Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Kaylena Radcliff – Kaylena Radcliff is a magazine editor, pastor’s wife, mother, and indefatigable world builder. As such, she subsists almost entirely on coffee and prayer.
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post below for a chance to win an eBook copy of “Mouse.”
Thanks so much, Kaylena, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Kaylena Radcliff: I’ve wanted to write since the time I could tell stories. I still have piles of books I “wrote” from kindergarten on through elementary school. I didn’t realize I was any good at it until high school, though—and oddly enough, it was in an earth and space science class. We were given the option to write a creative story about what would happen if the Earth didn’t have a moon, and I spun this sci-fi horror tale about us discovering a mirror planet that orbited on the opposite side of the sun (its only difference being it was moonless) and sending a team of scientists and astronauts from world-power nations to explore it. I still recall how impressed my teacher was with the plot and character development.
JSC: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
KR: As a young reader, I was most influenced by works of science fiction and fantasy. Reading such imaginative works inspired my own imagination and made my world a bigger and better place. And more than that, SFF had a way of dealing with complicated themes and pointing me to overarching truths that compelled me to interact philosophically. My beliefs have been sharpened and challenged by reading SFF. I choose to write it because I hope, in some small way, I can do for others what this genre has done for me.
JSC: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
KR: I am a part time writer. My other jobs include project coordinator for a quarterly magazine, pastor’s wife, and mom. Balancing life and work is a delicate dance, and I often find I don’t get to write as much as I’d like to, but I’ve been able to make time. One to two hour blocks most evenings after I put the kids to bed seems to work best for me. I tried the ever popular #5amwritersclub, but I couldn’t hack it. I’m not a morning person!
JSC: How did you choose the topic for “Mouse”?
KR: The idea for this book sprung out of two things: a conspiracy theorist I knew as a teen and a summer between college semesters that I spent working at a manufacturing plant. It was 10 hour days doing mind-numbing menial labor in a hot shop with creepy dudes surrounding me. When I went back to school, I couldn’t shake the idea of this dystopian facility where the government was performing sinister experiments on its inmates. I fleshed a short story out in a creative writing course I ended up taking and I realized that it was much bigger than those initial ten pages. 80,000 words and years of editing later, The Elmnas Chronicles: Mouse was born.
JSC: Tell us something we don’t know about your heroes. What makes them tick?
KR: Mouse yearns for family and functional relationship. It’s hard for her to voice it because of the trauma she’s experienced—to survive she has had to push down connection and emotion—but as her story progresses, that desire only grows stronger.
For Blade, injustice forces him on a path of personal vengeance, but guilt at his own failures and his loss of faith in his way of life sets him adrift—until he meets Mouse, that is.
And while Toma is moved to action because he senses an opportunity to actually change things in a life he’s been powerless to change for too long, he also finds himself drawn to the girl who brought the opportunity in the first place…
JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about him or her.
KR: Woldyff, our leader of a group of subterranean thieves known as the Jackal Syndicate. He plays a fairly small part in the course of the story, but when I started writing him, he became larger than life. He’s dashing, charismatic, and irreverent. It’s hard not to like him. I knew after I finished writing his part, he would have to show up again and soon!
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
KR: The bounty hunter and one of the main antagonists, Fox. To be frank, she’s a boss and kicks butt. But I’ve also been drawn to her because she has so many characteristics that are worthy of emulation—resourcefulness, cleverness, ferocity, and strength. At the same time, her flaws—apathy, anger, and greed—make her both cautionary and relatable. It’s easy to empathize with her but also be repulsed by her actions. Writing that tension into a character has been challenging and rewarding.
JSC: What was the first book that made you cry?
KR: Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques. I was in seventh grade and I’ve never been so devastated by a book’s conclusion.
JSC: What’s your drink of choice?
KR: Freshly ground Colombian coffee, with just a splash of milk. Preferably in one of my favorite mugs, of which I have too many.
JSC: What are you working on now?
KR: I am hard at work on the second installment of The Elmnas Chronicles. I don’t want to give too much away, but we’ll follow our heroes where they left off and a certain fiery antagonist gets her much deserved backstory! There may or may not also be the following: cranky ascetics, monster wolves, handsome bards, knife-throwing carnies, mountain hermits, and sadistic mercenaries. I can’t wait to get this one done and into readers’ hands!
And now for Kaylena’s new book: “Mouse”:
Mouse wakes not knowing who or where she is. Only the searing pain of the number 146 being burned on her arm. A slave in Misty Summit’s Manufacturing Facility, she is alone until the discovery of a terrible truth launches her on a mission to Elmnas. When a gregarious farm boy and an ancient warrior join her, the ruling powers and a relentless bounty huntress attempt to track her down.
Will they reach the fabled country or die trying?
“All had been darkness. This was the first thought she knew. Where it came from or what came before, she could not say, but she saw that it endured. Bound to it, she passed through in silent obscurity; a blind phantom in a black sea.
Here the second thought struck her. She was. What did that mean? Well, she did not become the void. There was distinction. Otherness. Life. And it belonged to her.
And in that thought, something new entered the darkness.”
Kaylena Radcliff is a magazine editor, pastor’s wife, mother, and indefatigable world builder. As such, she subsists almost entirely on coffee and prayer. A voracious reader and prolific writer from an early age, Kaylena was deeply influenced by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Flannery O’Connor. She dabbles in many genres, but most loves writing and reading speculative and fantasy fiction. Aside from writing, Kaylena enjoys discussing history, theology, and all things nerdy.
Despite extended trips abroad and the passport to prove it, she never did manage to escape her Pennsylvanian hometown. In true hobbit fashion, she happily resides there with her husband and two young children. You can find out more about her and her work at https://kaylenaradcliff.wordpress.com/.