Kaylee Kosakowski: College life as a writer
It’s quite a wonderful day, and Thanksgiving is approaching soon! I’m sure everyone here has something they’re thankful for–I know I do–and I’m sure you’re ready to meet today’s featured writer. Today, I want you to meet Kaylee Kosakowski, who has agreed to a virtual interview with me today. Kaylee recently joined Authors’ Tale, and I’m proud to introduce her today. She was adopted from South Korea and raised in Buffalo, New York. Now, she attends Queens for college, and she is a resident assistant in the dormitories.
Thank you, Kaylee, for agreeing to an interview today.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, which seems to be the majority of the time as of late, I’m a student in college. I’m a television and film major, so I spend a lot of time working on the production projects for my classes, but even the core courses are time-consuming. Honestly, I feel like every moment when I’m not in class, I’m either working on something for my classes or I’m performing some duty as a resident assistant. Being an over-achieving perfectionist does not help either.
I’m so determined to make my hallway the best, so I spend a questionably great amount of time decorating my hallway and working on my bulletin boards. Autumn is actually the love of my life, so I decked out my halls with leaves hanging from the ceiling and quotes about the season, and put them up around 4 a.m. on the day of the Equinox. It took almost four hours of prep time and two hours to execute, but it was so worth it.
It’s my own fault that I make everything so exhausting, but by the time I’m “done” for the day, I don’t really want to do anything other than sleep.
During the summer, my answer to this question would be “reading.” I got into a huge reading frenzy this summer to the extent that I got a Kindle. Every spare moment I had I spent reading, which was great because being a student seems to result in me falling out of love with reading every semester. I miss it a lot and my wish list continues to grow.
When did you start writing?
I started creative writing in seventh grade. I did a lot of poetry back then and it was not until my favorite teacher said I was good at it that I found a confidence boost. Of course, he could have just said that to please me, but that doesn’t matter at this point. I had a falling out with writing, though, until my junior year of high school when I started with poetry again. I don’t really know what happened but one moment I had things to say and the next, I didn’t. Regardless, I found Writer’s Cafe and started writing poetry again.
During my senior year, I took a creative writing course and began expanding into short stories. I think that it was that course that really helped me realize how much I love to write. Sure, we wrote with grades in mind and sure, we had a topic to adhere to, but I just loved it. I emailed those teachers my freshman year in college and told them, too. But in general, it was definitely senior year that I really became invested in writing and it was probably my most prolific period.
At the end of the summer my senior year, Laura from Collaborative Writing Challenge messaged me and because of CWC, I was able to stay interested and active my freshman year of college.
What inspires your writing?
People are definitely the inspiration for my writing. Characters definitely represent certain aspects of different people in real life, but I would not say they are clear-cut representations. Usually, it’s the main characteristic of a character that is inspired by a person, but everything else about said character is either a fragment of my own personality or how I imagine that character’s past would influence him or her.
I love action and I love a good adventure, but everything I write is really character driven, especially the chapters I submit for collaboration projects. I love internal struggles and writing out thoughts more so than dialogue (though I’ll admit that when there’s a sassy character, I love writing conversations).
Of course, books by other authors inspire me as well, but more in the style of writing. For example, I’ve found that I like books that are not told from one character’s perspective the entire way through, which has really influenced my style.
Do you think anything from your past helped inspire you to make strong, yet ordinary characters?
So there isn’t a particular moment or event that really drew me to those types of characters, but it was just something I experienced every time I read. My favorite genre is fantasy romance and whenever the story’s main character is dragged into the world of the others rather than already being part of it, I find myself a little put off. Not because the story is bad or cliche or anything, but I just start thinking. In those types of stories, everything is normal until one day, one moment, something happens and the main character can usually keep up. If it’s adventure, she better already be athletic and fit and to me, at least for a moment, it takes away from me relating to the character. Like, if that stuff were to happen right now, I would never be the protagonist. I’m a lazy person who would take the elevator up and down one floor before considering the stairs. I have an average hair color, average height, and I get winded walking up the few stairs I’m required to take. Plus, I have absolutely no hero complex. If shit’s going down, I’m out. This isn’t for the sake of pitying myself, but rather because I realize that there is no chance I could ever be Clary Fray or any other protagonist in a story like that, but I have a few friends who could be and that makes me jealous. But because I know that I’m not in the minority, I’m inspired to make my protagonist ordinary yet impactful.
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
Well I have a few things going on right now. On my own, I’m working on the incredibly rough draft of a book. It actually started with a friend and I randomly talking about things we wanted to do with our lives, and when we both said, “…write a book,” we decided to do it. We planned to alternate chapters, but her schedule made it difficult to make the deadlines we set for ourselves, so I ended up writing the majority of it. There are no hard feelings though, and she always asks how the editing/writing is going and letting me know she’s rooting for me. Because we set deadlines, though, the chapters are rough and jumpy. So even though I wrote, “The End,” when we were writing it, I wouldn’t say I have the first rough draft done; there are almost 92,000 words total, and I’m far from calling it a rough draft.
Beyond us saying, “Let’s do it!” we started by figuring out the characters and their personality traits. We figured that if we knew what they were like, then the dialogue would come easier. We sort of mapped out their backstories as well, but I think we surprised ourselves when we wrote them. Because we were so determined to get this done with one chapter completed a week, I took our idea for the plot and mapped out each chapter. My friend, of course, could change whatever she wanted, but I guess I kind of took initiative right at the beginning (sorry, friend). But like I said earlier with the characters, I think we surprised ourselves with where our ideas took us.
Besides that, though, I’m working on a few collaboration projects. With CWC, I’m working—well, I don’t know if “working” is the correct term because I go periods of time doing nothing with the project—on “Ark” and even though I haven’t had anything selected for “Wytch Born” at this point, I’m “part” of the project. There’s another fantasy/sci-fi collaboration that I’m working on as well as, theoretically, a holiday horror anthology (the deadline is swiftly approaching and I’m still, for some freaking reason, learning how to balance school and residence life).
Give us insight to your main character. Who is he or she? What is his or her purpose?
My main character is Haelyn (hay-lin) White. She’s finishing her sophomore year of college at the beginning of the story. My story is set in the modern world but there are a small group of people with special abilities (I don’t really like the word “powers,” as they can’t move buildings or anything). She’s a medium but to her own surprise and confusion, she has the ability to erase other abilities. According to my brother, it sounds like X-Men, but I swear it’s not; there aren’t huge action scenes in it.
Despite being the first character introduced in the chapter and in the prologue, I don’t really consider her the main character. To me, her function is more to introduce the other characters by interacting with them so we learn about them. I didn’t think of it as I was writing it, but it’s like in “The Great Gatsby,” how the story follows Nick, yet the real character of interest is Jay Gatsby.
Haelyn isn’t boring, but it was definitely my intention to make the other characters more interesting. She’s the catalyst of the main conflict and it’s her interactions with the rest that help the others with both their internal struggles within themselves and within their group. She gives the “objective” perspective of a newcomer to the group.
What is the biggest mistake you think you make while writing? How do you overcome it?
I think that currently, the biggest mistake I’m guilty of making is losing track of what my goal should be. I have long-term goals, but I need to start thinking in the near future because if I don’t, the distant future won’t become reality. Of course I’d like to be published, but I really need to reign my thoughts in sometimes and focus on what I’m writing at the moment. I shouldn’t edit for the sake of publishing, I should edit for the sake of making a better story.
As far as overcoming it goes, I don’t really think I’ve figured out exactly how to do it yet. I’m relatively young; I like to think that I have some time.
What/who are your favorite or most reliable support groups?
My parents and friends are always super supportive, but when it comes to writer’s block or needing help, I would say it’s some of the Facebook groups I’m a part of. Though it’s not often I go to others for help or support with writing, I know that there is bound to be someone in the group who will answer my question or help me. Plus, there are always a variety of perspectives.
What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
I really want people to connect with the characters. I really want them to see the character’s struggles and see how he or she overcomes it and question how they would handle it. I want them to learn things about themselves and even realize that you don’t have to be this extraordinary person with a superpower or something to impact others.
Which authors inspire you?
I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern this summer and while the plot confused me a bit, I really loved the set up of the book. I liked how each chapter— and even the sections with the chapters—didn’t focus on one character in particular. You knew some information because of one character, yet another was completely in the dark. A lot of books do this, but I just found it really appealing in this book.
There are some parts of Cassandra Clare’s writing that I really like as well (I’m also in love with The Infernal Devices trilogy). In The Moral Instruments, I loved Simon because he was consistently himself. Sure (spoiler alert), he became a vampire and went through some relationship issues, but he knew what he was like and even chooses to give up immortality partially because he never wanted it. In young-adult fantasy fiction, I find that a lot of protagonists have to become stronger, which is the case with the protagonist of this series, but I really like when authors can make my favorite character be the “ordinary” one.
Favorite motivational quotes?
“The creation of a single world comes from a large number of fragments and chaos.” –Hayao Miyazaki
I think this really applies to me when I write. I have all these ideas and jokes and random bits of thought when I start writing and somehow, some way, in the end it makes a chapter (which makes a book). I think this is especially true in collaboration writing. We all have our own ideas and thoughts as to how the story should go, yet we have to base it off what others have already wrote based on their own ideas and thoughts, which are based on those of others. It’s actually overwhelming when I really think about it but in the end, a story is made.
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” –Benjamin Franklin
My motto for life.
“The true alchemists do not turn lead into gold; they turn the world into words.” –William H. Gaas
The world is so confusing and the people in it are even worse, so when I write, I find that I’m able to reason it to myself. I think this quote really represents the importance of writing, even if it’s just journaling.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give other writers?
I don’t know how credible any advice I can give is because I’m only 19 and haven’t been published on my own, but here’s what I can say (and I’m sorry if it seems really obvious): don’t hate any of your characters. To be more clear, don’t make any character so horrible—so unredeemable—that you can’t even stand reading their thoughts or actions. An antagonist is important but if you really can’t stand a character, I’ve found that it can be difficult to want to return to that work and continue editing or writing.
I love all my characters, even the bad ones, and I miss them.
Also, don’t sell yourself short by making said antagonist so one-dimensional that readers will sigh when seeing their names—make them release a string of incoherent sounds cause they have no idea how to feel.
What is your greatest fear?
Telling people, “I’m trying to write a book” and having nothing result from it. I really dislike “singing my praises” in general, so to make myself sound cool and have nothing to show would really embarrass me. Of course, the chances of being published are slimmer than not, but I like to believe in the power of determination and hard work.
Oh, and falling down the stairs; that terrifies me.
BONUS QUESTION: If you randomly met someone one day, and they shared every possible trait with your main character, what would you do?
I would want to befriend that person in a heartbeat. I love Haelyn White to pieces; she’s funny and sweet and slightly rude. I love all my characters and it’s because I love them and feel like I’m conversing with them when I write and re-read. To me, they’re real people. I have a mug that says, “Writers Block: when your imaginary friends stop talking to you,” and while I think that’s witty and funny, they’ll never simply be imaginary to me–Haelyn especially. Haelyn and I, we’re pretty similar so if I met someone who embodies all of her qualities, I’d be thrilled. One of the reasons I love her is because I learn about myself when I write for her and think out her actions, and in my opinion, those are the best friendships–when you learn about yourself.
Thank you, Kaylee, for the interview. It’s always interesting to learn more about the fellow writers in the group. Thank you, everyone, for taking time to read. You’d be surprised how even the simplest beginning can become a fantastic adventure. Look at The Chronicles of Narnia. It all started with a game of hide-and-seek and a little girl in a closet. 😉 This weekly posted interview is to give writers a platform introduction into the world as a writer. So for those who have not been interviewed yet, be proud of your talent and your dream. Show it to the world. Kaylee is proud of it, and we are all incredibly proud of her, as we expect to see her often in the future.
Have a wonderful day everyone,