Monday, August 17, 2009

TBG Author Interview: Cayla Kluver

A few weeks ago, my fellow Blogger Girlz and I had the immense pleasure of being able to interview Cayla Kluver, the 16-year-old author of "Legacy" for our first ever author interview here on the blog! Here is the result. Enjoy! :D

1) Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Pretty much. I’ve always been passionate about writing – I get a thrill thinking about creating and putting words to paper. I remember being in second grade and learning about firefighters, so naturally I got excited and wanted to be a firefighter, but what I did was go home and write a story about being a firefighter. Writing was just always the base of everything.

2) How did you come up with the idea for “Legacy”? Did it just come to you, or was it more of a gradual progression?

Narian’s story arc – his life – was sort of my starting point for Legacy, and that came to me a couple of years before I began writing the book. The rest of the story, involving Alera and London and the other characters, was completely undeveloped at that time. It wasn’t until two years later when I decided to try to write something with substance that I fleshed out the rest of the plot, so I would definitely say it was a progression.

3) Where do you draw your inspiration from while you are writing? For example, do you listen to music while you write or sit outside?

I would love to sit outside more while I write, but unfortunately my laptop screen has this horrible tint to it and I can’t see anything with the sun shining! I can sometimes write in notebooks, but I hate scribbles and anything that feels disorganized, and for me the two definitely go hand-in-hand. As far as music goes, I LOVE it, even though sometimes it does distract me. Other times, if I play it quietly, it can really set a mood for whatever section I’m trying to write. How I’m feeling really inspires my writing – to write a section well, I have to feel what my characters are feeling - I don’t really know how else to describe it. Emotionally, having a connection to what I’m working on is incredible.

4) How do you stay motivated to write? Even though you are now published, have you ever wanted to give up? And if so, how did you pull yourself back from the “edge”?

I never really have difficulty staying motivated to write – it’s sticking to one project that is problematic for me. I like to hop around to whatever grabs my interest in the moment, and that’s not particularly conducive to keeping deadlines! I don’t handle stress or time pressure very well either, so I tend to shoot myself in the foot in that respect. And, of course, certain aspects of a book are easier for me to write than are others (I love writing dialogue and emotional scenes), so sometimes I force myself through a section in order to reach something more compelling. Luckily I’m surrounded by a whole bunch of people who are eager to pull me back from the edge and are able to keep me focused.

5) Tell us about your writing habits: where you write, when you write, how much you write, etc.

I either write in my bedroom or at the kitchen table, but never where there’s a lot of activity. I’m very easily distracted by noises or people moving around, which is probably part of why I got into the habit of writing from about 10pm to 4 in the morning. I think another reason I’m such a night owl now is because I was in high school while I was writing Legacy, so I was in classes all day and had homework after school. I just got in the practice of taking advantage of the night! I’m also not very good at making sure I write a consistent amount every day. Hopefully I’ll improve in that area as time goes on and I gain more experience, but it can be really up and down sometimes. Generally I push myself for no less than a thousand words a day though.

6) How do you deal with constructive (or not) criticism? And if it’s negative, how do you deal with it?

It was really hard to start off with – not constructive criticism that helps you improve you writing - but plain old negative comments. You think you’ve done all you can to make this book absolutely the best it can be, and to have any kind of unpleasant reception before you’re used to the fact that you can’t please everybody is difficult to handle. Now I just try to let it roll off, and I’ve come to the very helpful realization that it’s not the people who hate it who matter. I’m doing this to make myself and whoever else I can happy through my writing. That’s what it’s about.

7) How many stories did you start writing before you found a “winner” and how did you know you’d found a keeper?

I’d always been writing, but about the longest story I’d managed prior to Legacy was eleven pages long. I’d have a lot of grand, epic ideas, but I didn’t have the organizational skills or the motivation to put them in book form. I think the reason Legacy worked out was because I’d had the idea for so long, and because I’d recently discovered Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, who had her first book published at 13, and the realization that young people can accomplish things kind of pushed me to a place where I had the motivation to finish a novel. Another important factor was my mom – she read the first twenty pages of Legacy and was immediately supportive. She’s always ready with a pep talk when I need one.

8) Are you planning on writing more books? (Please say there's going to be more).

I don’t think I could stop writing if I wanted to, so I definitely have other ideas bouncing around! Right now I’m working on Redemption, the third book in the Legacy series after Allegiance.

9) When you started writing "Legacy" were you planning on trying to get it published, or did that part come later?

Because I’d been partly inspired by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ accomplishments, I definitely started out with the goal of getting published. I just had no concept of how difficult it would be. My mom sat down with me at one point and told me that the actual writing was the easy part, and I didn’t believe her at all. I was very na├»ve about the whole thing.

10) What did you do to celebrate when you found out that you were getting published?

I went out to Perkins (we know pretty much all the waiters there!) with my family and my best friend’s family. They bought me flowers and it was amazing. One of the best days of my life.

11) What is it like having your picture taken for the back flap of a book? Did you get it professionally done? How did you decide on what pose to go with?

My older sister actually did an entire photo shoot with me for my press packet, and Melcher Media, who did the design of the hardcover edition, picked the photo for the back of the book from that set. It was really cool because they’d seen some of my sister’s work and said if I wanted she could do the photography, otherwise they’d recommend someone. It was obviously really flattering for her, and such an amazing thing for them to have done.

12) Now that you’re 16 and a more experienced writer, what advice would you give to your 14-year-old self, the age you were when you first wrote “Legacy”?

If I felt like being philosophical, I’d say that I wouldn’t want to give my 14-year-old self any advice lest it somehow disrupt the experience I would have over the next two years. But that’s the easy way out! Really, I’d want to say, “Hey Cayla, why don’t you quit whining and just finish writing the book? Oh, and the next year and a half is going to be both the best and worst of your life, so buckle up.”

13) What were the most difficult and best parts of writing your first novel? How long did it take you to write from concept to outlining to completion to sending if off to agents?

The best part of writing my first novel was the experience of it. You only write a first novel once, and it was rough and bumpy but it showed me what I was able to do. The hardest aspect was probably the same thing – it was my first book, and honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing half the time. It took me about nine months to finish the outlining and first draft, largely because I was in school and my time was a little scattered, then another six months to do revisions for the self-published edition.

14) Can you briefly detail your journey to publication after finishing your first book? (Finding an agent, an editor, promoting the book, etc.)

Briefly may be an issue, but I’ll try my best! My mom and I put together query letters for agents once the book was completed, and sent them out in the hope of ending up with a traditional publisher, but with no success. In truth, we didn’t prolong that struggle because it wasn’t just that the “slush pile” was so competitive; I also had no credentials. I was only fifteen (a huge negative), had no “name” or previous publications or even a creative writing degree, and so we recognized this approach wasn’t going to work. That was difficult in and of itself because I could understand the industry’s biases, but at the same time was desperate for them to at least give me a shot. At any rate, my mom, who is a lawyer, set up her own publishing company and we released the book ourselves on April 15, 2008, hoping to garner as many positive industry reviews, Amazon and B&N customer reviews, awards, and sales as we could, to prove the book’s marketability. In the spring of 2009, we were approached by AmazonEncore with the opportunity to be their launch book. I then got in touch with my literary agent, Kevan Lyon, and I signed the contract on April 9, 2009.

15) What is your writing process like?

Since I’m only half-way through my third book, I’ll forewarn you all that my process is subject to change, but I’ll tell you what seems to be working now! I outline obsessively – for me, the key to avoiding writer’s block is to know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m going with a story. Then I start writing and push through to the end of the first draft. I’m such a perfectionist that if I were to let myself go back and edit while I was writing, I’d never get the book done. Once it’s finished, I read through it, change things that immediately stick out as needing to change, and mark places where I want to adjust bigger things. Then I hand it over to my mom and sisters and get their marks and criticisms. Once I’ve read through it over and over to the point where I never want to see my own writing again, I call it good until my agent cuts into it (that’s not exactly accurate – she’s super nice and helpful), and then, in the case of Legacy, it goes to an editor. Voila!

16) What kind of atmosphere do you prefer to write in, calm or chaos?

Calm, without a doubt. I get distracted so easily, by the TV, by people talking or moving around, by the dog panting. I’m kind of a pansy that way.

17) Do you have any odd and unusual habits which help you in regards to writing?

The oddest I suppose is that I generally write from 10 in the evening to 4 in the morning. It also helps me to go outside on a sunny day and run around with whatever characters I’m writing about in my head. I don’t know – that sounds strange I guess, but it kind of clears my brain and gets me focused again.

To find out more about Cayla and "Legacy" go to:



Cayla Kluver said...

Love the blog layout, and thanks so much again for doing the interview. I've already linked to it! :D


Steph Bowe said...

Wow! Fantastic. She's done so well at such a young age (I'm 15, too!)

Mckenna said...

Great job! I was curious when Allegiance was going to come out????