Today I am super excited to have Kay Lynn Mangum, author of The Secret Journal of Brett Colton, for an interview! I recently read her YA contemporary novel When the Bough Breaks and loved it. Amazing characters, well-written, and touching. I can't wait to read The Secret Journal of Brett Colton, and how cool is this...I get to interview the author beforehand?!
Welcome, Kay Lynn, and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. Just for fun...
Five of your favorite movies. Go.
Star Wars (Who doesn’t love this movie??)
Gone With the Wind (Always brings back great memories of watching this with my mom – it’s her favorite of all time!)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (I watch this whenever I feel down – it always makes me laugh!)
Mrs. Miniver / The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (I couldn’t pick between two of my favorite black and whites!)
Rebel Without a Cause (Truly the first “real” teen movie ever made. And still one of the best.)
Agreed! Those are all great ones. My husband and I still pop in the old Star Wars every now and then (and we've probably watched them a million times!). Next, please list five of your favorite novels (I know, rude to ask for only five since I’m sure there are many!)
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman
Alexander Lloyd’s The Book of Three series (I can’t pick just one from this series!)
The Blue Sword and Sunshine by Robin McKinley (I couldn’t pick just one of her books!)
Anything by Lois Duncan
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (I couldn’t leave this off – it’s such a wonderful novel!)
What hidden talent do you possess besides writing? Don’t be shy!
I love photography, and am usually the one called on to take pictures at any and every family event. After taking one beginner class just for fun, I was hooked, and had to invest in a camera that would allow me to take great shots. I’ve taken so many pictures over the past few years I had to get an external hard drive just for storing pictures alone!
Why did you begin writing?
I learned to read before I started kindergarten and loved the magic books created for me, giving me a door into other places and times. I began thinking up my own stories, and acting them out with my stuffed animals and dolls as plays until I learned to write and could put them down on paper. It was just something I did for fun. I loved creative writing assignments in elementary school and figured my teachers were telling everyone their stories were great, so I didn’t pay too much attention to any teacher who told me I wrote good stories.
By sixth grade, my teacher told my parents to encourage me because she knew I’d be published someday. That’s when I started to take this “hobby” -- just something I did for fun to entertain myself -- much more seriously! It was a strange thing for me, being told something I did for fun could become an actual career if I worked hard enough at it, but I took my teacher’s comments seriously and spent my junior high and high school years taking writing classes and entering short story contests. After I placed in a few of them, it seemed a natural progression to move from short story writing into novel writing. All of the novels I’ve written so far – both my published and unpublished books – are based on my short stories. It’s been great to have so much ready material to draw from for writing novels!
Wow, was that sixth-grade teacher spot on. I hope she knows what an impact she had. How awesome! Do you have any writing quirks?
I have to have complete and utter silence in order to get any good writing done. No noise, no music -- I even turn off my phone so there’s no chance of that going off and distracting me.
Ah, peace and quiet (I've almost forgotten what that sounds like!). :) Character, setting or plot: which one is most important to you and why?
If you don’t have three-dimensional characters the reader is drawn to and cares about – especially your main character – it’s going to be hard for a reader to care about your plot. It doesn’t matter how great your plot is, or how clever the twists and turns are, if you haven’t created characters your reader cares about and wants to see “win.” I’ve learned this the hard way. Be sure to not get so involved in the plot that you forget to develop your characters.
I agree! And, might I plug in, your characters really jumped off the page at me, so you know what you're talking about! Do you write with an outline or just see where the story goes?
I don’t write the first word of a novel until I’ve outlined the entire thing. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stick completely to my outline, but for me, having an outline to use as a road map helps me to get from the beginning to the end of the story without finding dangling plot threads at the novel’s end. And, an outline helps me to avoid lengthy re-writes due to forgetting that something I’d established at the beginning of the book was forgotten about along the way. This doesn’t work for all writers, but it’s the only way I can write a book!
Have you written a book you love that you have not published?
I’ve written two since I wrote my third published novel – one of which I’ve reworked and rewritten a good five times now since 2009. I’m trying to break into the national market through gaining agent representation, and although I’m still sending out agent query letters on both books, in the meantime, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity I’ve had to attend writing conferences and make connections with other writers, agents, and editors. I love writing too much to stop, so hopefully I will find that perfect agent for me who will connect with my books and love them as much as I do!
What project are you working on now?
At the moment, I’ve been having a lot of fun writing a YA novel that takes place in the 1950’s based on experiences my parents had while they were in high school. It’s completely outlined, and I’m now writing the chapters. I’m hoping to have this one completed before Thanksgiving.
I, for one, can't wait to read it. Sounds like an intriguing setting/time for a novel. Last of all, Kay Lynn, do you have any advice to give aspiring authors?
Believe in yourself. Believe your work is great and worth your time to create, yet at the same time, know it can be improved and be prepared for criticism.
Surround yourself with friends who believe in you and your dreams, and will encourage and support you.
Don’t be afraid to let other people read your work. Having others read and comment on your work can really keep you motivated, and it makes it less frightening to submit your work to contests, writing conferences, agents, and publishers. Good writing friends who can edit and critique your writing is better than gold.
Most importantly, don’t give up. If you love writing and feel strongly about being a writer, never stop trying!
Thank you once again, Kay Lynn!
ALSO... a giveaway of The Secret Journal of Brett Colton will be posted this Thursday, September 6th. Hooray! So be sure to check back then and enter!