Today, I have the honor of introducing to you a good friend and favorite author of mine... Kelly Kizer Whitt. I'd like to thank her for answering all my questions, no matter how crazy she found them. So, without any further ado...
JS: Last year you self published a book and are now working on the sequel. Can you tell us about these books?
KKW: The book I self published on Kindle at Amazon.com is titled The Gathering Storm. The novel is about secrets and deception, finding your place in the world, and experiencing that life-changing first love. The story takes place in 1911 at the grand estate of
Crofton Castle, home to one of the wealthiest families in the , the Ashcrofts. The main character, Evelyn, is a recently orphaned, destitute 17-year-old girl who has been sent to spend the summer at United States — with relatives she never knew she had. She struggles to fit in with her new family’s extreme wealth and their strange world: her aunt is an alcoholic; her youngest cousin, Ervin, is a wild troublemaker; her older two cousins, Harry and Arthur, are bitter rivals; and her uncle is oddly and perpetually absent. Harry and Arthur, who were both adopted into the Ashcroft family following tragic events, soon turn the focus of their acrimonious rivalry to battling over Evelyn. Crofton Castle
The sequel, whose working title is Storm Damage, continues the tale of Evelyn after she has found love. Her happily ever after turns out to be more complicated than the storybooks would have us believe as her faith and trust is tested. The book is more than halfway written and should be finished and published in 2012.
JS: You have a children’s book coming out soon. Congratulations! Can you tell us about this book?
KKW: Thank you! The book is titled Solar System Forecast and is scheduled to be released in fall 2012 by Sylvan Dell Publishing. It’s a picture book (illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein) for grade school children. Solar System Forecast is a fun way for kids to learn what the weather is really like on the other planets in their “neighborhood”.
JS: Why were you asked to write a children’s book on astronomy?
KKW: I have hundreds of astronomy articles online, and the editor of Sylvan Dell found me when she was researching weather on other planets with the idea that it would make a good children’s book. I had written an article on that exact subject so she asked if I would be interested in writing a children’s book about extraterrestrial weather. Of course I said yes! If you put your writing online, you never know who might see it and what it may lead to.
JS: What is your first passion: writing or astronomy?
KKW: I’ll have to go with writing, although now my career consists mostly of writing about astronomy, which is a blend of my first two loves. Since branching out into writing novels, I’ve found it even more fulfilling than writing about astronomy, but it has much greater challenges.
JS: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
KKW: I remember my third grade teacher asking my class what they wanted to be when they grew up. She went around the room and my classmates gave answers such as nurse, teacher, waitress, and so forth, but when it was my turn, I said, “Author.” Just as some young kids love football and admire the players and want to grow up to be one, I loved to read at a young age and admired my favorite authors and wished to join their ranks.
JS: You also wrote a YA book. Can you tell us about this book?
KKW: In between writing The Gathering Storm and starting the sequel, I wrote a book titled A Different Sky. I haven’t published it on Kindle because I am going to try to pursue traditional publishing outlets for this book.
A Different Sky details the journey of Jane, a quiet and troubled high school senior, following a world-wide apocalyptic event that has left her stranded on a train with a handful of classmates. Two male students, Austin and Brandon, flee with her into the Montana wilderness. Austin was her best friend as a child before they had a bitter falling out, and Brandon is a dark and combative character who has threatened Jane’s life on more than one occasion. As Jane is “running for her life in the company of the two people who hate her most in the world,” she comes to realize that she has much common ground with one of the boys and discovers that the other is very much in love with her.
The novel has paranormal and science fiction elements as the teens unravel the mystery of what has happened to Earth and how they have been changed. The title A Different Sky is a reference to the moment of the apocalypse and Jane’s ability to decipher their predicament by reading the stars.
JS: Why did you decide to self publish vs. traditional publishing?
KKW: In a word, impatience. I had started submitting to agents and publishing houses, but it takes quite a while before someone picks up your work, and I was ready to release my project into the world. Just as writing astronomy articles for internet sites paid off in an invitation to write a children’s astronomy book, so I am hoping that publishing my novel on Kindle will open the door to bigger things. Although I must admit that, at the moment, not having anyone inflict deadlines on me or request I travel for book signings but still being able to have people enjoy my work is a wonderful benefit.
JS: What book has been your favorite to write?
KKW: I have had ideas for characters and story lines many times, but when I actually sat down and, over the course of nearly a year, wrote The Gathering Storm from beginning to end, it was an amazing feeling. I would wake up in the morning and be ready to go down and read what I had written the day before and then tackle the next scene. It almost felt like reading a love letter to myself. Not that it went that easily all the time, but when I was in the “zone,” it made me immeasurably happy. I had similar experiences writing A Different Sky. The sequel to The Gathering Storm has been a bit harder, though, because people have read the first book and I stop and consider their expectations and what their reactions will be to what is happening to the characters now. My writing has stalled a bit, but I vow that I will get beyond it and finish the book. I already have ideas for one or two books beyond the second.
JS: Who is your favorite character and why?
KKW: It’s a tough call between Evelyn (in The Gathering Storm) and Jane (in A Different Sky). Evelyn is lovable because she is so good-hearted, although a tad naïve. I would love to be able to slip into her shoes for a day and experience her life. It’s quite the opposite with Jane, whom I have put into some of the worst possible situations, but I relate to Jane more because she is more like me: flawed, misunderstood, and always with her guard up.
JS: How do you get your ideas?
KKW: I have very vivid dreams, and the storylines of both of the books were taken from dreams I had. A Different Sky began when I had a nightmare about something very terrifying happening to me on a train. The Gathering Storm had a more pleasant beginning, with a dream about a girl returning to a big white tent on the lawn the morning after a grand party. A storm whips the canvas walls as she enters but she is intent on finding something. So intent that she doesn’t notice the young man who follows her down to confess his affection for her.
JS: Have you had traditional writing training?
KKW: I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a major in English, which included courses in writing. I also read a huge variety of literature, which was certainly helpful.
JS: What other writing do you do?
KKW: Most of my daily writing is in the subject of astronomy. I write articles for AstronomyToday.com and Suite101.com, as well as a weekly stargazing blog for the Sierra Club and a monthly column in my hometown newspaper. I have two Twitter accounts: @Astronomommy where I tweet about what’s in the sky along with personal thoughts, and @NatlParkTrivia where I tweet a different fact about the national parks every day. Besides astronomy, I’m very interested in the national parks, having visited many of them and read extensively about them.
JS: What would be your advice to anyone who wants to self publish?
KKW: Go for it! There’s not much risk since there’s no cost involved. It’s a great way to get your book out to family and friends, and who knows where else it could lead.
1. Vanilla or chocolate? Chocolate, unless chocolate/vanilla swirl is allowed.
2. Coffee or tea? I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life! I’m a big fan of tea, though.
3. Beach or mountains? While there’s a lot to like about the beach, the mountains give me that simultaneous heaviness and lightness in my chest that feels like falling in love.
4. Last book read? The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
5. Favorite author? David Sedaris
6. Most played song on iPod? Congratulations by Blue October
7. Favorite movie? Pride and Prejudice
8. Team Edward, Jacob, or Other? Both, plus Peeta and Gale (But if I had to choose it would be Jacob and Peeta. Or just Peeta.)
9. Outliner or Panster? If I had to choose one, I'd have to say I'm an outliner, but that sounds awfully formal for what I really do. I basically have a series of scenes in my head that I want to occur, and sometimes I'll even take notes and jot down specifics of what might be said in each scene. It's not so structured though that I can write out of order. There are still plenty of things that occur that I didn't even realize were going to happen until I sat down to write, and the characters evolve over the story in ways I can't anticipate.
10. Lipstick or chapstick? Lipstick
Kelly Kizer Whitt has been writing for more than a decade. She got her start with Astronomy magazine and contributed to The Collins Encyclopedia of the Universe. In 2007, Trails Books published her nonfiction puzzle book titled Badger Brain Twisters: Wisconsin Trivia, Games, Puzzles, and More! In January 2011 she published her first novel on Kindle. Kelly is married with two children and lives in the Milwaukee area.