Today I'm incredibly pleased to introduce a very talented children's author and colleague (fellow staff writer at knowonder! children's magazine), Kai Strand. Her latest middle grade book SAVE THE LEMMINGS is a fun read with a great premise. Welcome, Kai!
Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.
I spent a number of years in corporate America keeping customers of the emerging technology world happy. I also got married and had four kids during that time. I turned in my letter of resignation on January 2, 2000 and became a stay at home mom to concentrate on raising our kids. The first day I was home, I was baking cookies (because that’s what stay-at-home moms do, right?) and my husband called to say he’d just been laid off. We had nothing keeping us in Southern California anymore, so we stuck a ‘for sale’ sign in the lawn and moved to Bend, Oregon. A few years later, when my third child started Kindergarten I started writing during the day. Heck with only one kid at home, it felt like I had all the time in the world! I wrote my first novel in 2 months and figured, “This is easy!” Yeah…well, can’t always be right.
What is one of your favorite books and why?
Thank you for saying “one of”. Cassandra Clare’s, City of Bones, captivated me. I actually read her novel, Clockwork Angel, first and loved it. I’d heard about her Mortal Instruments series and thought I’d give it a try since I’d enjoyed the first Infernal Devices book. I devoured City of Bones, and then plowed through the next two immediately. After reading the fourth in the series, it became my second favorite of her books (so far). The dynamics between Clary and Jace are explosive and compelling. I love that there is just enough mystery in the plot that I have to read to the end to figure it out. One day (in my spare time – grin) I’m going to go through that first book and highlight all the words/phrases/sentences that draw me in so I can dissect why it works so well.
What inspired you to write this book?
Save the Lemmings came to me while I slept. I didn’t dream it, but I woke before the sun one morning with a fully developed story in my head. Unfortunately, I was sleeping on the couch in a hotel room I was sharing with my sisters! I had to quietly slide my laptop out of my bag and power it up so I could type out the outline of a young female inventor whose invention, the Texty-Talky, goes nationwide and makes her an overnight sensation. Fame is exciting, but also can be pretty encroaching and sometimes downright ugly. Her reputation is dragged through the mud and she has to figure out how to regain control of her fate.
How would you describe your writing process?
Kind of jerky. Nothing like that first novel that just flowed out of me. I often work on a couple novels at once. Plus I write blog posts and interview guests for my blog. When I’m lucky, I get to visit other blogs, like this. And I write short stories. I try to do a little of each every day. Or at least most days.
How have you marketed your book?
I’ve had several generous bloggers, like you, who have hosted me on their sites with guest posts, interviews or a book feature. I have another middle grade book that published just a couple weeks after Save the Lemmings, so I’m taking both of them on a virtual book tour through World of Ink all this month (October) and November.
What advice would you give to other authors?
Whether you are a full time or part time writer, be a professional author. Writing can be a hobby as long as you aren’t pursuing publication, but once you decide you want your work out there, respect those you work with by always treating your writing as a career.
Read a lot of books written for your target audience. Read the popular titles, the lesser-known titles, books by the big six publishers, small presses (like mine) and self-published titles. Determine what you think works well and what makes you cringe.
Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.
This excerpt is special because it is when main character, Natalie, discovers the SAVE THE LEMMINGS! Foundation. She and Jayne (one of her three best friends,) are working in Natalie’s lab, trying to come up with a design for the case of Natalie’s Texty-Talky invention:
Excerpt from the copyrighted work Save the Lemmings:
“Cardboard and construction paper?” Natalie asked. She nudged Jayne’s hand away from the thigh it was scratching before picking up the dustcovers, folding them and putting them in a drawer alongside alphabetized CDs, anti-static clothes, banded, bagged and labeled USB cables, hand tools for emergency computer repair which Tamilla usually used, a hot glue gun, and a coil of wire.
“I think it needs to be sturdier. What’s that floor stuff?” Jayne asked as she typed in the search bar: yellow lemminant. She hit enter.
“Are you thinking of laminate?” Natalie asked.
“Oh yeah!” Jayne started to type again.
“Wait!” Natalie said. She reached forward and brushed Jayne’s hand away from the computer mouse, then directed the pointer to a search result: SAVE THE LEMMINGS! She clicked on it and the screen filled with a close-up shot of a Yellow Steppe Lemming. The caption read: Thousands of lemmings a year commit mass suicide during their migration. You can make a difference! Join SAVE THE LEMMINGS! today and help us fence the cliffs of the Arctic.
Natalie’s breath caught. “They’re so cute!”
Jayne snorted at her friend. “Are you serious? It looks like the pet hamster I had when I was seven!”
“Oh, I remember Fuzzy. He was such a cuddly-bun!” Natalie whined on key. “I can’t believe these adorable little creatures commit mass suicide. That is so sad.”
“Oh my gosh, you have tears in your eyes. Natalie, we’re working on your invention here. Don’t get distracted by the gross little rodent.”
“He’s not gross; he’s cute. Look at his whiskers and all the colors in his fur. Doesn’t his fur look soft? Oh, it’s so sad that they die.” Natalie gently rubbed the monitor in a petting motion with an anti-static dust cloth.
“You know what?” Jayne said, springing into action. “I’ll bookmark this page for you. You can come back to it later when I’m gone, okay?”
“Oh yeah, that’ll work,” Natalie said. “Don’t you think he’s cute?”
Jayne finished typing the correct spelling of laminate into the search bar and clicked the enter key. “No, I don’t.”
(End of excerpt)
Where can readers find you and your book?
Readers can read blurbs about my books, find buy links and downloadable documents and links to my published short stories on my website: www.kaistrand.com.
They can get Save the Lemmings through their local bookstore or they can order print and electronic copies at:
Thanks, Kathy, for letting me visit with you and your readers today! I appreciate it.
About Save the Lemmings: 8th grade inventor, Natalie Isabelle Cailean Edwards is the N.I.C.E. girl who finishes last with the kids in school. Sappy inspirational phrases and monochromatic outfits have all but her best friends wrinkling their nose at her. When Natalie’s invention, the Texty-Talky, goes nationwide, she becomes an overnight sensation. Suddenly her days consist of photo shoots and interviews with little time left for her friends. A local reporter shatters her good-girl image by reporting a graffiti incident and the media launches into a smear campaign. It is so bad, even her friends start to believe the stories. Will Natalie be able to overcome the lies being printed about her?
About the author: Kai Strand writes fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. Her debut novel, The Weaver, was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards. The Wishing Well: Another Weaver Tale is set in the same storytelling village as The Weaver. She is a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four amazing kids. The most common sound in her household is laughter. The second most common is, "Do your dishes!" She and her family hike, geocache, and canoe in beautiful Central Oregon, where they call home.
To find out more about Kai’s books, download companion documents, find links to her published short stories and discover all the places to find Kai both virtually and in person, visit her website: www.kaistrand.com. She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to send her an email or visit her facebook page, Kai Strand, Author.
Thanks for visiting today, Kai! It's a joy working with you and I wish you lots of success!