The Jay Interviews Kaza Kingsley

Erec Rex Book 2It might surprise you to learn that when I’m not anonymously lambasting celebrities online, slavishly watching each and every bad American Idol audition episode, pwning my friends in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (I’m like Clubber Lang, I can’t be beat and I won’t be beat.), and trying not to stab idiots in the thorax who talk during movies, I actually like to read. And not that Amazon Kindle nonsense, but an actual ink on a page book. The kind of entertainment where you crack it open for the first time and smell the vinegar from the paper and the spine glue. A good book can delight me even more than an episode of Lost (even the ones that revolve around Kate being writhe-y).

Which is why when acclaimed children’s fantasy writer Kaza Kingsley (pronounced Jazz-a, not like the program we used to all use to download free Britney Spears MP3′s.) approached me to interview her during the blog tour for her new book, I happily jumped at the chance; her book series, Erec Rex, helped get me the through my Harry Potter Book 7 withdrawals. Here’s how the first book in the series, subtitled The Dragon’s Eye, is described on Amazon:

“Enter Alypium, a hidden world within our own where our old knowledge of magic is kept and strange and fantastical creatures abound. It is a beautiful and mystical place, but things are caving in. The king is hypnotized and his castle turned on its side. The very Substance that holds things together has gone awry, and whispers tell of evil plans to destroy everything. Twelve year old Erec Rex has been yanked out of the world as we know it and thrown unwillingly into this mess. As he learns how to get by in this strange world he also discovers some truths about himself … and must learn the power of trust and love in order to save his mother, and all of Alypium. In this stunning tale packed with action, humor, a colorful cast of characters, and a riveting plot, debut author Kaza Kingsley brings us into a world of danger and excitement. For Erec, it is a world that is eerily familiar and inevitably intertwined with his future. To the reader, it is a fantastic escape that shall be taken again and again.”

In short, it’s totally ninja. Book 2 in the series, The Monsters of Otherness is available in stores and in online retailers everywhere, and happens to be just as awesome as the first book. I highly recommend it.

I sat down with Kaza last week, and by sat down I mean we traded e-mails, and she was cool enough to drop some free wisdom for you, my sweet readers (For more on Kaza, peep her personal blog HERE). I was Day Fifteen in her blog interview tour. For links to all the others days, please visit her blog linked in the previous sentence.

Enjoy the interview…

Day 15 of Kaza Kingsley's Blog Tour

The Jay: Who were your favorite authors growing up, and the people you like to read now?

Kaza Kingsley: I loved the Oz series by L. Frank Baum, and still love Alice and Wonderland Through the Looking Glass! I read such a wide variety now, just finished Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It was great!

They’re making it into a movie, too. Leonardo DiCaprio is doing it. Love the idea that Gangs of New York is going to teach me about more effectively using my mindgrapes.

Anyway…

Kaza KingsleySo did you have other influences beyond authors? Particular films or filmmakers that touched you, or TV shows you obsessed over?

There are so many. I used to take notes when I saw funny movies, try to analyze what made them funny (I know, I’m a dork.) And I’d take apart plots – I remember doing it with “Get Shorty.” I just want to know how to make them work, dissect them and piece them back together again. But I love comedy. I started writing a stand-up routine once. There is nothing that would scare me than to do a comedy routine onstage – which is why I may be drawn to it!

One film that did touch me was Imagine, the John Lennon documentary. I love that he used his fame to try to make our world a better place, and stop war. I also was affected by Supersize Me – in a totally different way!

What made you decide to write children’s books versus more adult fare?

I’ve already answered this question during another interview. To read my answer go HERE.

How much of an inspiration, or guide, to you was the Harry Potter series while you were writing the first Erec Rex novel?

I’ve already answered this question during another interview. To read my answer go HERE.

How much pressure is there for children’s fantasy writers to produce the “next” Harry Potter? Do your editors try to push you in a particular direction to achieve that result? I notice the book jacket and typeface bear a striking resemblance to the HP books.

I agree – the jacket does have that feel. On the good side, it says, “This is a fantasy book. If you liked Harry Potter, you’ll like this.” On the bad side, it could look like a Harry Potter rehash. Which it is not! I’d actually love to hear from you and your readers whether they think the covers are good or bad for the books.

As far as pressure – there is always pressure to perform, with payback in shelf space and promotions in bookstores. But I think editors are shooting more for originality than anything else.

How do you think the publishing industry can capitalize on the success the HP books had in bringing readers who rarely read? How do they keep them from choosing more “exciting” forms of entertainment?

Kaza KingsleyThat is the golden question. I think it will take an author with red hair . . . if only we could find one . . . (The Jay Note: I love it when my interview subjects throw me the narcissism. I respect it so much.)

The good news is that the HP craze has opened a doorway, and it’s not shutting yet. There are still masses of kids that can’t wait to get their hands on the next Stephanie Meyers book, or next Warriors book.

But can another book attain the level that HP did? My guess is that it will take the right combination of factors – but that it is possible. Hey – this is an open forum. I’d love to hear from your readers what they think it would take. Let’s all work together here to catapult Kaza to the top…

Readers of TheJay.com unite!

So tell me, is the goal of every fantasy writer to have their book made into a movie? Is that a goal of yours? Have you already cast the movie in your head?

Jay! I’m surprised at you. To suggest that the goal of every lofty-minded fantasy writer is to have their book squandered commercially! Well .. YES, it is completely the goal of every fantasy writer. (I feel qualified to speak for all of us on this issue.) There is nothing I would like more. And, yes, I will be coming up with my “dream cast” and putting it on the Erec Rex forum.

Does knowing your audience is mainly kids, teens and young adults at all force you to lighten up your text? What I mean is, do you find yourself intentionally PG-ing the action or drama, or adding unnecessary exposition to account for the attention span or reading level of your audience?

Yes – and no. It’s interesting. As I write there are times when I’ll actually have a little alarm go off: is this too offensive? Too scary? Dark or distasteful? But nine times out of ten I go with what I was originally going to say. I do avoid swear words – they really don’t add anything that can’t be said without them. That is one aspect that is definitely affected by having kids in my audience. But concepts? As long as they’re worded with “clean” language there has not been anything I’ve needed to avoid.

Luckily, in fantasy, it’s not as much of an issue as in realistic fiction. My characters aren’t getting pregnant or into drugs. It’s just not that type of story. Erec and Bethany will risk their lives, make tough choices, meet strange people … and I don’t really have to lighten that for kids. Big issues like death and why we are here are not something I avoid. On the other hand, I do try to avoid unnecessarily long words and winding sentence structure. That might make it hard for adults to read, too.

On that note, what is your goal for the series? What messages or issues are you trying to address through the life of Erec Rex.

I’ve already answered this question during another interview. To read my answer go HERE.

How many Erec Rex Novels do you see yourself writing? Is there a bible to the universe, or plan of action that you are following step by step?

There are eight – and they’re all plotted out. There is a step-by-step plan of action. I fill in a lot as I write, but I have definite guideposts on the way.

So then there must be an appendix for all the little details about the world you create, yes no? And if so, how big must that file be!

I’m so pathetic. I do – but it’s more notes scrawled on paper than an organized, alphabetized thing. Every time I write my characters into a place they’ve been before I have to recheck all the details of that place. That gets more and more time consuming with each book!

Beyond this series, what types of books do you see yourself writing?

Erec Rex Book 1My problem is I have too many ideas, and I want to do all of them! I am planning a cookbook for kids that has to do with my series. But I also want to write a diet book (I have a lot of ideas on the subject!) I’ve got tons of notes on two different adult novels – one of which I’m a third of the way through – if and when I get the time for them. I am planning some side books for the Erec Rex series. And I’ve got some great ideas for younger kids’ books.

Once I finish Book Three – soon – I’m going to write a side book in the Erec Rex series, and see if I have time to do a little something else before starting Book Four!

Let’s get to the superficial stuff… tell me about some of the pop culture in your life. Movies you love, TV shows you TiVo (Why do I keep hearing that you hate TV?), Music you listen to, etc.

I so no TiVo. (Who needs grammar in interviews?)

I’ve never seen The Office. What does that tell you about me? Not that I wouldn’t be willing to see it. Just don’t turn it on. That would be me, writing somewhere, instead of TiVo-ing. The TV I like best is Comedy Central’s Friday Night Stand Up. I think the bottom line is those comedians really work on their routines, and spend much more time on them than the crap that gets churned out on a daily basis by staffs of mentally exploited and thematically limited screenwriters. Comics? Their writing is their baby. They own it. If it fails, it’s them up there.

This is why I love movies and hate TV. I mean – I could be wrong. And there have been – and are shows I love. Never missed a Seinfeld episode. But when I go to a movie, I get the feeling that this was someone’s baby. A lot of people worked really long and hard on what I’m going to see in the next two hours. Tons of takes were done for each scene. Crap was cut. Risks were taken. It’s premium time. Okay, I’m a purist, I guess. I love tons of movies, all types. Loved Bowfinger by Steve Martin – that humor was right up my alley! I just saw Charlie Wilson’s War – it was great. I could go on and on…

Music – I’ve been getting into Blue October lately. Love Jack Johnson and Ben Folds. I have a pretty wide taste in music. Just wish I got to see more live!

And, it’s a book, but I enjoy Chuck Klosterman’s pop culture essays and books. He’s hysterical.

Hating on the TiVo? You’re killing me Smalls!

Totally random question: What would your American Idol audition song be?

Right now? Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes or Cocoon. But I’d need JJ to sing with me. His voice would be like my instrumental accompaniment. Would that count? Hey, JJ – if you’re out there – I think we got a great idea here…

And the final and most important question…

Tell me how much you love TheJay.com and why you have to read it every single day.

TheJay.com? What’s that?

Just joking, of course. Because reading TheJay.com every day is a requirement, even though you only post about once a week. Let it go on the record that seeing your stunning countenance on a daily basis is a basic necessity for not just me, but for all women, everywhere. Those who have not yet been introduced to The Jay have not yet awoken, but lay dormant, waiting for that precious moment where they first lay eyes on you.

But, bottom line, I like your sense of humor. That’s what I really like. Apart from your smoldering eyes, of course.

They do smolder. This is a true story.

P.S. I love ending interviews with my subjects telling me how awesome I am. So with that, I implore you all to head on over to the official Erec Rex website and learn yourself an education on the wonderful world of Kaza Kingsley.

Bangarang!

5 Comments

  1. JoBaby says:

    good job, Jay. did she mention if her cover artwork was actually done by the same illustrator as the HP books?

  2. The Jay says:

    I’m sure she’ll swing by and answer that question in the comments here in the next few days.

  3. Hey, Jay! Thanks for having me!

    JoBaby – a lot of people think that at first,(at least about Book One of Erec Rex) until you put the covers next to each other and really see how different the styles are.

    Melvyn Grant, the Erec Rex artist, lives in South England. He did the last Artemis Fowl cover, a lot of other fantasy books, and the Iron Maiden CD covers!
    Kaza

  4. [...] fantasy author Kaza Kingsley sat down with me and I pulled out my Babs Walter master impreshe. “Kaza, do you wax your [...]

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