Sunday, January 1, 2012

APOCALYPSE NOW: An Interview with Kami Kinard, Author of THE BOY PROJECT

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Throughout 2012, we Lucky 13s will be interviewing The Apocalypsies—YA, MG, and children's book authors debuting during this brand-spanking-new year.

Even though 2012 is only a few hours old, one of The Apocalypsies is celebrating her new release this very day: Kami Kinard, author of The Boy Project (Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister).

About The Boy Project:

For anyone who's ever felt that boys were a different species....

Wildly creative seventh grader Kara McAllister just had her best idea yet. She's going to take notes on all of the boys in her grade (and a few elsewhere) in order to answer a seemingly simple question: How can she get a boyfriend?

But Kara's project turns out to be a lot more complicated than she imagined. Soon there are secrets, lies, and an embarrassing incident in the boy's bathroom. Plus, Kara has to deal with mean girls, her slightly spacey BFF, and some surprising uses for duct tape. Still, if Kara's research leads her to the right boy, everything may just be worth it...

Full of charts and graphs, heart and humor, this hilarious debut will resonate with tweens everywhere.

“This middle-school drama is hip to the moment, with break-up texting, kissing, and popularity tug of wars…Kara’s boy-crazy experiment lends refreshing perspective on teen relationships, and the results point to self-enlightenment.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Kinard creates a highly credible middle-school universe of popular girls, dorky boys, unpredictable teachers, and volatile loyalties; she hits all the right notes as Kara learns that first opinions are rarely accurate and that the scientific method does not always apply to human beings.”
Publisher’s Weekly
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Welcome to The Lucky 13s, Kami! The Boy Project is filled with your protagonist, Kara McAllister's, boy-hunting notes (organized on note cards, no less), pie charts, graphs, and sketches, which give us a wonderful peek inside her brain. Did you decide to incorporate these visual elements when you were originally writing the book, or did that idea come along later?

"This is one that was ultimately removed from 
the book. These are the chucks worn by
one of the boys Kara observes."
—Kami Kinard
Kami Kinard: That idea came along later. I subbed the manuscript for critique at a SCBWI conference, and the editor who read it suggested I add “stuff” to it. She suggested I read Cathy's Book by Stewart/Weisman/Brigg, which is not only full of illustrations, but also other tangible “stuff.” I loved that book. It’s for a much more mature audience and has an entirely different premise, but I enjoyed the visual components. After reading it, I thought about how I could incorporate visual elements into my manuscript, so that is when I added the charts and line art. The notecards came even later when I had to make a big format shift. See my Apocalypsies blog post!

You started your writing career in children's poetry, and your work has appeared in major magazines such as Ladybug and Jack and Jill. How did breaking into the poetry market compare to trying to get a novel published?

Kami: Breaking into the magazine market with children’s poetry was surprisingly easy for me. Some of the first poems I sent in were purchased. Over the years, a fairly high percentage of what I submitted was published.

Turning the magazine success into book success was much harder. Several years ago, I went to the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference and asked every editor I met about poetry collections. They all said the same thing: They are almost impossible to get published unless you are already famous.

I still love children’s poetry! But I also just love working with words. So I decided to write prose in addition to poetry. The hardest thing about this shift was the learning curve. I already knew how to write poetry, but I had to learn how to write a novel. It takes time to learn how to do it right.

You've taught both preschool and high school. How did you decide to focus on the middle-school level for The Boy Project after working with older and much-younger kids?

Kami: I came up with the idea for the novel while reading my old middle-school diaries, but the age group also appealed to me because my son was in middle school while I was writing The Boy Project and I was around a lot of kids that age. I worked with the local middle school so much that I won volunteer of the year when he was in sixth grade. When he was in seventh and eighth grades, I co-coached the Odyssey of the Mind teams. We had two teams win the state championship and took one team to the National championship. So although I never taught middle school, I was spending a ton of time with children that age while I was writing. My son is in high school now, but my daughter just started sixth grade. I feel another MG novel coming on…

How would your own middle-school self feel about Kara's scientific attempts to uncover the mystery behind boys?

Kami: My middle-school self would have loved Kara’s idea and would have been rooting for her every step of the way! My middle-school self would have also been taking mental notes on Kara’s progress with the intention of duplicating the experiment if it worked for Kara. Notice I said intention. My middle-school self would have never gone through with such an experiment.

Your name is Kami. Your protagonist is Kara. Both of you have four-letter-names that start with K. Was that planned, or did the coincidence occur on a subconscious level?

Kami: Ugg. I’m sure it was subconscious. Unlike many authors, I didn't give a lot of thought to the names I used. I wrote the first draft of this novel very quickly, and I didn’t want to lose momentum by slowing down to think of the perfect names, so I just plugged random names in as I went. This ended up being a problem when a ton of the characters had names that started with a hard C sound. I felt pretty narcissistic when my editor pointed this out to me... since both of my names start with that same sound! When revising, I did slow down and give a lot more thought to the names. But I had spent so much time with Kara at that point that I couldn’t change her name. I will say this: If you never want your editor to call you by your character’s name, don’t give your MC a name with the same first two letters!

The Boy Project debuts today, January 1—a festive time to kick off a major new project. How do you plan to celebrate both the New Year and the publication of your novel?

Kami: I am super-excited about my book’s early debut, and on New Year’s Day I will try to make some noise on the web. (Thanks for helping me today!) I decided that New Year’s Day might not be the best day to have a book launch party. I am planning three parties over the following two weeks in three towns I have lived in here in South Carolina. Friends are helping me with all three, so it will be a lot of fun to travel, see everyone, and have a reason to celebrate!

Last of all, we Lucky 13s have a question we like to ask all our guests: Do you have a favorite superstition?

Kami: I’m really not a superstitious person. So my knee-jerk reaction was to say, “NO! I don’t believe in superstitions.” But then I remembered that when I was planning a book launch party, the facility I wanted to use suggested Friday the thirteenth, and I said, “No way!”

And I have to admit to other superstitious behavior. It involves playing cards. There is an old saying that luck runs with the floorboards. For card playing, therefore, it is better for you and your partner to sit parallel to the floorboards. I’m all for giving myself the upper hand in cards, so if I can nab these seats, I do!

See what I mean? I’m really not superstitious.

Kami Kinard can be found online at kamikinard.com, Facebook, and Twitter. The Boy Project (Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister) debuts today from Scholastic Press.

6 comments:

  1. Great interview, Cat! And Kami, I am so excited for you! As a fellow SCBWI-Carolinas member, I was really excited to see this book was coming out. It sounds fabulous.

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  2. Thanks, Megan. And thanks so much to Kami for chatting with me! Congrats on THE BOY PROJECT's release!!!

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  3. Sounds like a fun book! I'll suggest it to my daughter. : )

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  4. I loved this interview, Cat. You asked all the questions I would've been curious about after reading, too (particularly regarding the artwork and poetry).

    The book sounds like tons of fun. Thanks for stopping by, Kami!

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  5. Ara: I bet she would love the book. Sarah: Kami was a huge help in figuring out my questions.

    Thanks, Kami!!

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  6. Kami! I am so excited to see my Highlights roomie here on this blog! And I'm thrilled to hear about your new book which I will be purchasing promptly for my daughters. We share space once again - my poetry book comes out in the spring of 2013. Congratulations!! xo,a.

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