K.C. Sprayberry grew up in Southern California. She’s been an accountant, majored in law enforcement, and enlisted in the U.S. Air force. Today, she lives in Northwest Georgia where she writes her many YA novels. Let’s listen in on what this best selling author has to say about her newest book and the writing process:
What inspired you to write your most recent book?
My most recent book, Lost & Scared, was inspired by some demons in my past but also by reading testimonials of people who have gone through non-custodial parental abduction. Despite the fact that I write fiction, I always research all elements of a book prior to writing it. This one was the hardest. While I never experienced the agony of having my kids disappear during visitation, I know the fear a single parent lives with when these threats are used to keep them from reporting things like missed child support payments or coming back late from a visitation.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Basically I have a hybrid style. Mostly, I write by the seat of my pants, letting my characters drive the story, but I also do a lot of research as I go along, to be certain that what I’m using passes the “is it true” sniff test. Most of my work is YA coming of age, so it has to be right to be believable.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Keeping the emotions on a believable level. On one hand, I can’t gloss over how my characters feel, because that makes the story less than believable. On the other hand, having too much emotion is a turn off. It’s a very difficult maneuver trying to decide when to allow the tear ducts to run and when to turn them off, and for how long.
Tell us all about your new book.
Lost & Scared is about twins, told from first person, present tense viewpoint. They’re seventeen, have no respect for their dad due to a horrible event they witnessed ten years previously, and are getting ready to start their senior year of high school. Keri and Shane have a deeper twin connection than most other twins for they survived abuse at home. They’re also very overprotective of their four living siblings, and working on setting the record straight for the deceased siblings. Of course, they’re also normal teens with normal desires—friends, activities, and wanting a safe home. Both at certain points in the book wonder how they got to be the in charge person, but they don’t shrug off any of their responsibilities.
To keep them from seeming too perfect, a no-no for any believable teen, they have their foibles. Each, during crucial moments of the story, leans heavily on an outside source where they have to eventually decide if that’s where they really want to go or do they want to regain their inner strength to fight the good battle. That they do, and never lose their focus, is a miracle brought about by their closeness to each other.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That it’s okay not to be perfect, and it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you realize who and what is important in your life. There’s a scene near the end of the book, at the climactic point, where Keri and Shane are reunited. This scene shows the reader exactly where she was at in her head, in her disbelief of the horror ending. I won’t get into specifics, as that would spoil the reading pleasure, but it’s a pivotal point for both characters in moving forward in their lives.
I notice on Amazon you are the author of 13 novels. Which one is your favorite? Tell us something about this book.
Actually, all of my books are my favorites, but if I have to pick one that’s published, I’d have to say Paradox Lost: Their Path. This is a fantasy novel, set in the future, with a historical twist to it. Triplets are either blessed or doomed by a prophecy said in the past, although they don’t realize that it’s them who are being identified. They have incredible telekinetic powers that allow them to use Gateways to travel through time, but only to ensure history is on track and right. They can’t ever change anything, the most important rule all Travelers live by. They also have other powers, and to keep them from being too boringly perfect, they’re all in competition with each other, to prove who is the best. When a tragedy wipes out most of their family, including one of the triplets, their reactions vary a lot, because of their perceptions of what others think of them. Then DJ and Elisa, the surviving triplets, faced with an even worse situation and have to make harsh decisions on how they’ll deal with a future that might spell the end of Traveling as they know it. I’m currently working on Paradox Lost: Ultimate Paradox, where DJ, Elisa, and Matt (as a ghost) struggle to save their dad, caught in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake. The one question all of them must find the answer to is “Will I be born if Dad dies in a time before we were originally born?” At the same time, they must also prove they’re the ones who are mentioned in the prophecy and prove to the adults that they can handle the pressure.
What is the hardest part of writing a book?
For me, the hardest part of writing a book is knowing when to write “The End.” Honestly, I always want to go on and on, trying to explain what happens next. My endings always take the most time and I strive to leave the reader with the sense of the world moving forward without explaining what’s next for my characters.
One of my favorite novels is Softly Say Goodbye, a book about teen drinking. What motivated you to write this amazing book?
I’m a parent of eight. My youngest is in his last year of being a teen. When I started Softly Say Goodbye, back in 2005, his next in age brother and sister had just completed their teens. All of my children came to me at one point to ask about friends who were either arrested, injured, or killed in accidents involving underage drinking. I also remember back in high school of losing a couple of friends in underage drinking accidents. One other thing sticks out, from as far back as I could ascertain: Teenagers have been getting drunk and into trouble because of that since the first alcoholic drink was fermented. To them, it’s cool to act like an adult but they don’t realize that they aren’t ready for adult consequences for their actions. Lecturing teens about staying away from alcohol doesn’t work. It actually rarely works for anything you want a teen to stay away from. There was a point when I had questions of why coming at me from most of my kids following a particularly nasty Memorial Day weekend. And the only answer I had was to show them how you sometimes have to make the less popular choice and stand by it. Softly Say Goodbye went through many versions until I hit on the right tone, where Erin, the main character, stands up for her beliefs, but she’s not preachy about it. She had to overcome a lot to get her message across, but she does it in a way teens will believe. The last version, the one that Solstice Publishing contracted, was the hardest to write, and I knew from the beginning that this book would be a winner.
What motivates you to write YA novels?
Not having enough good YA novels when I was growing up. I’m a child of the late 60s and early 70s. We had Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden, and other girl detectives who always managed to look good once they got into trouble. As a girl, it was frowned upon for me to enjoy “boy” books, but I read The Hardy Boys and other “boy” books anyway, because they were fun. I also read adult books, because most of the other “teen” books were incredibly boring and talked down to teens. As a young parent in the 80s, I started reading Judy Blume books, to check out what my own children were reading. And I liked them. I’m not ashamed to say that I haunted the local library for Ms. Blume’s next book to come out. She addressed teen issues in a way that made them easy to understand. Yes, they were scandalous at the time, but Ms. Blume opened the door for many authors like myself in the future.
What is your current project?
Well, now that Lost & Scared is in editing with Solstice Publishing and I’m planning the release promotion, my next project is actually double pronged. I’m going to finish the second Paradox Lost book, Ultimate Paradox, and start on the second Call Chronicles book, A New Marshal for Luckless.
Are there any new YA authors that have grabbed your interest?
Jessica Tornese, a fellow Solstice author, with her Time series has my interest. Her books are great. They take on still “forbidden subjects” and she weaves those things into a great time travel story.
Chrystal Vaughan, another Solstice author, did a fabulous job with Dead in the Water and I hope she comes up with another YA book. Her approach while different certainly gives her teen readers a great story.
Kay LaLone and Mary Ann Cortez are women I’ve known for years. They’re part of a critique group I manage. Both have great books and are in the process of writing other YA books.
I know quite a few YA authors who have great books. All of us can thank those authors who went before us, breaking ground for subjects that were once forbidden, in order to let our imaginations flow.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Never give up, no matter who says your books are drivel. Step back, find a trusted reader to look over your work and make suggestions. Start over if necessary. And let your characters speak in your head, make them come alive on the pages of your book. No protagonist is perfectly good, just as no antagonist is fully evil. Both must have good and bad points or you’ll bore the reader. Round your characters out, figure out exactly what is their weak point and exploit that.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I promised a wild ride when I sold my first book, although very few people knew that at the time, just the women in my critique group. Well, I’m trying to keep to that promise and more. I write young adult and new adult coming of age, historical, westerns, romantic suspense, and soon hope to have finished my first military fiction novel, based loosely on my experiences in the Air Force. The wild ride won’t stop any time soon, so stick around.
Where can readers find links to you for your writing?
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005DI1YOU