I’m excited to welcome A.L. Kaplan to the blog today! Her first novel, Star Touched, was recently released and she was kind enough to do an interview for me. She’s been a member of my critique group for a long time and it’s really exciting to see the book she has worked so hard on finally make it into print! As you’ll see by her answers, she is rather fond of wolves. And dogs. First, check out Star Touched:
Eighteen-year-old Tatiana is running from her past and her star-touched powers. Her power to heal may be overshadowed by more destructive abilities. Fleeing the persecution of those like her, Tatiana seeks refuge in a small town she once visited. But this civil haven, in a world where society has broken down, is beginning to crumble. Will Tatiana flee or stay and fight for the new life she has built? Only by harnessing the very forces that haunt her can Tatiana save her friends…and herself.
It’s a great book and I love the cover! Now on to our questions!
Q: Where were you born? How many places have you lived? Are you the kind of person who likes to move around a lot, or do you prefer to live in one place?
A: I was born and raised in beautiful northern New Jersey only 45 minutes west of New York City. If you count college, I’ve lived in five different places, but two of them were in the same city. When I moved out of Baltimore I swore I would never move again. The whole process of packing my life into boxes and dealing with a moving company is not my thing. I like stability.
Q: What sparked your interest in writing? How long have you been writing?
A: For as long as I can remember I’ve created stories. When I was young these ideas would keep me up at night as I rewrote them in my mind multiple times. Translating to the written word was entirely different, and I often felt frustrated and stifled. All those wonderful speeches in my head wouldn’t transfer to the written word. My ‘artistic’ handwriting and ‘creative’ spelling got in the way. For some reason, my teachers just didn’t appreciate that kind of creativity. Instead, my stories became the subjects for paintings and sculptures. It wasn’t until college that I finally gained the confidence (and an introduction to computers) to write creatively. Finally, I could get all my ideas out, not just the still images I used in my art. The images I saw in my mind finally gained a literary narrative and eventually dialogue.
Q: How long did it take you to finish Star Touched? How many drafts did you write before you were satisfied?
A: Oh my. I started Star Touched ten years ago and I’ve completely lost track of how many drafts there were. Suffice it to say, there were many. Several years ago, I had a sit down with an agent who got to read my first few chapters in advance. The first words out of her mouth were “I’m confused.” After I got over the disappointment, I realized she was right and wrote a new first chapter. It was one of the best moves I made.
Q: I love the theme of acceptance of those who are different in Star Touched. What do you hope your readers will take away from your book?
A: This world is made up of different people. Each have their strengths and weaknesses, but all are important. We are stronger with all our uniqueness. Refusing to accept one type of person is like cutting off a toe.
Q: Do you have a favorite genre to write? To read?
A: For reading I lean toward science fiction/fantasy, although I love a good historical fiction. My writing is similar, although my short works and poetry go all over the place.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed. You can, no matter how tall the roadblock. Follow your dreams and always travel with some method to record your words. You never know when inspiration will hit you.
Q: Name a few authors who have inspired you and why.
A: Where to start? I’ve always loved reading. I grew up reading James Herriot, Jack London, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Albert Payson Turhune, and of course J. R. R. Tolkien. Nature and animals have always been a big draw. Lord of the Rings may have birthed my love of fantasy, but there are three other books I read that were a huge influence: Island of the Blue Dolphins, My side of the Mountain, and Julie of the Wolves. On a more theatrical note, I also love Annie and Oliver. I guess I have a thing for orphans and kids surviving on their own.
[Oliver is one of my favorites also! I have a thing for orphans and pickpockets. Tatiana and Sydney would make an interesting pair.]
Q: Tell us about your current writing project.
A: I have several short stories in the works and a sequel to STAR TOUCHED. There’s even a story about Fifi – Well, sort of.
Q: What books are you currently reading or on your to-be-read list?
A: My to-read stack is huge. There are so many out there. At the top is Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey and the rest of her Herald Spy books.
Q: Coffee, tea, or hard liquor? (or all three?)
A: I’ll go with yes, but I do prefer tea. My tea cabinet is rather large.
Q: If you could be one animal, which would you choose and why?
A: That one is easy. I’d be a wolf. When I was in high school I had a dream about wolves. The next day I went to the library and started reading. The more I learned, the more I liked. My collection now includes books, art, toys, and a few odd things like a howling cookie jar. Wolves have also inspired several stories, including my short story, Wolf Dawn, which is in the Young Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers, and Swashbucklers anthology.
One added note: I love wolves, but have no illusion of what they are — wild animals, hunters. I’ve met people who have had wolf/dog hybrids and have been lucky enough to have a great companion. For every story of a good hybrid pet, there’s another about an uncontrollable animal. A wolf is not a domestic dog. They think and behave differently. Think very carefully before you consider taking on the responsibility of adopting a hybrid. I opted for an Alaskan malamute – wolf like appearance in a domestic dog. If you’d like to learn more about Praeses, check out For the Love of Canines: Praeses part 1 and 2 on my website. https://alkaplan.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/for-the-love-of-canines-praeses-part-1/
Q: If you could be a character in your one of your favorite novels, which character would you be and why?
A: So many to choose from. I’ve Gumbied into lots of novels over the years. The problem is, a lot of those characters go through heck. I’m not sure I’d like to walk in those shoes. Let’s go with Firekeeper from Jane Lindskold’s Through Wolf’s Eyes. She could talk to wolves and even thought she was one. There I go again, another story of a girl growing up in the wild.
A. L. Kaplan’s love of books started at an early age and sparked a creative imagination. Born on a cold winter morning in scenic northern New Jersey, A. L. spent many hours developing her ideas before translating them into words. Her stories have been included in several anthologies, including IN A CAT’S EYE, YOUNG ADVENTURERS: HEROES, EXPLORERS, AND SWASHBUCKLERS, and SUPPOSE: DRABBLES, FLASH FICTION, AND SHORT STORIES, as well as INDIES UNLIMITED’S 2014 & 2015 FLASH FICTION. You can find her poems in DRAGONFLY ARTS MAGAZINE’s 2014, 2015, and 2016 editions, and the BALTICON 49 and 50 BSFAN. She is a past president of the Maryland Writers’ Association’s Howard County Chapter and holds an MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art. When not writing or indulging in her fascination with wolves, A. L. is the props manager for a local theatre. This proud mother of two lives in Maryland with her husband and dog.