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 Kinard's middle-grade novel, "
Kami, as someone who was, is, and will forever be a nerdy chick, I salute your celebration of all of us in your blog, www.nerdychicks.com, 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, http://www.kamikinard.com/, at her Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kami-Kinard/126862120731247, or at her blog, http://www.nerdychicksrule.com/, 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!