Today I am welcoming my friend Lynne Kelly to the blog. She’ll be answering a few questions about her debut middle grade novel, CHAINED.
1. CHAINED is your debut novel. Can you tell us anything about what you had written prior to its publication? Any odd, unexpected genres, stories, etc.?
Well...no...'cause actually, it's the first book I wrote.
But it was ridiculously bad at first. I don't mean just regular first-draft-bad, but really bad. The idea in there was good, but the story was beyond my ability to tell it at the time. So I spent about three years working on it while learning all I could about writing. In a way it's also my second book, the third, the fourth, etc., since it evolved so much during that time.
2. Do you see yourself branching out and writing in other genres and for other age groups in the future?
Not sure about other genres—I love reading paranormal YA and some fantasy, but I don't know if I have the kind of imagination it takes to write a novel in those genres. Maybe if I woke up from a dream with a perfectly plotted series in my head it would work, but most of my dreams are about things like buying tomatoes. I am thinking of a time travel novel, but other than that one fantasy element it would read like a recent-ish historical fiction YA. But I won't be starting that till after I write my next midgrade novel, which is also contemporary fiction.
But for other age groups, yes; I've been revising REASONS FOR LEAVING, a humorous YA novel with some mystery. I knew when writing and researching CHAINED that the next book would have to be something lighter and close to home, and this one takes place in-- surprise, Houston! With a road trip to East Texas.
3. CHAINED sounds very rich with European/Asian culture. What -- if any -- research did you do before writing? What's the most interesting thing about those cultures that you wanted to incorporate into CHAINED?
I don't think I did much research before writing it, because I didn't know yet that it was going to be anything more than a picture book about a couple of elephant friends. But I did a ton of research along the way, once I knew that it was turning into a novel about an Indian elephant and her keeper. I read all I could about elephants and India, and most importantly, talked to people who worked with elephants or who'd lived in India. It was while reading ELEPHANT BILL for elephant research that I became so fascinated with Burma that I decided to make Ne Min's character Burmese. When I read about the Burmese alphabet and how it was developed when they wrote on palm leaves, I wanted to include that in the story, so you'll see in there that Ne Min writes a prayer verse on a leaf for Hastin.
It was also interesting to find out how diverse India itself is, almost like it's many countries within one. I knew there were many languages spoken in the country, but I didn't know that so many other things-- the food, traditions, stories, names-- vary from region to region. In coming up with Hastin's home and workplace, I wanted him to be relatively close to home yet a world away, in a sense, because the new place is so different from what he's used to.
4. Describe CHAINED in three words.
Wow, I can't believe how hard it is to describe my own novel so concisely! I scrolled through reader reviews to grab a few adjectives: hopeful, heartbreaking, uplifting.
5. What's the most rewarding thing about being published?
Well, getting paid to do something you really like doing is pretty awesome. The best thing about the whole process, though, is making all the friends I wouldn't have known if I hadn't started writing.
Lynne Kelly writes contemporary middle grade and young adult fiction. She was born in Galesburg, Illinois, grew up in Houston, lived in some much colder places, then found her way back to the Houston area, where she works as a sign language interpreter. For a few years she also taught special education, a good career for someone with excellent organizational and planning skills. Lacking those skills, she quit teaching in 2006 and thankfully has more time to write. But it was during those teaching years that she worked with some great kids and became interested in writing, so that all worked out.
She is represented by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation, and her debut novel, CHAINED, will be available May 8, 2012 from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Margaret Ferguson Books.
Follow her on Twitter and visit her website.