Today I’m pleased to welcome author Clara Kensie to the blog. I hope you enjoy getting to meet Clara and don’t forget to check out her book.
1. What made you decide to start writing?
I’ve always liked to write, but never considered making a career of it until a few years ago. What made me turn that corner was my love of reading. I’d just finished reading Harry Potter, and then Twilight, and both times I was so sad when the series ended. I realized that the only way I could spend forever with characters and stories I love was to write them myself. So that’s what I did. I wrote the first two books in my Run to You series, a super-romantic YA psychic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past and a first love that transcends secrets, lies, and danger. Writing those books was the most joyous time in my life. They were published in 2014 and 2015, and I love them today as much as I loved them then. I’ve gone on to write other books, but who knows, I might continue the Run to You series eventually. I’m not ready to say goodbye to those characters.
2. Do you prefer series or standalone books?
Tough question! I mostly read standalone books. Only because there are SO many books out there and I want to read them all. I want to read that one, and that one, and oh wait, that one too! A beginning, middle, and ending, all right there in one package. But going back to Harry Potter and Twilight, sometimes I love a good, long series too.
3. What inspired your latest novel, Aftermath?
When I was twelve, a girl my age, from my neighborhood, disappeared on her way home from school. I knew about stranger danger and all that, but until then, I never really believed bad things could happen in my safe, suburban town to girls like me. It was the first time I truly felt unsafe and vulnerable. But I knew that the fear I was feeling was nothing compared to the terror the missing girl must be feeling.
Fortunately, she was found alive a few days later. She’d been kidnapped by a man who lived a few blocks away, and he kept her locked in a corner of his crawlspace. Following a lead, the police had searched the man’s house, even going into the crawlspace, but they didn’t see her, and the girl’s captor had terrorized her so much that she was too scared to call for help. The police came back later to search the crawlspace again, and she finally found the courage to cry out to them.
The girl and her family moved away immediately after her rescue, and I never learned what became of her. But I never forgot about her. I made up a story about her recovery, and that story became Aftermath. I’ve thought of her often over the years. I want to know how she survived, how she recovered, what kind of impact the experience had on her and her family. I became fascinated with the subject of recovery from traumatic events – so much so that in college, I majored in psychology, sociology, and social services, with a minor in criminal justice. Triumph over tragedy is a frequent theme in the books I write.
Although that girl’s experience inspired Aftermath, the book isn’t her story. Aftermath is Charlotte’s story. Charlotte is kidnapped just before her twelfth birthday and escapes when she’s sixteen. The book starts with her escape and follows her journey to recovery, as well as her family’s.
4. You’ve mentioned you write dark fiction for young adults, what draws you to the darker topics of life and why do you enjoy exploring them in YA fiction?
I’m drawn to the darker side of storytelling because it’s how I face my fears: safely, through fiction.
Those fears are obvious in Aftermath, but it’s true even with my Run to You series. I started reading Stephen King books when I was very young—probably eleven years old? Carrie and Firestarter are huge influences on my Run to You series. A secret government psychic agency hunts the heroine and her family like in Firestarter, and the heroine’s mom is based on Carrie, if she’d grown up without the religious fanaticism and had never gone to prom.
5. What was it like winning the RITA award?
The RITA! One of the greatest triumphs of my career, and my entire life! Against all odds, the first book in my Run to You series finaled in the 2015 RITAs in two categories: Best YA Romance and Best First Book. I sobbed for an hour, no lie, when RWA’s board of directors called to tell me. The shocked, happy kind of sobbing, obviously. And then it won for Best First Book! Nora Roberts—Nora Freakin’ Roberts!—presented me with the trophy, and I gave an acceptance speech to a crowd of 2,000 people. I held myself together on stage, but afterwards, I had another happy-sob session. That was a year and a half ago, and I still can’t believe it happened.
The best part of winning the RITA for Run to You—and I know this will surprise you—was getting my rights back to the series. Here’s how it happened, and why: When I was in New York for the RITA award ceremony, my editor and I went out to lunch, and she told me that she was so sorry that her marketing team had failed the series. They’d tried something extremely risky with it: they published the two-book series as a six-part digital serial. They released Book One in three parts, and they released Book Two in three parts. But YA readers don’t want to make six separate payments for the equivalent of two complete books, and the digital serial flopped. Epic fail. I was heartbroken. More than that—I was grief-stricken. At that lunch, my editor told me that despite their bad marketing decision, she knew it was a good series—it finaled in two RITA categories and won Best First Book, after all. She said that she believed in the series so much, and she felt so bad that they messed up the marketing, that she wanted to give me my rights back so I could find a publisher that will do a better job of getting the books into the hands of readers. Her exact words! Of course, my agent and I accepted her offer. I’ll be forever grateful to my former editor for doing that, and I respect her and love her so much. It took a while for the paperwork to go through, but I finally got my rights back to the series. The books are currently off the market while I decide what to do with them, but I promise they’ll be available again, in print. Please subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on social media to be the first to hear when the RITA-award winning Run to You series is back on the market!
6. What is one wish you have for your book?
Another tough one! One wish would be for best seller status, of course. Every author wishes for that! Beyond that, and I mean this with all sincerity: I wish that I will always find joy in writing my books and that my readers always find joy in reading them.
7. What is the best advice you would give to young writers?
There’s a lot in publishing that you can’t control: trends, luck, what categories of books the New York Times decides to include on their best seller lists, if a trade organization gives your book a good review or bothers to review it at all, how your publisher chooses to market your book, if that marketing decision will succeed or fail. So don’t waste time worrying about things you can’t control, and focus on the one thing you can control: your writing. Work hard, write what brings you joy, and write the best novel you can.
8. What can readers be on the lookout for from you next?
My first priority is getting the Run to You series back on the market. I’m also working on two manuscripts: a dual-timeline, dual-romance, dual-mystery/thriller with elements of magical realism for fans of Run to You, and a dark, ripped-from-the-headlines YA contemporary about grief, guilt, and forgiveness for fans of Aftermath. After that, I’ll tackle the other ideas that are currently residing in my head and get them down on paper.
About the Author:
Clara Kensie grew up near Chicago, reading every book she could find and using her diary to write stories about a girl with psychic powers who solved mysteries. She purposely did not hide her diary, hoping someone would read it and assume she was writing about herself. Since then, she’s swapped her diary for a computer and admits her characters are fictional, but otherwise she hasn’t changed one bit.
Today Clara is a RITA© Award-winning author of dark fiction for young adults. Her super-romantic psychic thriller series, Run To You, was named an RT Book Review Editors Pick for Best Books of 2014, and Run to You Book One: Deception So Deadly, is the winner of the prestigious 2015 RITA© Award for Best First Book.
Clara’s latest release is Aftermath, a dark, ripped-from-the-headlines YA contemporary in the tradition of Room and The Lovely Bones. Aftermath (Simon and Schuster/Merit Press) is on Goodreads’ list of Most Popular Books Published in November 2016, and Young Adult Books Central declared it a Top Ten Book of 2016.
Clara’s favorite foods are guacamole and cookie dough. But not together. That would be gross.
Find Clara online:
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About the Book:
Charlotte survived four long years as a prisoner in the attic of her kidnapper, sustained only by dreams of her loving family. The chance to escape suddenly arrives, and Charlotte fights her way to freedom. But an answered prayer turns into heartbreak. Losing her has torn her family apart. Her parents have divorced: Dad’s a glutton for fame, Mom drinks too much, and Charlotte’s twin is a zoned-out druggie. Her father wants Charlotte write a book and go on a lecture tour, and her mom wants to keep her safe, a virtual prisoner in her own home. But Charlotte is obsessed with the other girl who was kidnapped, who never got a second chance at life–the girl who nobody but Charlotte believes really existed. Until she can get justice for that girl, even if she has to do it on her own, whatever the danger, Charlotte will never be free.
Young Adult Books Central Top Ten Books of 2016
Goodreads Most Popular Books Published in November 2016
Children’s Book Review Best New Young Adult Books November 2016
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