Thursday, December 1, 2011
Kai Strand, Author of The Weaver
Once in a while it's just wonderful to talk to other authors about who they are and what they write. It's Kai Strand's turn to be here today. Welcome, Kai.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
First and foremost, I’m a wife and mother of four. As a family we love to geocache and hike around Central Oregon at places like Hole in the Ground, Fort Rock and China Hat. Or at Sahalie Falls, Dry Canyon or the River Rim trail. There are so many beautiful places to explore right in our immediate area.
Beyond wife and mother, I’m also a children’s author. I write fiction for middle grade and young adult. I love – love - love fantasy, but contemporary holds it’s own power over me as well.
Can you give us a brief summary of your book, THE WEAVER?
In a town of storytellers, called word weavers, Mary suffers through her third year of Novice Word Weaving. Mary thinks her troubles are over when she meets a gnome-elf who grants her a wish. But instead of weaving a better story, she's weaving strange yarn charms to accompany her still pathetic tales.
The Weaver is a story of persistence. It offers a little magic and a lot of storytelling. It is written for children 9 – 12 years old.
I’m excited to say it is a finalist in the EPIC eBook Awards. It is so thrilling to think that from all of the books the judges read they placed mine as one of three finalists. WOW!
Congratulations. That's very exciting.
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
Related to the craft itself, I love the initial creation process. I love finding my way through the story the very first time. It is both fun and worrisome to stumble upon a detour you never would have expected when you first thought up the story in your head. Where will the detour lead? Will you find your way back again? Then the ultimate reward is when you discover how to tie the lose story ends back together to bring the story to a satisfying resolution.
Related to the written work, I love visiting classrooms. I love getting out there with the kids that I write for and talking about the craft of writing. It inspires me to want to write more just for them and their fantastic imaginations.
What or who inspired you to write The Weaver?
I belong to an online critique group, called Silver Web. One day I had the critique group’s site up on my computer. We have a very cool spider’s web graphic on the page. When I lived in Southern California, I used to watch in horrified fascination, as our huge garden spiders would spin their enormous webs. The graphic made me remember the beauty of their craft. I thought, “My critters and I weave stories with words like spiders weave webs with silk.” That made me imagine living in a community where people spoke in stories. The next step was to create conflict. Well, that was obvious. What if you lived in a town where everyone was good at word weaving except you?
Do you have a favorite scene from the Weaver? Can you give us a short excerpt?
No one has ever asked me this before. I’m so glad you did! My youngest daughter would laugh if she were with me right now because every time I get to this point in the story I squeal like a little girl and say, “I love this chapter!”
Chapter 14, titled The Third Law, is the moment that Mary discovers the solution to her problem, but it’s through someone else’s error that she discovers it:
A boy named Dicken, who sat near the front of
the room, raised his hand to answer a question Mary
hadn’t heard Mrs. Frickles ask.
“It is the third law of physics,” Dicken said
importantly. “A motion creates an equal and opposite
The class laughed at his error. Mary, who
didn’t like to laugh at anybody, but found his error
entertaining nonetheless, restrained herself to a smile.
She tried to put a look of understanding in her eyes.
After all, she was forever being laughed at over her …
“That’s it!” Mary leaped off of her stool and
slapped her hand down on the slate tabletop. Chantell
jumped so high in surprise that she almost fell off her
own stool. The class immediately forgot Dicken’s error
and swung eager eyes toward Mary to see how she was
going to make a fool of herself this time.
Mary hissed out the excited breath she’d been
holding and slowly sat back down on her stool. “I’m …
um … well.” She looked up at Mrs. Frickles, whose lips
were pursed as she gazed over the top of her glasses at
Mary. “Sorry, Mrs. Frickles. Dicken’s answer was very
inspiring for me. I’m sorry I disrupted the class.”
Mrs. Frickles continued to stare at Mary as if
considering an appropriate punishment or public
embarrassment, but in the end she shifted her attention
back to Dicken. “I think what you mean, son, is for
every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said.” Dicken’s look of
confusion grew as the class tittered and giggled some
Can you tell us if you're working on something else, and if so, give us a little taste?
I’ve recently sold another middle grade novel, Save The Lemmings! to Featherweight Press. Since that is about to go into the editing process, I’ll hold off on sharing an excerpt, but I’m happy to share a blurb:
When Natalie’s Texty-Talky invention makes her an overnight sensation, the media digs until they find a way to smear her goody-goody image. When her best friends start believing what they read, Natalie’s sunny spirit is pushed to its limits. How will Natalie stop the lies and win her friends back? And who will SAVE THE LEMMINGS?
I’m currently working on Polar Opposites, the second book in my young adult series, Super Villain Academy. I’m shopping the first book, King of Bad. Here is the introduction of the main character, Jeff. In the intro, we can see he’s comfortable being the bad boy, he knows he’s different from others, and he uses that to his delinquent advantage:
Jeff admired the growth of the flames as they devoured wads of paper and fast food wrappers in the wire mesh trashcan. He slipped the book of matches into his pocket and sat back on his heels to admire his work. One side of the can merely smoldered so he blew gently to fan the guttering flame. It reminded him of how blowing on Jasmine’s neck the night before had resulted in a lovely arch of her back. He growled a throaty sigh remembering Jasmine’s blissful distraction as he’d nibbled her earlobe.
Jeff glanced over his shoulder. A man, who looked like he belonged behind a desk in a downtown high rise, jogged toward him.
“Ah, the sweet sounds of discipline.” Jeff stood, stuffed his fists in the front pockets of his jeans and shook the long bangs out of his eyes. He half expected the guy’s slick-soled business shoes to slip as he jogged across visitor parking. This was Jeff’s favorite part. Almost getting caught. When the guy was a baseball’s toss away, Jeff turned. He walked a couple steps then skipped up into a jog.
Jeff chuckled to himself, “Yeah, sure,” and loped across the soccer field.
“Wait a minute.”
Jeff stole a look over his shoulder. The guy was close even though he didn’t seem to be running very fast. Jeff grinned at him and increased his pace. A seven-foot tall chain link fence ringed in the far side of the field to prevent stray soccer balls from breaking the windows of passing cars on the street below. Jeff leaped onto the fence without slowing down and in two cat-like movements, launched himself over the top. He dropped to the ground, landing on a hill pocked with gopher holes, as easily as if he were jumping around in a bounce house. He smoothly transitioned back into a sprint and dashed across the street, startling a lady driving an SUV.
“Kid, hold up.”
Jeff almost tripped; the guy was half way across the street already. He smirked, finally a decent chase, but not for long. With little effort, Jeff stepped up to a blurring speed. He dashed up a peaceful street that ran perpendicular to the school, where kids rode bikes and ran through sprinklers. Jeff recognized one of the ‘good’ kids from school, washing a ’57 step-side Chevy.
“Sweet ride,” Jeff called out. The kid looked up at him, but then snapped his head to the left. That guy cannot be that close! Jeff looked over his shoulder to find the guy was only a house length behind him. Holy crap, Batman. No one ever keeps up with me!
For the first time in a long time, Jeff worried. But only a little. With a deep, fortifying breath he pumped his thigh muscles harder. He whizzed past houses so fast he doubted anyone would be able to describe him if they were asked to later. Tears streamed sideways from the force of the wind his speed created. He’d only started to breathe a bit more heavily than normal. Jeff was built to run.
What I love about this series is that kids and adults get away with behaving badly, because they’re villains and that in itself creates conflict. By nature they don’t make friends, don’t care about others, don’t have manners, very self-centered people. Jeff thought he was a bad boy, but then he gets recruited to Super Villain Academy. It is a fun series to write and very different from my middle grade work.
Any favorite authors, books you'd like to share with us?
For young adult books, I love everything Maggie Stiefvater has written. I haven’t read Scorpio Races yet, but I think I’m safe to say I’ll like that too. I read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins last week. I started grinning on the first page and I swear I’m still grinning from that charming story. So far Cassandra Clare hasn’t let me down either. I love both of L.K. Madigan’s books and it breaks my heart that we won’t read more from her.
For middle grade I’m a big fan of Kimberley Griffiths Little. Enjoyed The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning, Eighth-Grade Superzero, A Wrinkle in Time, the Harry Potter series even after it crossed into young adult, and Just Breeze.
Any helpful hints for writers, maybe something you've learned along the way?
The business of seeking publication can be very discouraging. Find ways of reminding yourself why you love to write and circle back around to that whenever you start to get caught up in frustration and self-deprecation.
Read often. Be sure to steep yourself in the genre and age level you want to write in.
Finally, everyone always says write a lot. But I don’t think writing a lot does much to improve your craft without good feedback on your writing. So find an effective critique group or partners who understand your genre and target age. Listen to their feedback with an open mind and be sure you are critiquing their work too. You learn so much by helping others.
I would love if your readers visit me on my WEBSITE. They can find links to short stories, all my contact and social media information, and more stuff about my writing and me. Thank you, Lee, for inviting me to join you and your readers. It has been so much fun visiting.
Loved the visit, Kai.