Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you're having a great start of the week. If I don't get to your blog until later today, it's because my mom is here visiting. She's leaving this afternoon so I might be a little later to reading blogs today. We've had a really nice visit.
THE DEMON KING (click on the title to link to the Goodreads description) and the whole Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. It's a fantastic fantasy series filled with incredible world building, an interesting magical system, and characters so developed you'll long to meet them. Even if you don't like fantasy, I think you'd really enjoy this series because of the great characters. It's great like Games of Throne. I've read the whole series in print and audio version.
Next I have a few winners to announce.
The winner of JUST A DROP OF WATER is Carl Scott!
And the winner of FALLS THE SHADOW is Christina Fionelli!
Congrats! Please e-mail me your address so I can have your book sent to you. Please e-mail me your address by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.
Today I’m excited to have debut author Kendall Kulper here to share about her new YA historical fantasy SALT AND STORM that releases tomorrow. I really liked the 19th century setting and Avery, a complex teen struggling to find her place in a world that has definite parameters of a woman’s life. I always enjoy stories with this type of struggle.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder--and the one boy who can help change her future.
Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.
Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.
Hi Kendall! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
I think I’ve always been a writer, pretty much as soon as I learned how to write, but I never really thought I could do it professionally until a few years ago. I’d just graduated college and I was working my first job as a journalist in New York City, and although I enjoyed the challenges, I was starting to get burnt out from the stress and long hours. To save my sanity, I began working on a YA novel, and I fell back in love with writing. I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life, so when I finished the novel, I decided to quit my day job and write full time. It was a crazy, wonderful, terrifying decision, but I’ve never been happier!
2. So awesome you felt you could take the leap into being a full-time writer. Where did you get the idea for your story?
I really like islands, especially the kind of small, tight-knit communities that develop there and how they can feel both very warm and intimate but also somewhat suffocating. It’s something Avery struggles with, and I think it’s something a lot of teens feel about the towns they’ve grown up in.
Martha’s Vineyard is the only island that I know much of anything about, so I started looking for potential story ideas there. The island has a rich history of whaling, and when I got deeper into research, I discovered stories of women who would make good luck charms for sailors. I thought it was really fascinating, and the deeper I dug, the more I thought that it would make a great story.
4. I’ve read you have a history and literature degree. What drew you to set your story in the 19th century? And how do you recommend writers research their setting if they want to write a historical story?
I started, of course, with books. Libraries and librarians are fantastic resources if you’re not sure where to begin, and books are great jumping-off points. I did a lot of research online, too—usually when I needed to quickly check something random like the average income for an eighteen-year-old harpooner.
I also tried to get out of the library and off the computer and into the real world. I visited the New Bedford Whaling Museum several times, and aside from checking out their wonderful exhibits, I loved talking with the staff there. They were terrific at answering my very random, very weird questions (how tough is it to get whale oil off your skin? What would the average whale man have in his pockets?), and any time a writer can sit down with an expert and ask the kinds of questions you won’t see in books, it’s time well spent.
And I wanted to make sure I could write authentically about the feels, smells, and sights in my book. I camped out on remote beaches and pulled ropes on historic sailing vessels. I read poetry about sailing and letters from the 1860s and spent a lot of time sitting staring at the ocean. Research is such a great tool for enriching a novel, and it comes in so many different forms than just heading over to the library.
5. Yes, you do sound like a history nerd. And you’ve got great tips about getting out into the world to find out the details that make a story feel more real. Avery is a very independent and driven to become the island’s witch. And she has a darker side you’ve talked about in blog posts. Share a bit about this side to her and why you chose to show that darker side of her.
I wouldn’t say that Avery is “dark” exactly, but she’s not afraid to show her more unsavory qualities. She can be impetuous, rude, egotistical, presumptuous, and it takes her some trial and error to realize this about herself and realize how limiting her perspective often is. I really wanted the reader to see that although she’s always a strong person, she needs to grow and figure out how to use her strength.
6. What was the process of writing SALT AND STORM like and how long did it take you to get from the start of the first draft to the point of querying?
This was actually the third novel I wrote (the first two are firmly in the drawer), and I felt a lot more confident this time around. The book itself came together relatively quickly: the first draft took about six months, and then I put it through beta readers and extensive edits for about two more months. Since I write full-time from home, I was lucky to have a lot of time to research, rewrite, and get things just the way I wanted them.
7. So wish I had that kind of time to really focus on my writing. Your agent is Sara Crowe. Share how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.
By the time I started querying SALT & STORM, I had already queried (and shelved) two other YA novels, so I had some experience researching and reaching out to agents. I had actually queried Sara with my second novel, after a good friend and client of hers suggested I contact her. Sara liked it but ultimately passed and asked me to send along any future work I might have. So when SALT & STORM was ready to go out, Sara was at the top of my list, and luckily, she loved it! She was the first agent to offer representation, and she really impressed me with her passion for the novel and her vision for its publication. I knew I would have a tireless advocate and great partner in her—and I was right! My book was on submission to editors for only a few weeks before it was bought by Bethany Strout at Little, Brown. Bethany’s been nothing but fantastic to work with and I am so thrilled to be a part of the Little, Brown family—I couldn’t have wished for a better experience!
7. That’s great that Sara asked you to send her future work and you did. What’s something that surprised you about the time between signing your contract with your publisher and release day?
Well, first of all, it’s a long time! I signed my contract Spring 2013 but the book is only just coming out now (which was hard to explain to my grandma). There’s a lot of work that goes into getting a book ready for publication: writing and editing, of course, but also cover design, typesetting the pages, building promotion, and getting the books out to booksellers and libraries. Patience is definitely something an author needs to have a lot of, especially the closer you get to release day (when everything in the world seems to be happening all at once!).
8. To me, your timeline sounds fast for publishing. Some authors have to wait two years for their book to be published. But I totally get how family doesn’t understand this. What have you learn so far market-wise and are there things you’ve done that you’re really glad you’ve done? Anything you wish you’d done differently?
I’m certainly still learning, but one of the things I’ve come to appreciate is sticking to what you can do well. I think a lot of debut authors are sucked into the mentality of you have to have X—whether that’s a blog, a Twitter account, a tumblr, a YouTube channel. Certainly a website with all your information is incredibly important, but beyond that, I think it’s more meaningful to readers if you focus on reaching out to them in ways that you enjoy, rather than you feeling compelled to make a weekly video or something just because other authors have had success with that.
As far as things I’m glad I’ve done, I love reaching out and connecting with readers, librarians, bloggers, and booksellers. I’m continually blown away by how smart and welcoming this community is, and it’s been great getting to know so many people who are so passionate about books!
9. Yes, I think a lot of authors come to your realization that it’s best to focus on the social media you enjoy and are comfortable with. What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on the companion novel to SALT & STORM, which will be set about 18 years earlier. I can’t say too much about it (yet!), but it will feature some familiar faces and places along with some new characters!
Thanks for sharing your advice, Kendall. You can find Kendall at http://www.kendallkulper.com/
Kendall has generously offered a copy of SALT & STORM for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through October 4th. I’ll announce the winner on October 6th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is for US & Canada.
Here’s what’s coming up:
Next Monday, I’ll be interviewing debut author Elissa Sussman with a giveaway of STRAY, her YA fairytale retelling. I really enjoyed her unique spin of fairy godmothers.
Next Wednesday I have a guest post by debut author Andrea Pyros and a giveaway of her MG contemporary MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK
The following Monday I have a guest post by long time follower C. Lee McKenzie and a giveaway of her YA contemporary DOUBLE NEGATIVE.
Wednesday that week I'm giving away a number of recently released Harper Collins middle grade books that I know many of you would enjoy.
And the Monday after that I have a guest post by another long time follower and debut author Kim Van Sickler and a giveaway of her YA contemporary SNACHED IN GULLYBROOK.
And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.
Hope to see you on Monday!