I know, I know, it’s been several weeks since Kiera Cass was here in the country, but the past month has been hectic, what with my day job and the Manila International Book Fair and Margaret Stohl, Melissa dela Cruz, and Alyson Noel all stopping by at the same time. I’ve barely been able to keep up with my paying job, much less this non-paying one!
Anyway, this interview with Kiera Cass was really fun. She was very bubbly and energetic, and it’s kinda hard not to be infected by that just a little bit. Also, we’re both One Direction fans (What? what? DEAL WITH IT.) so obviously we were speaking to each other on the astral level.
Read the interview under the cut!
RONREADS (RR): Is this your first time in the country?
KIERA CASS (KC): Yeah, it’s my first time. This is my first time traveling internationally at all. This is the first stamp on my passport, I was so excited.
RR: Were you aware of your fanbase in the Philippines or is this the first time you’re finding out about it?
KC: I was vaguely aware of it because of Twitter. I’ve got a really great Filipino following on Twitter. They’re really enthusiastic. I’m really excited tomorrow because I get to finally meet some of them and get to answer some of their questions. That’s my favorite part and I’m really excited.
RR: How were you invited and where did you find out that you were going here?
KC: I was a little shocked that anybody cared (laughs). That was really cool. I just remember getting emails and getting really shocked. Like really? Are you sure? I was just a little surprised but also thrilled that this anybody would have me.
RR: Could you talk a little bit about “The Siren”? It’s a self-published book, right?
KC: Yes. I don’t think it’s available here and I don’t know if anyone can get a copy, which makes me really sad. But basically it’s an updated take on the Greek mythology of sirens, the beautiful woman who would sing the ships out to their doom. I think I was waking up from a nap, and there was this haze from being asleep, and I was thinking about sirens. I thought that would be really fun to write about if only they had a reason to exist.
And then the idea came to me that the ocean eats people and she needs these beautiful women to get these ships out so she can take the ships down and eat the people and keep the rest of the world alive. Immediately I went downstairs and wrote two paragraphs (laughs). That was the beginning of the whole thing, and those two paragraphs didn’t even get used. But I was just so excited. I remember being at a party with all of my friends and I was just thinking that I want to go home.
CALLAWAY CASS (CC): But it’s interesting because the ocean kind of regrets what she has to do.
KC: There’s remorse there. It’s this thing that she has to do. She justifies it, the girls who are assigned to this life justify it. It’s only 100 years, it’s a sentence, you don’t have to do it forever. But I think there’s this justification that it serves the world as a whole because everyone needs water and the ocean has to exist. The justify taking a few to serve the whole and they all feel guilty about it.
The girls who come into this, they’re dying, they’re drowning, and the ocean gives them a chance to live in exchange. When you’re done, you don’t remember it because how could you live knowing that you’ve done all this? You’ve spent a large portion of your life killing people. It’s sad and mournful in a way, but also kind of beautiful. It’s kind of creepy. But I really loved that story. I wrote the whole thing and still loved how easily Kalen communicated with me because when I started writing America, it was a lot different. It was kind of like pulling teeth sometimes.
RR: How long did it take to write “The Siren” and what made you decide to go the self-publishing route rather than the traditional way?
KC: I think it took less than a month to get the first draft of it written, because I would get to the end of the chapter and asked what happens next? I would just wait for it to tell me, and I did the same with America. I forget how long it took working back and forth on it, working on other stuff just so I could stay interested. But over the course of the summer I had something done and in the fall decided that I was going to try to get it published.
I spent about six months looking for an agent, sent out about 80-plus query letters trying to find one. I think 10-plus agents read it and nobody wanted it. But by that time I had fans and who knew I was writing. My best friend and I do silly videos on Youtube, so people were following knew that I had a book and I just wanted to make it available. I decided to just do it myself. I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody because it’s really difficult doing it alone. But I think for what I was doing at the time, it was a good idea. But it’s a very difficult thing to do.
RR: How big of a role did “The Siren” play in you actually getting an agent and a publishing deal?
KC: I don’t know if you could call “The Siren” a success. For a self-published book, it did okay, not compared to Amanda Hocking, who had a huge success on her own and that translated into a book deal. But I didn’t sell enough copies of “The Siren” that it got the attention of somebody who would want to pick it up. There was a flicker of that the first few days it was out, and then that was gone.
But when I started querying again for “The Selection”, I told them I was self-published. I learned to market on my own and I learned a little bit of self-editing. I’m not great at it, I definitely need a professional (laughs). But it was definitely proof that I’ve written a book before, I can write this now, and I can write a book again. That was probably the most reassuring thing when it came to an agent. I think they’re looking for someone who has more than one book up their sleeve, because it’s a career for them too. It has to be sustainable. I think that was probably the best, and that I had learned to do a bunch of stuff online on my own. You’re lucky if your publishing company can support you and get you out there really well. Sometimes it doesn’t work out really well. Knowing how to go out there on your own is kind of crucial.
CC: But when you got the agent for “The Selection”, you didn’t go “Oh, I self-published ‘The Siren.’” You just kind of let her know that here’s what you’ve done before, but “The Selection” was sold on what it was.
KC: There’s been some overseas interest with having “The Siren” printed, but not in the States. It’s out there if anyone wants to get a hold of it, they absolutely can, but “The Selection” is its own thing and when I went querying that was what I was focused on.
RR: I have to admit that when I got my copy of “The Selection” a year ago, I didn’t think much of it based on the concept and the cover. But when I actually read it, especially the first half, I found out that I misjudged it. When you were querying, did you find that agents and publishers also misjudged what you were trying to say with the book?
KC: Sometimes I find that with reviewers and critics. Not necessarily in the publishing world. I think they just try so hard to get the overall sense. If they felt something like that, they may have pushed past it to see where I was going. But I’ve never gotten that reaction from an agent or an editor or anybody from the publishing world.
Critics say that I’m anti-feminist. “Look at what she’s doing with these women!” That’s never the point. I don’t write with an agenda. I just want to tell a love story, that’s the long and short of it (laughs).
CC: But your publisher also knew where it was going. That’s like saying with “The Hunger Games”, it was written to say that this big traditional combat thing is good. That’s not what it’s saying. It exists in the book, but there’s a bigger point. It’s not saying everything is okay.
KC: I don’t think the books glorify it at all.
RR: Could you talk about how you got the idea for “The Selection” and how long it took you to write?
KC: The idea came from the “what ifs” in other stories, mainly Esther from the Bible and Cinderella.
The story of Esther has King Xerxes and Queen Vashti, and they’re having this epic party and the king calls for the queen and she doesn’t come. His buddies tell him to get rid of her, hold a beauty contest, and get a new queen, and he thinks it’s a great idea. They round up basically all of the young girls to take to the palace and compete in this beauty pageant and Esther is one of them. She wins, which is great because she becomes queen and she saves her people and she becomes this wonderful thing. But if she hadn’t won, she would have been in this harem for the rest of her life. That was it. And I always wondered if maybe she always wanted the boy next door and that there was someone she always hoped for and had to let that love die. It’s not in the text and we’ll never know. I just thought that all her sacrifices were kind of beautiful and interesting. Cinderella meets the prince and she gets married, but she never asked for a prince. She asked for a night off and a dress, that’s all she wanted. So she gets this guy, we assume she’s happy, but what if she’s not? What if becoming a princess is way more than she intended to do and was way more stressful? Those two things kind of married in my head, and I knew I wanted to write about this girl who gets the attention of the prince but she wouldn’t want to because she’s already in love. She gets to see more of the world than she was ever prepared to see, and that became “The Selection”.
It took me a while to actually start writing it because I didn’t know where to place it. In my head it was kind of more like a fairy tale in the past but that wasn’t really working, so I ended up having to invent my own country and put it in the future. I think I was driving down the road when the word Illea popped into my head and I knew that’s where she is. When that happened I started writing it full-out.
RR: How long did it take you to finish it and did it start out as a trilogy?
KC: As I started writing I think I knew it was going to have to be more than one book. I don’t know if I realized it was going to be three right away, but I knew it was going to be more than one. “The Siren” took me a month to get together and I want to say “The Selection” took me the same time, a month to get the rough draft of it done. Coming up with the idea, to saying it was done, was about a year and a half. A couple of months finding an agent, editing together, the whole process to actually seeing the book on the shelf took four years.
RR: What made you keep going on and not just go self-publish again?
KC: I know (laughs)! Self-publishing takes a couple of months, we’re done! From the idea to actually finding an agent who wanted to move forward on it was about two years. When I went to query for “The Selection”, I sent out 13 letters and two agents wanted it and I got to pick, which is the total end of the spectrum because you don’t get to pick. I thought that people might really like this if two people wanted to represent me. Maybe this is something really good. Just having her there to kind of champion it, when I got my editor and she was just so excited about it, there was just something about it.
Self-publishing is really great if you want it really fast and you want control over it. But for me, nothing beats having that support system of having your publisher and your agent and the people who are marketing it and trying to find the best path for your book. I never doubted it and I never doubted them, and that’s what kept me going. I’m not a patient person, I didn’t like waiting (laughs). But in the end, it made it the best book it could possibly be. I’m forever grateful for that. I don’t think it would have been anything without them.
RR: How different is the final book from the first draft?
KC: (Luaghs). It’s a bit different. When I wrote “The Siren”, Kalen was a little bitter about what happened to her and she wanted everyone to know. She told me really easily. I knew everything. With America, I just thought it would be the same way. The characters would tell em what I wanted to know. There were times where I was just putting words to her mouth just to get it out on the page, just to be done.
Just when I had finished the first book, when I thought I knew her, I thought I had gotten her completely wrong and had to go back and rewrite to get where it was consistent. Once I figured that out, by the end of the first book, the person who she was supposed to end up with, based on what I had written, was not the same person based on who she actually was. Who she ends up with is actually not the same person who I thought she would end up with in the beginning.
There is a scene in the third book where there was no place to put it, but it exists in that world, but I can’t tell anybody about it yet. That’s why I’m really excited for the third book to be done so I can go “Also, there’s this.” Because there’s stuff that I want to say but I can’t, and that kind of changed the story for me. I’m hoping I can share the other pieces of that world to other people. Also in the second book, there was the way that I wrote it that we ended up taking out the middle twice. We gutted the book two different times and made it different. There are times where I go looking for a plot point and it’s not there. As far as anybody is concerned, that doesn’t exists. But it’s there in my head (laughs). All the feelings and all the progress that needed to happen in the second book still happened, just not in the way that I thought it would. I think later in the year I’m going to be able to share that.
RR: Was it difficult making the transition from being a self-published author to a more traditional one?
KC: I’m not a cover artist, I’m not an editor. I’m a pretty good storyteller. For me, it was really good to have professionals around me to help shape it. And my editor is a wonderful, wonderful person and I can’t say enough good things about her because she’s never forced my hand. If I say that this really needs to stay, then she says okay. She has faith in me. But when the second book came around, I gutted it the first time with my agent, and then when I got to her, it was still too slow and it still wasn’t effective. I trusted my agent and I trusted my editor and I think in the end it turned out to be the ebst book it could be.
There are times when it’s difficult to let things go, but I trust they know what they’re doing. For me, it’s just the best thing to be able to work with them. You give over a little bit of control, but the trade-off is you get a real polished, beautiful thing in the end. Sometimes, i feel like “The Siren” could have been so much better if I had waited and if I had known more.
CC: I’d like to reread “The Siren” if it ever gets published through Harper and goes through the editing process. It’s a really good story, but reading it, there is some stuff that’s rough and I feel like if it was rearranged or written differently, it would be better. But it’s a great story.
KC: There was a whole chapter that doesn’t need to exist and I cut it out before the final version, but how much more could I have done if I had known better?
RR: How did you prepare yourself for the feedback for “The Selection”, considering the fact that you’re reaching a bigger audience?
KC: My best friend and I used to make videos on Youtube, and people are really mean on the internet (laughs). I’m used to people being mean for no reason, and it doesn’t matter. I thought I would be fine, but when the ARCs went out and some people were really excited and through the roof, I was happy because that’s the only judge you have as a newbie. That’s all you can make a guess on if it’s going to be good or not.
When some people came in really harsh, it was a bit devastating because I was not prepared. I just didn’t know what to do with it. But in the end you just have to let it roll off your back. Haters, overall, are a good thing. If everybody loves your book, then you are not reaching enough people. People disliking it is proof that you’ve reached a really large audience. It’s difficult to deal with sometimes but it’s good news when people don’t like your book.
RR: How did feedback on “The Selection” affect the writing of “The Elite”?
KC: By the time “The Selection” came out, “The Elite” was already pretty much done and we were already working on the third book. Nobody knew about much when “The Selection” was being written. Nobody knew about “The Elite” because it was pre-publication. But in the end, I say this a lot, I write the books for me and I write them to entertain myself. If other people like them, that’s awesome, but i’m not going to change it to appease you. America’s voice in my head is very real, I trust what she’s saying, and I’m going to put on paper what she told me is true. If I’m honest to what she’s communicating, then that’s all I want. I hope that people are satisfied with it, but in the end not everyone is going to like what is written. You’re going to have to make your piece with it.
RR: I thought that the women in “The Selection” were doing the best they could do under the circumstances they were in.
KC: I think it’s really ridiculous that for a woman to be considered strong, she has to take on all the characteristics of a man. That is stupid. I think some of America’s greatest strengths is that she sacrifices, that she protects the people that she can. She’s not bigger than everybody. she can’t protect everybody, but she can take her maids somewhere. She can stand up for Marlee. she may not be successful, but she tried. I think just the effort alone is really strong. I don’t try to write strong female characters. I just try to write honest female characters. I don’t care. For me, it’s just about being honest to who she is. If the way she is strong makes others feel stronger, then that’s great. But if you don’t take that away from the book, then that’s okay too because I wrote it to entertain myself (laughs). I wrote it for me.
I feel like the final five in particular are great examples of different types of girls. You got Elise, who is very duty and honor bound, and she wants to be this beacon. You’ve got Celeste, who needs the spotlight and wants everyone to love her. And then America, who is not sure what she wants and is fumbling through this. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them being exactly who they are. You can take away whatever you want from it.
RR: Was the direction with Maxon’s father always going to go that way? Because I wasn’t expecting that!
KC: I know (laughs)! Callaway doesn’t know about this yet, you should go! I don’t want you to know about it (laughs)!
I don’t know when I figured out that Maxon also had this big, overarching issue with his dad. I knew from the beginning that there was tension there, but I didn’t know how deep it went. And it was really difficult when I figured out that it’s really that bad. Somebody asked the other day when it started happening, and I don’t know if I ever want to ask Maxon because I don’t want to see a five-year-old Maxon getting beaten by his dad. It’s hard for me to deal with.
When Marlee was beaten, I knew for a long time that she had a secret, but I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t know it was going to be exposed. When I figured that out and I realized that everybody was going to have to see this, I had to research canings because I didn’t know and it was difficult. There are things where I don’t want to go too far back and ask about. In the third book, there’s a question I refuse to ask because the answer would be really bad and I don’t want to know.
Personally, it’s difficult. As a mother, I have a three-and-a-half old son and a one-year-old daughter and I can’t fathom the will, what would would make one feel that that’s the way to correct your kid, to keep them in constant fear of you. I don’t get it. It was difficult.
People have sometimes compared “The Selection” to “The Hunger Games”, I guess because of the lottery aspect, but I feel like Suzanne asks deeper and more difficult questions of her characters and to the world than I am prepared to. I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s so successful and why it’s so powerful, because she’s willing to go there and I’m just not.
RR: Is there a direction in the third book that you were surprised you took?
KC: I think six chapters of the book were really difficult for me on a lot of levels. I don’t know if I can say much more without giving things away, but they were difficult to write. Everything surrounding Marlee was difficult to write. Everything surrounding Maxon’s abuse was difficult to write. But as far as surprising? I don’t know because I had a vision of where I was going for a long time.
I will say that in the second book, when Kriss started speaking up, that was a surprise, because in my mind she’s a background character. But she kind of stepped forward, and she was a big surprise.
RR: What’s the most gratifying reaction you’ve gotten from a fan?
KC: The other day, I tweeted that I was in the Philippines and people were tweeting back “We’re breathing the same air!” (Laughs) You’re so sweet! It’s kind of hard to imagine that this really matters to anybody because I do it alone in a room. The other half of my day is changing diapers and washing dishes, so it’s kind of hard to imagine that anything i do matters to anybody else. That’s always huge.
I went on tour with three other authors right after “The Elite” came out, and this girl showed up with both of her copies, with 50 flags hanging out of each of them, and she had all these in-depth questions. I had no idea that anybody would pay that much attention to anything. When she had serious questions and she was backing stuff up, it was really embarrassing because she knew the world better than me (laughs).
The truth is, after a book is published, I don’t go back and read it. I’m just afraid I’m going to find fault with the writing. I don’t have a problem with the story itself. I read to cross-research and make sure things align, but I don’t read it form cover to cover. There are people who have read it a gazillion times and I feel like they know more stuff than me (laughs)! It’s kind of awkward.
It’s always really fun when I meet somebody and they’re shaking. There’s a picture of this fan who was with her mom. I went into the store and she ran around the corner and fell on the floor and started hyperventilating. i was like “Why?” (Laughs) It’s just me! But her mom thought it was really funny and took a photo of her rolling on the floor. Just that anybody cares that much is astonishing to me.
I write to keep myself sane, and if it makes anybody else happy or excited or root for imaginary people, that’s really amazing to me. The fact that anybody wanted me to come to the Philippines in the first place? It’s crazy! It’s mind-boggling.
RR: How do you know how far you can push when it comes to situations?
KC: I feel like when it comes to lines in YA, there’s a lot that you can show now, more than you could five or six years ago. I’ve yet to hit on something where they asked me to dial things back. I don’t know if it’s just because my editor has seen so much now. But I’ve never had a reader say anything was too inappropriate.
RR: Could you talk about the caste system and its history as outlined in Gregory’s diaries?
KC: I had the concept in my head for a while, and then it took me a while to find a setting for it. As I started asking America these questions and seeing the rules and the boundaries and who she is in the big scheme of this country, it all started falling into place. It all came together. The history lesson in the first book wasn’t in there originally. It was just in my head, but my editor asked why this happened, and I said “Don’t you know?” (Laughs) It’s so ingrained in me that I start thinking that everyone else knows it. I put that down and eventually the whole background of who Gregory was, this control that he really wanted to have and the power he wanted to have and how he was willing to push people around him to get it would all eventually surface. I knew that it was there, but it was only in the second book that I knew that I had to address the monarchy and America’s desire to be a part of it. Sometimes I think you can go blindly into things, and for her, knowing the truth about everything was crucial. Maxon kind of figuring it out, which he hadn’t until the end of the book, was kind of important.
RR: How different has the reaction been to “The Selection” and “The Elite”?
KC: “The Selection” came out and it did pretty good. I don’t think they were expecting as good a reaction as it got. I was waiting for the momentum to die, and I was ready to get people amped up and get excited again, and that moment never came. People read it and they got excited and they shared it with their friends. I was getting more Twitter followers and they were emailing me and it was this slow and constant growth.
When “The Selection” came out, it went to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It debuted there. I was not expecting that. That wasn’t something I dreamed was possible for me. But the fans went out and bought it! They’re still really giddy and asking questions and finding things that I said and lining it up. When you find out Maxon’s secret in the second book, I hinted at it. If you go read a little bit earlier in the second book, it’s there. There’s something that has to do with Chapter Nine and Chapter 20. If you look really closely, Chapter Nine will prove Chapter 20 is real. There’s a lot of little secrets, and they’re having fun going back and discovering things. That those little details are exciting to people is really fun.
They make photosets on Tumblr, they have roleplaying sites. It’s definitely different this time around because it’s a bit bigger, but it’s all been kinda surprising (laughs). It’s just kinda surprising.
RR: Where were you when you heard that “The Elite” had debuted on the top of the New York Times bestseller list?
KC: (Laughs) This is so awkward! I was at the Romantic Times Book Convention. I was there promoting the second book. My publicist was there. I went to the bathroom and getting ready to sit in the panel where they were talking about New Adult books which I’m really curious about, and I left and was walking down the aisle and picking some Starbursts from the table where they have the swag. I go in and my publicist goes (imagine her talking with a moth full of Starbursts) “What, what are you talking about?” I’m just chewing. There’s a bunch of people in the room and she pulls it up on her iPad and I sort of start crying and jumping around. They’re starting a panel and I’m just saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” I don’t remember any of that, somebody just filmed me (laughs). I had no idea what I was doing. I missed the panel because I went out to the hallway to cry and I was calling Callaway, calling my mom, and I was totally shocked because there were a lot of great authors on that list. Stephen Chbosky was on the list that week, and I thought it was so cool that we were on the same list on the same time.
It’s awesome and amazing, but it’s also abstract because it still doesn’t change what I have to do daily. I still have to change diapers, I still have to get dinner to the table. Someone has to do the laundry. Who? The New York Times bestseller (laughs). i’m hugely honored. It’s a really great title to have. I don’t think we’ll do it again, but once, that’s huge forever (laughs).
RR: Could you talk about your writing process?
KC: I write in our house, but it got kind of cluttered when we started having children, so I would write in Panera. I would go there every other day and that was my office. We just move and I finally have my office space, but we still haven’t set up. We’ve been there two months but things have been crazy. Hopefully, after this we can have a little break and finish up.
I have my little creative things around me. I have my Post-It notes everywhere, One Direction posters —
RR: OH MY GOD.
KC: (Laughs) We’ll talk about it later!
I’ve got my munchies, I’ve got my little laptop, that’s usually it. I can work really well if I’m out in my coffee shop or in my office. I gotta have my music and that’s pretty much it. I’m pretty good.
With the first book, it was kind of chronological the way I wrote it. With the second book, I wrote several different scenes and strung them all together. And with “The One”, I started writing from the end and wrote backwards. They’re all written very differently and whatever seems right for the story. Just write however it takes to get your story out.
RR: How do you prevent social media from overtaking your writing life?
KC: It has taken over my life (laughs). My phone’s nearby just in case I have to tweet something. I love being on Twitter and on Tumblr. I’m on there way too much. It’s almost become part of the writing process for me. I write a little chunk, I’ll listen to a song, tweet a line from the song. Sometimes I think it helps because I’m so scatterbrained that I just need to take a break and that break serves a purpose because I’m connecting to readers. Callaway makes fun of me because I tweet way too much. I love it and I think it’s really great because my readers are teenagers and they hang out online.
RR: Did you come from a family of writers?
KC: It’s kind of funny. Both my grandparents were teachers. My mom would write poetry. My grandmother would write poetry. It never really seemed like an option for me? I started in musical theater and ended up in history. I know, right? The only reason I even switched because I didn’t want to be a theater performer who was on the road a lot. I wanted to be grounded and with my family. But I liked telling stories and I realized that studying music, history, and art, was just different ways of telling a story. That was something that I always loved and I don’t think I realized it until much later in life. I was in my late 20s when I found this and I love it so much.
I guess there was a predisposition to it in the family, but I definitely wasn’t pursuing it. I was cool being a mommy, I was cool being a substitute teacher for a little while. I was working in an ice cream shop when I started writing. I was okay. I was working to buy books (laughs). It genuinely did just kind of happened, and the fact that I can make a living out of it or just share it is just a bonus. I think I would write stories anyway.
RR: Was there a specific point where you thought that you could do this as a career?
KC: The writing started as therapy back in 2007. Callaway and I lived near the campus of Virginia Tech. Callaway worked on campus at the time, we went to a campus-based church, and my friends were students. I lost people that I knew and it was heartbreaking. Even if I hadn’t known anybody, it’s just one of those things were you’re different. I just took a really long time. I couldn’t process it. So when the anniversary came around and I still wasn’t myself, I thought that I would give my issues to a character and see what she does. That’s what I did and I ended up not finishing it because I woke up with the idea of “The Siren”. After that, lots of stories just started lining up, just waiting to be told. I have notebooks at home, they’re all line up, and I hope I get to those. I kind of deviated form that with the next project coming out. I just stumbled into writing out of necessity. I think this was just given to me in a time of need and it changed me. I’m so grateful for it and what I’m able to do and I’m grateful that anybody cares or agrees or appreciates. It’s really beautiful and wonderful.
RR: Is the next project something you can talk about?
KC: There’s still no name. It’s going to be a duology. It’s going to be two books and it’s about these unwanted children who are sent to academies to be trained as perfect companions. They are purchased by the wealthy for their teens. It’s a lot darker (laughs). It’s kind of weird for me because we’ve just been finishing some stuff up with “The One” and the new novella coming out. Just before we left I had a serious conversation with my editor and just realized some of the darker places I have to go and I’m really nervous. At the core of it, it is a love story. It’s what I write. But it’s going to be a bit heavier. I’ve just been calling it 238 because that’s the name of the main character right now.
RR: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
KC: The thing is to finish. It’s so difficult to finish a book. If you can do that, you’re miles ahead of anybody who says they want to write a book. Work hard to finish. Master grammar and master the language. That comes from reading. Daydream often. Have a thick skin. You have to be prepared for the fact that some people will hate you and some people will take time out of their day to tell you that they hate you. Be okay with who you are and what you make.
(Photos from the National Book Store Facebook page.)