Interview: Kaitlyn McKnight YA Author of a YA Novel

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CoverThe web works in mysterious ways. It can narrow our personal field of view down to the much-cited echo chamber, the self-reinforcing bubble; it can open our world view to a truly globe-spanning one, allowing us to approach the sense of awe and oneness experienced by astronauts able to see it in totality: a tiny, self-contained blue bubble floating in a vast sea of dark, free from lines of division.

There are times when working on Amazing Stories gives me that view; working with fans from distant lands, translating their fine words into broken Google English; discovering the interests I have in common with people vastly different from myself. Usually this takes the form of posts or pictures, commentary and emails. Sometimes it comes in the form of an advertisement. The web does indeed work in mysterious ways.

A week or so ago I received a query regarding placing an ad for a newly released book on the site (those queries are always welcome). And as usual, I did a bit of background checking just to double check the bona fides.

What I discovered was a new, young talent. Literally. The novel in question – The Zodiac Saga 1 – was written by a twelve year old. Nothing new in that. Most of us, having been bitten by the science fiction, fantasy or horror bug rapidly come to a place when we decide we can and want to do it ourselves. Author interviews are rife with tales of horrible, terrible, awful, never-see-the-light-of-day juvenile attempts at emulation; at eleven or twelve I spent an entire ten day family vacation furiously scribbling out an homage to Doc Smith (I had so many different alien species not even I could keep track).

What’s different here is that parents, family, teachers and others were so impressed with this fledgling effort that they not only encouraged but went on to assist in self-publishing that novel; the author has gone on to find a bit of local celebrity, interviewed by television stations and newspapers alike.

The bon mot goes “the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12”. Perhaps in more ways than was originally intended by that joke.

I’ve not yet had a chance to read The Zodiac Saga 1 (it’s currently only available in print) but that isn’t the real story here, is it? Kaitlyn McKnight – an obviously very self-possessed young woman – has gone two steps farther than most: she shared her story with others (a huge hurdle for most budding authors) and has seen her first effort go to print. Whether or not the story is as original as one hopes, as well-written as one hopes is entirely beside the point (or almost so): Kaitlyn is doing it. She “finished what she started” and that is no mean feat.

Amazing Stories sees itself as a cheerleader for our favorite genres. We’re always pleased to witness other’s success and to help out in whatever small ways we can. Young fans and budding authors are our life’s blood and so we take this opportunity to introduce you all to Kaitlyn McKnight, young author of the science fiction tale The Zodiac Saga 1:

Steve Davidson for Amazing Stories: Hello Kaitlyn.  Greetings from Amazing Stories and congratulations on your book!

Kaitlyn McKNight: Hello Mr. Steve and Amazing Stories Magazine.

ASM: Can you tell us a little about your background?  Where you live, what you’re doing in school? Help us to get to know you a little.

KM: I am a military brat born in Mississippi. I enjoy school, my family, my friends, and I still like to play outside a lot. This is my senior year of school and I will be attending The University of Southern Mississippi next fall (Aug 2015) I have already been accepted. I will be 16 and one of the youngest students on campus.

ASM: I would imagine that you’ve always been a reader (most authors are); can you share some of your favorite reads?

KM: Books that capture my attention the most are always mysterious or magical. I enjoyed Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, and Star Wars by George Lucas.

ASM: What inspired you to write you own story, and why did you choose to write a novel instead of, for instance, poetry or short stories?

KM: Everything started as a class assignment to write a one page creative story. As I was writing, that one page turned into two pages, then three pages, and before I knew it I had over ten pages. From there, the ideas just kept coming to me so I kept on writing and it developed into an actual brilliant idea for a book. But I also enjoy writing short stories. I don’t do poems because I think they are much harder, so I leave them for the experts.

Author Kaitlyn McKnightASM: What was your writing process?  Did you plot the whole thing out at the beginning?  Did you write every day?  Did you have any first readers?  How did you go about revisions?

KM: In the beginning I did write just about every day because the ideas kept coming so I continued to put it down on paper. And it all started to come together fairly quickly and it became a personal project that no one knew about. My story only came to light when my older sister was using my laptop and saw the file. Of course she could not resist opening it and reading it. Once she did that I also shared it with my mom and dad. As for revision, I was twelve years old when I wrote it, so there were some grammatical corrections and editing that took the book from 250 pages down to 204 pages.

ASM: It seems that at least some of the story is based on adventures with friends.  Did you find it easy or hard to use people you know as the basis for characters?

KM: I didn’t have any friends or real people to base the book or any of the characters. I wrote the book from a twelve year old little boy’s point of view. So the characters are all magical in their own way. And all the adventures are highly unique but I think people will appreciate the stretch of my imagination. It’s always easier to make it up as I go along because anything can take place in my imagination.

ASM: How did it feel when you saw the actual printed book for the first time?

KM: I was very happy, I remember it just like yesterday. The book was handed directly to me from the printer and I had a very very big grin on my face (my parents had motioned for them to hand me the book first). It was a wonderful feeling.

ASM: Are science fiction and fantasy your favorite genres?  Do you have others?

KM: I really love fantasy and science fiction because it requires a lot of imagination and you have to put a lot of thought into creating a story that is different. Plus it has to appeal to young and adult readers and that’s really hard to do with books.

ASM: Are there any authors who particularly inspire you or who you’ve tried to model your work after?

KM: I respect all authors across the board in every category because they all have great skills in order to write books. It’s not easy to write a book. But I want to be unique and stand out with my own ideas and writing.

ASM: Are you continuing to write?  Is there a sequel in the works?  (If so, can you give us some detail?)

KM: Yes, there are sequels to Zodiac Saga.

ASM: Is your ambition to be a novelist, or is this just one of many talents?

KM: Writing is what I like to do. It challenges my mind to be creative. Ultimately I can see myself writing for TV shows, movies, newspapers, magazines… I would also like to produce and direct. As for talent I play piano, violin, and guitar but I would rather say these are hobbies and not necessarily talents, I am an amateur.

ASM: Has it been easy to work with your parents on this project?

KM: Yes, my mom, dad, and sister are the best. They give me all the tools I need to do research on my ideas and they support me all the way. They have sacrificed a lot to get me to this point.

ASM: If I said that most people your age prefer not to read and most of them don’t write anything other than a text message or a tweet, what do you think about that?

KM: My generation is highly charged on technology and I am too. But I use it to make quick notes when ideas come to me no matter where am at I can record my thoughts. I think it’s all about how you use it. It’s just a convenience at your finger tip that’s all.

ASM: What would people be surprised to know about you?

KM: . I like playing in the rain.

ASM: Favorite color?

KM: Red

ASM: Favorite TV Show?

KM: Adventure Time

ASM: Favorite thing to do to relax?

KM: . Reading puts me to sleep when I need it.

ASM: Favorite place?

KM: Without a doubt my room. It’s my own little space.

ASM: Favorite subject?

KM:. English, but I also like to do science experiments.

ASM: Thanks!

KM: You’re welcome, and thank you for the interview!

I’m sure that we’ll be seeing a lot more from Kaitlyn, be it more fiction or some other astonishing accomplishment, but this is definitely one young woman who is going places.

Copies of The Zodiac Saga 1 are available here.

A television news interview with Kaitlyn can be found here

And, lik,e all good authors, Kaitlyn has a website here

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