The Five Questions: Kendall Kulper


“I would sit in the cafeteria writing page after page, and kids would line up down the table, reading every page as I wrote it.”

On Saturday, September 26th, Kendall Kulper will one of the terrific YA authors speaking, reading and engaging at the Boston Teen Author Festival at the Cambridge Public Library. Consider this a preview on her point-of-view:

1. What’s the surprising inspiration behind one (your choice) of the characters or stories you’ve created?

Well, my second novel DRIFT & DAGGER basically came about because I fell in love with a throwaway character in my first novel, SALT & STORM. I needed a slightly-nefarious Han-Solo-like ship captain, so I created this character, gave him a handful of lines, and figured that was it. But I kept thinking about him—his name, his story, where he fit into the world—and when my editor asked if I might be interested in writing another book in SALT & STORM’s world, I immediately thought about this character.

I never would have thought I’d write a whole book about this guy, but I absolutely loved exploring the world through his eyes!

2. If you could rescue one obscure book and make it more widely known to the world, which book would you choose and why?

I have a special place in my heart for a YA I read when I was a kid, a book called CELINE by Brock Cole. It’s about a teen girl who’s an artist, and she has such a fascinating, visual, funny, vulnerable perspective on her world. I read this book until the spine split apart, and I still think about it constantly. It’s such a quiet book, but it’s stayed with me my whole life, and I can see kids of all ages and generations falling in love with it.

3. You can ask one question to any author, living or dead. What would you ask and why?

Everyone’s going to say J.K. Rowling, but J.K. Rowling! She is just such a fascinating person, writer, thinker. I am so consistently impressed with her talent, of course, but also with how she approaches fans, media, criticism, setback. I would ask her what she’s learned and how she’s grown by publishing books anonymously and her thoughts on building audiences and readership in an increasingly-competitive publishing world.

4. What’s the best (or your favorite) feedback you’ve received from a reader?

Oh man. My favorite feedback might be some of the earliest. When I was a kid in elementary school, I used to write sort of serialized horror-style stories (I was a big R.L. Stine fan). Every day after school, I would sit in the cafeteria writing page after page, and kids would line up down the table, reading every page as I wrote it. I can still remember how cool it was to see people reading—and loving—what I had written. Kids would track me down in the halls to find out how the story would end. It was the first time I saw readers connecting with my stories, and it was such a thrill. I think I’ve basically been chasing that high my whole career…

5. What’s the worst writing advice you’ve received from a teacher?

Well, I’ve been extremely lucky to have had great teachers, so thankfully this is a really hard question to answer! I will say that I sometimes got pressure from writing instructors that writing YA literature was not writing Real Literature. YA writers weren’t actual writers, and the idea was that anyone could just dash off a Twilight in their spare time and make a million dollars (to which I say: go ahead. Do it. I’ll wait.).

So even though I was interested in YA stories, I was encouraged to write more along the lines of “adult” fiction. I dutifully put aside my YA and tried it—and it made me miserable. I was writing stuff that felt dreary and dull and it sucked all the fun out of writing for a very long time. Finally I realized that hey, those writing classes might have been wrong about this, and I should just be writing what made me happy. It all worked out, but I wish I hadn’t wasted a few years trying to be the writer I’m not.

For more information about Kendall Kulper and her books:

Visit her online at:
Follow her on Twitter: @Kendall_Kulper

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