Today Stitch gets to chat with an author who writes about cats – Jenny Kalahar, lets meet her:

Jenny

When did you decide to become an author and what impact has this had on your life?
As soon as I was able to string words together I was writing some pretty bad poetry. The poems led to short stories and a radio play that was performed and aired when I was in college. I had a few poems published as a young person, but after marrying a rare book dealer I concentrated on selling other authors’ books for a long time. A few years ago I started submitting poetry again and had some published in journals and newspapers and participated in readings. Eventually I formed a poetry-writing group in my local area. During this time I rediscovered some handwritten pages from nearly fifteen years ago, the first pages of a novel that I would turn into Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats. Since completing that novel I’ve written most of two other novels – a sequel to Shelve Under C and the first book in another series set in a school in Iceland for kids with one very peculiar talent. Since my book came out the change in my world is, in some ways, not very noticeable. I still work as a used/rare bookseller, I still enjoy my animals and I still have to do the dishes and the everlasting laundry. In other ways, though, life seems very different. I feel like a part of my soul is hanging out on a tree limb, exposed to the wind, which is a little scary. But I’ve heard from readers from around the world and I’ve met several wonderful authors during the last year. I have readers waiting for the sequel and cheering me on. How could I ask for anything more?

It’s always fun to dig out the old half written manuscripts and see where they lead you.

Tell us about your latest work and what motivated you to write it:
I’m currently wrapping up the sequel to Shelve Under C. My first novel was inspired by my experiences of helming a used and rare bookshop in a university town in Ohio. There we partnered with our local cat shelter to foster cats in our store until they found great, new homes. They were free to roam the aisles and our customers could get to know them in a relaxed atmosphere away from the shelter. The cats no longer had to be confined to cages, yet were still under the protection of the shelter as to medical care and screening of potential adoptive families. We found new homes for more than fifty cats over the years (and yes, we kept a few). I wanted to write a novel to promote this idea of businesses as fostering sites. It helps keep humane societies virtually kill-free, too. Other businesses in that town fostered dogs and even rabbits. My sequel continues to feature fostered cats, and it, again, gives a real glimpse into the everyday life inside a bookshop. The customers, the neighboring business people, the sales and work of bookselling and the fun of book collecting. The sequel delves deeper into the background of the characters, and the shop’s apprentice, a boy named Kris, experiences more of what it is to be a book dealer.

Fantastic way of promoting such wonderful work.

What are your future aspirations as an author?
I’d like to keep working on the two series I have underway and to also put out a book of my humorous/whimsical poetry. I have “serious” poems, as well, but I’d like to have one collection in print of my lighter stuff. Titles like: “The Museum of Tragical Hairstyles”, “The Cartoon Cat Retirement Home”, “Zombies Ate My Cereal”, “One Mile North of Normal”, and “Three Little Withdrawn Pigs” would be featured.

All sound very interesting.

Where do your ideas come from? What experiences or aspects of your life influence your writing?
Ideas for poems come from things that I’ve encountered that struck me as odd, interesting, funny or moving. Sometimes I think I hear something, but it turns out to be, in actuality, something entirely different and far more boring that what’s been misheard. I’ve had some very sad times in my life and I have written poems and stories about them as a way to move through the emotions, but my favorites of my own writings tend to be those that are witty or odd. And I love throwing unexpected things into my poems. Like with “Natural Science Lessons for the Gullible” I have some real biology mixed in with the goofiness.

Science should be goofy!

What do you do to improve yourself and a writer?
I like to edit. I do. Some writers want the first draft to be perfect. I like to write with my eyes closed a lot of the time with poetry. Let it just flow. And then I’ll tweak and rewrite until it feels like I’ve gotten to the real bone of what I wanted to convey. With my novels I will sometimes rewrite my paragraphs a dozen times or more or even rearrange them within a chapter. As to the process of writing, I’d say my technique is to write as if the story were taking place around me as I sit on a chair within each scene. I take time to look at the characters. I let them react and fight, laugh and tease. I work to remember what each voice should sound like and where each character pauses or overreacts. Each of them should have a history and their own set of lungs to breathe with; their own heart. Needless to say, I get overly-attached to them and I hate to set them free into the world before they’re really ready. For example, the sequel I’m finishing now is the second. I threw out my first sequel because I just didn’t love it enough. Will this new sequel actually be published? I think it will. I do love it this time.

Liking to edit… wow, wish I had that skill!

Where can people contact you?
I’m on Twitter a little bit, I have an author page on Facebook, and my personal website is http://www.jennykalahar.com

Did you publish with a traditional publishing house or did you go the indie route?
I held on to my novel for a couple of years, just letting it sit on my computer all by itself. My husband finally talked me into putting it out as an ebook and then, after getting some very nice reviews, I published it as a softcover.

Always good to have someone support you dreams.

What works best for you when writing? Meaning do you outline or write freely when you feel inspired to do so?
I just sit and write. I take notes when I’m not at the computer and when I am I do work on those jotted-down ideas. When I’m washing dishes or cooking sometimes things will occur to me – details or questions that I didn’t answer for the reader. I write myself directions or those questions to make it simpler for myself when I do sit down to write. I have never, ever outlined a story or poem or novel. Is it the right thing to do? Probably. But I just like to sit and let the story flow of its own accord, finding out what’s going to happen as it happens. I’ve been surprised a lot, but that’s a good deal of the fun!

Writing is always fun. Thanks for joining us here at Stitch Says. We will post a review tomorrow, in the meantime keep reading, keep writing!

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