K.L. Small has written for many years and has won various awards, but this month marks a special milestone with the release of her debut novel, A Dress to Remember, a Young Adult fairytale.
Welcome, Kathleen. Looking forward to hearing how you got to this place.
My love of writing started when I was ten, thanks to a Christmas gift from my grandmother. She gave me two beautifully illustrated horse books by Marguerite Henry. I read them over and over again, and wanted to write books like she did. Oh, and I wanted a horse too!
While these goals of writing books and owning a horse seemed out of reach for me as a ten-year-old girl living in an apartment in New York City, those childhood dreams did come true fifty years later. When I was reading those Marguerite Henry books, little did I imagine one day I would own an off-the-track thoroughbred and two mustangs.
As retirees, my husband and I moved to a Florida horse ranch. Our place is called Carousel Acres. We live here with three horses, four barn cats, and assorted wildlife.
Meet ShyAnne and Skylark
Writing has always held a special place in my heart. In high school, I was the poetry editor of our literary journal. In college, I was the energy editor for a science journal. As a parent, I wrote the newsletter for my son’s high school band boosters. Throughout my corporate career, there were always business reports and letters to be written. At the end of the work day, I dabbled with fiction writing.
Retirement brings opportunities
When I retired, I became serious about writing for publication. I wanted to share stories with children like Marguerite Henry did. I went back to the stories I had written years ago in the evenings. Several unfinished short stories turned into middle-grade novels. One of them, A Dress to Remember, was released on March 6, 2023. A second one, The Magic Carousel, is planned to be released in July 2023.
Both these books will be independently published. I love the control I have over the production of these stories, while working with a team of excellent professionals for editing, formatting, and artwork. I’m especially pleased to have Brandon Dorman on my team. Brandon’s artwork is included in many widely read fantasy series, such as R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps, Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven, and Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories.
Books for children
A Dress to Remember is a fairy tale. Unlike Cinderella, the main character, Zarina, is already a princess. She wants a special dress for an upcoming event, but she doesn’t have a fairy godmother like Cinderella. Instead, she makes a deal with a mysterious dressmaker. The resulting garment is a magic black ball gown; not what Zarina expected, especially when fire fairies dance across the dress. As Zarina tells a story, images appear on the dress. To complicate things, raiders attack her kingdom. This novel won a 2022 Bronze Award in the Royal Palm Literary Awards competition in the unpublished children’s fiction category.
The Magic Carousel (formerly Rust Boy and the Brass Ring) also won a Royal Palm Literary Award, a Silver Award in 2021 as an unpublished middle-grade fiction. It is the first book in the Brass Ring series. Other titles in the series are The Christmas Carousel and The Haunted Carousel. The concept in all these books is that Rusty has a magic brass ring that turns each carousel ride into a time travel adventure. These have been fun books to write. I’m looking forward to seeing Brandon Dorman’s artwork for this series.
While I mostly write children’s novels, I have drafted a women’s fiction, and have had several short stories published. I’m tempted to write a narrative non-fiction about my mother and daughter mustangs. So many stories to share!
How it all comes about
People ask where do my story ideas come from. I don’t find the stories, they find me. Typically, I get the concept first. For instance, suppose there was a magic storytelling dress. Then I ask myself “what if” questions. What if the wearer of the dress doesn’t want it but is trapped in the dress? What if there’s a limit to the magic and the dress falls apart as the magic is used up? Then I move to the “who” questions. Who requested the dress? Who made the dress? Who’s the villain in the story? From there I picture how the story will unfold.
I’m a plotter, so I plan the scenes of the story. After the scenes are written, I go back through the manuscript and divide it into chapters. Then revise, revise, revise. Story Genius and Save the Cat! Writes a Novel are two of my favorite resources for developing characters and creating the plot.
Research is an important part of writing. I enjoy learning new things, so research is fun for me. For The Haunted Carousel, which I just finished writing, I researched Dracula, Edgar Allan Poe, werewolves, Notre Dame, spiders, and so many other topics. I watched some horror movies and YouTube videos. I went to a costume store. The trick with research is to do enough to get the facts straight, but not get lost going too far down rabbit trails.
Getting known and finding support
In 2019, when I decided to focus on publication, the common advice was to create an author platform to let potential readers find and follow me. I created a website and shared blog posts about writing. I gained support from other authors by joining writing groups on Twitter and Facebook. Finding a community of those who have already independently published has been a big help. I’ve also attended online webinars and conferences.
Follow Carousel Acres and Kathleen’s work
Everyone is invited to join my mailing list for a monthly newsletter by visiting www.kathleenlsmall.com. Each subscriber receives “The Gift,” which is a short story that won third place in a fantasy/horror magazine contest. It takes place in the Institute for the Magically Gifted and was published long before the Harry Potter books. I was so thrilled when this story was selected in the contest. I remember jumping up and down in my kitchen when I opened the envelope with my winnings. It was the first check I received for my writing!
My advice to anyone who dreams of being an author is to never give up.
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