Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.
Today’s guest for the WHAT is Kalyn Josephson, author of The Storm Crow, a YA Fantasy novel out with SourcebooksFire July 2019. Kalyn currently works as a Technical Writer in Silicon Valley, which leaves room for too many bad puns about technically being a writer. .
Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?
Yes! I’d read an article about a little girl who fed her neighborhood crows. In return, they brought her trinkets. People christened her The Crow Queen, a title that really stuck with me. It gave me the idea for a fairytale-esque story about a girl trapped in a tower (naturally) and the crows who brought her pieces of the world. I’d always loved crows, and couldn’t get the imagery from the story out of my mind. Eventually it expanded into a larger world, until The Storm Crow was born.
Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?
The first thing I ironed out was the 8 types of crows (Shadow, Sun, Battle, Storm, Fire, Water, Wind, Earth). From there, I built a world centered on their integration in society. Then I asked: what happens if they all disappear? How does that impact the world? The people? For my MC, Anthia, it had a very personal impact, and the story follows her struggle to deal with it.
Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?
Usually I’m pretty good at sticking to my outlines. But sometimes I’d reach a point and realize what I had planned won’t work. Either because it doesn’t fit the characters, or it’s not coming together on paper like it did in my head.
Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?
Story ideas pop into my head pretty frequently, and I keep a notebook of everything. Not all of them are good enough to be the kernel for a new world, and a lot of times I end up combining ideas. You always have to analyze new ideas for how similar they are to existing books and trends, but especially in the YA Fantasy market, which is heavily inundated. I’ve had to scrap a lot of ideas I loved that were too similar to existing books.
How do you choose which story to write next if you’ve got more than one percolating?
Whichever one won’t leave me alone. I have a long drive to work, which is pretty much my only free, uninterrupted alone time. A lot of my brainstorming is done then (so much so that I bought a tape recorder that I leave running so I can dictate ideas). Often, a lot of tiny ideas will pop up, and they’ll all fit nicely into a larger WIP. When that starts happening, I know it’s a story I want to focus on.
I have 5 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?
5 is impressive! I have 2 little black cats I adopted, Snags and El. El is a lap kitten that keeps me company while I write; Snags only pops up on my desk around dinner time to ensure I don’t forget.
Snags (left) and El (right)