Q: Kelli...what made you become a writer?
A: I've always loved to write, ever since I was a little kid. I would always tell stories and my mom would type them up and print them out like they were books. I guess I got serious about writing a couple years ago when I came up with an idea for a book that I couldn't stop thinking about. Ever since then, I've been writing novels and short stories. I've published one and another is on the way.
Q: What is your typical writing day like?
A: Writing days are the kind of days that you don't get out of your pajamas for. I like to make hot chocolate or grab something that goes with peanut butter. Food is important. And then I reread what I wrote or edited the day before and go on from there. Some writing days are different, though. Sometimes I'll write in an environment that's similar to the scene I plan to write that day, like going into a dark attic for a creepy scene or sitting outside for a more lighthearted scene. And sometimes I don't have writing days. Writing all night is way easier because there aren't as many distractions and nothing is going to interrupt you when you get into the story.
Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?
A: Yes! I love to outline. It's kind of how I hype myself up for writing the first draft because it will help me get through it. My outlines are fairly extensive. I start with sticky notes on a poster board to figure out the basic plot and then elaborate from there, filling in the blanks. Of course I also plan out characters and settings and all of the little details in research. My story never quite sticks to the outline, though. I like it better that way, so I'm not in control and the story can run free. That's the fun of it.
Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?
A: It depends on how bad I mess up with the first draft. Sometimes I'll go through ten drafts and sometimes I'll go through five or six. For the one I'm writing now, it's looking to be around six or seven... I've got my work cut out for me. I do keep a lot of my first draft in there, but the best parts come out in editing.
Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?
A: Don't give up. That is the single hardest thing about editing. I just started editing my second novel, and all I want to do is read. I'm three days from winter break and no school and I couldn't be happier. That means I'm going to be editing and I can actually get into it. Editing is monotonous and boring at first, especially if you don't like your first draft, but you can't give up. Don't start writing something else. You've just got to look at how much you've done and find inspiration for another draft.
Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?
A: Avoiding laziness is my main problem, but I'm changing that. You see, I am an expert in procrastination. I love NaNoWriMo because it doesn't allow you to be lazy. Laziness is what makes us overlook misspellings and grammatical errors. It makes us ignore things that tell us we'll have to rewrite a whole chapter. To fix that, I got into a habit of writing every day, and now I can't stand to be lazy with my work. It's all or nothing when I write now, and that's something that has already made me a better writer.
Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?
A: Yes, unfortunately. Writer's block is something that is in the mind, not the fingers, which is great, because as long as I can type, I'm writing. Even if I'm not feeling the story that day or if I just can't figure out what comes next, I write anyway. Even if it's trash, I can edit it later. Sometimes I'll write parts of the story that I am looking forward to getting to, and then connect the dots on how to get there. Sometimes I just remind myself that it's a first draft and it's okay if it sucks, because I'm the only one reading it.
Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?
A: I love to write about things that gets people on the edge of their seat; things that get your blood pumping and make you turn the pages faster. I don't know why, but that has always been my preferred genre to read, so I guess writing it came naturally. Even when I don't intend to, my stories all lead to some kind of huge, dangerous, perilous climax.
Q: Do you utilize beta readers?
A: Yes! Beta readers are a great way to get input. It's even better when beta readers have discussions about things in the book. This gives you insight into how they see it versus how you saw it when you were writing.
Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?
A: My most recently published novel is Looking for Lily. I would actually consider it more of a novella, since it's short. My favorite scene was the climax, when the main character is face to face with the antagonists, having no idea whether or not he is about to die for what he believes in. I liked writing this part because it was so real to me, and it pulled me into the story like no other part in the novella. Of course, now when I read it I can't help but think about how much I've improved and how much more editing I should have done on it.
Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?
A: I'm going to answer with my upcoming novel, Holding My Breath. My main character is so much more developed than any character I've written so far. Maybe it's the fact that she's nothing like me, or because of her backstory, but she is real in my head. I was talking about it to another writer and she had to stop me and reminded me that my character isn't real. I'm not kidding. This character was so real to me that I didn't even feel like I was controlling her anymore...that's when you know you have a well-rounded character. They can just be so stubborn sometimes. The other characters in my book are unique too and I'm looking forward to developing them more in the second draft.
Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?
A: Give back to your readers somehow. Even if it isn't through giveaways or tours, that's fine. Get social media. Answer questions from fans. Meet them. I'm writing a blog all about writing and novelizing because it is something that I like to write about and there are people who want to read it because they say it inspires them. I love inspiring people, so I keep writing. And I love writing, so I keep writing. Just try to give back and don't get full of yourself or anything because then it isn't about the writing or the readers anymore. And that's what matters.
Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?
A: It depends. If the review is bad because of something in the writing that I agree with, then I write it down. I have a list of things that I have to remind myself not to do with the story when I go back to edit. Like when I get in the habit of using this one word as an adjective and it happens too much. If the bad review is because somebody doesn't like me, then I just shake it off. If they haven't read the book or don't know me and they are just criticizing me, then I'm not going to bother with them. When someone criticizes the writing, though, I seriously do try to take it into account and work on it.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: It's not even something that comes with being an author, exactly. I just love the writing. Being an author, though, is amazing because the writing I do turns into books that I can hold in my hands. It's awesome to meet people who have read my book and talk with them about it. Or when someone asks me to sign their copy or something. I love meeting people who love my stories as much as I do. But the best thing has to be writing the story itself. I love to come up with the characters and their lives and what they are going to do about the problems they face. I love coming up with new worlds and exploring them. Writing is like reading but better, because you can make it whatever you want.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?
A: To be honest, my least favorite part is when people judge me because of my age. I'm still a teenager, and I know there are so many other writers out there who are more experienced and have more developed writing styles. I know I'm not going to get famous or anything off of my books. That's not why I write. Writing, for me, is something that I love to do and I'll keep doing it. You can't judge the writing based off my age, even if it does mean I'm not experienced or whatever. I share what I write because there are people out there who want to read it, but if you don't want to, nobody is making you. Just because I'm young, doesn't mean I'm not allowed to follow my dreams. Of course, most people don't say it to my face, even if they think what I do is just some kiddish phase. Most people encourage me and stop to talk to me about my work. Especially friends and family, but it isn't just the people who I know I can count on. I've gotten to talk and connect with a ton of other writers and authors over Twitter, writing conferences, and NaNoWriMo. They've all been super supportive and understand what it's like to write.
Q: What is your current writing project?
A: I just finished NaNoWriMo with a 116,000 word book called Holding My Breath. Obviously, I've got a ton of editing to do since I just started my second draft. The book is something I've wanted to write for a while, since I can get into the minds of characters who are nothing like me and I can explore a story that I haven't completely finished developing yet. In fact, by the end of my editing, the odds of it being the same story is not likely. It's something I'm excited about and that means it's something I'm going to bring to a whole new level.
Q: What are three of your favorite novels?
A: This is a hard question. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is definitely one of them. The writing and development of that story is simply amazing, and I have looked up to this book for a while. It's that awesome. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is also up on my list. Overall, the story sent a beautiful and touching message and I love his writing style. Finally, I just read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and it's still stuck in my head. Rowell is great at capturing that essence of writing and the whole dynamic of why we write, why writers need to finish a story and how real it can become, even when we know it's fiction.
Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would talk to them about?
A. I'd love to meet Alexandra Bracken, but I feel like my answer to this question changes from day to day. There are so many authors that I look up to and would love to meet. So many. Too many to name. I just wrote a blog post about the writing style of Bracken and how she uses such unique description and I wish I could talk to her about that. Even just the dialogue and everything in the Darkest Minds trilogy that has stuck with me. I would love to know how she came up with the story.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?
A. Don't give up. You might face judgment from others or momentary doubts of your writing ability. You might have people who think that what you do is a joke. You might not want to keep going until the end. I'm telling you now: If you like to write, and you have a story you want to tell, don't let anything stop you from telling it. Even if it is yourself, even if you get bored and want to move on to something more interesting, don't give up. I promise you won't regret it.
Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
A: "The best way out is always through."— Robert Frost
No witches, warlocks or vampires...
just a sexy tale about trying to live the Hollywood dream...
Luigi's Chinese Delicatessen by Jim Vines