Monday, January 21, 2013

Author Spotlight: Lana Krumwiede

Happy New Year, Beardies, and welcome back!

December was a long and crazy haul, but whatever holidays you celebrated, I hope they were happy and blessed! After drowning in work and deadlines for so long, it was amazing for me to spend Christmas and New Year’s with my family. I’m back to work now, though, and we have great content brewing for you in 2013! This post has been a long time coming, so without further ado, let’s jump in!
In November 2012, I took a little working vacation to beautiful St. Louis, Missouri, to attend the YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium. I had the time of my life there, got tons of writing advice from for-real published authors, and came home with a suitcase filled with new books. One of the authors I met was Lana Krumwiede, author of Freakling, and we became fast friends over lunch, book signings, and a session about dystopian literature. Lana graciously agreed to become the subject of my very first Author Spotlight, and has waited with infinite patience for that Spotlight to appear. I’m so glad to have met her, and even happier to introduce her to all of you!

Photography by Robyn O'Neill

A Little About Lana:
Let’s get this out of the way first: Lana’s first name rhymes with banana, and she pronounces her last name KRUM-widdy, as in a clever bread fragment. But don’t worry too much because she’s not touchy about it.

In third grade, Lana wrote in her autobiography that she wanted to be a mother, a writer, and the church organist. The organist thing didn’t work out very well, but the other two dreams made up for it. Her work has appeared in Highlights, High Five, Spider, Babybug, The Friendand Chicken Soup for the Child’s Soul. Freakling is her first novel. She also has a picture book under contract with Candlewick.

Before she remembered she wanted to be a writer, Lana worked as an office manager, a stay-at-home mom, a preschool teacher, a Spanish teacher, a bilingual kindergarten teacher, a swimming instructor, and a reading tutor. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and youngest daughter. Her three older children are off having adventures of their own.

Lana has tried psi many times, especially in association with cleaning house, but could never make it work. She does have a few mildly supernatural abilities, which include untying knots, peeling oranges, and dominating in board games. Her perfect day would include reading, writing, swimming, cooking, telling jokes, spending time with family, and pie.

The above information was taken directly from Lana Krumwiede’s website. Ms. Krumwiede owns all copyrights.

Elizabeth: At what age did you begin writing?

Lana Krumwiede: In third grade, I wrote all kinds of stories and poems, which forever endeared me to my teacher, Mrs. Crandall. She loved everything I wrote and went out of her way to encourage me. I even wrote in my (rather short) autobiography at the time that I wanted to be a writer. That didn’t exactly stick, however. As I grew older, I became interested in other pursuits and didn’t rediscover writing until my adult years.

Elizabeth: Prior to the publication of Freakling, your short stories appeared in several magazines, such as HighlightsHigh FiveBabybugSpiderThe Friend, and Chicken Soup for the Child’s Soul. What made you decide to write a novel, and specifically, a middle-grade dystopian novel?

Lana Krumwiede: The first writing class I took was writing for magazines. The instructor said it was too hard to tackle a novel when you’re just starting, that it was better to get your feet wet with short pieces. I took her word for it and wrote for magazines. In a lot of ways, she was right. I learned how to write concisely. I learned about rejection and perseverance. I learned how to craft story elements on a shorter scale. After a few years of doing that, I felt the stirrings of a novel. I had this idea about a kid who lived in a place where everyone had telekinetic powers, and I knew this story needed the length of novel in order to develop properly.

Elizabeth: And you did a spectacular job of it! Speaking of telekinetic powers…psi, the magical system of Freakling, is one of the most complicated I have ever read, especially in a middle-grade novel. Could you please tell the readers a little about how you created the psi system and how it works?

Lana Krumwiede: The whole telekinesis thing was where the story idea originated. But I knew this power would need limitations and some kind of system for how it worked. I also knew I wanted it to be unique somehow. I liked the idea of tying it into a religion. Religion is a topic that fantasy and science fiction can address better than other genres because it provides a way to examine it from a comfortable distance. Also, I think at this age, kids are starting to think about religion and whether they believe the same things as their parents. I took about a year to research theories about psychokinesis and started developing a religious system to govern its use. I linked psi to the idea of conscience in a way that makes it hard to do anything with psi that goes against what you know is right. That brings a lot of moral issues into play, which makes for interesting plot possibilities. Anyone who’s interested in the nitty gritty rules of psi can read more about it on my website. It took me a long time to work this out, but it was one of my favorite parts of writing Freakling!

Elizabeth: Well, all the time you put into it really shows—it was one of my favorite parts of your book! Do you only write fantasy?

Lana Krumwiede: Fantasy and science fiction are definitely my favorite genres. But I do write other things once in a while, like nonfiction and poetry.

Elizabeth: Would you please describe your writing process for The Bearded Scribe’s readers?

Lana Krumwiede: I wish I understood my writing process more! I’ve tried outlines and I’ve tried no outlines and I find myself somewhere in the middle. I can’t write completely blind, which means I have to have some kind of plan as I’m writing. I don’t use an outline, but I write the synopsis of the book before I start. However, I do need a certain amount of freedom as I’m writing, too. I never want to feel that I can’t explore an idea that comes to me as I’m writing. So the synopsis changes as the writing progresses. I try to write the first draft as quickly as possible, however awful the result (and it is awful, believe me). Once I have a complete manuscript with a beginning, middle and ending, it’s easier for me to see the whole story arc and pinpoint problems with pacing, voice, plot development, characters. And then I basically start over. The second draft is working on the basic story elements while subsequent drafts are tweaking and fine tuning. I can’t say it’s the best way to write, but that’s what seems to work for me right now. I hope that I can develop the skill and awareness that will allow my writing methods to evolve (much like my synopses do) with each book that I tackle.

Elizabeth: It does me good to hear you say that your writing process is still evolving, because mine seems to evolve on the fly, just to stress me out! Is your writing process for novels different than it is for short stories? If so, how?

Lana Krumwiede: I suppose it’s basically the same. The first draft is just getting something down on paper that I can work with. The difference for me is that with a short piece, it’s much easier to see the story arc from Square Zero. With a novel, sometimes I can’t clearly envision the story arc until after the first draft.

Elizabeth: That’s actually another thing we have in common. I’m currently working on the first draft of my novel, and I don’t know the ending! But I digress. My first fantasy love affair was with the Harry Potter series, and, like so many others, I was hooked on the dystopian genre by The Hunger Games. Were there particular books that hooked you into the fantasy and dystopian genres?

Lana Krumwiede: I love Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, too! I also love The Giver and Ender’s Game and Uglies. As I was writing Freakling, I didn’t realize it was dystopian. (This was before Hunger Games and Maze Runner and all that.) Someone in my writing group pointed that out to me. I was querying my manuscript during the height of the YA dystopian craze, but the fact that it was middle-grade and not YA is what made it unique.

Elizabeth: What is your favorite book? Your favorite fantasy/speculative fiction book?

Lana Krumwiede: One book?! I have to pick a single book? In that case, I’m going with The Giver.

Elizabeth: Yes, I don’t suppose that was a fair question, and I’m amazed you stopped at just one! Do you have any literary heroes, or any authors (alive or dead) or characters with whom you’d love to have dinner?

Lana Krumwiede: I really love Brandon Sanderson’s books. I’m not a huge The Wheel of Time fan, but I adore the Mistborn books, Elantris, TheWay of Kings and Warbreaker. I would eat dinner with his characters any day! I also love anything written by Scott Westerfeld, Patrick Ness, and Garth Nix.

Elizabeth: On what projects, if any, are you currently working?

Lana Krumwiede: Right now, I’m finishing up the sequel to Freakling and starting on the third book. I’m also working on a picture book with Candlewick (don’t worry—someone else is illustrating it!). And, as always, I’m playing around with some new ideas.

Elizabeth: What advice, if any, would you give to aspiring writers?

Lana Krumwiede: Keep writing. Keep improving your writing. And keep getting your writing out there for people to see. If you do those things consistently and persistently, good things will happen. Maybe not as soon or as big as you’d like, but good things will happen.

Elizabeth: I am not sure of when or in what capacity, but would you consider writing a guest post for The Bearded Scribe at some point?

Lana Krumwiede: Absolutely!

Elizabeth: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers, or anything I haven’t asked you that you wish I had?

Lana Krumwiede: Can’t think of anything else. Great questions!

Thank you so very much, Lana, for taking time to chat with me in St. Louis and answer all of my questions! I’m looking forward to hearing more from Taemon and reading your guest posts here at The Bearded Scribe.

You can also follow Lana on Twitter.

Until next time, Beardies, Happy Scribing!


  1. Another great post, Elizabeth!!! And thank you, Lana, for taking the time to be a part of The Bearded Scribe in so many ways! We cannot wait for your guest post to appear!!

  2. Thanks so much for having me. Very fun!


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