Happy Friday, everyone!
Two years ago, I met teen author Kayla Woodhouse at a writer’s conference. She wrote–and published–her first novel with her mom when she was twelve-years-old! I was very excited when she agreed to do a interview. She’s such a sweet person with a love not only of writing, but of sharing God’s Word as well.
Here is my interview with her:
Ashley Bogner: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Kayla Woodhouse: When I’m not writing, I like to hang out with my family, read, learn (I love school!), read, research, read, play the cello, read, and sing (oh, and I love to read!) I also love to swim, play Settlers of Catan with my mom and brother, and watch movies.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Hmmmm… There are so many that I love. But for this “season” of life: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the LORD rather than men.” – Colossians 3:23 NASB. My two other all-time favorites are Philippians 4:6-8 and Proverbs 3:5-6.
What is your favorite Christian book or series?
Oh, goodness… *giggle* Once again, there are so many. But I’d probably have to say that my favorite book is Francine River’s Leota’s Garden.
You co-authored the suspense novels No Safe Haven and Race Against Time with your mom, Kimberley Woodhouse, at a very young age. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as a teen author?
When I was eleven years old, my mom made me an appointment with Karen Ball – at the time, a big editor at B&H publishing. My mom had told her about my desire to write, and she said she’d love to help me out and give me pointers. When I showed her a sample of my writing, she suggested I try to get published right away – in fact, she told me to co-write with my mom (who already had a writing platform.) So, about three months later, we had a contract for No Safe Haven. I wrote No Safe Haven when I was twelve and Race Against Time when I was thirteen. I had every intention of getting a new contract right off the bat, but when Race Against Time was published I got stuck in a rut. Race Against Time had taken a lot out of me – to this day, Zoya’s POV is not my favorite to go back and read because it held such an emotional and spiritual struggle for me (Zoya witnesses a murder and gets depressed.) So, I tried several different things for a couple of years. I wrote children’s stories and fantasy and historical suspense… it was a good time for me. I let go of “publication” and just started writing – of course, deep down I still wished one of those stories would make it to publication. As a couple of years went by, I was still dedicated to my writing, but I saw my dream of having another book published slowly slipping away. It made me sad, but I also knew it was the right thing for that time – I was exhausted and wanted a break. I was finishing up high school (finishing early) and was swamped with nannying and schoolwork. When I was sixteen, I graduated from high school and took a year off from schooling before starting college. It was then I came up with an idea. I played around with it all that year, trying out the “theme” and main premise in several different stories. I knew I wanted to write fantasy, so I kept that as my focus. I tried everything from Steampunk to Chronicles of Narnia-isms. And then when I was seventeen I started college classes online. When I started, I said I’d give myself a semester off and then really start writing again. (In reality, I waited two semesters – because I made the oh-so-wonderful decision to do a full-time semester in the summer. Not my best decision ever, but it got the work done!).
At this point, I was ready to be published again. The LORD just softly prompted me, as if reawakening the dream. I was ready to share my story with others. But a part of me knew that the story wasn’t quite there yet… so, I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2015 and started plotting. In the fall of 2015, I signed up for a Creative Writing class, hoping it would help boost my confidence and creativity. Over the past six months, my plots and series have blossomed. My editor and I are so very excited to get this seven book series rolling. For the first time in a while, I can see publishing in my near-future. But this time, that goal is not my life-line. The journey to this point has taught me a lot – especially about creative writing in and of itself. I basically “grew up” writing to be published – I was only twelve when I wrote my first contracted book. I think it was engrained in me so much, that I forgot to write for pleasure. For myself. For the fun and exploration of creatively writing. In the past year I have discovered poetry… and that has been one of the best developments in the world for me. I will tell you, as a “seasoned writer” (says the nineteen year old): publishing is a wonderful thing, and a great goal to have! But don’t get drowned by that dream. Write because you’re a writer – write because, without writing, you’d feel like a part of you is missing.
Was it fun co-authoring a book and having someone to share the creative process with?
Co-authoring is VERY fun – especially when you know and love the person! I co-authored with my mom, so it was very easy to plot, write scenes, and throw out crazy sinister ideas (we wrote suspense.) It’s easier in a sense, too, because two minds come up with many, many ideas… you also share the load of the word-count. There’s a lot to be said for co-authoring. And there’s a lot to be said about being the sole author. Though I have enjoyed writing by myself, writing with my mom definitely had its perks! We want to write together again – currently, my mom is writing with Tracie Peterson as well as writing as a solo author.
Recently, you started a blog called Living Set Apart, a site that encourages young women to live godly lives. What inspired you to start the Living Set Apart blog?
When I was a preteen, I really “discovered” my relationship with Jesus. He wasn’t just a God to me – He became my Mentor, Friend, Father, Guardian, and Savior. When I was twelve, I read that my name, Kayla, means “pure.” I started reading a lot of books on purity, and knew I wanted to live a pure life. “Purity” was the theme of my series I wanted to write – and I focused on that for a couple of years. Then I started college, and realized that I don’t just need to live purely; I need to live completely set apart. I need to keep my heart set apart in Jesus’ hands. But it’s a struggle! I wanted to write about that message very much. It kept pressing on my heart. At first, I incorporated it into my stories. But I realized that I couldn’t tackle a lot of the issues I wanted to tackle. So I started playing around with the idea of a blog. I also wanted to write something for aspiring writers… I played around with the idea, and decided to incorporate the two. Therefore, Living Set Apart was born. It’s only been up for about six months, but I’m amazed at how God is using it. We’ve had a lot of difficulty as well – the site has been down for a month and a half at a time, we’ve had pretty much every glitch imaginable, and I’ve had to revamp every widget known to man. But God’s been using it in so many ways in my life. We used to do posts written by aspiring authors, written to encourage young women – it was my dream to have a blog for writers to spread their wings. Over the course of December, an idea started to form. We stopped the “guest writer posts” on Living Set Apart and “set it apart” completely as a young woman’s blog. Then we created a new blog, The Write Nook, in January. The Write Nook is written for other writers to encourage, enlighten, and inspire. My mom and I co-author The Write Nook. And I am so very thankful for these two blessings! I’m honored to be a part of the journey! I pray they encourage and enlighten others as much as they do for me.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors, specifically aspiring teen authors?
I would say three things:
1. “If you wish to be a writer, write.” (Epictetus) Publication is a good goal to have, but don’t make it your focal point. Write because you want to write. Write because you want your stories to make their way onto the page. Write because you want to remember your stories. Write to get to know yourself, your imagination, and your characters. Write because you have so many ideas crawling inside you, you have to let them go before they take over your brain cells. Don’t throw any ideas out because you think they’re bad or irrelevant or don’t work with your current project. Just write it down. Let the creative juices flow. In short: just write.
2. Don’t be discouraged. Ever. There are so many things we let ourselves get caught in: if you have “writer’s block,” don’t know what to write, don’t know when to write, don’t have time to write, haven’t gotten a contract yet, can’t fix a problem, feel overwhelmed, etc. don’t let it deter you. If you need to take a step back for a while, then do so. But don’t be discouraged. Everyone has phases – sometimes the words will flow so fast you can’t get them down fast enough. Other times you’ll sit plotting for hours before ideas come to you. Other times you’ll be staring at a blank page, unsure of what to do. Don’t be discouraged. (Discouraged means: having lost confidence or enthusiasm; disheartened.) Every season has a purpose. If you feel stuck on something, try something bold and new.
3. Always seek to learn. The craft of writing can be as diverse and personalized as you’d like – but feedback (and instruction) from trusted friends and family always have their place in the world of writing. Learning about the craft of writing, the different styles of writing, the genres of stories, etc. are all important. We are learning creatures – from the day we are born to the day we die, we learn. So seek to learn; look for those learning opportunities. Go to a writer’s conference, study creative writing/literature in a class, follow writer’s blogs, research ideas until your brain hurts, watch people in the supermarket, do whatever you can to learn and better yourself as a writer. Because you will never stop learning. Funnel that into your writing. Find new ideas, concepts, situations, people, events, and items that intrigue you.
Can you tell us about any new projects you’re currently working on?
Currently, I’m writing on our two blogs – Living Set Apart and The Write Nook – and plotting fantastically intriguing tales in my frozen Hobbit hole… *wink* I’m working on a fantasy series – a seven book series – which I hope will be under contract within the next year.
You can find me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Kayla-R-Woodhouse-440231532834032/) for the latest updates.
You can also take a look at our website (http://kimandkaylawoodhouse.com/) which has links to both Living Set Apart and The Write Nook (under the “Blogs” tab.)
Thank you so much for sharing your publication journey and writing advice with us! 🙂
One of only a few dozen cases in the world, Kayla R. Woodhouse was born with HSAN (Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy), an extremely rare nerve disorder. Unable to sweat, or feel pain, she’s also been through brain surgery. She attempts to keep an ever-present smile and encourage others to live radically set apart, no matter the obstacles. In addition to having been home-schooled and writing with her mom, she’s an avid swimmer. She is currently trekking on an adventure through college and reading as many books as she can in her spare time (unless she’s watching Once Upon A Time with her mom and brother…)
Kayla has appeared on ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Montel Williams Show, Mystery ER, Focus on the Family’s Broadcast, Chris Fabry Live!, The Hour of Power, the Harvest Show, and numerous other national programs as well as hundreds of other interviews. She is the co-author of No Safe Haven (her first release from B&H Publishers) and Race Against Time, both written with her mother, Kimberley, making her the youngest author to have a full-length novel published by a royalty paying publisher. Kayla contributed to a girl’s devotional titled God “Hearts” Me, released in 2013. She is a gifted speaker and loves to share her love for God and writing with groups all over the country. She feels called to speak out for purity, passion and purpose. Kayla has two blogs: Living Set Apart, a blog for tween, teen, and young adult women, and The Write Nook – co-authored with her mom, Kimberley – written for writers on the writing craft.
You can find Kayla’s page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Kayla-R-Woodhouse-440231532834032/.
You can find the Living Set Apart site at http://www.kimandkaylawoodhouse.com/living-set-apart
The Living Set Apart Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/livingsetapart1/.
You can find The Write Nook site at http://www.kimandkaylawoodhouse.com/the-write-nook and the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thewritenook/.
The Write Nook also has a Community on Facebook where you can share ideas, inspiration, encouragement, and enlightenment (https://www.facebook.com/groups/769637333168173/.)