I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Kami Kinard, author of the just released middle grade novel, The Boy Project. Her book, published by Scholastic, landed on shelves Jan. 1, 2012.
First, here is the blurb on Goodreads:
Thirteen and wildly creative, 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."
1. What inspired you to write a middle grade/tween novel?
I was inspired to write this novel after reading my old middle school diaries. The diaries helped me to remember those tween feelings. But back when I was in middle school, I would have never been brave enough to do what my main character does.
2. Did you use personal experiences? Yes! The diaries! How did you get tween info? My son was in middle school at the time, so I overheard some good stuff! And I asked a lot of questions.
3. What is you writing process like? Do you outline or free flow? I usually free flow until I am about halfway done. Then I’ll sometimes do chapter summaries to get to the end. I outline loosely every now and then, but I didn’t do that for this book. After I finish a first draft, I usually revise heavily. I keep revision notes in notebooks and am meticulous about going back through that first free flowing draft.
4. Were you a part of any writing groups, critique, SCBWI, etc? While I was writing this manuscript I was part of three writing groups, one local (I was the only children’s author) and two online groups. I only shared this manuscript with the local group. I think I read them about 20 pages, just to see if the manuscript was as funny as I thought it was. You can’t get a real-time reaction like this with an online group. They were laughing their heads off when I read it, so I decided I’d nailed the humor.
The online groups I was in are wonderful and filled with smart, accomplished women. They helped me with other manuscripts that will hopefully make it into the world! Because of a family crisis, I had to drop out of all three groups last spring. (One kept me on as an honorary member.) I also have a friend or two who I do full manuscript exchanges with. This doesn’t happen often, but it is good to have someone give you big picture advice.
I am also a member of SCBWI, and I had the first 10 pages of this manuscript critiqued by editors twice at conferences. One told me I used too many exclamation marks. She was right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The other suggested I add some charts and graphs. She was right too!!!! I’m a believer in listening to critiques and taking suggestions. But in the end, I do make my own choices.
5. What book inspired you as a child? I loved Lloyd Alexander’s imagination. One of my favorite characters was Nancy Drew. I admired her intelligence and spunk.
6. What advice do you have for other writers out there? Besides reading lots of good books, it is important for you to always want to improve your craft. You need to find other writers who are better than you to emulate. And you need to recognize that there are writers out there who are better than you. I’ve learned a lot by going to conferences and workshops and I’ve also learned a lot from some very kind mentors over the years. Luckily, I love to learn, so this part of writing is also fun and fulfilling to me!
For more information about Kami, check out her website at www.kamikinard.com