Author Spotlight: K.A. Reynolds talks The Land of Yesterday
K.A. Reynolds is on the blog and her debut is one of my most-anticipated books of 2018! THE LAND OF YESTERDAY has been described as 'tender and fantastical' and 'perfect for fans of Coraline', and the best part is that you'll be able to find it in a bookstore near you on July 31st!
And now, here's my chat with Kristin!
Hi, Kristin! Welcome and congrats on the upcoming release of The Land of Yesterday. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired you to write it?
Hi Megan, thank you for having me!
The Land of Yesterday is the story of eleven-year-old Cecelia Dahl and her fantastical, dark, and transformative journey through grief. When Cecelia’s younger brother Celadon dies unexpectedly, Cecelia feels to blame, and her life crumbles around her. Cecelia’s father sinks into depression. Her mother, unable to cope with the loss of her son, runs away to find his ghost in the deadly Land of Yesterday. Their house, an aging Victorian with a soul of its own, becomes haunted and angry at losing Cecelia’s mother, too. Finally, when Cecelia’s crushing sorrow begins turning her body into paper, it’s up to Cecelia to try and restore her broken family before the Dahls are lost for good.
The inspiration for this book came from many places: a vision I had of Cecelia when I was ready to give up writing for good; a letter I wrote my mother when I was seven, right after she died; the grief that haunted me most of my life; the house my family lived in before our lives fell apart. So many more things. Stories aren’t born in a vacuum. They come from everything we’ve ever experienced. From every nuance and fiber of who we are.
What do you love most about Cecelia Dahl?
Goodness, that is a great question! I admire her resourcefulness, drive, bravery (even when she thinks she’s not), and her fierce yet vulnerable heart. However, I do believe I love Cecelia’s long sentient midnight blue hair most of all. :)
Children see the world through a totally different lens than adults. What are your tips for writing an authentic middle grade POV?
Two things: read, read, read, and channel your inner middle grader.
1. Read a ton of different middle grade books—fantasy, contemp, anything. Listen to the cadence of the words. The beat of the lines. The vocabulary. Hear their fears and worries. Feel their innocence and determined hearts, their tears and joys. Really absorb those stories and get a feel for their beating hearts.
2. Because of trauma suffered as a child, I’ve always imagined the middle grader I used to be still lives inside me somewhere. That when the bad and scary things going on in my life were happening to me, I tucked the spirit of small Kristin deep inside of myself to hide, to protect, to survive. I carry her with me still, and feel this story might have even been written by my younger self, if that makes sense? By the middle grade Kristin still alive within me, trying to make sense of her broken world.
So maybe channel your childhood memories, look at old photos if you have them. Dig up all that old pain and easy innocent joy and remember what it was to be inside those years. Speak from the small space inside you that remembers. Dig deep, then write.
The Land of Yesterday has hands down the most beautiful dedication I’ve ever read. Did you always know who you were going to dedicate it to?
Oh my goodness—*heart eyes forever!!!* Thank you so much for saying so. :) That little dedication took me several days to write, many hours to get just where I needed it to be. And yes, as for my mother and grandmother, the two strongest,kindest, most beautiful people ever born, there was never any doubt to whom I’d be dedicating my first book.
I wanted to honor the two women who made me who I was, who I am, and who I wish to become. They saved me, in all the ways a person can be saved. They welcomed and loved me when the world was against them doing so. They fought for me when no one else would. They taught me that people, just like lanterns, can shine—and that there are people in the world who would take that light. That love cannot be measured by moments or memories, life or death. It is a light in the darkest dark. I owe my mum and gran everything and miss them both terribly, every single day. I really hope they are proud of who I have become.
The last part of my dedication was a spur of the moment occurrence, but 100% necessary. I felt badly not dedicating the book to the children I wrote it for. I needed The Land of Yesterday when I was a grieving child, and if this story help seven one, that little middle grade Kristin inside of me will likely cry for joy.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
100% keeping my mind on task. Whether it’s drafting or revising, my brain likes to bounce—here, there, and everywhere. I have *just* found something that helps,though! I got a treadmill desk attachment thing, and now while I write/revise, I slow-walk for hours at a time. Something about keeping my body occupied by movement helps my brain stay on task. It really works!
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author?
Seeing the looks on my kids’ faces when, after five years of writing, struggling, crying, failing and picking myself back up, I got an offer from my absolute dream agent, Thao Le. And not long after, an offer from HarperCollins. :) After each call, my living room looked like the house party in Mean Girls, okay? Well . . . minus the booze and vomit, but you get the picture. My kids got to see what it looked like to dream and succeed. That is SO important to me! My little writers and artists have seen with their own eyes that if you work hard and never give up, dreams can come true.
What are you reading, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Right this second, I’m reading two books:
WICKED SAINTS by Emily Duncan (Thanks Thao!), which is as amazing as everyone says.
NORSE GODS by Neil Gaiman. I’ve just started, but it looks perfect for me because . . .
My current obsession is VIKINGS on Hulu. OMG. I’m obsessed. My family is Danish and Swedish. My great Aunt traveled to Sweden and Denmark and traced our family tree really far back—all the way to a Swedish king and his, um . . . mistress. She actually wrote a book about our entire family tree, including our ancestors’ history over there. The Norseman/Pagan stories are in my blood. So much so, I *might* have zero drafted a YA story of this nature I can’t wait to get back to..
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
That I would be nowhere without my amazingly talented and beautiful writing friends, CP’s, mentors, and bookish heroes who befriended me along the way. The writing community is one of the most supportive families I’ve ever come across. If you are a writer and wish to write and publish a book, make friends. Find your people and stick with them. They will pull you out of the holes you put yourself in, and then, one day, you’ll do the same for them.
Thank you, Megan. These questions were beautiful. ❤
Many thanks go out to Kristin for taking the time to tell us more about THE LAND OF YESTERDAY, the story behind her heartfelt dedication, and her excellent tips on crafting a middle grade point of view. Be sure to add Kristin's magical book to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) preorder your copy RIGHT NOW from retail sites such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Or you can always request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,