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KayceIn today’s post I’m featuring an interview with author Kayce Hughlett, the writer behind the soon-to-be-released, beautifully written novel, BLUE (September 10, BQB Publishing). I’ve loved watching Kayce’s book writing journey, from when she wrote and self-published her first nonfiction book, As I Lay Pondering: Daily Invitations to Live a Transformed Lifeto tackling fiction and publishing her first novel. I asked Kayce to tell us more about her process, her strategies for dealing with writer’s block, and what it’s like working with a publisher this time around.

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Me: I love your first book, As I Lay Pondering [full disclosure plus lucky me, I got to edit it], which was a collection of short, thoughtful essays. What inspired you to give fiction a try this time around?

Kayce: As I Lay Pondering was created through an organic process that evolved over several years. It’s a book about being fully present to life. It held (and continues to hold) a certain weight to it that I wasn’t sure how to follow up. I can’t not write, so I decided to explore a whole new genre.

Me: I remember when you first told me about your novel, you were just finishing up participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Did you complete a first draft through NaNoWriMo?

Kayce: My first step in creating BLUE was to set a goal, so I signed up for NaNoWriMo and went with the outline they prescribed: Begin a novel on November 1 and write at least 50,000 words with an official story ending by November 30. Next, I figured out a daily word count (1667 per day). Finally, I set aside time to write, told my family and friends what I was doing, and invited my inner critic to take a month-long vacation. No editing allowed. That step would come later.

On November 1, 2012, I began. One word at a time. I hit my mini-goal that first day, so I knew the word count was possible. I celebrated my success and resisted the urge to go back and edit or critique what I’d written. I gave myself permission to call whatever work I created each day “good.” Some days I exceeded my word count; others I struggled to complete a page or two. I kept going and put one word in front of the next, kind of like a marathon. I showed up. I had some fun. I cried a little. And at the end of 30 days I had my completed first draft.

Me: I love that story. I know that not editing while writing can be incredibly difficult. It’s one of the things many writers struggle with, so I applaud you for sticking to it. And it sounds like it worked! But I’m curious…writing fiction is a completely different beast than nonfiction essays. Did you use any specific resources to learn how to navigate things like story arc and character development?

Kayce: I tried to stay out of my head as much as possible during the process and let the story develop under its own steam. Our stories really do hold amazing wisdom if we can take ourselves out of the way. That said, I innately drew upon the arc of the hero’s journey—a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that I studied in graduate school. I also picked up a couple of superfast novel-writing reads recommended by Nanowrimo (No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty and The Busy Writer’s One Hour Plot by Marg McAlister).

Me: So, you said you’d completed a draft of BLUE by the end of NaNoWriMo. When did you have final, completed manuscript you were ready to pitch?

Kayce: I declared BLUE pitch-worthy and sent out my first agent inquiry on December 8, 2013—one year after I finished the first draft.

Me: So, now for the million dollar question: How did you stick with over the course of that year…did you struggle with motivation or  inspiration to complete your book? How did you push through to cross the finish line?

Kayce: You bet I struggled with motivation and inspiration! What writer doesn’t? For the overall process, I kept goals in place and set deadlines for myself. I celebrated when I met them and tried to be kind with myself when I didn’t. I’m a big fan of both internal listening and external support, so I made sure to keep my health practices, like walking, yoga, and meditation in place and I worked with a coach to help keep me on track. The term “pushing through” makes my body feel tight and that’s not a great place for me to be creative, so I looked for the places in my process that felt more spacious than restrictive. These spaces created a greater sense of ease, although they weren’t necessarily easy. There was a period of time when tucking the manuscript into a drawer and taking a break was exactly what I needed to do. Other days I wrote like a mad woman, forgetting to eat or take breaks. Each approach produced its own results. Bottom line, I trusted my own process.

Me: Yes…trusting in the process is a big theme for me in my writing as well. Love it. So, considering you self-published As I Lay Pondering, what made you decide to pursue traditional publishing for BLUE?

Kayce: As I mentioned earlier, each project holds its own wisdom and BLUE wanted to go the traditional route. I self-published with my first book and that felt right. BLUE was something different, so I began to pursue the traditional route and landed in-between with a hybrid publisher.

Me: Can you tell us more about hybrid publishing and share what your experience has been like? 

Kayce: BQB Publishing has been the perfect fit for me. As a hybrid publisher, they require their authors to go through a manuscript submission process to make sure the book is a quality fit for both parties. This is different from the so-called vanity press that is more printer than publisher. BQB has all of the resources needed to turn a manuscript into a completed book, like editors, designers, and a promotional team. I’m able to retain the rights to my book and we share royalties in a way that says we are in this together. I love the collaborative feel of working with them.

blueMe: I’m curious then…what’s been the biggest surprise for you working with a publishing company this time around?

Kayce: It’s amazing to have a built-in support team! I remember when BLUE showed up on Amazon and a host of other places and I didn’t personally make that happen. In that moment, I realized I wasn’t alone. It was a surreal feeling of being out of control in the best possible way.

Me: You’ve now published two books in the past three-and-a-half years. What do you consider to be your personal edge / superpower / secret when it comes to seeing your book ideas through from start to finish?

Kayce: What a great question! I think my edge/superpower/secret is not taking myself so seriously while still being very serious about the project. It’s also an innate ability to slow down and listen deeply to the direction my whole self (body, mind, spirit) and the book are leading and to find personal balance in the process.

Me: So, what’s next for you and your writing? And what lessons learned will you bring with you to your new project? 

Kayce: Biggest lesson learned is that each book has its own process. This is evident in the two projects I currently have muddling around in my mind and on my laptop. One is a {gulp} sequel to BLUE and the other is a nonfiction travel memoir following my inner and outer journey. I originally thought I could write and do book promotion. I guess another lesson learned this time around is that there are seasons for everything. Combining brand new writing with a big book launch doesn’t work for me, so I’ve gently set both projects aside for now and look forward to seeing which one takes the lead this fall after BLUE is officially launched.

Me: Last question: What advice do you have for writers who have a book idea they want to execute but don’t know how to get started?

Kayce: Start writing. Your book knows the way.

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Kayce Stevens Hughlett: author, life muse, ponderer extraordinaire, speaker, joy monger, soulstroller. Kayce’s 2012 nonfiction book, As I Lay Pondering: daily invitations to live a transformed life, is a lyrical and lucid treasure that invites readers to new awakenings throughout the year. Blue, her first novel, releases September 10, 2015. Blue is available through BQB Publishing, Amazon, and independent booksellers. Find out more about Kayce at www.kaycehughlett.com.