Thursday, October 24, 2013

How Authors Write- Kai Strand

Today I welcome my friend and CP Kai Strand to the blog. She's is an incredibly talented author (Check out my interview of King of Bad here!), and a great friend who cheers me on. Welcome, Kai!

What do you write?
I write contemporary fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adults. I like to write for middle graders because I found those years the most difficult to navigate through and reading really helped me to both escape my confusing reality as well as navigate through some of my trials. I write for young adults because there are no limits to what can be explored or how it can be explored.

Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs?
It’s funny because when I was attempting to write picture books I wrote in 1st person, which they say is difficult for that age group to understand. I want to write a young adult novel in 1st person, but I feel so limited writing an entire novel in that point of view. That said, I write third person - close. I really don’t like the omniscient narrator that suddenly knows what a secondary character is thinking. It is sort of a pet peeve of mine. So much about writing is subjective though, isn’t it? So I’m not saying that because I think it is wrong. I’m just saying that I’m not a fan.

How do you get started with a book- is it an idea, a character, vary from story to story?
It definitely varies from story to story. My first published novel, The Weaver, was inspired by the name and logo of my critique group. Its successor, The Wishing Well, was inspired when readers told me how much they loved the character Unwanted, and hoped to see more of him. I created my book Save the Lemmings, around the title and a dream. My most recent middle grade, Beware of the White, was inspired by reading Harry Potter and feeling I could create a world of my own, and I wrote King of Bad after asking myself the question, “What about the bad guys? Who trains them?” [What a great question!]

Do you draft quickly?
This varies too. I’ve written as quickly as two months and as long as…well, I’m not sure how long. I tend to have multiple projects going at once, plus have to put those aside when I get edits from the publisher. There is rarely a straight line from beginning to end of the first draft.

Do you do research before your first draft, during?
I research during as a concept comes up. Even though I write fantasy, I like for my conventions to be believable. For example, when I was trying to think up a believable power for my villains to learn in King of Bad, I had to research what source could be ‘gathered’ from within your body and ‘ignited’ to create a electric fire – or blue flame. I found magnesium had all the aspects I was looking for.

Do you outline? How?
I don’t outline, but I create a fact sheet as soon as I start a book, sometimes before if it is a series. In it I note the physical characteristics, full name, birth date, parentage, etc, of the characters so that I can find them easily later. I’ll jot down possible plot twists or resolutions to refer to later if I’m inspired as I write. I’ll make note of unresolved storylines that I need to come back to later in the book or series. It isn’t the prettiest of documents, but helps to refocus me later, especially if it has been a while since I’ve been inside the book because of edits or publicity efforts, etc. I’ve tried outlining, but it killed my creativity for the story. [I use a similar thing- a character chart I build in a spreadsheet. Its been especially helpful keeping all my people from the Valendria series straight!]

Do you name everything up front when you are drafting or do you leave comments for yourself to go back and fill in later so you don't lose the flow of what you are working on?
Names are a big thing for me. I really don’t know why. Not every single name I choose has a deep meaning, but when I decide the name needs to have meaning, I can get very distracted trying to find just the right one. I have to do it then, I can’t come back to it, because that person or town or establishment becomes fully formed in my mind under the name I choose. [I totally get this. I'll spend lots of time searching for the right name for a character or place. The thesaurus is my friend, as are some baby naming sites :-)]

Do you work with CP's or Beta's? How soon into your draft do you let them see your work?
I’m happy to say that I’m able to share my work with my critique partners much earlier than I used to! I’m a pretty clean drafter, so usually only need one or two edit cycles before I share with my buddies. It depends on the kind of feedback I’m looking for too. If I want their input on the overall story arc I send an earlier draft. If I need them to check my commas I send it later.

What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best?
Any book on the craft of writing inspires me to write. It’s almost like a challenge, “Bet you can’t do this!” To which I reply, “Watch me!” But I think reading lots and lots of books in the genre you want to write in and for the audience you hope to target is the best way to learn. Study what you love and don’t love and determine why you love or don’t love it and that will help you form your own writing. Make sure a good majority of them are current titles. I doubt Lord of the Rings would be published without some major editing now, so studying that will only get you so far.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
I don’t think I understood how difficult the business end of writing would be and how much time it would take up. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of supportive friendships I’ve developed (like ours!). [I've been caught in the time suck that is marketing too. And yes, I have to agree meeting other authors who are so supportive has been amazing! So happy we were able to 'meet'!]

What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share?
Summer was busy for me. I had two books release!

My most recent middle grade novel is a Narnia-esque fantasy adventure. It offers an alternate world, fascinating creatures and a bad guy to thwart.

Book Blurb:
As is tradition, Terra learns on the Saturday past her twelfth birthday that she is a Natures Spirit. It is her legacy to serve in the peaceful underground city of Concord. Learning she is named in a prophecy and being threatened by the leader of the death tribe…that part breaks tradition.

The Trepidus are the death janitors of the Underworld, responsible for delivering fatalities with a smile and cleaning up after themselves until Blanco, recent leader of the Trepidus, decides the day of reckoning for his species is coming. He begins organizing the creatures and leads them toward an uprising. The prophecy says there is one person who can stop him. Terra.

With Spirit of Security, Frank, protecting her, Terra attempts to complete her training and discover her Spirit talents. Together, they go on a rogue investigation to learn how to defeat Blanco. In the end, it comes down to a battle of the minds. The future of Concord is at stake. Will Blanco, the older, more experienced being win? Or will Terra, the young, new Spirit earn back the peace of the city?

Buy it: MuseItUp Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or look for it on iTunes. Add it to Goodreads

My latest release is my first young adult novel and it is about teen super villains. I’ve already celebrated a #1 bestseller spot for my publisher and I’ll be taking the book on a virtual book tour next month – there will be giveaways! To receive the tour schedule, subscribe to my newsletter.

Book Blurb:
Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA.

He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the Supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?

Buy it: Whiskey Creek Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble Add it to Goodreads

Thanks for having me on your blog, Mary. I appreciate you letting me talk about my books and my writing. You're welcome, Kai! Thanks for sharing your writing process with us.

For those of you curious about my books, you will find more info on my website: You will also find all of my online haunts. Please visit me on facebook, twitter or via email!


  1. Mary, thanks so much for the interview. It's always fun visiting a new site. Can I just say how happy the intro 'friend and CP' made me. Yeah!

    1. You are so welcome! I am thrilled and honored to call you friend and CP :-)

  2. So interesting to find out an author's thought process. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I love reading other people's processes. It's amazing to me how many different ways there are to write. Probably as many ways as there are authors!

  3. Wonderful interview, ladies! Sounds like you're incredibly busy, Kai!!

    1. I try to keep focused, Meradeth, but that darned social media is such a distraction! Thanks for reading.

    2. Thanks Meradeth! I agree- Kai is one busy lady!!


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