Today, we welcome Kekla to the blog to answer some questions about her latest release. Welcome, Kekla! To start, what elements do you think make a great middle grade novel, and which of them did you put in The Season of Styx Malone?
The key elements of a middle grade novel are a beginning, middle, and end! More precisely, an engaging beginning, a middle that makes sense and raises stakes, and a satisfying ending. Hopefully I managed to get all three, plus humor and heart, which make the story more enjoyable and memorable.
Who’s more fun to write, villains or heroes? Or do you prefer a mixture of both?
I don’t do a lot of villains. I did a few in my Robyn Hoodlum Adventures series, and that was fun. People say “the villain is the hero of his/her/their own story” for a reason. Once you start getting into the viewpoint of the antagonist, and see things from their perspective, it changes the story in good ways. A character who means well and is a good person, like Caleb’s dad in The Season of Styx Malone, can still be an unwitting antagonist, and I enjoy the complexity of that type of relationship. It feels much more real to me than a villain who is truly evil or simply up to no good.
What’s your process for coming up with character names?
I wing it. My viewpoint characters usually exist as “I” for a while until a name comes to me and I decide to stick with it. Some people put a lot of energy into naming, but I really don’t. It’s just whatever comes to me. Occasionally the name itself will spark the character, as was somewhat the case with Styx Malone.
What’s the most memorable summer you had as a kid? Did those memories help when you were writing The Season of Styx Malone?
My most memorable summer times were spent at the camp I went to for a week each summer from fourth grade through high school. In college, I volunteered as a counselor and later served on the summer staff. It was a dream come true to spend entire summers at camp! I still enjoy camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming, and all the fun activities I first experienced there. The camp is located in rural Indiana, where Styx Malone is set. The backyard bonfire that the boys enjoy with their family is perhaps a nod to this connection.