Sunday, August 31, 2014

Interview with Author Kaitlyn Deann

I love picking author's brains about their books and their writing process.  Here is another interview, this time with Kaitlyn Deann, author of The Witches' Sleep and World of Beasts.

Q:  I see that you started writing from very early.  Do you ever look back on things you wrote when you were 11?  How do you feel about them?

I do! There are several stories I look back on because I still love the idea, and I probably will visit them again one day. I like to look back for more than that, though. I think it's important to remember where and how you started. I wasn't a great writer when I was 11, but I had a lot of hope and really big ideas. And I tried. It's important to know that you can't become a great writer overnight. It takes time, patience, and hard work. Looking back on what I used to be able to do and seeing how far I've come along since is the greatest feeling, even if the work was really, really, really bad. Like, you don't even know how bad.
Q:  For you, what’s the hardest part of writing/publishing?

Some days it's motivation, other days it's inspiration, and then most of the time it's just life getting in the way and taking up all my time. I wish I had more time to just write, but I don't. I actually--surprisingly--have a life.
Q:  What’s the best part?

The best part about writing is being able to connect a reader with a character or situation, to pull on their heartstrings. Emotion. That's the best part. Seeing what I've written cause others to connect emotionally. It's very beautiful.
Q:  What is the perfect time and place for you to write?  (Early mornings?  Afternoons in the woods?  A coffee shop?)

Late at night. I'm not very much of a morning person, but I'm a huge night owl. I like to sit at the kitchen table after everyone else has gone to bed and eat whatever I can find that sounds good and drink some water (don't really like much else), and just write my heart out. I can't write in public; I've tried, believe me. I don't know what it is, but I just can't do it. I lose focus or something. I don't know.

Q:  In Book 1, The Witches’ Sleep, Ella dies and wakes up in a world of witches.  What was your favorite thing about writing Ella’s transition?

I loved the new world and new people and new culture. It was fun to invent some things, switch stuff around, and basically confuse my character Ella. She was so used to Earth, and even though Raena (world of the witches) was similar to Earth in many ways, there were a lot of things that were different and she had to adjust to.
Q:  In Book 2, will readers see more of Ella?  Tell us a little about it.  

Yes and no. In WORLD OF THE BEASTS, the sequel to THE WITCHES' SLEEP, the story focuses on Sea-Anna, a less important character from the first book. Book 2 is mostly her story, but I do switch perspectives every now and then to round the story off.
Q:  What similarities and differences are there between Books 1 and 2?

They are similar in many ways, but different in more ways. Book 2 is divided into three perspectives, though there is one (Sea-Anna) that is a major perspective--the most important. Book 2 is also a lot bigger than Book 1. THE WITCHES' SLEEP had a word-count of 96k, and WORLD OF THE BEASTS is a big, fat 140k. Also, my writing has definitely evolved for the better, so I hope my readers will enjoy a story that flows well.
To know more, visit Kaitlyn Deann's website at

Kaitlyn's Books:

At only seventeen, Ella Barnes is shot and killed for an unknown reason. She is shocked when she wakes up in a different world, a world of witches. Ella has to learn to adapt to a new body, new life and new world, surrounded by new people. As Ella gets to know Raena, the world of the witches and its people, she realizes they aren’t the perfect creatures they believe themselves to be, and she’s not the type of person to stand around and twiddle her thumbs. Will Ella succeed in changing the mindset of the people? Or will she be doomed to die another cold and tragic death because of her rebellion?

Sea-Anna and Tuck have been weretiger slaves to the witches for over twenty years. But now, because their master happens to be the leader’s worst enemy, they have been sold to the beasts behind their master’s back. Sea-Anna and Tuck are separated, bought by two different beasts. Sea-Anna, who dreads the beasts more than anything, promises herself to stay strong, but not for herself, not to save her own life. She has to protect her secrets. But will she buckle under the pressure Aphalie, the world of the beasts, shoves at her? Or will she overcome the trials and become the weretiger she was always meant to be?

Find Kaitlyn Online:

Kaitlyn Deann has been telling stories since she was very young, whether through at-home productions with her cousins and siblings or through verbal tellings. She decided to try her hand at writing when she was eleven, and it became a part of her in an unexplainable way. She fell in love with writing, fell in love with the stories she could tell by simply stringing together a few words. As a writer, Kaitlyn hopes to keep a reader turning pages late into the night and give them something to think about long after they finish the last page. She loves her friends, family, and God. Laughing is her favorite calorie burner. She lives in somewhere, Texas with her family. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interview with Deb Vanasse, author of Cold Spell

I just read Cold Spell, by Deb Vanasse, and really enjoyed it.  You can read my review below, and here's my interview with the author.

Cold Spell has an interesting range of characters.  Who was your favorite to write and why?

I’m always delighted to talk about characters—they’re the pulse points of any novel. Choosing a favorite is tough, though. It was Sylvie’s voice that opened the story for me. I’m intrigued by characters who long to be noticed, who find subversive ways to get power, as Sylvie does with her sexuality. So often, our longings betray us, as is the case for both Sylvie and Ruth; that line between impulse and self-control is constantly shifting. In many ways, the two of them mirror each other, not only as mother and daughter, but also in the ways that they fool and also frighten themselves. I can relate to all of that. I also ended up falling hard for Lena, a character I was sure I wouldn’t like. I have lots of outtakes written from her perspective. I love it when characters surprise me like that, weaseling in where I didn’t expect them.

The glacier in Cold Spell is almost like another character in the book.  If you could describe it in three words, what would you say?

I feel place intensely, both in life and in fiction. I think you find that often in places like Alaska where people choose to live intentionally—landscape not as backdrop, but as relationship. I love the traditional Native idea that landscape is sentient, that it acts and reacts as humans do. In this book, I especially loved working with ice, which on the surface appears stagnant and off-putting but is actually vibrant and moving and full of power. As a character, the glacier is potent, multi-faceted, and transformative.

Part of this novel takes place in Alaska, a state that most people only experience as a tourist, or through film.  What are a few things about living there that travelers don’t usually see?

Each new “reality TV” episode chips away at what those of us who live here consider to be the real Alaska. It’s amazingly diverse, in every way—people, landscape, cultures, opinions—and quirky, a word I don’t especially like, but it captures in part the idea that it’s easier to be your own person here than in many places; the showboating that you see on TV isn’t at all who we are. It’s also impossible to truly feel the effects of a vast, changing wilderness unless you put yourself in the middle of it on a regular basis and engage all the senses: the smell of tundra in autumn, the taste of wild blueberries warmed in the sun, the searing cold when you breathe air at 40 below. Seeing Alaska through a tour bus window, or worse yet, on a screen, simply isn’t the same. I’ll admit a bias, but I truly believe that, short of living here, the best way to experience the astounding variety that is Alaska is through books.

What do you find most difficult about the writing or publishing process? 

I love what I do, but none of it’s easy. The hardest thing these days—and to some extent, maybe it’s always been this—is cutting through the noise so your book finds its readers. That, and you have so many choices, especially when you write fiction. You have to develop a huge sense of discernment, coupled with a readiness to let go of whatever’s not working in a story.

What else have you written, and what are you working on now? 

Besides my published books—several for children plus two travel-related (one under a pseudonym)—I have several projects in various stages of completion. Closest to publication is a biography of Kate Carmack, the Tagish-Tlingit wife of one of the men who discovered gold in the Klondike. It’s a passion project for me, the first rendering of the Klondike gold rush from the perspective of those who were there first, Alaska Natives and the First Nations of the Yukon. I’m also compiling some of my writing about writing into book form, and I’m looking into revising a novel in draft. But I never feel complete unless I’m crafting something brand new, so I’m also spinning material for another literary/book club crossover novel. I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time!

How can people contact you?

I’m always happy to hear from readers. The best way to reach me is via the contact form on my website,, or by email at debvanasse (at)

Co-founder of 49 Writers, Deb Vanasse has authored more than a dozen books. Her most recent is Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cold Spell, by Deb Vanasse


This is an absorbing story, and the feelings of isolation—not just geographical—are palpable.

Being quite obsessed with Alaska at the moment, I find the portrait of this particular rural Alaskan community very interesting, though I actually enjoyed the first half of the book more. Perhaps this is because I identified so strongly with the mother and her magazine picture.  Then, when she got to Alaska, her reaction surprised me and I found myself disconnecting a little.  But this is all part of the complexity of the characters, and Deb Vanasse did a great job at it.  I had a hard time keeping a few of the minor characters straight, since so many were introduced together, but that didn’t detract much from the story.

The style is very literary, very introspective.  It’s thus a little slow, but in a good way, a deep way.  Some of the prose has the feel of poetry to it. Like much poetry, individual bits may not be clear, cloaked in metaphor and hiding things between the lines, but all together they create a cohesive whole that beautifully conveys the atmosphere and the emotions of the characters. 

The ending isn’t tied up in a bow, which is realistic and literary, but I needed just a bit more closure, even if it wasn’t happy.  I want to know what was going to happen to these characters I care about, and what final decisions they’re going to make.

This was a very good read, and I look forward to more of Deb Vanasse’s work, much of which is set in Alaska.


*I received an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review*

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Aspen giants

When I think about the largest life forms, I usually think of elephants and whales and such.  But some scientists consider the largest known single life form to be a stand of trees in Utah.  As many as 47,000 apparently separate aspen trees there are actually the same organism, all from the same root stock.  The trees share the same exact DNA, all turning colors in the fall at exactly the same moment.  The world is amazing.

Bear Creek Trail, Colorado
This beautiful aspen grove is only about five minutes from the Bear Creek Trailhead, which is on the road between Dolores and Rico, in Colorado.  The trail system here is great for longer hikes or tiny strolls.  

Aspen dwarf my fellow hikers

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Telegraphing in Colorado

We stopped for gas in Dolores, a tiny town in Colorado, and next door was a darling little historic train station.  Inside was a little museum, where I got to actually click away on a real telegraph!  It made the coolest sound, and had a strange sort of resistance which would make it harder to accidentally press the button when you didn't mean to.

I wasn't actually transmitting anywhere, but they're trying to get a program together where they hook it up (via internet, I'm afraid) with the Durango-Silverton Railroad museum, and let people "telegraph" back and forth.  Isn't that awesome?

Me, telegraph mistress extraordinaire.
If ever you're in the area, Dolores is a charming place, just north of Cortez, and the drive between there and Telluride is absolutely gorgeous.