Monday, July 9, 2012

Interview With MG Novelist Kami Kinard


 After a humiliating game of Spin-the-Bottle from which twelve-year-old Kara McAllister emerges unkissed, she goes home and makes a Boyfriend Chart.  And that's when she learns, to her horror, that she is the ONLY one of the fourteen girls in her class who has never (as in, never going back to first grade) had a boyfriend.  Resolved to do something about this, Kara settles on the scientific method: unobtrusively study as many boys (a.k.a. "subjects") as she can in their natural habitat (i.e., school), take notes on their characteristics, and try to figure out where the glitch lies.  Nothing turns out the way Kara expected it to, but she learns a lot about her classmates (both male and female), her sister, and most of all, herself.  And since Kara is a good student, she picks up some very useful information along the way about popular kids, popular teachers, and popular opinion.  
     Kami Kinard's middle-grade novel, "The Boy Project (Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister)", was published by Scholastic in January 2012, and it's a funny, fun read with some important, appropriately understated messages.  Here's my interview with Kami:

Kami, as someone who was, is, and will forever be a nerdy chick, I salute your  celebration of all of us in your blog,, and in your middle-grade novel, "The Boy Project." Tell me something:  are there really that many of us out there?
And if so, shouldn’t we be banding together and taking over the world?
Hmmmm. The problem is, most nerdy chicks are too smart to get into politics, thus,  world takeover.

At a recent SCBWI conference, I attended a workshop you presented entitled "The Yin and Yang of Character Development." One of the focal points was that all protagonists must have a fatal character flaw, so that they can grow and change. Kara McAllister’s fatal flaw appears to be her impulsiveness, which gets her into some very awkward (but very funny) situations. But does Kara actually gain any control over her impulsiveness by the end of the book? Or does she just learn to channel some of it more productively, into her craft projects and blog?
I saw Kara’s flaw differently. At first, she judges and rates all of the boys and looks for the one that is perfect for her. Then she realizes that she might not be perfect. She has to modify some of her characteristics in the end to find a relationship. She becomes brave enough to risk rejection. I think shyness holds a lot of nerdy chicks (and roosters) back, but we often have to risk rejection to find meaningful relationships.

It’s very impressive that you’ve conjured up almost an entire middle-school class, and made each kid so distinctive. It makes me wonder … Do Kara’s classmates bear any relation to your own middle-school classmates?
Sure. But all of my characters are composites. They are combinations of a little of one person, a little of another, and a lot of fiction.

And while we’re on the subject: the names "Kara" and "Kami" differ only in one vowel and one consonant. Is this a coincidence?
This is a coincidence… I think. I didn’t put a lot of thought into the names in my novel at first. That’s a mistake I won’t make again!
Or have you, perhaps, encountered the inside of the boys’ bathroom yourself once or twice?
The only time I went into a boys’ bathroom was back when I was a high school teacher and one of my students kindly told me there was something written about me on the wall. The janitor offered to scrub it off for me, but I didn’t want him to read it, so he guarded the door and I scrubbed!            
When did the idea of writing a novel for middle-schoolers first occur to you?
 I got the idea for writing this novel after reading my middle school diaries. I also had a son in middle school at the time, so I was living the middle school life again, kind of.

 How much time passed from that point until you had a completed manuscript?
 Just a few months. It was the fastest I ever completed a first draft.
 What parts of the process went more smoothly for you than you expected?
 The first draft!
 What unexpected stumbling blocks arose?
 After the manuscript was sent out the first time by my agent, we got feedback that made me    realize I had to change the entire format of my book. That took longer to do than the first draft, but I’m glad that I did it!              

I like that your novel is realistic enough not to pretend that life is always fair.  Nothing particularly bad ever happens to the evil Queen Bee or to the rude Alpha Boy; nor does Kara’s vindictive teacher get punished as he deserves. Kara just learns to navigate around all of them. When you were writing the book, did you ever consider giving everyone his or her just desserts?
I didn’t think about that. I have had a couple of people say they wished something bad had happed to the mean girl. I guess that always does happen on TV.
What made you decide not to?
I just didn’t need anything bad to happen to them to move the plot forward. But I have to be honest and say that revenge has never been a motivator for me, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t be for my character either. 

How has your life/daily schedule changed since "The Boy Project" was published?
Well, it is much harder to find time to write than it used to be!
Have you had to reshuffle some priorities?
Yes, I have had to give up writing time for book promotion.

Can you talk a little bit about your next work-in-progress? Will you be sticking with middle-grade? With a humorous approach? With Kara McAllister?
I’d love to do another Kara McAllister book someday, but right now I am working on another humorous middle grade for girls and also a fantasy. I hope to finish one of them by the end of the year!

Thank you so much, Kami! Best wishes for all your future "projects!"
Thank you Susan!

     Okay, now here's where I'm going to try something I've never tried before in my neverending quest for blog hits: a giveaway (suggested by Kami herself) of my very own copy of "The Boy Project," in pristine condition if you don't count the pale green mark at the bottom of page 167 (sorry.  A leaf or something.)  But the price can't be beat: I'll mail it to you, free, anywhere on the planet!  (Full disclosure: all submissions from other planets will be read, but the bar will be set a LOT higher for them, given the cost of postage.  Outside our solar system = don't even bother.)  All you have to do is leave a comment on this page before midnight on Thursday, July 12th (my son Nathan's birthday!!), Eastern Standard Time.  If I get multiple comments, I'll choose which one I like best, and that person will be the book recipient.  Sincere birthday wishes for Nathan will not go unnoticed. All in all, you've got much to gain, nothing to lose, the way I see it.  Let's see what happens. 

***NEWS FLASH!!***   Due to the kind intervention of Donna Taylor, my new fairy godmother, the fabulous Kathy Temean has agreed to post this interview on her own (deservedly very popular) blog, and so I am going to extend my book-giveaway offer to one week from today.  If Jeannie wants the book, I'll buy her her own copy, and I will give away my copy to whoever posts the best comment (in my opinion) between now and midnight, July 20th, Eastern Standard Time.  Come on!  You know you want this book!  And I'm sending a huge thank you to Donna and Kathy!

     Meanwhile, Kami can be found at her website,,  at her Facebook page,, or at her blog,, where she posts author interviews and mini-bios of "quotable
nerdy chicks," including some very famous women you might have mistakenly thought you knew all
about!  Keep an eye out for Kami and her Posse of Nerdy Chicks!



  1. Hi Susan. Jeannie here. First, let me tell you how much I'm enjoying getting to know you via your blog! When my iPhone alerted me earlier today that you had posted (in the middle of a busy day at the office), I found myself looking forward to reading the post in the same way that I look forward to savoring a piece of the dark chocolate I keep hidden in my nightstand. I don't know if it's that I so relate to the nerdy girl part, or that I just really appreciate your sharp insight and humor. Either way, keep up the great work! Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY Nate!!!!

    1. Hey, Jeannie! It's lovely to hear from you! And thank you so much for enjoying my blog. It's definitely never been compared to dark chocolate before!! I'll pass your wishes along to Nate, and unless more commenters step up to the plate soon, you may well be the lucky winner of this book giveaway! All best wishes.

  2. Susan - Loved this post. I also enjoyed Kami's presentation in June. (I already have a copy of the book, so don't count me in the giveaway.)Keep up the interviews!

  3. Hey Yvonne! You're the best. I'm just scratching my head. About 60 people have visited this page, but aside from you and my sweet ex-sister-in-law, NOBODY wants the free book badly enough to even leave a comment? Geez Louise, as my father used to say! You know that expression about "I can't give it away?" I never thought it was literally true!! Ah well. Thanks for your awesome loyalty!

  4. Okay, Jeannie! You are our winner! If you want the book, email me your address at and I'll get it out to you ASAP.

  5. Hey, Susan!

    Well, I don't know if it was kindness so much as a no-brainer! :) I mean, this is a fun blog, with a great interview of a wonderful author/teacher who's written a fantastic MG book that you're giving away! :D

    Actually, just tonight I finished reading The Boy Project (sorry, I can't italicize in comments). I had the good fortune to attend one of Kami's workshops at our NJ SCBWI Conference in June and I found her teaching ability so outstanding and useful, I had to read her book! I am thrilled I wasn't disappointed, but was, in fact, overjoyed!

    Kami has managed to convey the voice and mentality of a twelve-year-old girl so expertly, I felt as if I was reading an actual journal written by one. The subject matter is conveyed seamlessly and in a way that I believe young girls will actually absorb the important messages imparted in a natural, non-didactic, very humorous and entertaining way.

    To me, one of the most important things young girls (and women!) can learn is how to think sensibly when it comes to the whole boy/boyfriend thing, and how to handle the variety of relationships and situations we're surrounded with in life. What's so wonderful is that Kami's words of wisdom are spoken through Kara's own thoughts, feelings and revelations from beginning to end.

    I sincerely hope this book ends up in the hands of EVERY young girl (and honestly, the boys, too, but we know they won't be caught dead reading a "girl" book! lol) and I intend to do my part to make that happen. Every year I do face painting at a local summer camp, grades K thru 6. I can tell you, I will be spreading the word to the 100+ 4th-6th-grade girls I'll be painting and talking to!

    Thanks for this terrific, interview, Susan, and you, too, Kami! oxox

    1. Thanks, Donna! I second everything you say about this book!

  6. Yes! I DO want to read this book. Plus, I am not above winning for the sake of winning. I was directed here by Kathy Temean's post, late in the game, but here nevertheless, because I LOVE the name of this blog. These days, I am an expert in the art of not getting published. So, thanks, Kathy. Happy birthday, Nate. Congratulations on the book, Kami. Great interview, Susan.

    Your newest follower who loves to win things,

    1. Hey, Genevieve! Thanks for the comment, and kudos for even remembering to wish Nate a happy birthday! You can go back to my earliest posts from last December to see how I came up with the name for this blog, but let's just say I'd match my expertise against yours any day! Helpful hint for this contest: as my next two commenters figured out, I LOVE acquiring new followers who are not members of either my family or my critique group! WRITE ON!!!

  7. Susan - You got a new follow from me - great blog!
    Kami- I have moved from nerdy chick to anal adult; I always make a spreadsheet for major decisions and over analyze everything. I am slightly concerned that you may have been reading MY DIARY when you wrote this book. Please stay out from under my bed from now on, ok? I look forward to reading the book.

    1. Hey Laurie! Thanks a million for the comment and the follow! We nerdy chicks have to stick together! And making spreadsheets is nothing to be ashamed of. I'd do it too, if I had the technical ability! I'm sure you'll love Kara McAllister, whether you end up winning my copy of the book or buying your own.

  8. Since I know Kami loves quotes from the wonderous Nerdy Chicks blog, I'll share one of my favorites! In honor of Kara's scientific approach to The Boy Project, here's some wisdom from Marie Curie:

    "Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained."

    1. Cathy, thanks for the comment and for the follow, which I've reciprocated! Terrific quote from Marie Curie, one of my real heroes. She had to spend years working as a governess to put her brother through school before she could even think of pursuing her own higher education. Then, not long after she met and married her soulmate and partner in her work, Pierre Curie, he died in a freak accident, leaving her a widow with two little girls and a career she couldn't give up. Her solution? Apparently, according to her daughters, she gave up sleeping. She would spend quality time with her girls, put them to bed, and then go back to work until the wee hours of the morning.

  9. Loved Kami at NJ-SCBWI this year! Also love your blog title and template!
    So, here's hoping Nate had a great birthday, and that I might get lucky. Last thing I won was a Palm Pilot in 19-ninetysomething. Winning a copy of Kami's book would be way cooler and MUCH more useful these days! :-)

    Write on! LeslieZ

    1. Hi Leslie! I'll tell you something weird about my template: In December I set up the blog, wrote my first post, and voila! The template magically appeared with no input from me! Evidently there's some tracking system afoot that picks up words like "book" and "write" and "publish," and customizes a template accordingly. So what do you think? Is that cool, or scary? Thanks for the comment!

  10. I am so looking forward to reading this book. I've always been described as Type-A+, and I have always had a list for everything. I love that you wrote that nerdy chicks are TOO SMART FOR POLITICS! My old boss would always try to rile me up about the latest news and then get so irritated when he realized that he was talking to a wall. :) This happened SEVERAL times too! Thank you, Kathy Temean for passing along this wonderful blog! xo Kate

    1. Actually, Kate, I didn't write that nerdy chicks are too smart for politics - Kami Kinard did. Me, I can think of some REALLY smart (and nerdy) women who have gone into politics, sometimes at great personal sacrifice, and I'm grateful to them for it. After all, it's not like men have done such a bang-up job of running the show (unless, of course, you count Silvio Berlusconi). Anyway, thanks for the comment!

  11. Thank you everyone for your great comments. I've been out of town for the past two weeks and it has left me little time for the blogosphere, so it was nice to get back home and read your comments. I read every one and appreciated all that you said about THE BOY PROJECT, the interview, and Susan's blog. I enjoyed meeting many of you at SCBWINJ! Bildebok, I love that Marie Curie quote too! It was one of the first quotes I featured on Nerdy Chicks Rule And I want to clarify something: I said MOST nerdy chicks are too smart for politics! I can think of a FEW who qualify, which is why I worded it the way I did!

    Thanks to you all, and thank you Susan for hosting me.


  12. Kami, I believe this is what they call a win-win! Thank YOU!

  13. Hey, Gals :)

    I just popped in to see how things are going and LOVED reading all these great comments! It's not quite the "20th" yet, but I"m looking forward to hearing who the winner is :) (I already have a copy, so don't want to qualify anyway!)

    And I forgot to wish Nate a "Happy Birthday!" How horribly remiss of me! He may be a "guy," but since he's 12, just like Kara, I think HE should read THE BOY PROJECT! :) ALL boys should!!! By the way, is he looking forward to his second year at Hogwarts? ;)

    Love ya...

  14. Hey Donna! I was going to give you a full report tomorrow so you could see what your good deed accomplished. And thank you for the birthday wishes for Nate! But ... why do you think he's 12? He's 23! Thanks for thinking I'm younger than I am! Nate is actually starting law school in a month - the Hogwarts School of Magical Laws, of course, where he plans to specialize in Wizard Procedure and Statutory Spells. I will pass along your birthday wishes, and he will take them under advisement. XXX

  15. was the "12th" that stuck in my brain, and it morphed into his age rather than the date! So then it looks like he'll be working for The Ministry of Magic at some point ;)

  16. Actually, Donna, he already has a summer internship lined up with Arthur Weasley!