Kelley Kay Bowles - YA's Gift
1. Why did you choose Young Adult as a genre?
I taught high school for 20 years. Kids are a trip! All SORTS of interesting people there…I had to write about them, and about the whole high school community. But I also love murder mysteries, so I set EVERYTHING in my first six or seven novels at a high school, with young adults everywhere you look, even in the adult books.
2. Tell us a bit about Down in the belly of the Whale.
So, when I was, oh…about 33 or 34, my then-boyfriend-now-husband got a job as an administrator for a sports camp in the Berkshire Mountains. We had a small cabin in the middle of nowhere, so I got to sit in the middle of nowhere and come up with this novel. I’d been teaching at least ten years at this point, and I felt strongly that a paranormal element would be most high schoolers’ favorite way of solving problems, right? And I had a student, a teacher’s aide, whom I knew very well who was a cutter. She told me, as we sat in my classroom working on grading and planning, all about her mindset and her reasons for cutting, which were for her nothing like Cora’s trauma in the story, but equally as traumatic. I have had many students who experienced Cora’s trauma, but those events and what Harper does to get involved are purely research-based (thank you again, Pete Hautzinger, who was the DA in Grand Junction when I was doing research for this story. Down in the Belly of the Whale is set in a fictional Colorado town, but I still wanted the laws to pertain to actual Colorado)
3. Your characters feel quite real and ring true, yet you do this with a unique touch. How do you find the right character to fit your story line?
Ha-ha come on, Monica—you know as well as I do that, they find us, not the other way around! All characters I create have elements of real people I have encountered at some point, but then they get all mashed together and stretched and twisted around, and it turns into someone entirely new and unique. It’s magical, and I don’t know where it comes from.
4. Do you have any other talents?
Hee hee I love singing karaoke, but really my only talent in that venue is not giving a rip what other people think, so that allows me to turn it into a performance!
5. What is your preferred genre?
Actually, I like them all; it just depends on my mood. I lean toward mystery/thriller and YA, but I taught science fiction, so there’s a lot of stuff I read there that I really enjoyed as well. I don’t love romance as a genre, but I like when there are ELEMENTS of romance in other books. I don’t love history books, but I like when there is historical research. I love horror, but only the Stephen King/Dean Koontz kind that are actually happy endings, total idealism in disguise. No pointless slasher stuff.
6. How does your writing process work?
I wish I knew. Seriously. I try and listen and look and smell and feel everything around me, and then…I just get an idea. I’m well aware there’s no such thing as an original idea—I mean, look at Shakespeare even—he’s, my favorite! Romeo and Juliet come from an Italian poem! It’s about taking input from lots of places and putting it into your own container.
7. Tell us something about yourself that no one knows
I’m a rabid over-sharer, so … new info about me is tough to find. I said one thing on a questionnaire like this a long time ago, so it’s probably hard to find now, and I’ve kind of been too busy lately to even do it. This is it: sometimes I rehearse things in my head before I say them.
8. Are you working on any new stories?
Always. Feels like millions at a time, but I’m focused specifically on two projects: one is a YA paranormal series called The Meld. I’ve only written the first book: Paper Fields, Millie Mahoney’s story, and I’m trying to find an agent for it, because I think it’d also be a cool limited run tv series, you know, where each storyline is like an 8-episode season. And there are so many streaming services now who are on the constant lookout for content. But I haven’t had any luck so far, and I’m much better at writing stories than at marketing myself. I’m just not ambitious enough in that way! I’m also supposed to be done with the Chalkboard Outlines series as of book 3, which will be released this month, but I feel like the story’s not over. So I’m writing a 4th book in the hopes that my publisher feels like story 4 ends the whole thing more satisfactorily.
9. What would you like your stories to bring to the readers?
I want them to be entertained. It’s also good for me (because, you know…I’m a teacher by trade) if they learn something new.