Review and Interview of Kai Strand’s Worth the Effort

Today I’m honored to be part of Kia Strand’s release tour for her novella “Worth the Effort.” I agreed to read and review her work, and she agreed to submit to an interview about the story, so we’re both happy. Here’s the review, and if you read on afterward, you can see our fun little discussion about coffee, love, publishing, and of course… writing. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to click the link for the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Woth the EffortElla discovers a homeless teen boy living in an alley behind the café where she works, and at first he frightens her. But as time goes by she gets to know him and in the process of overcoming her fear, she also attempts to shatter the high society expectations her parents have for her. But just when she thinks she’s getting to know Ayden, she discovers his shocking secret. This story will have you turning pages to see what happens next, and even though it’s a complete story, it will leave you wanting more. And since it’s a Kai Strand story, expect a last-minute twist to keep the ending from dragging on or becoming boring.

Here’s my interview with Kai. If my less-than-award-worthy reviewing ability didn’t convince you to try “Worth the Effort,” maybe our conversation will.

Kai StrandSince you live in the Pacific North West, and Seattle is known for coffee (among other things), and coffee plays a central role in Worth the Effort, what kind of coffee do you like and how do you take it?

I adore this question! Thank you for asking it. I am a coffee drinker. 24/7 when I can get away with it. My favorite brand is Starbucks. I like my coffee STRONG and usually black. I rarely drink flavored coffee, but when I want to spoil myself, I throw some dried orange peel and a snap of cinnamon stick into the grinder with the beans. When I REALLY want to indulge, I’ll mix chocolate milk into the brewed cup of coffee. (Picture Homer Simpson drooling here)

I’m not much for flavored coffee myself, but I do love some Highlander Grog when I can get it.

For a novella, Worth the Effort has many layers of depth: themes of poor versus plenty and breaking with norms/expectations contribute to this depth. Did you set out to write a story as such, or did the layers build on their own as you wrote?

This is a tough question. I don’t know that I set out to tell this story in particular. What I did know was that I wanted a high school girl to fall for a homeless boy. It was very, very important to me that people see the underage homeless population. As the story developed I realized I needed – no wanted – more dynamics in the story itself. That is when I decided these kids needed some surprises. The irony is, that when I was doing some research for the basis of my story, visiting a transitional living shelter for teens in my area, I was told a story of a boy with a similar enough background to my fictional Ayden that I knew beyond a doubt that I’d chose the right story to tell. I actually got shivers when I was told his story. Still do!

At first, I thought this was going to be a story of love(ish) at first sight. After reading it, I realize it’s not, at least not for Ella. Do you believe in love at first sight or do you think it’s just a tool to move some plots?

I’m sorry we aren’t sitting at my local Starbucks so I could fully answer this question. First and foremost I had an instant and powerful reaction – attraction – to my now husband. Was it love? No. But I’ve never had the same experience with anyone else. So there is SOMETHING to that feeling. Different people may have a different definition for it. Second, and I’m saying this mostly because my oldest daughter would cry foul if I didn’t mention it to the world when I’ve had some very in depth conversations with her about teen love…I don’t think teen love is a real love. WAIT! PLEASE LISTEN! I think it is very real for the people who are feeling it. I think it is possible (though rare) it will mature into a lasting love. But I don’t think it is formed on proper life experiences or even with a realistic sense of time, for that matter. Can it break a heart? Absolutely. Is it everlasting? If so, why not wait and see…?

You wrote this story in first person present, the other stories of yours I’ve read have been written in third person past (my more natural writing style). Did you find it difficult to write this way?

Oh, Eric! Can I just thank you for recognizing this? It was very hard for me to write in first person present. My poor editor was like, “Wait? Why are we switching to past tense here?” and I was like, “Cause this is HARD!” Ella’s story needed to be immediate. But it was my first time writing this way. I laugh when I hear others write this way all the time and have a hard time writing in third person past. Imagine that—she asked. *wink*

In my opinion, the worst part about being an author is either promoting, or the fact that I can no longer read anything just for its entertainment value. I can almost hear my high school literature teachers in my head asking, “Why do you think the author did this?” It greatly slows down my reading time, and it frustrates me (at times), but there’s nothing I can do about it.

You self published this novella, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s this first work you’ve self published. Tell us a few things you learned while self publishing.

I learned that writing is hard. Oh wait, I already knew that. I learned that it takes a team to write a book, writer, cover artist, editor. Nope—knew that already. I learned marketing…no, already did that too. Okay, I learned book formatting. Honestly, I did so much research prior to deciding to self publish that I don’t really remember what I didn’t know before. Prior to making the decision to self pub these novellas, I read a lot about the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ so there weren’t a lot of surprises. At this point I don’t intend on leaving traditional publishing completely. I enjoy the overall experience of traditional publishing, but being a competent and capable person, I wanted to take advantage of the additional revenue stream. Especially on smaller work, like my novellas.

So this was Ella’s Story, and you tell us that Ayden’s Story is yet to come. Give us a hint of something we’ll learn with Ayden’s Story.

Ayden is the whole reason behind these two novellas. Therefore, in his story we will get to really know him. We will see even more clearly why he’s homeless. We live on the streets with him. We learn about some of the resources that are available to him (that he takes advantage of) and most important, how Ella impacts his life – which, I admit is big – and we’ll wonder if he can rise to the occasion. It was so much harder to write his side of the story than I expected it to be. I just figured I’d write the same story from his point of view, but well…that was boring! So I chose key scenes to dip into so readers can see what he was thinking when they happened. Other than that the story has to follow his life, which is nothing close to Ella’s.

Thanks for joining me, Kai, and I hope someone comes across this and finds your story interesting. But for a little more motivation, here’s a Rafflecopter giveaway.

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Ladybug Lin Holmes and Christmas Goes Green

Yes, I have a calendar just to my right, and I can see today is May first. I’m also aware very few people want to talk about Christmas at this time of year. (Only 238 more days!!!) But Christmas Goes Green by Lin Holmes isn’t some sappy Lifetime Christmas story… it’s more of an A&E type story.

Lin Holmes, affectionately known as Ladybug Lin at Muse It Up Publishing and elsewhere about the web, had dedicated herself to helping all of the authors at Muse It Up (read her review of Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud here). I wanted to do something for Lin in return, so I offered to review one of her stories (I haven’t written the review yet–but I’ll link it here when I do) and interview her about it, which is posted below. I read it one night while walking on the treadmill–an activity I despise, but Christmas Goes Green helped pass the time and even made it an enjoyable experience.

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THIS IS BOOK THREE IN A SERIES. HOW DOES IT RELATE TO THE FIRST TWO?

I began this series with the idea of subbing it to another publisher my daughter author Kat Holmes was with at that time. They only had a few themes open for new authors at the time. Horror and holiday. I didn’t want to try my hand at horror at that time, so decided to give HOLIDAY a try. 

Shortly before this a man who’d spent years as a local Santa was arrested for…well…he was just not going to play Santa ever again. That got me thinking. Retail relies heavily on their Christmas Season…what would a store owner do if Santa was arrested mere days before the BIG DAY? 

I went a step further and wondered how would the FEMALE Santa fair if she’s not physically perfect. That’s how Angie Brightwell came into being.

Luckily before I finished writing SANTA IS A LADY Kat and I learned Lea Schizas and Litsa Kamateros were opening MUSE IT UP PUBLISHING…At the end of March 2010…(March 28) I sent SANTA to Lea…less than three hours later on March 29th, I got my contract, and SANTA released on December 1, 2010…and won the 2010 Preditors and Editors 5th place award in January 2011.

Book Two: THE CHRISTMAS WAR is the story of Beck Cavington…she’s the owner of the shop in Book One that needed a Santa. In One, you’re going to want to smack her upside her head a lot. 

In this book, we find out why she behaved the way she does. She has a mother…a social climbing mother, who is determined, for her own reasons to marry her daughter off to a man she, the mother, can control before Beck turns 35, a few days after Christmas, and Beck’s inheritance is released to her. 

We’ll learn how it came to be that Angie’s family came to Northeringale allowing Angie and Beck to become best friends. Reverend Hank Childress throws a few monkey wrenches into Irene Cavington’s designs for her daughter.

At the end of Book Two, we have everyone going to Angie’s as she gives birth to her baby. There we meet the midwife, Tierney who will be the heroine in Book Three CHRISTMAS GOES GREEN. Tierney is half leprechaun, and half human witch.

ANYTHING MORE YOU WANT TO SAY ABOUT THE FIRST TWO STORIES:

I will add you’re going to LOATHE Irene Cavington, Beck’s Mom…and I think you’ll cheer for the resolution of how Irene is ultimately dealt with.

HOW IS THE RELATIONSHIP OF TIERNEY AND MARTHA LIKE YOU AND KAT?

It’s very similar…although neither of us is really petite, and neither of us have the kinds of elemental power either of those two have…WOW…if we did we’d be selling books like J.D. Robb or J.K. Rowlings already. 🙂

I’M REMINDED OF RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, BUT FOR ADULTS. WHAT INSPIRED YOUR USE OF SANTA CLAUS, CHRIS KRINKLE, LEPRECHAUNS, ETC.?

Northeringale is a land of Christmas Magic, but magic exists in many forms around the world. I wanted to bring a bit of expanded flavor to Northeringale. In Book One, Angie and Cam are our heroes. She’s a woman who’s had to survive against incredible odds, and he’s a man who’s served in Iraq, then had to fight his late wife’s Iraqi brothers to get his daughter back from their avaricious claws so he can bring her to Northeringale and give her her first magical Christmas. 

In Book Two, we have Beck, whom we wanted to smack up side her head a lot in Book One…and we have Hank…Cam’s best friend from Iraq, who just happens to be a minister and lawyer, coming to Northeringale hoping for the job of minister made available when the late minister passed on. Beck is Angie’s best friend, Hank is Cam’s. 

In Book Three I wondered what kind of EXTRA magic could I bring to Northeringale? Leprechauns, I decided, would LOVE the idea of Santa…meeting him…maybe…sneaking a peek at him as he goes about filling stockings and patting his magical reindeer…I’d already introduced Chris and his store in book one…it wasn’t too much of a leap to imagine he’s half elf half human…oh and Santa’s son…not that everyone in Northeringale would be privy to that information…But Martha, is a powerful witch…she’d recognize the magical signatures of others. 

I imagine Northeringale as a place where all kinds of magic exists. As far as I know Book three IS the finalé, but you never know. There’s all kinds of magical beings that may find their way into Northeringale in the years to come. 

SANTA WAS A BIT MORE OF A…WELL, A LADIES MAN THAN I’VE EVER SEEN HIM PORTRAYED. WHAT INSPIRED THIS CHARACTERISTIC?

Santa’s an immortal…the HEAD elf…so to speak…he and Mrs. Claus have been around for a long time. 

He spends most of his days playing with little elves…but he’s still a man when he settles in at night with his Mrs. 

Since I’d already introduced Chris Krinkle in Book One, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to make him Santa’s son. Once I did that, it wasn’t hard to imagine Santa as a matchmaker. For Santa to know enough to try his hand at matchmaking, he really needed to be established in a loving, adult relationship. It just took off from there. (Can you imagine Santa as a doting Grandfather? Hmmm I did say there MIGHT be more stories taking place in Northeringale in the future didn’t I?)