Note: Penny, Ms. Strand would like to offer an e-copy of the first novella in the series, to one lucky commentor. The winner will have a choice of electronic format. We will choose a winner from the comments left before 11:59 p.m. on third day after interview posts, so since this posted Monday morning, September 1st, the drawing will be 11:59 on Wednesday, September 3rd.
AUTHOR: Kai Strand
BOOK TITLE: Worth the Effort: Ayden’s Story
GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
BUY LINK: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M7HOZUU
Please tell us about yourself.
I’m a wife and mother of four. I live in gorgeous, inspiring Central Oregon. I love to walk, eat pizza and I’m a Mozart fangirl. I’ve been writing all my life, but decided to pursue publication about eleven years ago. It took six years before I signed my first book contract.
Please tell us your latest news.
I ventured into the world of ‘hybrid author’ this year by self-publishing a young adult novella series. I’ve recently released the second book in the series, Worth the Effort: Ayden’s Story.
Ayden is a homeless teen. His circumstances (upbringing, reason for being homeless) aren’t what you’d expect. When he meets Ella, he finds a reason to overcome his circumstances and make some changes. But that is easier said than done. Ayden’s Story is heartbreaking and inspiring. And hopefully it will make you think twice about someone in an unfortunate situation.
What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?
The toughest rejection I received was from a magazine. The people were so hateful about everything. They said the writing was bad, the main character whiny. I can’t remember everything they said. Heck, it might even have been true, but I was shocked by the nasty tone from both editors. It was a very respected science fiction & fantasy magazine and I was stunned they could get away with being that way. Needless to say, I’ve never submitted to them again, or bought their magazine for that matter.
The biggest compliment came at a funeral of all places! I hugged a young teen who’d just lost her grandfather and said I wished there was something I could do to help her get through the pain. She said, “Keep writing. That helps. A lot.” It was so unexpected and left me speechless. That my stories could mean so much to her in a time of pain was truly the biggest compliment she could pay me.
Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
The Worth the Effort series was educational for me. I didn’t know a lot about homelessness, so I went on a field trip to visit a local non-profit that provides transitional housing to homeless teens. It was very inspiring to meet a few of the kids who are working to improve themselves and their circumstances. To shake hands with staff and volunteers who help the teens find their way. And to learn that Ayden’s circumstances aren’t as farfetched as they might seem. While I was there I heard a story of a young man whose situation was very similar to Ayden’s. Unfortunately, his story doesn’t have as happy an ending as Ayden’s. I left The Loft knowing I’d chosen the right story to tell.
What are your current projects?
I’m finishing the third and final book in my Super Villain Academy series. After that I might finally get to start writing the young adult contemporary romance that has been building in my mind.
What do you plan for the future?
Though I hope to continue to be a hybrid author, I’m looking for a young adult publisher to call ‘home.’ One that will publish both my fantasy and contemporary work and that will work as hard to sell books as I do.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
My website: www.kaistrand.com has all the information you need on my books and links to my social media sites (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc).
My newsletter shares book news, event information, sneak peeks, etc. Readers can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/n8lCT
Any other news you’d like to share?
The third book in my Weaver Tales series releases in October. The Lumpy Duckling: Another Weaver Tale is a story of best friends. It is written for middle grade readers.
Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
Seventeen-year-old Ayden Worth shouldn’t have to seek peace of mind in the streets. But as family pressures mount, his anxieties increase, and he turns his back on comfort for a life in homeless camps and back alleys.
Then one fateful day he runs into the only person he ever wanted to know better. Ella Jones. His memories paint her as kind and undemanding, and it seems the years haven’t changed her. Her simple expectations draw him to her. Against all odds, a relationship buds and grows.
Yet, as Ayden repairs his life, Ella suggests he help others who also struggle. Will Ella turn out to be just like his dad, expecting more from him than he can give? Or will he prove that he is worth the effort?
Worth the Effort – Ayden’s Story is a young adult contemporary romance novella at 23,000 words.
What genre do you write in and why?
I write in a lot of categories. Mainly, I keep it geared for either young adult or middle grade readers. It is always fiction. Beyond that it might be set in a fantastical underground world with fascinating creatures, it might be set in an academy that trains super villains, it might be an eighth grade girl trying to regain her reputation after the media destroyed it, or it could be a high school girl falling in love with a homeless boy. I try to find the best setting to tell the story in. No limits there.
What influences your writing?
Mostly I write what I enjoy reading. I think that is why I hop from contemporary to fantasy and speculative fiction to romance. If you were to browse my “Read” shelves on Goodreads, you would find as eclectic a line up of books as you find on my website. I love it all.
What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
Lots and lots of feels. I want the readers who didn’t know about homeless teens to start thinking about that. I want readers who’ve never researched homelessness in their area to find out more about it. I want teens to recognize how many kids in their school are dealing with anxiety and reach out, show compassion. Lots and lots of compassion. But mostly, I want readers to realize there are no lines drawn around us in life. We do not have to limit our friendships to those in our social standing. We do not have strive to achieve the dreams others have set for us. We each are inspired differently and we should recognize what really makes us come alive and make that a part of who we are.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
When I decided to write the two novellas in alternate points of view, I didn’t realize how difficult that would be. Writing the second novella, I realized I had to do far more than show the scenes from Ayden’s point of view. Plus I discovered that as interesting as it was to learn what Ayden was thinking and feeling during those scenes, it became tedious for the reader if that was the only thing I gave them to read, so I had to choose only a few key scenes to dip into and show the alternate perspective, and then expand the story beyond the timeline in Ella’s Story to give the reader something new to look forward to. Finally, I had to make sure that if someone came into the series from Ayden’s Story, they wouldn’t be completely lost. The two stories were far more complex to write than I expected and that doesn’t even touch on the emotional factor.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Promoting. Okay, maybe it only feels like that. I love to spend time outside. I walk for exercise, enjoying the mountain vistas and blue, blue skies and usually an audio book. As a family we like to geocache, which gets us out into Central Oregon to explore the desert, lakes, rivers, waterfalls. All four seasons, sun, clouds, rain or snow, you’ll find me enjoying the outdoors.
What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
Lots of buzz over a title, a compelling blurb, or an eye catching cover might be what draws me to a book. I want a story that has a rise and fall in emotion. Potential for the character to grow. Action or sweet romance don’t hurt either. I like a complex main character, too. I really only choose to read books with ‘light’ stories and surface characters if I’m in a book coma from a previous story and just don’t have enough in me to invest in another journey.
Thanks so much for having me!