Monday, May 5, 2014

Author Spotlight on: Kendell Shaffer

I'm excited to introduce you today to a YA writer I met several years ago through an online class, Kendell Shaffer. A screenwriter, a teacher and most recently a radio show host (!), Kendell has combined her background in entertainment with her current hometown of Venice Beach, to create a novel that feels different from your typical angsty teen stories, totally raw and real.

Welcome, Kendell!

Let's start with the basics. How long did you work on this novel? How many versions did you go through?
I started writing the novel in the online writing class through where we met! Once I finished it I did two more drafts then sent it to an editor, Winslow Eliot. The self-publishing part was fairly quick once the manuscript was ready. I had fun with the cover art. I found a girl with blonde dreadlocks, like Kalifornia, and did a photo shoot on Venice Beach. My husband designed the cover.

I love that Frances Bean was an inspiration for writing this story and I also love the relationship that Kal develops with her dad. Who were your rock star idols growing up?
When I was a teenager, hair bands were popular and I really didn't like those. I grew up in Baltimore and the summer before 10th grade a radio station in Washington DC, DC101, played only music from the 1960s the entire summer. So my best friend Virginia and I listened to that nonstop and I gained an education and love of the music from that decade. The funny thing was that the following school year we found the boys who had the done the same thing we had, so our first boyfriends were discovered because of the shared love of sixties music.

That's so cool that the radio station focused on the sixties for the summer. I know I've dated guys based on musical tastes in the past :-)

I like how you placed your characters in a lot of real locations around Venice, almost making the city another character in the story. What made you decide to set the story there?
I live in Venice and it's so vibrant and ever changing. It doesn't know if it wants to be a beach town or Rodeo Drive or Silicone Beach or all of those at once. It's restless and unpredictable, sort of like a teenager, so yes, Venice Beach is very much a character in KALIFORNIA BLU.

Yeah, anyone who has spent time in Venice knows what a crazy, fun place it is. My kids like going just to people watch. Do you plan to set additional novels there?
I'm working on a sequel to KALIFORNIA BLU. It will take Kal at first to Europe with her mom, but then she returns to Venice and all the characters we met in the first book.

As if writing books isn't fun enough, in your other life you're a screenwriter. How does writing a novel differ from writing a screenplay?
In novels you get to take the characters much further then you would in a screenplay. You can explore details in more subtle ways and you aren't limited to the number of characters you have or pages you write.You have much more room to play and don't have to limit yourself thinking about the reality of a budget and locations.

In addition to working on VFX on "Knight and Day," you've also worked as an associate producer on several films and television shows. Do you think that production background has helped you with the business side of self-publishing?
I am finding the ability to walk up to strangers and say, "I wrote a book, will you read it?" has been helped by my living and working in Los Angeles. You can't really be shy when you do that and I have learned to be able to talk to anyone while working as a producer. The organization skills help with self-publishing; the "I can do that" attitude helps too. In production and post production you are constantly given problems that need to be solved quickly and cost efficiently. So yes, all that helps.

It definitely helped with your book trailer. The production value on this is just amazing. It's one of my favorite book trailers EVER.

Just gorgeous! It makes me want to see a movie of KALIFORNIA BLUE. I think you might need to get working on that ;-)

So tell me – what do you think is tougher: the writing, the publishing or the marketing? Why?
The publishing is a piece of cake. CreateSpace has been remarkable and they have unbelievably good customer service. Writing is just a joy. But marketing is a challenge. You have good days when something great happens like an interview with you, Sherrie, but there is no direct route so it's challenging to navigate all the different directions you could take. Also it does take time away from writing. I have a radio show once a month called WriteSpa Teen where I interview YA authors so that helps with the marketing and it's really fun!

And you've gotten to interview some incredible authors like Amy Timberlake and Jane Yolen. I'm so impressed!

So what are you working on right now? What will your next book release be?
I'm working on a sequel to KALIFORNIA BLU which will come out at the end of the summer. And I started a middle grade reader about a boy ballet dancer called THE BUN TEST. Both my kids are in a serious Russian ballet program so I spend a lot of time in the dance studio. My eleven-year-old son is the only boy in a company of 60 girls. I thought that would make a good novel.

Love the title! My son did ballet for a very short time. I told him he should have stuck with it  because there will come a day when he appreciates being the only boy in the company of 60 girls!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Kendell. It's been great catching up with you!

You can find out more about Kendell and her projects (including the upcoming Japanese translation of her novel!) by visiting some of her virtual hangouts:

Radio Show:
Buy the Book:

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