Thursday, October 12, 2017

Interview with a YA author: Kara McDowell

Displaying IMG_20170829_123710_004 (1).jpg

Welcome Kara McDowell to the blog! She's a YA author whose debut novel, JUST FOR CLICKS, will be published by Amberjack Publishing in 2019. She's a mom of three, and a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fan (everyone should be a CEG fan, just sayin'). Kara also has stellar advice for writers in both the drafting and submission trenches, so listen up.

*** ****

 1. First, and foremost, welcome! Can you tell us a little about your debut novel?
Thank you! JUST FOR CLICKS is about a teen social media darling who begins to question the cost of internet fame—especially when she unearths the secret her mother has spent the last seventeen years hiding. I was inspired by popular mommy bloggers who are raising a generation of children on the internet, and the question of what will happen when those children become teenagers. While writing, I was also able to draw on my own experience working as a mommy blogger after my first son was born.
2. Also, congrats on your sale to Amberjack Publishing. That's incredible. As any author on submission knows, the process can be grueling and demoralizing (no joke). Any advice to authors currently in the submission slog?
I’m the worst person to be giving advice on this subject, because I found submission to be a special kind of hell. It was agonizing to be so close and so far from achieving my dream at the same time. That said, I have two pieces of advice, and they are conflicting. First, write something else. Focusing on a new project stopped me from pinning all of my hope on one book. My second piece of advice is to be kind to yourself. Some days, writing will feel impossible. That’s okay. It’s okay to feel sad, to wallow, to worry. You will still be a writer if you take a few days (or more) off. It’s also helpful if you seek out friends who have been in your shoes. People don’t tend to talk about submission publicly (a separate, frustrating topic), but you will need to talk, to vent, to cry, and probably to eat ice cream.
3. You're a mom of three. How do you write and stay sane at the same time? 
Ha! I’m not sure I do? But honestly, writing is what keeps me sane when I’m surrounded by tiny people all day. Because my kids are so young, I’ve long since accepted the fact that I won’t get huge chunks of time and silence to sit and write. Because of that, I’ve gotten good at working with what I have, whether that’s nap time, while the kids are watching cartoons, or simply writing a sentence or two with my right hand while I stir dinner with my left. I’ve found it’s helpful if I leave my laptop open in a place I can see it. That simple act keeps my brain engaged in the story while I’m doing other mundane, necessary tasks. At the end of the day, I’ve often added hundreds of words to my count simply by squeezing in whatever I can.
4. Who are your favorite YA authors? Is there a published YA book that you wish you wrote?
I would not be the writer I am today without Stephanie Perkins. I’ve always dreamed of being an author, but I didn’t realize I wanted to write contemporary, romantic young adult novels until I read ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. That book is like a giant hug. I could read it one hundred times and never get tired of it. I also love Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, and Nicole Yoon. I will read anything they write.
5. Are you a TV binge watcher? Or binge reader? And if so, what are you bingeing right now?
Yes! On both accounts! Admittedly, I binge watch more than I binge read these days, because my husband and I can do that together at the end of the day when the kids are asleep. We recently watched the first two seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Netflix and we both loved it. It’s hilarious, and smart, and feminist. Plus, it’s a musical! What more could you ask for?
6. Is there a line from your work-in-progress that you'd like to share? Either something that you adore, or something hysterical out of context.
My WIP is another standalone contemporary. I’ll share a snippet from the opening chapter. I love this section because everything that happens in this book stems from my character’s belief about this one subject.
“I have this theory that every person is a boat person. Or, they have the potential to be. Some people will deny this fact, will insist that they prefer the supposed safety that comes with having two feet on dry ground. These are usually the same people who spent one muggy summer morning digging through a Styrofoam box of worms in their grandpa’s fishing boat. They haven’t done the thing properly, is what I’m saying. They have no idea what they’re talking about.”
7. Do you have any advice for newbie writers? Those who are simply trying to get words on the page?

Quantity over quality. Truly. Anything you write now can be fixed later. Finishing your first novel is such an empowering experience. And if you’ve done it once, you can do it again. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I’m discouraged about a terrible first draft.

8. What take-out food would pair well with your novel? 

Amberjack Publishing’s homepage says they “have a knack for finding binge-worthy books.” With that thought in mind, I’d pair my book with chips and salsa. If you eat one, it’s hard to stop! Plus, my main character Claire, loves Mexican food. She’d approve.

Thanks, Kara, for stopping by! 

Follow Kara on social media, and look for JUST FOR CLICKS in 2019.
Twitter: @karajmcdowell
Instagram: karajmcdowellbooks


Jonathan Schramm said...

Hi, Kara! Congrats on publishing your book! I'm actually the dad of a 2 1/2 year-old. I finished my first novel literally about a week before he was born and have had trouble getting into the editing process (or writing anything) ever since. I have a full-time job and used to do all my writing at night. My wife also works full-time and has a little bit crazier job than I do, so a lot of the child rearing has fallen on me. I find that by the time bath time is done and the kid is in bed I don't have energy for anything other than "binge watching" rather than "binge writing" like I used to do.

Can I ask, did you have a "pause" in your writing when your kids were born? If so, how long did it take you to get past it-- and how did you do it?

Thanks again for stopping by (and thanks Kimberly for inviting her)!

kara jean mcdowell said...

Hi Jonathan! Thanks for the comment. I definitely empathize with those feelings. I didn't write my first novel until after my son was born 5 years ago, so I've only ever known writing with kids. But I will say that if I wait until after the kids are in bed, I'm too tired. There's no chance of anything getting done. For me, it works better to wake up early and pound the words out as soon as I can, even if it's while the kids are eating breakfast. Good luck! It's so tough finding time among all the other pressures and craziness of life.

Carrie Beckort said...

Great interview, Kimberly! And thanks for stopping by ATB, Kara. I wish I could take your advice of quantity over quality - I can't seem to do that. Not that I don't edit - I do - but I can't seem to write if I don't have it at least close to what I know it's supposed to be in the end. At times it causes me delays in writing, so I see the value in just trying to get the words down and going back to make it right. I've often wondered about the consequences of children 'growing up' in blogs. Your book sounds interesting and I can't wait to get a chance to check it out!

Jonathan Schramm said...

Thanks Kara! Good suggestions... now if only I can become a morning person... :)

Blogger Template by Designer Blogs