Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Secrets of Kidlit: Author Spotlight on K.L. Going


K.L. Going & Pippin
K.L. Going is the author of numerous books for children and teens, including Fat Kid Rules the World, which was adapted into an independent film directed by Matthew Lillard. As with most writers, her ‘overnight success’ was years in the making. Before becoming published in several countries, K.L. worked in different aspects of the book world.

“Since graduating college I've worked as an adult literacy tutor, a ticket agent for an airline, a front desk clerk at a resort hotel, an assistant to two agents at a Manhattan literary agency, and a manager of an independent bookstore.”

Her first novel, Fat Kid Rules the World, was named a Michael Printz Honor Book by the American Library Association and was included on YALSA’s Best Books for Young Adults list. Including her debut, K.L. has published three novels for young adults, two for middle grade readers, two picture books, and a book on the writer’s craft. While she has always loved writing, she didn’t always want to be an author.

“As a kid, I was always writing stories for fun, but I didn't plan on being an author. I was planning on joining the Peace Corps. Writing was something I did for pleasure. I wrote my first complete book in high school. It was a fantasy novel. After that, I was always working on something. It wasn't until much later when I got a job in publishing that I first considered submitting my work for publication.”

For the readers of Kidliterati, K.L. had this inspiring secret to share about the craft of writing.

"I believe the secret to any good writing is to write with heart. When writing for young readers, I try not to think about limitations, but rather to focus on what is universal -- the things that move each and every one of us, regardless of our age."

When asked about the craft of writing for young readers, K.L. gave some interesting clues about how to create complex characters.

“I always aim to make my characters imperfect – almost unlikeable at first – because the farther a reader has to travel to love a character, the more redemptive the entire process is for them. But this is tricky. A character can’t be too unlikeable or the reader won’t get hooked into the story. My goal is to make my readers uncomfortable without turning them off completely and to make a character flawed, but also sympathetic.”

K.L. lives in Sullivan County, NY where she both writes and runs a business critiquing manuscripts. When asked about the most common mistakes that beginning writers make, she had these inside pointers to consider.

“I see a lot of common mistakes in manuscripts and some of them are so easily fixed, like lack of professional presentation, or words that repeat themselves throughout the text. Other times the problems aren’t as easily solved … one of the most common larger problems I encounter is when writers lose track of their narrator and start giving more and more weight to minor characters and subplots. It’s so important to stay focused on your main character and the story they’re trying to tell and not to let yourself get distracted.”

With multiple picture books currently under contract, K.L. Going is excited about her newest one called Pieces of the Puzzle Why. Her next book slated for publication is Pablo the Poet, which will come out later in 2013.

-- Chris W.

Sources:
klgoing.com/bio.htm
us.penguingroup.com
childrensbooks.about.com/od/authorsillustrato/a/Teen-Author-K-L-Going-Interview.htm
creativeandhealthy.com/an-interview-with-award-winning-young-adult-author-kl-going/
writerunboxed.com/2008/10/03/author-interview-kl-going-part-1/

15 comments:

  1. Great blog post, Chris! I wish I could have met K.L. during the reading. Best of luck to you!!
    Stefan

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    1. Thanks, Stefan. Both of you read so well at the COTA festival. Here's hoping your sequel is coming out soon!
      Chris

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  2. Thanks for this interview! What K.L. says about "imperfect" characters really resonates with me. Characters with flaws make for a more realistic and satisfying journey, but you do have to strike a delicate balance between that and likeability. Not easy, but K.L. does it so well.

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    1. So true, Jen. I liked her take on complex characters, also, but it is a tricky balancing act. We don't want people closing the book, because they don't care whether or not things work out for an overly fallible protagonist, either!
      Thanks, Chris

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  3. nice post! enlightening interview! Thanks!

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    1. Good to hear from the Library Lab! (I meant to reply here!)

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  4. Nice to hear from our favorite literary hound!

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  5. K.L. is an excellent writing mentor, as well as a super-nice person. I am so glad that you used this forum to bring her words of wisdom to writers. She has important advice not only for novice writers, but those in all stages of their careers.

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    1. Couldn't agree more, Dr Hop! K.L. Serves as an excellent Teacher by example. Speaking of which, I'm thrilled to hear your thoughts as well!

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  6. It was nice to see K.L. Going at COTA in New Paltz. Fun to learn more about her here.

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    1. Yes, she is so personable when doing readings ... And interviews, also!

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  7. This was an insightful interview + I appreciated the advice K. L. Going offered. Interesting too to learn that there are many different routes to authorship! Thanks for this article.

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    1. Thanks, Kim. Glad you liked it. If every waiter is an actor between shows, then every other person they serve at the cafe is likely a writer!

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  8. Great spotlight! I especially liked the bit about the most common mistakes she sees in manuscripts. Now that she mentions writers who give too much weight to secondary characters instead of the protagonists, I know exactly what she means, because I've seen that, too.

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    1. I agree. We love secondary characters with personality and depth, but sometimes those "character actors" can steal the scene from the lead!

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