This week on "Finding Fiction Friday" I'm very pleased to present a first for me ... our first Young Adult author is here on the blog to talk about his work and experiences. So please join me in welcoming Kennedy Streath to our little abode here on the internet ...
Kennedy Streath writes with gritty realism, exploring that intersect where the paranormal and the suspension of disbelief take a back seat to the power of the spirit and the raw edges of conflicted souls. He moves to the backbeat that’s a heartbeat, blending action, suspense and intensely sensual romance.
Kennedy lives in the country with horses to ground that spectre of disquiet that haunts us all and holds to a belief in the promise of the young and young at heart.
Kennedy, how did you get started writing, and what did it feel like when you learned that your first story had been accepted for publication?
My day job always included a lot of writing, technical writing to be exact (and if you think that’s not terribly creative, you should try it sometime, you might be surprised). But before writing, I was a reader (books, cereal boxes, ads on the el, graffiti), then came basketball and puberty. Cue large gap for growing and self-actualization. It wasn’t until the advent of email as a serious form of communication that I rediscovered the Muse-of-storytelling, typing little homilies to entertain co-workers or friends or family (my boss was on the To: list and enjoyed the stories also, so big whew). That was followed by the inevitable: oh, you should be a writer… Strangely enough, the corollary: and we will buy whatever you write was never part of that compact (fellow authors are nodding their heads in agreement).
I prefer writing ‘short’, a condition inherited from my tech writing roots with just the facts, ma’am as the order of the day. However, once I understood ‘channeling’ and allowing those voices in my head free rein, well… short became long and a novel was born.
That said, my very first acceptance was a contemporary romance of the romcom variety with a conditional woohoo attached: bump the heat from behind closed doors to melt linoleum. [Did you know there’s a thesaurus for erotic words?]
All I can say is … this writing gig ain’t for the faint of heart.
What’s your favorite writing environment? At a desk, on the couch with your feet up, music or not, etc.?
The living room. Why? It’s close to the refrigerator, in front of the 42” flat screen/DVR/stereo. Basically, he did it in a Barcalounger with a laptop and a wireless mouse. Accessorize with an iPod and sound deadening earphones, a beverage and a long attention span.
Writing’s hard. There’s no need for the body to suffer.
What about being published and the book industry in general has most surprised you?
In the beginning there were the Big Six and we had gatekeepers and the gatekeepers were wise and savvy about the market and editors were treated like rock gods and authors made squat but had bragging rights.
In the beginning an author who published could crow, “I am a published author,” and s/he had street cred, a cache, respect, and an honored place amongst the literati [some might say ‘when pigs fly’ but that’s only one opinion among many].
That was then, this is now: writing as craft now takes a secondary, even a tertiary place to promoting and marketing and branding and fan-building. Not that old time authors didn’t do their fair share in terms of signings or library appearances, newspaper articles, perhaps appearances on college campuses, but today the bulk of your time is spent in those activities trying to outshout a din of voices clamoring for the 19% of the population who actually read a book (the average number of books, depending on the survey, appears to be about two a year).
In truth, the biggest surprise is that the odds of hitting it big in a literary sense are about the same as hitting the Powerball lottery (maybe less).
‘They’ say: continue writing, write a good book…
My question is: if I write a good book but no one knows about it … is it still a good book?
So you’ve got your first publication, the book “Roman”, the first book in the “Saints and Sinners” series. Tell us about this book and what it was like writing a Young Adult paranormal book.
Roman (Saints and Sinners) is foremost a book about belief and the consequences we face when choices are thrust upon us at times when we are least able to understand or handle them.
In a dying town, two teens marked by the townspeople as broken struggle with the burden of lies masquerading as truth. Not even a man of faith is strong enough to hold back the coming darkness.
Fresh out of three years in juvie, the only friend Roman has is Father Marcus. The priest convinced the court to remand the troubled teen to Benedict Nowak's supervision. Roman has to keep his head down and his nose clean. Not easy for a teen with anger management issues and a secret that could lay waste to an intricate web of deceit and lies.
Roman has three strikes against him. His Hispanic heritage makes him a target for racism and hate crimes. It's rumored his brothers have ties to the Trinitarios and the Bloods, running drugs and guns down the lucrative northeast corridor. The third strike is a well-kept secret, locked away in the bowels of a bureaucracy unwilling to confront a threat that will challenge even the bravest men of faith.
And only Roman and Father Marcus think they know why the boy was set free...
At age five TJ had a choice. She chose wrong. For eleven years she has been the whipping post for a woman with ice in her veins and a single-minded devotion to her career. Her older brother, Anton, was the next best thing to a parent until he chose service to country and left her to the shrinks and a jailer masquerading as a housekeeper.
At age sixteen, TJ had another choice. She chose to pull the plug, unwilling to watch the mother she hated suffer any longer. On the day they buried the ice queen, TJ's father and Anton took her home to Montville to rejoin the family that had discarded her like so much trash.
From her life on the tony Main Line in Philadelphia to the sere wastes of Montville in the center of coal country, TJ's journey will be more than just a culture shock.
Before Anton leaves to rejoin his squad in the Stans, he warns her off the strange young man who lives atop her father's garage. She's more than happy to oblige, except events force her to re-evaluate how she looks at the arrogant and intriguing Roman Rincon.
For older young adults and adults, this story will take you through a dark and perilous journey of the mind and heart. It will take you to the place where more than faith will be tested when it comes time to choose.
What character, other than the main ones, are you most excited for readers to meet in “Roman”?
TJ’s mother (the dead one) is one of my favorite characters because her daughter’s experiences and memories of growing up dysfunctional and emotionally abused by her inform not just the teen’s character but also drive much of the plot. Eleanore made choices that reverberate and resonate with Benedict (TJ’s father), the priest and even Anton, TJ’s brother.
Her character was also a challenge to write because much of who and what she is/was has been filtered through TJ’s perceptions. We learn more about actual events through Benedict (her dad), but his perceptions are also skewed and tinged with anger, confusion and emotional conflict.
The next book in your series is tentatively titled “Anton”. Will characters from the first book appear in the second?
All of the characters from Roman recur in ‘Anton’, but with the focus more on TJ’s brother and the consequences of aligning himself with Father Marcus as a warrior against the powers of evil threatening to destroy his world. As with TJ, Anton’s belief’s will be sorely tested, as will his relationship with Marsha, the battle-scarred woman who is his center and moral compass.
TJ’s friend from school, Manny, will also take on a pivotal role as he vies for more than simple friendship with TJ.
And of course, there is Roman, as enigmatic as ever.
What do you feel is the biggest thing to keep in mind when writing for Young Adults, other than the obvious ones like keeping explicit sex to a minimum? What’s key to reaching that target audience?
Teenagers, young adults, have exactly the same concerns, the same fears, misgivings, cravings, emotions, and conflicts as adults. In today’s world they have a level of cognition and experiences I couldn’t conceive of at that age. The YA ‘genre’ should never ‘dumb down’ a topic or a storyline just because the reader is a teen. YAs love strong, conflicted characters who are like them, who face the same problems they do (bullying, coming to terms with their sexuality, with who/what they want to be, with parental and societal expectations). And more than a ‘happy ending’, what they need is a measure of hope and an acknowledgement that it’s alright to make mistakes, that learning from those mistakes and moving forward is the best course of action. It might be messy, it might not fit in the box, but if it’s ‘real’ it will resonate with them.
Do you have any other upcoming works or even just ideas bouncing around in your head?
I sublet apartment space in my head to quite a cast of characters, all with stories and all demanding face time.
I have two books on deck, aside from Anton (Saints and Sinners). One is a M/M SciFi titled The Captain’s Consort and the other is a Highland romance titled The Laird’s Ward.
I like writing in the paranormal and dark urban fantasy genres because the rules do not require happy endings, the characters have quite a lot of room for growth, the conflicts come hard, fast and unrelenting, and there’s emphasis on action-adventure with a side of mystery and suspense.
What does your family think of your writing career so far?
My son is my biggest supporter and he is the one I rely on to keep me on the straight and narrow when it comes to continuity and suspension of disbelief. He is my go-to beta reader, my first pass editor, and most trusted critic.
The rest of the family? “That’s nice, dear.”
To close the interview, I have ten questions for you, plus one. (Yes, this set goes to eleven.) Here they go!
- What is your favorite word? Write
- What is your least favorite word? Don’t
- What turns you on? Well-toned bodies.
- What turns you off? Vacuous giggles
- What sound or noise do you love? My horse chuffing in my ear
- What sound or noise do you hate? Brake retarders
- What is your favorite curse word? Fuck
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Rancher
- What profession would you not like to do? Walmart greeter
- If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “You got it wrong about the molting, you know that, don’t you?” [If you read the book, this will make sense.]
- What question have you never been asked, that you wish someone would ask you? “Is Rowan gay?”
Kennedy Streath, thanks so much for spending time with us. Can you let us know where to follow you, and where we can go to purchase your work?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00ANS0U90
Kindle US http://amzn.to/T8YFml
B&N Nook http://bit.ly/13bWWS9
Rudy and Trish are the main characters in our two published short stories in the "Evernight: Romance in a World of Darkness" anthologies. You can get to know them as well as get 23 other great stories! Here's where you can find them: