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I am extremely excited to welcome and host the A-Mississippi-Mazing writer, Kait Nolan. I met Kait when she was presenting at the DFW Writers Conference and she is even more phenomenal in person than she is on her blog. Please give it up for Kait’s Happiness Project Featured Writer debut!
And that’s not all!
Kait’s offering an e-book giveaway of her amazing paranormal YA book, Red, to one lucky commenter!
You guys, I just finished Red after coming back from Texas and I was enthralled! Here’s the Goodreads synopsis:
Elodie Rose has a secret. Any day, she’ll become a wolf and succumb to the violence that’s cursed her family for centuries. For seventeen years she’s hidden who and what she is. But now someone knows the truth and is determined to exterminate her family line. Living on borrowed time in the midst of this dangerous game of hide and seek, the last thing Elodie needs to do is fall in love. But Sawyer is determined to protect her, and the brooding, angry boy is more than what he seems. Can they outsmart a madman? And if they survive, will they find a way to beat the curse for good?
I LOVED this book! For a YA read, Elodie Rose is a great female character. She’s smart, skilled, and mysterious. And she totally has Kait’s sense of humor! But enough bragging, I’ll let you guys get to know Kait through her own words!
Describe yourself in three words.
Stubborn. Driven. Tea-lover.
What three words do you wish described you?
Patient. Graceful. Athletic.
Who’s your real life hero?
Well, I’m not sure if she technically counts since she was a character, but Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women. She took crap from NOBODY.
I loved Designing Women! But with three jobs going at once, you’re one of my heroes! I think we have similar schedules. How do you manage?
I have no social life and epically paranormal organizational and planning skills. Also I’ve been underslept since 2002. And I am very, very motivated.
Motivated how? What are you working towards?
Being a full time writer. It’s what I’m meant to do. Have been meant to do since I was 12. I wasted too many years doing what other people said I should do.
I hear ya, Kait! And we’re all rooting for you! Red is the story of Little Red Riding Hood with a twist. What prompted this idea?
I’m a big fan of fairy tale reboots, and I started to wonder what would happen if Red Riding Hood fell in love with the wolf (before the awful movie). Except it was more the long term consequences of that that interested me, so I wound up following one of her descendents.
If you could trade places with any fairy tale character, who would it be?
When I was a little girl, I’d have said Sleeping Beauty (Disney version), mostly because I wanted blonde hair, but as a grown up? I’m not sure who…somebody who kicks ass and is independently wealthy. That sounds very good to me right now.
I knew we were bff’s! Sleeping Beauty was my fave as a kid too. Used to wear a towel on my head like the shawl she wore. LOL. You and I had similar horror stories to share about dating too. (You wish you could read that Google chat!) Who’s your fantasy prince? Mine might be Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables. Or Han Solo – I told you I had a thing for Harrison Ford…
Well I don’t have a particular person in mind, but my fantasy prince is as much a neat freak as I am, never has to be asked to take out the trash or pick up the house, is a gourmet cook, and has six pack abs.
Who’s your real prince? And what does he think of this business called writing?
My real prince is my husband of 9 and a half years, Allen. He’s a photographer and musician, so he’s totally respectful of the creative pursuits and is super supportive. He’s also a very handy reference for moves in fight scenes and is generally happy to demonstrate (which does not always feel good!).
You said you like strong female characters and happy endings. What are some of your favorite books?
Insert pretty much everything ever written by Nalini Singh, particularly her Archangel series. Um, Nora Roberts’ Irish trilogies. Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series. Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. Oh, and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Okay, I’ll stop now…
When I met you at the DFW Writers Conference, you made an impression. You talk fast, you have hilarious stories, you give honest advice, and seem to meet the people who can tell you about exactly the thing you’re researching at that time. (True story: In two very different conversations in two completely different spaces, Kait met and connected with someone who made a career out of what she was writing her characters to do! It was uncanny!) Tell us about your best friends, I imagine you have a great support network.
Admittedly both those instances were totally NOT normal for me…
My best friends are mostly writers. I positively could NOT do without my crit partner Susan Bischoff, talented author of the Talent Chronicle and supreme kicker of my ass (seriously, I challenge any NY editor to rival her for tough and awesome crit). I would be equally lost without Claire Legrand, my baby sister from another mother, who is my sunshine on a cloudy day (how can anyone with that much love for unicorns fail to perk you up?). And Mhairi Simpson, who gives me my daily Brit fix and is all around marvelous bitch buddy and food lover. And on the non-writer front, I must mention my BFF Christine, who had been telling me for years—all those years I spent pursuing a career that other people thought I should pursue because it was practical—that I was meant to write and I needed to get a move on. She’s always a refreshing breath of honesty and observation when I need to hear it.
You’ve traveled the world quite a bit! What’s your favorite place you’ve been and where do you want to go next?
Been: hands down Scotland. I lived in Edinburgh while I studied abroad in college and LOVED IT.
To go next: I’d really like to do a more thorough tour of Ireland. I only spent one weekend there in Dublin while I was abroad, and I’d love to go back.
Speaking of travel, tell us about A Round of Words in 80 Days!
A yes, ROW80, the writer’s challenge that knows you have a life. The slogan is really the reason I started it. I did NaNo and a bunch of other challenges that expected you to DROP EVERYTHING and do nothing but write for some period of time, and that just DOES NOT WORK FOR ME (and seriously, who thought NOVEMBER was a good time to do that?). Real writers, IMO, must learn to fit writing into their every day and learn how to set goals, then adapt them as circumstances dictate, so that they are always making progress, not just taking things seriously one or two months out of the year. We start Round 3 of this year on July 2nd.
What have been the biggest A-ha! Moments for you as you’ve set about your goals?
Probably the biggest one is FINALLY finding a system to use for plotting and making the switch from inveterate pantser to hard core plotter. I find I’m much more efficient this way and my finished first draft is a LOT closer to truly done than anything I pantsed in the past.
If you couldn’t be a writer, what else do you imagine yourself doing?
Owning a combination tea shop and bookstore. If I can’t write, I want to combine my two OTHER favorite things.
Tell us about the worst job you ever had. Mine involved chipping away caramelized pieces of plastic that held old rope lights in a display window that was full of spiders. Top that!
The worst job I ever had (the one that sent me RUNNING back to graduate school) was as a case manager in a community mental health system. I had to commute 35 miles, then spent all day driving around a very rural county to see my very large client load, fumbling my way through and hoping I didn’t irrevocably screw anybody up (as I had NO training and just a bachelor’s in psych at the time), for incredibly LOW pay, lousy benefits, and more paperwork than you can shake a stick at. In triplicate. NOTHING was computerized. It was awful.
Besides being a famous writer, founder of ROW80, and all around amazing Mississippi gal, you also cook well. What’s your favorite dish?
What? I’m supposed to narrow it DOWN? Okay I think I can make a top three. Pizza (mine), parmesan polenta, and homemade mac and cheese (also mine). A low carb person I am not.
What’s currently cooking in your writer’s world?
I’m working on the first of a YA trilogy based on the mythology of The Wild Hunt.
Words to live by?
Everyone has a happy ending, if you’re not happy then it’s not the end.
Kait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. The work of this Mississippi native is packed with action, romance, and the kinds of imaginative paranormal creatures you’d want to sweep you off your feet…or eat your boss. When she’s not working or writing, she’s in her kitchen, heading up a revolution to Retake Homemade from her cooking blog, Pots and Plots. You can catch up with her at her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
Thank you Kait for being a part of the Happiness Project Featured Writer Series! It was a delight meeting you and laughing over Google chats the last month!
Make sure you leave a comment or ask a question of Kait so you win an e-book copy of her book, Red! Giveaway ends Thursday at 10pm. Winner will be announced on Friday when Kait comes back (squee!) to share her Guilty Pleasure with all of us!
Jay is a native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Stout, he majored in Hotel & Restaurant Management. Like many folks from cold climates he wanted to live in the tropics and moved to Key Largo, Florida where he worked as Assistant Controller for the Sheraton resort. He returned north in 1993, eventually opening Jay Gilbertson Salon in Minneapolis. He now lives on 80 beautiful, certified organic acres in Northwest Wisconsin where he grows much of his own food, recycles and enjoys life. He and his partner also produce the first pumpkin seed oil in the US, check it out at http://www.hayriver.net.
Jay was kind enough to chat with my book club recently via skype, and we had so much fun I commandeered him to my blog! Next year, we’re planning a costume party, just you wait!
Without further ado, LIVE FROM WISCONSIN, please give a warm welcome to Jay Gilbertson!
So Jay, inquiring minds want to know, what drew you to write women’s fiction, or “Lady Lit.”?
For many years I owned a hair salon in NE Minneapolis. My clients were mostly women and I had a large group of single, successful, and very happy clients. Sure, some of them would have enjoyed having someone to share their life with, but there was no desperation. These were/are happy, confident women with fulfilling friendships and little or no interest in chasing the ‘I’m not complete without a man in my life’ mantra.
You shared with my book club that after working in the hotel business for awhile, you decided you either wanted to be a marriage counselor or a hairstylist, why?
I realized that what I found most fulfilling at that point in my life, was helping people help themselves. I was happy to learn that I could accomplish both by going into the beauty business. It was a total win-win. Besides, I never, ever suggested to anyone what to do (with their latest dilemma) I only listened carefully and handed them back what they already knew was the right decision. Most people know in their hearts what the best path is, they just need someone to cheer them on.
You owned and ran the Jay Gilbertson Salon for many years before moving back to Wisconsin. What prompted the switch into organic farming and writing?
First we bought the farm, thinking it would be a weekend get-a-way. That quickly changed and a month after buying the place, we moved here fulltime. I wasn’t quite ready to give up my wonderful salon clients, so I commuted for another six years. Then I was in a bizarre series of car crashes following a sudden ice storm and that was that. Luckily, for me, I was only slightly injured, but the universe was telling me something.
Describe your books in one sentence each. (That is just not possible—but I’ll try)
“Moon Over Madeline Island” is about realizing that it’s never too late to change your life—because life’s waiting and why not take the plunge? It’s also about caring for those around you and standing up for what you believe.
“Back to Madeline Island” is mostly about Eve Moss (the main character) finding her birth-daughter and realizing that life is really what you make of it. It’s also about throwing a kick-ass wedding with a little surprise at the end.
The fabulous thing about your books is that so much of them is based on real life. Your characters, their stories, the places are all materialized from people and places that have interested you. Do you ever worry, “Oh my God, who’s going to read this?” Or does writing from life become more fulfilling than fiction?
Life and fiction is a huge blur for any author worth their salt. There’s really no way you can’t weave your particular reality into your writing. It also allows (the writer) to further delve into issues that are passionate to the writer which (one must hope) will pull the reader in and create a place where both can learn and grow.
What’s the best trait you inherited from your mother?
I would like to hope—kindness.
From your father?
The confidence to do this strange thing called writing.
Your book emphasizes the changing definition of “family.” It’s not just a make up of those you were born with, but rather the people that are around you everyday – friends, coworkers, neighbors. Why did you choose Madeline Island as your setting for the book’s family?
After living and working on Key Largo, Florida, for nearly 8 years in the hotel industry, I understood ‘island living.’ There is nothing like it. The bottom line is; everywhere you go, everyone knows you—everyone. I like that and had listened to my father share stories of his spending all his summers in Bayfield (the port-town for Madeline Island) as a boy, which gave my imagination all the fuel I needed. Besides the lure of island living and all it involves, Madeline Island is just plain beautiful.
Madeline is almost a character herself. Many of the restaurants and street names exist! (My book club did a tour of them, and I highly recommend the chocolate mocha cake at Maggie’s!) You did quite a bit of research for this book; what were your favorite spots?
All of them. Once you drive your car onto the ferry and begin your 20 minute journey to Madeline Island, something drops away and the magic begins.
Eve, the main character, gets around the island in a rather unusual vehicle. Describe for those who aren’t familiar with Wisconsin Dells tours just exactly what a duck is.
A ‘Duck’ is an amphibious vehicle originating from WWII. It’s a boat that with the flip of a switch can become an all-terrain vehicle. As a boy I was entranced with them as a land/river tour attraction and figured Eve and Ruby should have one in their barn.
I’ve previously written a blog series called Paranormal Wisconsin. Your second book, Back to Madeline Island, has a character with psychic abilities, as well as a haunted cabin. Do you believe in ghosts?
I believe in the possibility and that’s enough for me.
Hmmm, in all honesty, I’ve never heard any.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
Finish your manuscript, be persistent in your search for an agent, and never, ever, give up.
For your upcoming third book, Full Moon Over Madeline Island, you’re going the self-published route. Why did you choose this over traditional publishing this time?
For many reasons. One; as an author, unless you’re that rare breed of landing on the NYT bestsellers list, you make zip with a traditional publisher. Another is that this time I have the possibility of actually making some money with my writing and it also gives me complete control over exactly what happens next.
“Full Moon Over Madeline Island” is also going to make an amazing movie—watch me now!
Writing is a solitary endeavor, so most writers need support systems and guilty pleasure indulgences to survive the process. For example, I can do extensive damage to all things cheetos, Dove chocolate, mugs of tea, and cheese when I write. And oh yah, I have my ROW80 peeps to keep me on task. What’s your support system or writing pantry look like?
Secreted away, within hands reach, is a hollow book. It’s kept filled with Recess’s Peanut Butter Cups. When I’ve been a good writer—I unwrap a bunch.
What’s the best thing about living in Wisconsin?
I would have to say it’s the people. I’ve lived in many other states and Midwesterners are, real. They care about their neighbors and the community and it shows.
What are your favorite things to do when you’re not writing?
Reading, taking walks in the woods here on the farm, enjoying sunsets on the porch and sharing a meal with friends.
What books are currently in your To Be Read Pile this summer?
“Aleph,” by Paulo Coelho, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramahansa Yogananda, “Going Solo,” by Eric Klinenberg—just to name a few.
What actor would play you in the movie version of your life?
Oh that’s easy; Johnny Depp.
Words to live by?
Don’t forget to laugh.
Thank you Jay for visiting The Happiness Project! I had a wonderful time chatting with you for my book club and getting to introduce you to more readers at my blog! Looking forward to the next chapter in Eve and Ruby’s adventures!
Your turn! What else do you want to know about Wisconsin? Have you ever met any local authors in your own state? What writing advice have you learned recently? How are your own writing projects going? Wanna plan a trip to Madeline Island? Admit it, you want to drive a duck too, don’t you?
Welcome to the Kickoff of June’s Featured Writer posts! Every Tuesday I’ll be hosting a different author where they gush the gory details on writing and life.
It’s a double dose of CJ West this week, whom many of you may know from the twitter #MANday challenge that’s been tweeting around. CJ recently released his new digital short, Thugbook; his seventh publication. He writes thrillers, and his blog is captioned Suspense. Creativity. Action. You can also find him at his website or doing author interviews on his Blog Talk Radio Show. But today, he’s here with us, answering my questions about the writing life. And, he’ll back this Friday, sharing his guilty pleasures right here on The Happiness Project!
CJ Answers Questions About CJ:
JW: You have led a diverse pathway of careers. You wrote your first book while still in school, pursued your love of golf and considered going pro, then got your degree in Business Management and made a living helping companies with computer networking, and then went back to writing. What has each of these roles taught you about life?
CJW: In each of these things I was following a passion and I have been very fortunate thus far to work at things I love doing. My greatest lesson learned is to seek good advice. I grew up in an environment that highly valued independence. My life’s journey would have been vastly different if I had embraced the advice of knowledgeable people early in my life. I have worked very hard at each of my passions and with sound advice I could have achieved much more with all that effort.
CJW: The big moment for me was when Sin & Vengeance was optioned for film. The offer came out of the blue and when it did, I began to believe I could entertain readers well enough to make a living writing books. The writing life for me is still a constant struggle. I don’t believe I’ve made it yet, but I have had the great pleasure of entertaining many readers and I’m thankful that I wake up and write every day.
CJW: Tim Hallinan was a wonderful guest and became a good friend after doing the show. Many of the authors really appreciated the time I put into preparation and enjoyed having their work highlighted that way.
CJW: I was invited to take part in a murder mystery show by a friend. I was hesitant to get up on stage as many authors are, but I discovered after about 5 shows that I really enjoy acting. I’m getting a bit better at being in front of a crowd and the great thing about the shows I’ve been involved in is that they are very interactive. The crowd gets involved and it is a great time playing a role and getting to know people.
CJW: I have put on dozens of fun events for readers. We’ve done everything from Advanced Driving Classes, Firearms training, Murder Mysteries, Poker Lessons, and of course I’ve been to most of the big conventions to speak to readers. I’ve hosted many online events and parties including an online murder mystery. Right now I’m getting in shape for a MANday challenge. If I lose, I’ll have to post pictures of myself half naked – a scary prospect for a writer!
CJW: Thugbook is the story of a social network gone wrong. Thugbook (a practical idea, I think) is a site where citizens post photos of criminals. The site soars in popularity and at the same time is engulfed in controversy. Criminals are turning up dead and the blame lays squarely on Thugbook. It’s an exploration of greed, revenge, and the power of technology to shape our society.
CJW: That’s a lot of parts! I think it certainly fits in there somewhere.
CJW: Dexter would love Thugbook. It would be the ideal research tool for him to plan murders!
JW: The head honcho of Thugbook is a young CEO named Blaine. He’s not very likeable when we start out. What helped you create his character?
CJW: People are motivated by different things and power changes people sometimes. Blaine started Thugbook to avenge the rape and murder of his sister. Along the way Fame and Fortune come to Blaine and the trappings of success change him. I wanted to contrast this with Jones who is true to his mission to repay the criminals who have caused him harm. The men accomplish great things, but their methods and the way they deal with success are very different.
CJW: I really enjoy plotting novels and my plots evolve with each new work. I think it is important for plot to grow out of character and if you start with interesting and motivated characters in conflict, good things will happen.
CJW: Get good advice. I also heard a great commencement speech by Neil Gaiman and his words of advice were, “Make Good Art.” That really hit me and I think it is what we all need to focus on.
CJ Answers Nonsense, But Fun, Questions:
JW: We writers work hard, and often alone, describe your perfect day off.
CJW: I must admit that I rarely take a day off. Maybe two or three a year.
An ideal day off would be a day on the water with my kids catching blue crabs.
JW: What last words of advice do you have to share with our readers?
CJW: Enjoy every moment of life’s journey. Drink in the wonders of nature and the complexities in the hearts and minds of the people you meet.
Thank you, CJ, for taking time to chat today and for sharing your new short, Thugbook, with us!
What other questions do you have for CJ? What do you think of the idea of Thugbook?
And, don’t forget, learn more about CJ’s guilty pleasures this Friday!