Today’s author spotlight has caught up to dragon singer Kandi Wyatt. Kandi spends most of her days teaching dragon safety in the schools where she works as a teacher. It’s a fading craft, so join me in applauding Kand’s efforts to secure the school. Wait…what’s that?! AHH everyone to shelter, NOW!…Without further ado, here’s…Kandi!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a wife, mother of five (the youngest is 14, yet four are still living at home), teacher (junior high and high school), artist, photographer’s assistant, and writer.
How did you get started on your writing journey?
I remember writing as a kid on Friday nights with my sister. Then in high school I attended several student writing conferences. In college, I wrote a short story centered around my job at a mall and my friends. After that, I didn’t write for over ten years. Then in 2005 I was inspired to try to write a story based on what I knew. I created a novel called Journey from Skioria. It’s an epic fantasy based around a young girl trying to get back to civilization and her parents. She finds some unique creatures that help her on her journey. About three years later, on a Christmas vacation, I had an image of a dragon flying down a canyon. That image launched the Dragon Courage series, five books and a prequel. After that series, I joined National Novel Writing Month three times, winning once with The One Who Sees Me, a Christian historical fiction retelling the story of Hagar setting it in the medieval ages.
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series inspires me to continue with fantasy. He wrote with a specific girl in mind for the first story. That is how I write. I have someone in mind that I want to tell the story to.
Michael Phillips has molded how I try to write characters and themes. I’ve read his books and loved how the stories themselves challenged my life by the way the characters behaved. I enjoyed reading for the story, but I came away with more than just a story.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
Dragon’s Cure is the fourth book in the Dragon Courage series. It follows characters from the first book, Dragon’s Future, as well as introducing new characters. Duskya and Cerulean’s children are now teenagers. Carryn can hear dragon conversations. This can get her into trouble. When she follows a dragon conversation one afternoon, she meets the newest rider of the dragon colony. This rider, Serena, has fled from an abusive father. Serena vows to never let someone else control her. Carryn’s childhood friend, Tyrell, has grown into a young man who wants no boundaries placed around him. When Serena and Tyrell meet the two find similarities that draw them to each other. However when a slave trade springs up, Carryn, Serena, and Tyrell find they need a cure for bitterness.
How is the title significant?
The series deals with dragons and their riders; so the word dragon is in each title. The cure is forgiveness. The three young people must find a way to forgive or live a life in bondage to bitterness.
Where did inspiration for this come from?
My daughter was about thirteen when I wrote Dragon’s Cure. I wanted to give her a story that would help mold how she thought about relationships with boys and warned her that some relationships are not healthy. At the same time, I decided to tackle the issue of abuse, an area that is close to my heart. I wanted to deal with it all in a way that kids wouldn’t have someone saying “do this” or “don’t do that”, and yet would be able to still learn from the story. I think I succeeded.
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
Carryn is blossoming into a beautiful young woman and yet is still a little girl at heart. Her character traits came from my daughter.
Serena is more independent and outgoing. Some of her character was molded by the abuse she faced with her father.
Tyrell cares about himself. He’s selfish and yet deep down has wandered from what he knows is right. We see glimpses of the real person throughout the story.
Duskya plays the role of the active mother of teenagers. She goes on a journey to help her daughter find her friend. Originally, Duskya also was based on my daughter.
Cerulean balances the struggles of a dad with teenagers and of a leader of a group of people. He wants to protect his little girl and at the same time, he has to think of the bigger picture. His character has developed over the course of books 1, 2, and now 4. I really like him as a leader. Some of his traits come from my husband.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
Anyone who loves fantasy would love my stories. However, I’ve heard from multiple senior citizens who don’t get fantasy, and they’ve been impressed that they like my story and can understand it. My main readers are kids ages 10-15, but every single grandparent or aunt or uncle who has read the Dragon Courage series before handing it on to their grandchild or niece or nephew have been impressed with the books and look forward to the next book as eagerly as their young relatives.
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
Dragon’s Cure focuses on some major themes. The effects of abuse play a major role in how Serena acts. Her independence and self-reliance come from a vow to never be hurt again, a trait common in abuse survivors. When Serena moves from one situation to another, she finds herself in the middle of human trafficking. When I wrote the book, I hadn’t heard anything about this major issue. Without realizing it, I wrote exactly how a young person can fall into a trap that would lead to a life of human trafficking. These two issues in and of themselves makes for a somewhat heavier themed book. Yet, I try to balance these two themes with the struggles that both Carryn and Serena face as they struggle with bitterness. As the girls find out, bitterness can leave a person trapped and enslaved as easily as human trafficking. The cure for bitterness becomes forgiveness. It’s no easy thing to forgive someone who has abused you. Knowing this from experience, I try to give Carryn and Serena a realistic struggle as they try to come to terms with what needs to happen.
What is your writing process like?
My writing process begins several months usually before I begin writing. I mull a story idea around in my head. If it’s a historical fiction story, then I do research to make sure everything is up to realistic expectations. If it’s a fantasy, then I mull over who the characters are, what they would want, and who their friends are. I also begin creating their world.
Finally, it’s time to write. I try to write in the mornings when my house is quiet and no one is around. I either type up the story or write in cursive in a journal or two. The blank page with lines seems to invite words to adhere to them.
After writing, I then reread the story and look for things that need changing. I may try to send it to a beta reader who can give me feedback. Finally, it goes to the editor.
How do you go about editing your story?
Editing is an amazing process. It starts when I send the file to my editor. She takes a look and reads through the whole story, writing down ideas and questions. These notes go into a separate document which comes to me when she’s done. (It’s the one I usually open first.) Then she re-reads and looks for grammar and sentence structure. When it comes back to me, I read through and adjust according to the suggestions. I send it back to my editor who takes one last pass through the document.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
My cover artist was a part of my former publisher, Booktrope. When my cover artist for the first two books couldn’t make the deadline for book three due to university classes, I began looking for someone who could recreate the same feel. I was skeptical that I’d find someone. The man in charge of layout suggested Yosbe
I checked with another author who had used her and received positive report. So, I asked Yosbe to join the team. I was very pleasantly surprised with how well she did. When she left Booktrope, I became nervous and struggled finding another artist. In the middle of the process, my publisher closed. That freed me up to ask Yosbe Designs to be my artist again. Yosbe gladly took me back on.
How did you go about getting published?
In the spring of 2015, I attended a writer’s conference and met Tess Thompson who said her publisher was accepting submissions. With fear and trepidation, I hit submit and sent Dragon’s Future, book one in the Dragon Courage series. I enjoyed life with Booktrope for just over a year. I was pushed into self-publishing when my publisher closed. However, I had several friends who were self-published. I also was having problems keeping the team together that I wanted. By being self-published, I could choose my own team.
What was your self-publishing experience like?
So far, it has been overwhelming and at the same time, encouraging. I love the group of people who help each other out.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Pros: I have complete control of what I do. I can set my prices as I want and I can give away any number of books I want as an incentive to find out who I am. A strong network of clean indie authors exist that will accept newbies to their ranks.
Cons: Formatting the documents. Trying to upload to various sellers. Cost, cost, Cost! Getting overwhelmed with doing everything.
What were the surprises? Good or bad? If so, what were they?
I was pleasantly surprised with the networking that authors do. They support each other in offering information and advertising for each other.
How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author?
I put the books on sale; I share tidbits in Twitter and Facebook posts. I also blog at least once a week about other things that tie into my books. I get others to help share my books.
Is there something about the whole process you wish someone had told you before? Good or bad?
Not really. I guess, I thought being an author was the same as being a writer. It’s not. An author has a ton more responsibilities. An author has to attend
Facebook parties, create trailers and teasers, and make friends with others with the idea of sharing about a book but not being overbearing about it.
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self-publish?
Don’t expect to become a best-seller right off the bat. Wait, write, promote, and repeat.
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
I plan to keep writing and publishing. I have Journey from Skioria, the rest of the Dragon Courage series, a trilogy called Mystical Creatures of Myrtle Beach, a story based in Ancient Egypt, and a short story about a centaur that are all planned to release over the next couple of years.
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?