Pump Up Chats with Kai Strand
Kai Strand is a children’s author of middle grade and young adult novels. She was born and raised in the mid-west, where she inherited a wholesome outlook on life. She lived in California long enough to become a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four amazing kids. They now live in Central Oregon where the most common sound in her household is laughter. The second most common is, “Do your dishes!”
Obviously, Kai likes to write. The Weaver is Kai’s debut book. She reads a lot as well and calls it research. Kai loves to garden, and is trying out a greenhouse for the first time this year. She loves to sing. You might find her singing in Latin while browsing at Target. Most of the time she isn’t aware she’s singing aloud. She and her family love to hike and geocache. Kai walks 45 miles a month for exercise.
You can visit Kai online at www.kaistrand.com or at her blog, Strands of Thought, www.kaistrand.blogspot.com.
On The Weaver
Q: Can you tell us why you wrote your book?
It is the reason I love to write middle grade. There are so many things that happen that make a tween feel awkward or out-of-place. Mary’s story may be set in a fictional village of storytellers and she may meet a strange magical blue creature, but all of that doesn’t disguise the real life fact that she feels like she doesn’t belong and that she doesn’t measure up. Tweens (and their adults) can relate to that and they can relate to how she goes about resolving her problems.
Q: Which part of the book was the hardest to write?
I had the hardest time with the transition between the middle of the book and the ending. All the proper set up had been accomplished and I knew where I wanted to end up, but I couldn’t figure out how to bridge from one segment to the other. I’m sorry to admit that I let the book sit around for a very long time because of that. One day I realized I had a perfectly good book sitting on my hard drive doing nothing, so I forced myself to sit down and do the hard work, which ironically defined my bridge.
Q: Does your book have an underlying message that readers should know about?
I hope that readers will walk away with this feeling, but really it is about determination. Mary doesn’t just accept that she’s an average storyteller. Though she tries to find an easy way out, she eventually realizes that she is the one who will have to make it happen. And I love that she finds her own unique voice instead of mimicking her mother’s or another word weaver’s.
Q: Do you remember when the writing bug hit?
Speaking of determination, my personal writing bug was just that, determined. He first bit me in 5th grade when a story I wrote was posted in the school hallway with my picture attached. Then he bit me anew my freshman year of high school when I took a creative writing class with a supportive and encouraging teacher. A comment from a fellow toastmaster after a speech I’d given as a young professional resonated within me and then the final straw was the Harry Potter series. I couldn’t deny my love of creating or that hungry writing bug any longer.
Q: What’s the most frustrating thing about becoming a published author and what’s the most rewarding?
The most frustrating thing about being a published author was just as frustrating when I was an aspiring author. Not enough time. Time is even more constrained now that promotion is added to the mix. I want to do it all; events, classroom visits, read blogs, write blog posts, read books and mostly write new books, but I’m always running into the end of the day before I’ve accomplished even half of it.
The most rewarding part of being an author is visiting with my readers. There is nothing more inspiring to me than having kids ask me questions about my book or about writing or how I spend all my money (ha!). All I really want for my writing is for it to be read. The rest is all fluff.
Q: Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share?
Force yourself to write what you aren’t comfortable writing. If you write novels, craft a couple short stories to learn economy of word choice. If you write mysteries or thrillers, force out a romance or a historical, better yet, make your main character from your thriller the main character in a historical. You will see her and your writing in a new light. Not only does it give that big muscle in your head a workout, but it is surprisingly freeing as well. Never allow yourself to get too comfortable. You’ll get fat.
On Family and Home:
Q: Would you like to tell us about your home life? Where you live? Family? Pets?
I live in the stunning setting of Central Oregon. This is so important to who I am now. I doubt I ever would have become a writer had I stayed in Southern California. Here I have the time, the space, the freedom and the inspiration to slow down enough to write. My husband and my four kids are the most amazing people I know. We are close – yet independent, strong because we are supported. We laugh so much, but we are responsible and dependable. I love us!
Q: Where’s your favorite place to write at home?
Wow, I don’t have a favorite place. I’m not really a ‘favorites’ type of person because my moods and circumstances can change what appeals to me from day to day. I have a writing room for when I need to be alone with my characters or a scene. Sometimes I write on the couch or at the dining room table, or out on the porch. Mostly I just love the chance to write.
Q: What do you do to get away from it all?
I rarely feel the need to get away from it all. But I guess sometimes I’ll grab a good book and spirit off to a coffee shop to read and sip my white chocolate mocha. Sometimes I walk. Granted, I walk about 45 miles a month anyway, but there are times I set out specifically to be alone in my own head with my music and the steady pounding of my feet on the pavement.
Q: Were you the kind of child who always had a book in her/his hand?
I did always have a book to read, but I wasn’t a bookworm per se. I did most of my reading before bed. I played outside as often as I could. My friends and I pretended to be characters from books we’d read, mostly animals; horses, dogs. We didn’t act out the books themselves; we had our own storylines for the Black Stallion as an example.
Q: Can you remember your favorite book?
There is that “favorite” word again. I had many. The Black Stallion series was big for me. I loved the Little House on the Prairie series. Judy Blume had a number of titles I loved. And in fifth grade I was enthralled by Thoreau. I can still picture the section of shelf in the library I’d visit again and again to check out and recheck out his works.
Q: Do you remember writing stories when you were a child?
I was such an emotionally driven child, so I wrote a lot of poetry, dripping with feelings and chockfull of adverbs and strings of adjectives. I think it ruined poetry for me unfortunately.
On Book Promotion:
Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promoting your book?
Blogged about it. I blogged about getting and signing the book contract. I hosted a giveaway when the cover art was revealed. My blog has always been my first stop in the world of celebrating my writing.
Q: Are you familiar with the social networks and do you actively participate?
Yes, social networking is my second stop in book promotion. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Goodreads. I try not to let this medium eat up all my free time, but beyond promotion it is such a source of knowledge and information and a great way to meet people within the children’s publishing industry. As an example I will be featuring an illustrator who lives in India on my blog. I met her through Jacketflap. I love the internet.
Q: How do you think book promotion has changed over the years?
Since I’m now involved, I’d say it’s much harder than it has ever been (grin). But actually, it’s hard for me to judge since I didn’t promote a book back in the day. I would imagine for some authors it has become more difficult as they and their wallet are more involved in their own promotion. But for me it is what it is. I have to make decisions based on what I think will get the most exposure for my book. It takes a lot of research to even find the opportunities. Research is time away from writing.
On Other Fun Stuff:
Q: If you had one wish, what would that be?
Financial independence so that I could write fulltime, not worry about the costs involved in promoting, visit my daughter at college whenever I felt like it, travel to a ghost town for research, spend a couple weeks each summer at a lake with the kids. Freedom to just “do”.
Q: If you could be anywhere in the world other than where you are right now, where would that place be?
This is almost like a “favorites” question. How do I pick just one place? At least you specified “the world” so that rules out intergalactic desires. Wherever that place is, I’d want my family with me. Everyone; husband, kids, sisters, parents, in-laws, nieces and nephews (this would be more than 100 people, by the way) I’d want it to be about 77 degrees, sunny with a slight breeze. Probably a beach and an ocean should be near. I love the power of the tide, I find it very inspiring. Fresh saltwater taffy should be readily available and I should be able to order a crab melt on the patio of a local restaurant for lunch. Evenings should include a fire ring and a good Shiraz, ghost stories and lots and lots of laughter.
Q: Your book has just been awarded a Pulitzer. Who would you thank?
I think it’s obvious that I’d thank my family, so let’s skip that part. I’d thank Mrs. Belter, the 5th grade teacher who stuck my class picture to my Blunder Day story and taped it up in the hall. I’d thank my friends who refused to let their eyes glaze over when I’d share my frustration over another rejection. I’d thank my critique group for not only their hard work on my story, but for the original inspiration of it. I’d thank my editor for loving the story, too, and for wanting to put in the hard work to make sure it got out into the world. I’d thank the cover artist for her stunning interpretation of the village and Unwanted. I’d thank the lovely young artist who did the chapter art that adds such charm to the book. I’d thank the online community for helping to spread the word about the book, because we all know that good stories get overlooked from lack of exposure. I’d thank the readers, but by then they’d be playing the exit music so I wouldn’t be able to fully convey just how much the readers truly mean to me and I’d always feel sad about that.
Thanks for the interview and for featuring The Weaver.