Author Spotlight: K.J. McPike
What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?
The first book in my Astralis series is XODUS, and it tells the story of Lali Yavari, a girl who discovers she can astral project. She then goes on to use her newfound ability to bargain with a questionable boy who claims he can find her missing mother. The next book is Nemesis (book 1.5) that tells the events before, during, and just after XODUS from said questionable boy’s perspective.
Who’s your favorite character from your books?
It’s always hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to, I would choose Kai. (Yes, Kai is the aforementioned questionable boy.) I love that he challenges Lali’s black-and-white view of the world and makes her reevaluate right vs. wrong in certain circumstances. I hope he makes readers think twice, too.
I’ve never quite read a book like XODUS. That’s huge in a world where everything seems done to death. How did you decide to write about astral projection?
Aw, thank you! Astral projection is a subject that has always fascinated me. Growing up, my mother talked about astral projection a lot, and I latched onto the idea when she mentioned that some people claim they have been able to talk to deceased relatives while projecting. I never quite managed to do it myself (though I tried so hard!), but when the inspiration for XODUS hit and I decided I wanted to write about a bunch of siblings who have various abilities, astral projection was the first one that came to mind. Thanks, Mom!
I won’t give anything away, but in XODUS, the two main characters who everyone expects to fall in love have some major hurdles that may leave the reader not rooting for them until the next book. Most authors want you to immediately fall in love with the characters. Was this a hard decision?
It wasn’t a hard decision at first because it was how the story originally came to me, and I didn’t really picture it going any other way. But when I really started obsessing about the market and what readers seem to love about other books in the genre, I started to second-guess myself. Who doesn’t love two soul mates coming together in a relationship that is undeniably meant to be? But that wouldn’t have been true to my characters, and I think it would have taken away from the story. One of the major themes of the book centers around morality and understanding circumstances, and a major part of Lali’s growth is linked to that. So I kept the story-line as it was, for better or for worse. Here’s hoping readers will forgive me.
The second book in the series is written in quite a unique way. Can you tell us about that without giving any spoilers?
The second book Nemesis—which is technically book 1.5 just to complicate things—was my way of letting Kai have his say. I think his character is easily misunderstood, and when reading from Lali’s perspective, it’s easy to look at him as she does instead of seeing exactly where he’s coming from. Though his actions are questionable from the outside, I think most people in his position would make similar choices. My hope is that readers of Nemesis will recognize the tricky spot Kai is in and question how far they would be willing to go for their own families.
Were there alternate endings that you considered?
Not with dramatic differences. I struggled with where exactly to end the story, but the major events were pretty much always going to go the way they went. Sorry if that’s a boring answer!
What authors have inspired you to write?
I will forever be in awe of J.K. Rowling and her incredible ability to connect with so many different types of people through her writing. She’s also incredible at world building and planting seeds that seem small at the time but then become huge plot points later. I loved writing before those books came out, but when I decided I wanted to write a book of my own, I definitely had in mind how much I loved reading the Harry Potter series and how I wanted my writing to make reading that enjoyable for someone someday.
What age were you when you started writing?
I started writing stories when I was about ten, shortly after my family purchased a word processor. I thought typing was the coolest thing ever, and I spent countless hours whipping up crazy stories about environmentally conscious whales working to clean up the ocean and baby dinosaurs wreaking havoc on unsuspecting families. I also thought it was super cool to make all my characters’ names rhyme, so yeah…probably not my best work.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
All the time! It’s the worst, but I try to force myself to write anyway, even if what I’m writing has nothing to do with my current work in progress. For me, the key to beating it is to write through it.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I try to work with outlines, I really do. It’s just that I’m terrible at it. Even if I manage a coherent outline, I will inevitably change everything as I start writing. Planning and I just can’t get along.
Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?
What do you mean they aren’t real?! Hehe, I do feel a very strong attachment to my characters, despite the mean things I do to them in my writing, and I have been known to talk about them as if they are real people. But deep down, I have accepted that they aren’t real. I think…
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My biggest challenge with XODUS was letting it be done. It took me nearly three years to write it, and I am incapable of reading something I’ve written and accepting it. I always want to change things. Eventually, someone had to pry it out of my hands and tell me to stop obsessing, but it was so painful!
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
The main thing I would change about my publishing journey is that I would have studied marketing and begun building my author platform sooner. I didn’t do either of those things until after XODUS was published, so now I’m trying to play catch up.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
My upcoming book is called Tenuous, and it is the official book 2 of the Astralis series. In it, Lali and her siblings end up in trouble of the time traveling variety. *cue maniacal laughter*
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write every day, and read every day. Both are equally important. Also, join at least one good writing group where you read each other’s work and give each other honest feedback. The groups are great for keeping you accountable and for bouncing ideas off people who truly understand the writer struggle.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I’ve been told that I write in strange positions. For some reason, I always seem to feel more comfortable with one leg propped up, and when I’m doing the standing desk thing or curled over my laptop on the sofa, that can get pretty interesting. My boyfriend went on a kick where he would sneak pictures of me writing in my crazy positions, and once he’d collected enough of them, he decided to share them with me. It was then that I realized my problem.
What others are saying about K.J. McPike:
“I loved how the book could make me hate a certain character and then root for them and sympathize with them at the same time.”
“I really enjoyed XODUS. It was well-written, cleverly plotted, and full of twists and turns.”
“I am in love with the style in which K.J. McPike writes. The story and wording has a way off pulling you right in from the get go making it very hard to put down. So good in fact, I had it read in two days.”
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