When she isn't wrangling her toddler or covered in messes, Kayla Marie writes and tries to manage a career as an indie author. For her, writing is a way to escape the everyday stresses of life and it creates a welcome challenge on a daily basis. As our author of the day, Kayla Marie chats about her debut novel, Mended and reveals what it takes to create believable characters.
Please give us a short introduction to what Mended is about.
Though heartbroken over her husband’s traumatic death, Ashley has no time to grieve. She struggles to make ends meet and to control her troubled teenage son, Emmett. Desperate to help him turn his life around and to regain any semblance of the connection they used to have, she uproots their life in the city and moves to a small southern Alabama town, hoping for a fresh start. Just when her hopeless situation seems unlikely to change, help arrives in the form of a southern contractor named Wade, who just might be the answer she didn’t know she was looking for.
Mended is a romance, but it is also much more. It’s a story of personal struggle, acceptance, and love in every form. Emotions run deep and readers can relate to realistic characters as they go on their personal journeys to find healing in their lives.
Both Ashley and Wade are plagued by a sad past. Why did you write their characters this way?
I wanted to create characters that could not only relate to each other because of their difficult pasts, but also to give them the opportunity to find healing and a brighter future together. I wanted to portray that no one is truly broken and there is always hope no matter how dark things might seem
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about
For a long time my husband and I were brainstorming different options for the cover, but none of our ideas seemed to fit. Since Mended was my first book, I was really out of my element and I didn’t want to hire a designer until I had some semblance of a vision. So, I decided to look at some premade covers in hopes that I might get some inspiration. When I spotted Mended’s cover in Damonza’s collection of premades, I got chills, and then I got giddy, and then I got out my credit card. I just knew it was the one.
I loved the colors and the font, and I truly wanted to change nothing about it. It was perfect. When I see the cover, I see a heart that was once broken, being put back together again. In other words, a mended heart. I wanted my readers to envision the process of a heart healing from the moment it was broken to the point of being whole again. Healing is a process and I think Mended’s cover gives a good depiction of that.
What is your secret to creating a hero readers could fall in love with?
My goal with creating my characters was to try to make them as authentic and genuine as possible. That means that they are nowhere near perfect. They all have their unique flaws, silly quirks, and issues they are trying to overcome, but at the same time their hearts are true and their intentions are pure. This combination of traits made me fall in love with my characters not only because of who they are, but also because I was able to make deep connects with them. It was these connections that made me want to root for them and cheer them on, even when they made choices that frustrated me. I can only hope that readers will feel the same way.
(Making Wade a hardworking southern gentleman who knows his way around a power tool, didn’t hurt either!)
Family values run deep in this book. Why did you find it an important topic to explore?
I chose to focus on family values because I think—especially when we’re growing up—the loving support of our families is key to our development and personal well-being. Our families are often our first teachers, and it’s the interactions we have that essentially molds us into who we are. A loving and supportive family can make a huge difference when facing life’s challenges, but a dysfunctional or even abusive family-life can hurt us and set us up for future hardships.
Before I started writing, I worked with troubled youth and their families in the community, as well as incarcerated youth at our county juvenile hall. It broke my heart to see how lost some of these children were because of their unstable home life. The lack of positive role models, attention and support from the family members greatly affected them, often leading them to lash out and make poor choices. These kids often found themselves on a hard track that easily turned them into serial offenders and set the course of their lives forever.
Hardship and adversity can hit any one of us, but if we have a loving family who supports us and always has our best interest at heart, we are much more likely to come out the other side unscarred and ready to face whatever comes next. Now, I’m not talking exclusively of blood-related families. I believe that any authentic and unconditional support network can be just as powerful. This is what I wanted to convey in Mended and I hope this message both reaches and inspires my readers.
What is the most romantic thing you have ever experienced personally?
Aside from when my husband proposed to me, the most romantic things he’s done for me are the little things that come from his heart. The things that show me he’s still making an effort even after years of marriage. For example, leaving love notes with silly sketches for me on the kitchen counter, and buying me a laptop when I decided I was going to be a writer and an “I’m the boss” coffee mug when I made the decision to self-publish.
He always has my best interest at heart and he’s the first one to cheer me on when it comes to achieving my dreams. It’s all the little things like this that makes me know how much he still loves me and I’m so lucky to have him as a husband.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Since life as a mom, writer, entrepreneur, etc. is incredibly busy, I’ve gotten really good at cooking anything and everything in a crock pot. Also multi-tasking and writing through the worst of distractions.
This was your debut work. What has the experience been like?
Writing Mended was both a difficult and amazingly inspiring experience. After quitting my day job to stay home to raise my son, I felt a bit lost. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being with my son, but I’m the type of person who needs ambition and intellectual challenge in my life to feel fulfilled. I was in need of something more. Writing became that “more” I needed and after enough late nights and early mornings at my computer, Mended was born, along with a new passion that I couldn’t get enough of.
A lot of the time I had no idea what I was doing (and often I still don’t), but it gave me a great opportunity to learn a lot of new things about the industry and about myself as a person. I’ve learned that if I set my heart on something, I can do it no matter how tired I am or clueless about what I’m supposed to do next. I don’t know if writing will be a life-long career for me, but I it will always be something I really enjoying doing and will come back to time and time again.
You managed to take readers through the gamut of emotions in this book - making them want to laugh and cry and even scream. How did you pull this off?
I honestly don’t have a secret. Just as does life, I think all great books have a variety of emotions and I wanted to portray that in mine. I think in order to make a book as realistic as possible, it has to take you on an emotional roller coaster just as life often does. I wanted to delve into deep emotions and great sadness, but in order to do that I had to find a balance. Most people don’t want to read a sob story, so I needed to create some silliness, and definitely a whole lot of warm fuzzies to balance out the seriousness of the message.
Tell us about your writing habits. Are you a plotter or pantser, do you have a favorite writing spot and time of day to write? Do you listen to music while you write?
When I start a new story I try my best to plan out the main plot points first to get a basic outline of what I want to include. I like to write a general chapter outline, but my ideas are never set in stone until I sit down to write. Once I get in the flow of it, my characters often take me completely different places than I’d originally thought.
With Mended, I generally got up around 6:00 AM and wrote for an hour or two until my son woke up. Then I would be on mom duty until his nap time at 1 and I would get another solid 3 hours to write. (He was a great napper at the time). Sometimes, I’d write some in the evenings as well, and spend most of the weekend writing when my husband was home.
But my son has gotten older and less sleepy and I’ve had to make some adjustments. There are no more quiet mornings because he wakes up before I do and most days there aren’t naps. I try to get some writing time in intermittently throughout the day, whenever I can find something to occupy his time long enough, but as you might expect with toddlers there are many interruptions and the opportunity is much sparser than it used to be. Still, I make time for writing each and every day because I promised myself I’d write at least 3 books and I don’t like breaking promises to myself. Also, because writing it what I love to do and I think it’s important to take time for ourselves to do the things that inspire us.
I do listen to music when I write, but only to drown out all the noise and distractions at home. Ideally, I’d work in relative silence or somewhere out in nature, sipping a refreshing beverage and soaking up the sun. The reality is I write in our office/storage room/spare room that has no door with one eye on my toddler at all times.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on the second standalone book in my Sweet Home Dixie Series. I’m calling it Survivor and I anticipate it being released this fall. Some of our beloved characters from Mended will be back, but the main focus is the story of Reid and a new female protagonist who may just have more secrets than the man himself.
How did you select the names of your characters?
Since Mended is set in Southern Alabama, I read through thousands of names on an official list of southern surnames and looked at websites that listed southern baby names. In the process, I found a few contenders for our second child if the time comes, so bonus!
What was the hardest scene to write in Mended?
I had a really hard time deciding how I wanted to write the love scenes, mainly regarding choosing how much detail to provide. What kept me on the right track was thinking, “Am I comfortable my mom reading this?” In the end I decided to go into as much steamy detail as I could without feeling like I had to avoid people’s eye contact at the next family reunion.
How long did it take to write Mended?
Mended is a little over 94k words and it took be about three months of writing 30+ hours per week to write the first draft and an additional four months to make edits and rewrites. I think it took about six or seven drafts before I eventually called it quits and got ready for release.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I adore chatting with my readers and I always welcome them to message me on Facebook or send me emails at firstname.lastname@example.org
Readers can find out more about me and my work, along with all the ways they can contact me by visiting my website www.kaylamariebooks.com
Readers can also get updates and information about contests and giveaways by subscribing to my newsletter on my website. Right now I have a special offer running: when you subscribe you get the first 21 chapters of Mended absolutely free. Click here to sign up and get this limited time offer: http://www.kaylamariebooks.com/specialoffer.html
You can also connect with me on Social Media. Here are those links for you:
Additional Info to Include:
You can get Mended on Amazon.com for only $0.99 until Tuesday, April 18
Click here to get your copy on Amazon.com (URL: https://www.amazon.com/Mended-Southern-Romance-Sweet-Dixie-ebook/dp/B01N7FP9MH/