Time for another Author Spotlight and a chance to get to know Kayla Howarth, author of the Institute Series.
What are the titles of your works and can you tell us a bit about them?
The Institute, Resistance, and Defective (Books 1, 2 and 3 of The Institute Series) follow my heroine Allira Daniels and her struggle to live a normal life. Her brother is Defective, a term used for people who possess supernatural abilities. They are seen as dangerous and are segregated from the general population by law and forced to live at the Institute.
Everything Allira does is to protect her brother, Shilah, from having to be sent to the Institute. (Even if she completely screws that up sometimes … okay a lot.)
You have many great ones to choose from, but who is your favorite character from your books?
Are you really asking me to pick one of my favourite children? Because that’s what it feels like!
I feel closest to Allira, obviously being inside her head for three years while writing the trilogy.
But my favourite character might actually be Drew, the enigmatic boy who learned early on in life that to survive, he had to screw people over. He had the biggest struggle and growth as a character and earned a place in my heart. (And a lot of readers’ evidently.)
Out of all the action, what was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
There are so many scenes that I read and reread over and over again because I loved them so much, and looking back now, it wasn’t so much the action scenes, but the ones where friendships and relationships developed.
Any scene with Allira and Tate was always fun to write.
The awkwardness between Allira and Chad gave me butterflies of nerves.
Allira and Shilah’s sister/brother relationship.
Any of the interactions between Allira, Drew, Jayce and Jenna in book #3.
Your endings have the perfect closure, but were there alternate endings that you considered?
The Institute had a whole extra chapter at the end that was cut and reserved for Resistance. The scene answered a lot of unanswered questions readers have when they reach the cliffhanger ending of book one. I, myself, as a reader hate cliffhanger endings, and I hated that I did it to my readers, but the scene that was cut just wasn’t strong enough of an ending to the story. It lacked the punch that was needed and would have had readers questioning, “Well, okay … but what now?”
Both Resistance and Defective ended how I’d planned from the beginning.
What authors have inspired you to write?
Suzanne Collins. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a major Hunger Games fan. Before that series, I hadn’t really read much at all since high school. THG inspired me to start reading again, and that inspired me to write my own stories.
What age were you when you started writing?
I’d taken an elective writing class in high school, but didn’t do any writing after that until I was about twenty-eight. That’s when I started shaping The Institute.
Writer’s Block. A common enemy to all authors. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what helps overcome it?
I hate it. I HATE it so much! I used to just force myself to push through it, telling myself I could just go back and fix the drivel later. That doesn’t work so much for me anymore.
I will try reading, but usually if I’m in a writing slump, I’m in a reading slump too. I will try different projects, which is probably why I have four … crap, FIVE unfinished works in progresses right now. *face palm*
But when all else fails… coffee.
Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real? Like Allira and her badass-ness?
They’re not real? What? I don’t understand the question. Why would you say such a mean thing?
If given the choice, would you be normal or defective?
If you were Defective, what ability would you have and would you have a cool nickname?
I would really love the ability of power of suggestion. I write this as I beg my child to go put pants on for the thirtieth time today, only to get a resounding ‘no’ in response.
As for a name, right now I’d settle for anything other than, “Mummy… Mummy… Mum. MUM! MUMMY!”
Allira must have been fun to write. Where did you get the idea for her? Is she similar to you?
Allira started off very much like me until I realized no one wants to read about a socially awkward, insecure, second-guessing yourself kind of person for 350 pages. She ended up developing into the kind of person I want to be. She’s someone who will stand up for what she believes is right, and even though she does have flaws and insecurities, she doesn’t let them own her like perhaps I do.
Australians have awesome accents, but if you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose? Would you keep the Aussie one?
I’d like to refine my Australian accent to sound more like Nicole Kidman and less like Rebel Wilson. I love the Aussie accent but not the bogan (trashy) version of it. Sorry Rebel.
Publishing books can be challenging and stressful. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I put it out there before it was ready and had to fix it up after it was published. I didn’t realize how big the indie publishing world was or the amount of help available pre-publication. So I regret not doing more research beforehand.
We are all eager to see what comes next. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
There will be very short novella written from Chad’s perspective. “Through His Eyes (The Institute #3.5)” fills in the eighteen month gap in between Resistance and Defective.
Then shortly after, “Losing Nuka” will be released. Nuka from The Institute Series is all grown up and gets her own book where she searches for her birth mother, only to find herself involved in an underground illegal fight ring called “Litmus” where Defectives are pitted against other Defectives. The Litmus Series will have three books, each from a different person’s perspective. It’s very different to The Institute Series even though it’s technically set in the same world.
As an accomplished author, do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
When I first published, there were so many times where I thought to myself “I’m wasting my time!” My husband kept having to remind me that it’s not an overnight success type of thing.
It’s easy to get disheartened when your sales are in a slump, or you get a bad review. You spend countless hours/days/months/years slaving over a story that you just hope others will love as much as you do, and when they don’t you feel like you’ve failed. For some stupid reason, our brains are wired to focus on the bad reviews and not the positive ones. It’s a lot easier to remember when someone says something negative than when they pay a compliment.
The key is to take it all in stride, improve where you can, and just continually learn to grow and master your craft. I guess I’m trying to say, ‘Don’t give up’.
This cliché (but true) piece of advice brought to you today by lack of caffeine.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I have to edit out a lot of ellipses from a first draft. Generally, when I’m thinking about what a character should do or say, I reflexively type … like they’re actually thinking about it too. My first drafts usually read like all of my characters have stutters or can’t think straight.
Now, time for some random, fun questions. What toppings do you like on your pizza?
Meatlovers. Any kind of meat. NO PINEAPPLE EVER. Pineapple is a fruit. Fruit does not belong on a pizza. All of you smarty-pants out there saying “Tomato is a fruit and it’s nice on a pizza,” you just shhh now. It’s not the same and you know it! Pineapple is a fruity fruit.
Dogs or Cats?
I love both. Right now we have one dog at home, but I’d love to have a cat again one day.
What is your biggest fear?
Oblivion. No wait … That was Augustus Water’s answer in The Fault in Our Stars.
Mine? Anything to do with my son, really. I’m the overprotective mother who freaks out any time my child goes near water, falls over, gets sick … I try not to be, but it seems my mother instincts are stronger than my common sense.
So there you have it: a look into the mind of Kayla Howarth. If you’re interesting in checking out her books then the links have been placed below.