Monday, January 31, 2011

Emersed in the warmth of a million stares...

Kelli Sue Landon  is a member of an elite club; adults who have the attention of organisms younger than the age of 20. It isn't easy to call those things people, yet. Suffice it for now to use the general term YA. If you've been in a brick-and-mortar book store lately, you will know they have renamed that section, Self-Help.
That is it's entire purpose. YA books are guidelines for how to survive as fledglings.

I wouldn't really know if they work. I have Ys. I don't have YAs yet. Mine might not make it to the A designation; they've barely progressed beyond books with pictures.

I couldn't find any pictures in Kelli's book. But, I found a lot of guidelines that are well suited to the A half of the generic term. Organisms should thrive, if they could be drawn to her book, and that highest of honors could be within their grasp - Tax Payers. (YATP)

There is a secret, aparently, to writing for the A progression of the Y crowd. You must be born with the skill. A few old newspapers from her hometown brought that fact to light, in my search for who this woman was, and how she could interact with YAs without a nervous twitch. Kelli has been published before, while she was a kid! That startled me. There were other important details to be learned...I even searched in her website for more...

Fact Number One:  Kelli is only 22. You write what you know.  That's only 4 perms - in adult female terms - away from being a YA herself. So innocent, she really believes she stood on stage with Rick Springfield a few years back. Ha! He's, like, old enough to be her grandfather.

Fact Number Two:  Kelli is a psychic. She's clairvoyant. According to the Morton Police Department, Kelli Sue is responsible for the happy outcome of numerous missing persons cases in recent years. I spoke to an officer on one of her earliest cases with their department. "She told us the kid would be at the Mall, probably near the Cinnabon store, or Chic-fil-A. We found that missing kid in twenty minutes. Kelli has our respect, because she can just see things. I never was a believer before."

Kelli is young enough, that her gift of insight has not dimmed. It's obvious when you read her work - she is still 'one of them'.

I have an idea now, and Kelli is just the person I need to enlist on my team. I believe now, after reading her book 'Sudden Moves', that the YA literary movement has an untapped power. I'm all for helping these things grow up, but I'm wondering...why wait for the full benefit? We have stuff which needs doing now. I will be suggesting, here first, actually, that Kelli make some adjustments to her next YA work, now that she has established her 'connection' to her audience.  Her next book should include some subliminal phrases.

Now! I remember all the hooha back in the 70's about the 'subliminal' messages in TV commercials and movies. I protested against that, too. Nothing in my suggestion should rekindle any of the horrors of Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific Shampoo, or the misuse of Tickle Deodorant we all remember....
It could be subtly used. Hardly noticeable.....

"Would you like to go to the Mall, Candy?"
"Sure, Debbie, sounds great! Do you think Mark will be there?" she winked.
"Oh, God! I hope so! He's so dreamy!"

With the unbridled cyber fascination within the YA culture, and the growth of hand held E-book readers, Kelli could be helping to tidy rooms and improve grades all across the civilized world with automaton efficiency. I'm already feeling good about our chances for success! I just know, with her cooperation, there is a helpful best seller within "Nightmare at Camp HELPWITHHOUSEWORK  Forrestwood". Imagine the benefit when she combined her earlier works into a 'The Diary, Pizza Night, GETAJOB, Campfire Dreams" collection! K.S. Landon is already on the cusp of this new age! She has them within her grasp!

Spoiler alert: This question might give away some plot elements. It is hidden, until you select it as if to copy it. But - don't read it - until you've read the book! Silly you!
Your gripping story, of Mafia crime, and covert ‘hit men’ has a chilling reality to it. Does that come from living in Peoria, the center of FBI suspicions for a generation?
I have always been a fan of Mafia movies and believe it or not, when I started Sudden Moves, this was just going to be a rumor for the story.  Well, I saw an episode of Frasier while I was writing this.  Fraiser and his brother, Niles, enlisted an organized crime boss to get rid of Maris's traffic tickets that were piling up.  Well, this guy wanted payback from Niles later in the show.  I thought – this is it!  I had many scenarios written for the ending.

I’ve detected subtle code words in your text, reading ‘Sudden Moves’. Things like ‘cell phone’ ‘texting’ which have no apparent meaning to me. What are you trying to say with that? It that YA speak?
Texting is a household word these days – I even say it and I'm not a young adult.  Texting with a cell phone is done more than calling a person.  Sending texts are quicker without taking away minutes.  Oh and yes, young adults are doing it more and more.  Some even get carpal tunnel from it! I adjust my toupee and try again....

Define YA for us.
Young adult – to me it's the ages between 14 and 20.  Young adults are the main characters, but for Sudden Moves, it evolves into a more adult ending.

Who wrote your favorite books?
Mary Higgins Clark, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Sandra Brown and Janet Evanovich.

Did you have a dog like Buster?
No, but I grew up with a basset hound – we actually had three during my teen years.  Our first one who lived a long time was named Bosley.  Buster is my favorite dog name.

Katie – Kelli….. I could not help wondering. Naming a character so closely to your own name; are you, perhaps, too close to your writing? Could you be regressing?
This is funny – no, it's nothing like me.  I was more like Tami (named from my old school friend Tammy) and she was more like Katie!  I do have to say – I had the more strict parents like Katie.  So, there are similarities here.  Katie is a name I have always liked – in a way, wished it was my name growing up. I thought it had more of a ring to it and it's not a guy's name like Kelly is. 

I still crave Dynamints candies, but can’t find them anymore.
I forgot these even existed until I looked them up!  That took me back!

I couldn’t help giggle at your Nostalgia page, Kelli. The 70’s are not pre-historic. Haha! I still wear a few shirts I bought back then...
I love the 70's fashions!  My older brother and sister wore many – along with the old hair styles!  I love looking at our old photos.

One thing is blatantly absent from ‘Sudden Moves’.  Teenage smoking.  Well, two things then. No underage drinking either. Are you trying to drive kids away from your books? Why are your characters so good?
Well, they are not what I would call “good.”  Katie lies to her parents and gets out of the house – even taking her dad's car once and then sneaking out with Brad to go to Sean's house.  There is statutory rape slightly mentioned with Tami wanting to go out with a married older guy.  I never saw my characters drinking or smoking in this book.  If I tried it, I would have thought “they wouldn't do this – it's not like them.”    My characters run the show in my stories.  Watch for my next novel – Nightmare at Camp Forrestwood – there kids are far from good! 

Weren’t you tempted, to toss in a vampire?
That is funny!  Nope – I'm not a big vampire fan.  I mean, I like some movies and books, but I cannot write about a vampire.  I have to be my characters to write them – I don't see myself as a vampire!

How many siblings do you have?
A brother and a sister plus two step-brothers.  All older.

What was your first book signing like?
My first signing doesn't happen until March 5.   I will say that I am going to have a trivia game (questions about me and the book) for a chance to win my next novel!  It's in a small independent bookstore and I am so excited!

There was an upsurge in discussion about violent themes in YA books this last year. ‘The MockingJay’ constantly came up in that debate. Have you read it? What is your opinion of the complaints made against it?
No, I have not read it.  I wasn't aware of any discussion on violence in YA books.  Sudden Moves crosses over into a more adult like theme toward the end.  I will say the violence in Sudden Moves could really happen and to a young girl.  It happens every day, but most kids aren't as lucky as Katie was.  Thanks for mentioning this book – I want to pick it up.  I see it's in a series of The Hunger Games?  If it is correct – I have had a recommendation of The Hunger Games from someone in my book club.  I may have to read that one first!

Did you ever get an autograph from Rick? Have a link to any of the pics posted online?
I wasn't able to find online pics of this show!  I found a few years ago on a fan's website, this was back when I had my first computer.  I do have a photo of me and him after the first show I saw him in (Decatur, IL) – a meet and greet where yes, he signed my old 45 record jackets and a couple album covers!  What a great night that was!  VH1 was there doing his Behind The Music.  Let me know if you want to see my photo with him – I have long hair!

Tell us a little about ‘Nightmare at Camp Forrestwood’.
This book came to me so quickly. I have always wanted to do a whodunit.  It's a senior class trip – they take a weekend camping trip about an hour away.  It's a lesson to teach teens how to survive without technology – no cell phones, computers, or even Ipods are allowed to accompany them.  Well, little do they know, there is a killer among the group.  It's in the editing process now.  Should be out around May.

Describe your writing process. Are you ever really satisfied with a story?
My writing process is NO OUTLINES!  I cannot plan out a whole book or story, then write it.   I have to write spontaneously.  For example – Chapter 30 of Sudden Moves was all spontaneous – I had nothing in mind for that chapter until I wrote it.  I set it up at the end of chapter 29, then just went with it.  It's actually my favorite chapter in the book-it brought out a good turning point.  I am satisfied with a story after my first reader reads it and tells me what they think.  I need feedback from others before I am satisfied.  I was worried I didn't explain enough at the end of the book – or if I over explained. 

Have you been keeping up with your Journal?
I am trying!  I don't write in a journal every day, only when I get a good idea for my third novel or when I really get the urge to write something down about the day.  I have two journals – one for my plotting and a love journal, writing down the positive things that happen to me.  It makes me feel happy and relieves stress when I do this!

There are youth trends on TV, about which you have expressed a negative opinion on your blog. Are there any such subjects you will tackle in your upcoming novels? Do you see a Young Adult novel as a teaching tool, as well as entertainment?
I don't like to “preach” to teens with my stories.  I want my novels to be entertaining for young people – they could get teens to start reading.  That's what I want to see come out of my stories.  I love it when I hear of a teenager reading a book!  I didn't read my first novel until I was an older teen and was hooked since then!  I put myself in my main characters shoes, so I don't see myself as teaching them.  They are more likely to say “I think this will work” then they do it and it doesn't.  So in a way that is teaching – though action, which is my favorite way to teach.  Entertainment is above all when I write with a few teaching elements thrown in.

Would you consider putting some subliminal messages, like CLEAN YOUR ROOM, in your text, as motivational inputs? The YA crowd could use a little help in that arena, right?
I would put that in, then have the teen get out of the cleaning task by sneaking out of their bedroom window!  I love conflict so I try to put that in when I can.  Hmmmm, this gives me a good idea!

Tell me one thing that typical youth oriented literature just does not seem to be saying. Are you bringing that message to your own work?
As an example of Sudden Moves – A high school crush that isn't what you thought it would be when you find out the truth about the person.  That was a strong message that may be hard to get in this book since there's so much going on.  It's important to me that teens don't get hung up on heartbreak.  I have been a victim of this early in my life and you just have to find a way to press on.  I would like to see that more in the young adult genre.  This is something that may be explained more in depth in my third novel.   I will see where it takes me! 

Did you have trouble keeping yourself out of your main character? Was Michelle easy to write?
Michelle was very easy to write – she was more straight laced since she was paranoid of her mother.  I was just like this (even though I had a side that was a lot like Tami) but did take chances on sneaking out of the house and lie about where I was going.  Needless to say – I got caught!  That made me more paranoid!  I loved being in Michelle's shoes as I wrote Sudden Moves!  I have no trouble keeping myself “out” of my character - my characters can be a lot like me, so I guess I am the character or am I not?  Hmmmm, now I am confused!

Michelle didn’t mention Rick Springfield even once. Don’t you two have the same taste in music?
This is funny!  Yes, we both love rock music!  I didn't mention much about music in the story – didn't see it as relevant.  I do shy away from mentioning brand names or actual stars, because I wasn't sure how copyright or trademark would work with that.  If you noticed, I mentioned Betty driving a bug – not a Volkswagen.  I had the brand name, then changed it.  I wanted to come out clean with no conflicts.

I'm not sage enough to have advice lying around, ready to hand out for the general improvement of my friends, but, I will mention this bit in thanks, Kelli: Continue to write exactly as you are writing. And, in your next book, namedrop like a Top 40 Pop DJ. Mention every product you can imagine, and make up a few for good measure. Just leave off any asking for payment; big companies won't like that - they didn't hire you to advertise. But, they won't give a hoot for the free adverts and mentions you give, put your kids in designer duds...and write like a machine gun. Release four books a year..... YAs are a vast, hungry audience.



  1. Thanks for posting this Joel! I loved your questions! There is one thing I mentioned in Nightmare at Camp Forrestwood - one girl calls the comic book kids "the geek squad". I wasn't even thinking about that as an actual name, but it is! Thanks for your advice - I will be sure and use it for my third book!

  2. Cool interview, Kelli. As they have YA for young adults, I'd like to see books written for MAA and OAA, too ;) You can figure those out.......

  3. That was another fun interview, Joel :)
    I enjoyed finding out more about Kelli and her books.
    Kelli, it's okay to mention famous names/band names/song names in your books, there's no copyright on a name :)

  4. Thanks Maria! I wasn't sure how that would go over - being a first time author. I will remember this during my third novel! Can't wait to start it!

  5. Just had to go publish a link to this on FB & Twitter :-)


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