Interview with CJ Kinton

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Massachusetts and spent a lot of time in the woods. My first poem was published when I was in fourth grade and it was about the forest... nature and environment has always been a main topic of my writing.
When did you first start writing?
About as soon as I could wield a pen I guess!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Is there ever a time when I'm not writing?!
I like being outdoors in ways that don't require spending money - hiking, biking, swimming. Traveling and experiencing the world. And I love music in all forms, especially live.

I also enjoy movies, cooking, reading and art of various types... drawing, painting, and the past few years I've been creating wire-wrapped jewelry using natural shells, stones and sea glass, which I make and sell on the beach.
Who are your favorite authors?
I've read a lot of Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Stewart, Dan Brown, Sue Grafton and Gerry Boyle. John Varley's Titan series. A.A. Attanasio is one of the most unique and poetic writers I've ever encountered and has been a huge inspiration. David Brin has done some cool stuff, and Richard Adams, and Richard Bach. Tolkien of course. Alexander Key and Mary C. Jane did a lot of fantastic pre-teen / young teen books back in the day which I still like reading. And yeah, I enjoyed Harry Potter (JK Rowling), the Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) and Twilight (Stephenie Meyer) series, and Meyer's The Host. I could really go on for awhile but I'll stop here!
Sorry there aren't a lot of more recent authors on this list but lately I've been reading less and living / creating more.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I actually don't own an e-reader and never have! Maybe I should get one?
What's the story behind your latest book?
I'd always wanted to write a novel... never thought I could. A little book called No Plot? No Problem! changed that. It's by Chris Baty who went on to found NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I highly recommend it every time someone says they've always wanted to write a book. It changed my life.

Later that year I participated in NaNoWriMo. I went to my friend's cabin on the coast of Maine for a week and walked on the beach and wrote. I didn't come anywhere close to turning out a 50,000 word novel but what I did do was identify the REAL story that was in my head, which was Edge. I started writing something totally different, but suddenly The Story woke up and grabbed the steering wheel and said "we're going this way." I'm told that's fairly common for writers. It was during that retreat I wrote what became the harpy scene in Edge.

Some elements of the first story I started ended up in Edge, but most of it remains part of that other story... which I still hope to write some day after the Edge series is done. Both are stories for a rapidly transforming world... my way of trying to make a difference for our world.
What is your writing process?
Calling it a 'process' is a stretch.
For Edge, I used a very detailed outline because there's so much going on. I also wrote a lot of snapshot scenes as they hit me and then strung them together or inserted them into the manuscript.
At one point I made a quick and dirty chapter outline, sort of a timeline, with bullets, to help with the sequencing of events.

For the actual writing, I found that it often worked well for me to use outline style... very sparse and brief, just to move the plot along and get past any writer's block. Sort of a stereotypical postcard style, almost. Then I'd go back and fill in.

As to the story itself, I was definitely just a channel for it. Repeatedly, I'd write something and then immediately see a scientific article about how it had just been discovered. One example is clear solar cells. Another is the recent buzz around microbes. It was really kind of mind-blowing.
Describe your desk
I'm currently still a nomad writer so my desk might be a cafe table, library table, or my lap. I much prefer cafes over libraries. When I'm in a house I prefer to work at the kitchen table. But I do most of my writing in my car, sitting in the front seat with my legs crossed or propped on the dash! So, if you call that my 'desk,' we can say my dashboard shrine has: a blue stone from Santa Barbara, an amber crystal given to me by another nomad, a small crocheted bag containing a round blue and gold stone mandala painted with fish and whale tails by the famous whale researcher Roger Payne, two crow feathers and a few sprigs of lavender flowers tied together with a ribbon, and a salamander stick (a piece of driftwood from Vermont that looks like a salamander... I love salamanders).
Dangling from my rearview mirror is a special huge striped limpet shell from Second Beach in La Push... in the movie 'The Way' they talk about people who hike El Camino de Santiago having a shell tied to their pack, as a symbol of a traveler and pilgrim. I liked that and shortly thereafter this special shell came to me and I knew that was what it was. Keeping the shell company is a black feather with a subtle hint of deep blue (from a Stellar's Jay). There are also a pair of lizards that are actually simple keychain bottle openers (I love lizards too) and a small clear crystal that has hung in every car I've ever owned... like Flick in Edge, it's my offering to the automotive gods to keep my cars running.
My favorite place to park and write is by the waters of Puget Sound.
How do you approach cover design?
Ahhhh, super important piece! People really do judge a book by its cover of course. A cover is a critical communications device, and overall atmosphere was important to me.The design was very much a gift from the universe, almost as if I was told what to do... for awhile I was finding black crow feathers every time I turned around, in an uncanny and beyond-coincidence way. I'd come back to my car and find one lying right beneath the door.

I knew I wanted black, and I knew I wanted simple. If you go onto Google images and look at young adult book cover thumbnails, they are mostly faces and people, mostly busy and they all just blur. I wanted something clean and uncomplicated that would stand out in the crowd.

I was blessed with an amazing and professional design team. Jim Toohey is a brilliant photo wizard, he built a mysterious black box of some sort to accomplish the near-miracle of making a floating black feather stand out on a black background. Then Emma Salguero manipulated it, curving the feather in a super weird Edgy way, and reduced the size to give the cover a delicate, romantic overtone. Will Coleman absolutely captured the yearning I wanted for the hand, and poor Aria Kelly, our hand model, was standing patiently with her hand up for so long that it went numb!

I think the cover captures a lot of emotion and delivers a lot of information, while still allowing the viewer room for interpretation. It also is a nice balance of yearning romance (hand and feather) with a sharp thrilling edge (title and black background) which hopefully will speak to both male and female readers. There's a ton of story-connected symbolism going on, but I won't give any spoilers!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
This is my first novel, so, hard to say.
But making a soundtrack for the book really went over well. I wasn't thinking of it as a marketing technique when I came up with the idea but it doubled nicely as one. It's pulled in a lot of people and drummed up a lot of interest in the book. I'm not sure if the book can live up to the soundtrack actually!

If the book does well though, I can take soundtrack artists with me on book tours and do combination reading and music shows.That would be fun.
What are you working on next?
Book Two of the Edge saga is about half written. It will be a four-book series.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I'm not entirely sure it gives me joy to write, but it gives me joy to be a writer - does that make sense? It's hard work and lonely work, with lots of late silent nights, exhaustion and frustration. Not to mention financial struggles. Also, writers have an enormous responsibility, especially now, with what they write and how it will affect our world. But there's also something very Bohemian about it... sitting in an open air cafe on a sunny day, or inside on a rainy one, with your coffee and journal... walking by the water to find inspiration. And those positive-negative aspects generate the electricity that keeps us charged.

I love seeing other writers with pen and journal, or even laptop, in a cafe or on the sea wall. It's so romantic. I wonder what their life is like, what they are writing. Just seeing them makes the world a more enchanting place. They're busy writing dreams into our reality, because that's what writers do, and what could be more magical than that?
Published 2016-09-05.
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