I'm thrilled to present you this interview with Kristin Reynolds (K. A. Reynolds) as the publication date of her debut The Land of Yesterday from HarperCollins approaches (July 31, 2018!). Everyone please pre-order it! It's beautiful, lyrical, emotional, and so perfectly crafted! I met Kristin several years ago when we were both looking for agents, and I've been so inspired by her journey to publication.
After Cecelia Dahl’s little brother, Celadon, dies tragically, his soul goes where all souls
go: the Land of Yesterday—and Cecelia is left behind in a fractured world without him. Her beloved house’s spirit is crumbling beyond repair, her father is imprisoned by sorrow, and worst of all, her grief-stricken mother abandons the land of the living to follow Celadon into Yesterday. It’s up to Cecelia to put her family back together, even if that means venturing into the dark and forbidden Land of Yesterday on her own. But as Cecilia braves a hot-air balloon commanded by two gnomes, a sea of daisies, and the Planet of Nightmares, it’s clear that even if she finds her family, she might not be able to save them. And if she’s not careful, she might just become a lost soul herself, trapped forever in Yesterday.
1- Have you always been a writer? When and why did you start writing?
Like many authors, I feel like I’ve always been a writer. Like maybe the seed came planted within me. Writing was how I processed pain, misunderstandings, beauty. How I made sense of my world and better understood myself. I have something of a disconnect between my thoughts and mouth, trouble articulating what I want to say. This really makes for interesting conversation when I’m nervous! But when my thoughts roll down my neck, into my arm and out my fingers? My true voice flows free.
I started writing poetry very young, seven or eight, after my mother died. The older I grew, the darker my poetry became. And yet it was always an outlet. Sort of like bloodletting, but with emotions—anger, sadness, hatred, fear, the usual suspects—and always felt better once I had written. As an adult, I let my writing go until my youngest child was born, but finally rediscovered my pen. I wrote my first novel in 2011 and haven’t stopped since!
2- What was the seed from which this story sprouted? Was it different from other things you’ve written before? Similar? How so?
Goodness, that’s so hard to answer! I think The Land of Yesterday is something of a slow creeping ivy, much like the vines on the cover of the book. Sad and dark little seeds planted after my mother passed away. I have few memories of my childhood, but one is clear and sharp. Of seven-year-old Kristin writing my mum a letter on the red carpet in the basement, asking her why she died, why she left me, and when she was coming home. I stood in the center of that bright red carpet and threw it to the sky, hoping my mother would catch it in heaven. When it hit the ceiling and floated back down, I fell with it and cried. I think that letter was the first seed. Because soon after we meet my main character, Cecelia, she is writing her mother a letter, asking her why she left and when she was coming home.
This was my first middle grade book. I’d written four books before it—two adult and two YA—that were eventually shelved. So, it was 100% different than any before. Well . . . okay maybe not 100%, because this was dark and whimsical, lyrical and heart-heavy, like those before it. I love fantasy, what can I say!
3- You’ve mentioned on different places that The Land of Yesterday will appeal to fans of Coraline and The Little Prince. What other works/artists influenced your style?
Love this question because I love talking up my favorite authors. In no particular order:
*Tove Jansson: all the Tales from Moominvalley books. As a girl, I was obsessed. My gran read these to me before bed each night. I swear, their bizarre little fantasy worlds wrapped around my heart and grew the perfect foundation for the writer I would become.
*Stephen King: I was reading him at twelve and couldn’t get enough. The Dark Tower series is still my all-time favorite adult series, and The Stand is right up there for standalones. He writes people so freaking well. I learned a lot about voice and characterization from King.
*Haruki Murakami: My favorite author. He writes the way most dream. And, like dreams, one thing always means something else. He is philosophical, poetic, and his metaphor game is on point—all things I love. I learned a lot about writing what I love from Murakami’s genius.
*J. K. Rowling: I mean . . . the woman is a goddess for writing a series that changed the world. It wasn’t until I finished reading book 7 that I thought, I want to write a book. She showed my how to weave backstory and pull all the tangled threads of a story together.
*Laini Taylor: When I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit in Laini. She paints poetry in full color, stories of all my favorite things. I struggled to balance poetic language and plot for years. Laini’s books showed me this balance could be mastered. Plus, she’s an amazing human being and I still can’t believe she blurbed my book!
4- What’s your writing fuel? (Can be food related or emotionally related)
Tea, water, walking, and living. Green tea in the morning. Water all day long. Walking on the treadmill and writing helps keep my spinning mind on task. And remembering to live. To experience the real world. This last one is most important for writing, I think.
5- What’s something you’ve been wanting to share about The Land of Yesterday that no one has asked you before?
What were the former titles of The Land of Yesterday? As a HUGE name and title nerd, I really love talking about and brainstorming titles.
The original title for The Land of Yesterday was The Letter Writer. After that, The Lamplighter of Widdendream. The title I finally chose, and the one that went on sub, was The Last Paper Dahl. When we were ready for a new title, I threw some out to my editor and we both agreed that The Land of Yesterday was the way to go.
6- What are you working on next?
My second MG fantasy, THE SPINNER OF DREAMS. This is a fairytale-ish story about Annalise Meriwether, a girl with anxiety, panic disorder, and OCD, who must find the courage to battle the Fate Spinner inside an enchanted labyrinth for a chance at making her greatest dreams come true. This was a hard book to write and took two years to finish. Many times, I wanted to give up, but I felt it was too important to quit. Mental illness in middle grade is rarely explored, even less so when the main character is the one with the illness, yet it occurs more often than many might think. As a child living with these mental illnesses, I’d have loved a book with a main character whose mind and body worked like mine. A book filled with magic that gave no magical cure for my mental and physical challenges, but showed me that I could still be strong, that I was still brave, that I was magical and lovable, not despite them, but because of them. I love Annalise and I hope others love her, too.
I’m also drafting a secret project that is really different from my last two, but with a voice I really love and am really excited about!
7- What would you tell your younger writer self about the writing journey and especially the days previous to your book release?
Kristin, the path to becoming an author is going to try you like nothing else. You’re going to feel like you can’t go on. Like you’re a failure. Like nobody wants to read your words and nothing you write will ever be good enough. Like the one thing you always thought you were good at was a lie. But you mustn’t listen to these doubts. Instead, listen to your heart. To the joy you feel when opening a new document and writing down your epiphany. To writing that perfect line or paragraph that runs a tingle up your spine. To the secret smile you don at 3:00a.m when your story opens wide and shows you who you are. And, one day, when your books are on shelves and in the hands of children just like you used to be, you will know that all you went through to get here was worth it. That, in fact, without all that practice to failure and unflinching faith, you’d have never have made it. Believe in yourself. Believe in your words. Believe you are magic, and the right story will fall into place.