Author Interview: KERELYN SMITH
I'm back with another fab author interview today talking about the ins and outs and the ups and downs of their journey to publication!
Check it out...
Kerelyn Smith is a writer of literary, speculative, and children’s fiction. By day she is a software engineer but she gets up in the wee hours of the morning to write. She lives in Seattle, WA, with her partner and dog, and enjoys hiking, gardening, and overcomplicating things. Mulrox and the Malcognitos is her first novel.
A bad idea is nothing to worry about… until it knocks on your door.
Mulrox the ogre harbors a secret desire to become the world's greatest poet. Unfortunately, all of his ideas are rotten.
But when his terrible ideas come to life, Mulrox soon finds himself on a quest to protect the very ideas he loathes-the malcognitos as they call themselves. Accompanied by his sassy pet toad, quirky neighbor, and a hoard of mischievous bad ideas, Mulrox must travel to the malcognitos' realm, uncover the mystery of the beast hunting them, and return home in time to deliver the best poem of his life.
Fans of L. Frank Baum, Bruce Coville, and Roald Dahl will delight in this middle-grade fantasy novel about embracing your imperfections. If you like prophetic rodents, spellbinding sneezes, and ferocious sheep, you'll love this book.
Join Mulrox and his friends for a wild ride full of antics, strange new creatures, and lots of bad poetry.
Who are you and what do you write?
Hi, Kate! Super honored to be here with you today. I’m Kerelyn Smith. I work as a software engineer at a start-up in Seattle, but the rest of my time is devoted to writing and other bookish activities, like hoarding books. I’m moving houses at the moment and being forced to confront the massive amount of books I own. (I’m sure 20 plus boxes of books is normal. It’s normal right?)
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I’ve lived all up and down the west coast. Very happy to have found my way back to the Pacific Northwest. I'm loving all the trees and rain!
I write literary, speculative, and children’s fiction. My debut novel, Mulrox and the Malcognitos comes out March 29th.
Tell us a little about the book.
Mulrox and the Malcognitos is a middle-grade fantasy novel about Mulrox, an ogre who desperately wants to be the greatest poet in the world, but everything he writes is awful. Then the worst thing he can imagine happens: his terrible ideas come to life. The malcognitos, as they are called, are annoying, wild, and troublesome, but worst of all, they need his help. Mulrox soon finds himself on a quest to save the very ideas he loathes, accompanied by his sassy pet toad, quirky neighbor, and a hoard of mischievous bad ideas.
The book is a raucous, fun adventure, but at its heart, Mulrox’s story is about finding your voice and embracing your imperfections.
How has the journey to this point been?
Like most writers, I’ve been telling stories since I was very little. I majored in English literature at school, took many creative writing courses, and have joined several writing groups along the way.
But it was around the time I graduated from college that I developed a serious writing habit. Every morning I get up early and spend the first hour or so of my day writing before I head off to work. I’ve been doing that for over a decade now, and I think that practice, more than anything else, has helped me.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far?
Writing is incredibly hard. There are so many things to learn, so many areas in which to focus, so many levels. I know that writing well will be a life-long journey and I’m only just beginning.
This is part of what makes writing so draining and frustrating, and also part of the appeal.
But I think the hardest parts for me have been mental challenges. I’m terrified to put a book out into the world.
Mulrox is my third full-length novel, but the first I wanted to publish. The first two did not work. There are some great things about them, but they just never came together.
I worked on the second novel for 7 years and made it through countless drafts. But I just couldn’t figure out how to make it come to life. During that time, I convinced myself I was not interested in publishing, that I only cared about writing the best book I could.
About three years ago, my mindset changed. I wanted to be braver. I wanted to share my ideas with others. To be a part of the great cycle of writers and readers that is always growing and changing. So I started writing Mulrox.
What’s different about Mulrox and the Malcognitos?
I like to write about what I'm currently grappling with as a way to fully explore those thoughts and then put them aside. Writing Mulrox has changed me. His internal journey is a personal one for me, and one I think will be familiar to many writers and creatives.
Mulrox is so hard on himself and everything he creates. He stops himself, self-censoring before he even gets started.
Over and over again, I get caught up trying to make things perfect from the start. I always have to remind myself to focus on the immediate goal, to come up with lots of off-the-wall ideas and reassure myself that I can grow and evolve them over time.
I think people would usually call this type of paralysis, perfectionism. I have never considered myself to be a perfectionist, but this is a label that gets applied to me a lot. I’m a messy person, more interested in creativity than rules. As a kid people used to say “I got really into my art”, which was a nice way of saying I got more paint on me then on the canvas. Everything I create has so many mistakes, so many messy edges that I don’t see how I could possibly be considered a perfectionist.
On the other hand, I get it. I'm a bit of a workaholic. Mulrox went through something like 11 drafts before I worked with an editor, and will have gone through something like 17 before it reaches you. I have a hard time saying something is good enough, letting go. I’ve seen advice that tells you to split your writer-self from your editor-self. Allow your inner-writer pure creativity and freedom and then train your inner-editor to be critical. The trouble I've found is being able to come back as one person who is content with the final product.
I dream big, and then I fall short. I think others can relate. What we create is not exactly what we hoped it might be. The notion of this creative ideal, I think is simultaneously what drives us, and what makes us crazy.
But these ambitions can hamstring us, and keep us from our goals. Early on in the book, Mulrox receives a vision, telling him that he is destined to write the greatest idea of all time and become world-famous. This vision haunts him, as it promises him everything he’s ever wanted, but encourages him to belittle all of his other ideas--the malcognitos who Mulrox is slowly growing to care for and value.
The journey Mulrox and I are on, is to find beauty in what we create, both the good and the bad, and to learn to respect our malcognitos.
I’m still a work in progress, but writing Mulrox has helped me. I hope the book can help others to find a bit of peace and acceptance as well.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
This is the advice I tell myself. Edit! Edit like crazy. But find a way to love your malcognitos as much as your wonderful, perfect, shiny ideas. You’ll never get anywhere without a million terrible ideas. They are a part of you and the process. As much as you can, embrace them.
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo? - Mustard
Night or Day? - Day
Inside or Outside? - Outside
Dogs or Cats? - Dogs
Twitter or Facebook? - Twitter
Ebook or Paperback? - Paperback
Sun or Rain? - Rain
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? - Keyboard
Comedy or Drama? - Comedy
Chips or Chocolate - Yes
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