Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Interview with Kai Strand, author of The Weaver

Today I am so pleased to have as my guest, Kai Strand, author of award nominated book, The Weaver.  Kai is a fellow Guardian Angel Publishing author and is a hard working mom as well.  Let's see how she deals with it all, including writing great books for kids!

NS  Your formative years were spent in Wisconsin and southern California, two places very culturally different from one another. How did living in those two areas impact you and your writing today?

KS  What an eye opener! Heck, in Wisconsin, when I got home in the afternoon, I was still changing out of my school clothes into more casual clothes, and California kids wore SHORTS to school. The first thing I learned was shock – major culture shock. The second was discomfort. I’d gone to school with the same kids my entire life. Suddenly I had to make friends. I’d never consciously had to do that before.
Then there was the first Christmas; 80 degrees and pool party with family friends. I don’t think the move changed me fundamentally, but it exposed me to so much that I wouldn’t have known if I’d stayed in the same town the rest of my school career and maybe even into adulthood. I draw upon those lessons, experiences and feelings when I’m creating characters or putting them into odd circumstances.

 NS  You came to writing for children a bit later than some (as I did). Yet you completed your first middle grade novel, The Weaver, quickly and were nominated for an EPIC eBook award (2012). Tell us how you came to write the book. How did your muse take you there?

KS  The Weaver, the poor thing, didn’t really come together quickly. I’d written another middle grade novel prior to The Weaver, plus I was writing short stories and trying my hand at picture books. I’d joined a couple online critique groups to help with all that.

One day I was ferreting around my empty mind for a new story idea. On my computer screen was the page for my critique group, Silver Web. Sometimes, being in a critique group can be intimidating; surrounded by people who write stories also - as well as or better than you. Staring at the graphic we have for our group I thought, “We weave stories like a spider weaves its web.” The two things converged to create a town of storytellers called Word Weavers. Then I asked myself the question, “What happens when one person doesn’t weave stories as well as every one in town?”

Okay, so the muse stuck with me through the first ¾ of the book and then deserted me. Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) came and I abandoned The Weaver for a shiny new idea. I wrote that new novel and even did the first pass edits before I came back to The Weaver. I was annoyed with myself that I had this perfectly charming story on my hard drive without an ending. But I had no clue how to end it. I forced myself to sit down and do the hard work. Funny thing, that was the resolution to the story, too. My heroine had to sit down and do the hard work to solve her problem.

I’m thrilled that The Weaver is a finalist in the EPIC eBook Awards. It is a real honor to know that the judges passed my story through after reading all the books they had to read. What I want is for kids to be able to discover The Weaver. Recognition, being a finalist for this award as well as the 2011 Global eBook Awards, is really valuable in getting the attention of librarians, teachers, parents and grandparents to say, “Hey, have you heard about this one?” The Weaver has a good message and I feel I’ve managed to tell it in a unique way.

NS  How do you keep a writing schedule in a busy household? Tell us about a typical workday.

KS  My four kids span the years of 12 – 19, so they are much more independent than when I first started writing eight years ago. They get themselves to and from school, so I’m able to get up and hop onto my laptop immediately. I do try to stop at some point during the day to exercise for an hour. This sedentary job takes a toll on a gal’s figure. I work until at least 3:00 when the middle schoolers get home. Sometimes they have things to do and places to be so I have to shut down the computer to attend their needs. Other times, they just do homework, so I keep working until 4:30 or 5:00 when my brain feels like it’s going to explode. Then I shut down and focus on family until about 8:00 or so when I hop back on to check email one last time. If I’m on the computer in the evening, the intent is for it to be personal. Somehow it always seems to hook back around to writing though!

NS  You have a new book to be published. Please tell us about it, how you came to write it and what your expectations are for it.

KS  Yes! Yippee!! It’s scheduled for release in MARCH! Oh my gosh, exciting times.

About SAVE THE LEMMINGS! : 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?

This is a very different book from The Weaver. It is contemporary fiction, for a slightly older middle grader. The idea hit me at the most inopportune time. My sisters and I were sharing a hotel room in Northern California during a visit to my dad’s. Luckily I was in the living room on a pull out couch with my sisters tucked away in a separate bedroom because about 4:00 in the morning I awoke with an idea for a book. The idea was so clear and well formed. About how a young inventor’s invention makes her an overnight success and the media loves her, but then turns on her. I had to fire up my laptop to capture the idea. The light from the screen of a laptop at 4:00 a.m. is obnoxiously bright. Thankfully I was alone in my portion of the suite.

What are my expectations for this book? Wow, I’ve never been asked that before. It would make a great Disney Channel movie. (Well, the more wholesome Disney Channel that I remember. I think they’re transitioning away from that.) But mostly, I’m excited to be able to offer new reading material to kids. Reading is such a crucial skill in life and developing a love for it as a kid makes it so much easier as an adult. I look at an author’s published materials as their portfolio. Like an artist offers a varied portfolio of landscapes, portraits and fantasy creatures in different mediums, an author should offer a varied choice in reading material.

I write short stories for young children, now I’ll have a published book for tweens and one for an older middle grader. I also write young adult and hope to be able to add a ya novel or three to my author portfolio soon. My hope is to be an author that parents, grandparents, librarians, bloggers can count on to provide good content for their varied readers. Remember those kids I mentioned earlier who range in age from 12 – 19? Yep, I’m constantly searching for reading materials for them. And I love when I can trust the content from an author and just hand one of their books to my kids.

 NS  How may people learn about you and where can your books be found?

KS  My website: www.kaistrand.com is a great one-stop shop. I have info about my books, where they are sold, any upcoming events, links to my social media, my email address. It is all there on my website.
That being said, please do like my author page on Facebook and feel free to send me emails. I love, love, love talking with readers, so don’t be shy!

NS  Kai, it was such a pleasure having you on the blog today!  I know the readers feel the same way.  I want to wish you the very best on your new book and on others to come.  Please visit here again.  We'd love it.

KS  Thank you, Nancy for inviting me to visit with you and your readers. It has been a pleasure.


  1. Nancy, thanks for hosting me. It's so much fun to be included on your blog. Thanks for the invitation.

  2. It was a real pleasure, Kai, and I hope you'll return soon and often!

  3. Great interview. I feel like I know Kai well from reading it.

  4. Nice work, Nancy. Very interesting to learn of Kai's background---growing up in both the mid-west and California. In a round about way, I can relate having lived in North Dakota and now in California. By the way, the title "Save The Lemmings" has piqued my curiosity. Will Lemmings let themselves be saved? Guess we'll have to wait until March to find out....

  5. Thanks Jan and Bill for stopping in. Bill, being a funny guy, I suspect you will appreciate the humor of the lemmings sub-plot. Well, at least I hope so.

  6. Thanks, everyone, for the comments! This was a fun one to do and to read the finished product. Thanks to you all for sharing.

  7. Hi Kai,
    I'm looking forward to reading your newest book.
    Thanks, Nancy, for presenting Kai with an opportunity to share more of her life and work with us.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Barbara. I know Kai appreciates it, too!

  9. I feel so blessed to have such wonderful support from our fellow angels. Thanks Barbara. And thanks again, Nancy!

  10. Really enjoyed reading this interview. I also came from Illinois/Wisconsin to SoCal and read that with interest, but especially loved reading about your process. Look forward to reading your book(s)!

  11. So glad you enjoyed Kai's interview, especially as you have something profound in common!

    Thank you for visiting the blog, and please come back. BTW,Kai's website is great.