids, do what you like while you’re in school. If you want to be in drama, but the kids at school think drama is for geeks – WHO CARES!? Do it anyway. My best friend and I went to our 20 year high school reunion together. We sat with all the women who had been our super popular cheerleaders who didn’t even know we existed during high school. We had so much in common and talked and laughed all evening. Down the road, it doesn’t matter!
Parents, this is a tough economy and many of us are struggling with job issues and/or financial issues. This can often lead to stress at home, in the marriage and in your parenting. Stay focused. Remember what’s important. Giving your 8th grader a phone? Not important. Having two cars to keep up appearances? Not important. Geocaching with your spouse and kids? Important. Making s’mores over the barbeque and telling ghost stories? Important.
Do you make school visits or do speaking/book signing engagements? If so, please describe a typical presentation.
I love school visits! Two of my presentations that have been really well received by children over the years are:
Visualizing the story:
I talk about description, using all the senses and bringing the story to life. I read one of my short stories or a blurb from one of my books and then there’s a hands-on exercise with the kids to really tie it all together.
Making Strong Word Choices:
I start with the basics, what makes up a story, beginning, middle and end, with supporting examples. Then I talk about making a story more interesting to the reader by making strong word choices. I finish by playing a game with the students that gets them thinking about better, stronger ways to say something. This is always fun.
Believe it or not, I love public speaking. Give me a topic and I’ll come prepared to speak on it. I didn’t spend all that time in Toastmasters for nothing!
Book signings are probably my favorite though, because it is really great to talk to my readers directly.
I’m available to travel for any of these events as well. I’m happy to discuss logistics and brainstorm ideas. Interested parties can drop me an email and we can make arrangements to speak directly from there.
Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?
Local bookstores can order my books or readers can find buy links as well as word searches, book club discussion topics and other documents related to my books on my website: www.kaistrand.com
*Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. (SFC) and its divisions do not receive any compensation for product reviews beyond a sample and/or limited access to a paid website. SFC donates all books sent for review to a charitable organization. SFC may do a contest or giveaway of samples we receive.