Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Stories, Kaylee Baldwin

My guest for today's Saturday Stories post is published author, Kaylee Baldwin.

Kaylee's debut novel Meg's Melody was just released in December. How exciting!

Make sure you go check out her self-titled website AFTER you read the interview. Without further ado, allow me to introduce fellow writer and published author, Kaylee Baldwin.

Q--Would you please share some fun details about your life and family.
I grew up in Mesa, Arizona as Kaylee Lenkersdorfer. When I graduated from Mesa High, I went to BYU for two years and had a blast. Right before winter of my junior year, I decided to come home and transfer all of my credits to Arizona State University. Just a couple of months later I met my husband, Jeremy Baldwin, at an Institute Valentines dance. We were married eight months later, and have been married for a little over six years. We have three wonderful children ages 5, 3, and 1. We live in southern Arizona now. I love to spend time with my family. We have so much fun together going on little hikes, playing games, telling stories. Once my kids go to sleep, I write.

Q--Please tell us what your book Meg's Melody is about?

Meg's Melody is about a woman who finds out that she's pregnant after her husband leaves her. With nowhere else to turn, she's forced to rely on the family she pushed away, the church she abandoned, and an unexpected friendship to help her find her forgotten melody. Meanwhile Matt is still mourning the loss of his wife. But determined to keep things together for his daughter's sake, he decides starting over in a new place might be just what his family needs. As Meg and Matt meet and draw closer together, they learn that what they need to heal might be right in front of them, if they are willing to take a chance.

Q--Would you please share a little of your journey with Meg's Melody, from creation to publication?

Meg's Melody was so much fun to write! I loved sitting down at the end of every day and discovering more and more about Meg and Matt's stories and their journeys of healing. I started writing Meg's Melody about three years ago when I got the idea for a short story about a woman whose husband leaves her, and then she later finds out she's pregnant. I kept wanting to know what happened next, so my short story grew longer and longer until I finally admitted that I was writing a novel.

I just loved the character of Meg, her quiet strength, her struggles as she learns that she doesn't have to do everything all alone. And Matt. In my original draft, I didn't have any scenes with his point of view, but as I finished the book, I began to wonder what he was thinking, where he was coming from. So I rewrote the book completely, only from Matt's point of view. When I merged the two together (editing along the way) I got a fuller picture of what was happening, and I really loved that.

It took me about two years to do all of my writing and editing. Then I had to work on my query letter and my synopsis--which also took a while. I submitted Meg's Melody to several publishers, and everyone rejected it. I will admit, those were sad days when I wondered if maybe I was wasting my time as an author. But Cedar Fort had sent a personalized rejection letter, letting me know why they had decided not to go with Meg's Melody at that time.

After taking a few weeks to kind of shake it off, I got back to work and did another major rewrite of Meg's Melody--this time cutting out about 25K words and refining some of the emotional scenes. Crossing my fingers, I sent it back into Cedar Fort. Just a few weeks later they sent me an email saying that they wanted Meg's Melody, with a contract attached. That was in June 2010.

After that there was just a lot of waiting, a period of editing after my editor at Cedar Fort looked at it, then it went to the printers, and it came out December 2010. It's been a really exciting journey.

Q--Tell us a little bit about the day you got the good news that your book was being published?

I had been at Girl's Camp all week with the young women, so I was dealing with a serious lack of sleep, and I checked my email later that evening (after the much needed shower.) When I saw that I had an email from Cedar Fort, I think my heart stopped for a second. I opened it and read that they wanted my book and I just burst into tears. My husband didn't know if I'd received good new or bad news! After the initial shock wore off, I was able to cheer and call my mom, then my family and I went out to dinner to celebrate. It was just an awesome feeling.

Q--What were some of the surprises you encountered while working toward publication?

I didn't realize how long it would take from the time that they accepted the book until the time that it was published. Now that I know that books can take up to several years to see the light of day after they are accepted, I realize that six months isn't really that long. I was pleased to learn that all the people I worked with at Cedar Fort were really down to earth and easy to talk to (not scary publisher people like I'd imagined.) I also didn't realize that they could change my title if they wanted (they didn't) and that I had no say in the cover (which was fine, because I LOVE my cover and there's no way I would have done as good a job on it.)

Q--Computer or Notebook?
Computer all the way!! I type way faster than I write. I've tried writing in a notebook, but I usually end up getting frustrated, and then I can't read my handwriting because I was trying to write too fast. Although, I will say, when I'm writing a scene that packs a big emotional punch, sometimes I'll write it out by hand just because I know it will take longer, and that way I can really give it the attention that I need to.

Q--What is the strangest thing, person, place, or event that has inspired your writing?
Hmm. While I was at BYU, I had to write a poem and it could be about anything. My creative writing teacher sent the class out onto campus to people watch. I saw a guy walk by--in the middle of the day--wearing these hilarious blue flame flannel pajama pants on campus. He inspired an entire poem about why he might be wearing those.

Q--Would you please share with us what you love about writing?

I have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people as I started this writing journey. I'm a member of a women's critique group called American Night Writers Association (ANWA) and I have made several friends with women who have encouraged me to keep writing when I feel down and have helped me to be a better writer with their teachings and suggestions.
But I guess the thing that I love most about writing is how therapeutic it is. My son has a lot of health problems and it is really easy to get overwhelmed with everything that he has going on and everything I know that he will face in the future, not to mention caring for my other two children. When I sit down to write, I can pour all of this emotion onto my characters, watch how they solve their problems, enter their world, and remember that there is always hope. That nothing is as permanent or as bad as it seems at the time. That we will always heal. That's what writing always reminds me and that's why I'll never give it up.

Q--Why did you choose Cedar Fort as your publisher?

I went with Cedar Fort. I loved working with them. From the moment I got my rejection letter from them and they actually explained WHY they were passing on my ms at that time (this is huge! You always wonder why someone would reject you when you get the form rejections) I felt really hopeful. After fixing up my story and sending it back, they have been enthusiastic aboutMeg's Melody from day one.

Q--If you could offer an aspiring author any advice, what would it be?

Write because you love to write. Write because you have to write. Pour yourself into your story. Because there I think that you'll find a hugely satisfying healing that comes with writing and cannot be replaced by anything else.

On a more practical level, I'd say go to conferences. Take a grammar class. Read everything you can get your hands on, especially in your genre. Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I love, love, love this book. Edit like crazy because that is where the magic happens. Join a critique group. Give up television (its amazing how much time we have once we give up tv!)

Q--What is your favorite genre to write and/or read?

I love to have an element of romance in my stories no matter what I'm reading or writing. I love all genres, so it really depends on my mood. I write contemporary novels. Meg's Melody is a romance, and the book I just completed is a YA novel.

Q--Of all the books you've read in the last six months, which is your favorite and why?

Wow. I read a lot. A ton. It's really hard to narrow down to a favorite book. And strangely enough, the book that I think is my favorite, is not from what I consider to be a favorite genre of mine, but I read These is My Words by Nancy Turner and I loved it. I read it this fall, and I am still thinking about it. It has a beautiful romantic element and it takes place is southern Arizona during the eighteen hundreds. It has a strong heroine that I rooted for throughout and I would recommend it to anyone.

Q--Was there a book you read as a child (or adult or teen) that got you hooked on reading and/or writing? If so, please share the story.

Have I mentioned that I love to read? :) I've pretty much had a book glued to my hands for as long as I can remember, but I guess the first time that a story ever really came alive to me was when I read The Secret Garden when I was eight. I remember wishing that I could somehow jump into a book and go with Mary into the secret garden. I was almost giddy when I finished and told everyone who would listen about that book (I still am like this, by the way, when I finish an amazing book). It is one of my all time favorite books.

Q--If you could live or experience any story/book you've read, what story would it be and what character would you choose?

Well, as a child I definitely would want to be Mary from The Secret Garden. But as an adult, it's hard to say. How fun would it be to be Elizabeth Bennett? Or Jane Eyre. Or Catherine Earnshaw. Or Margaret Hale. I guess I'm a romantic. I think I'd have to book hop. But in the end... who could turn down the chance to live in the world of Pride and Prejudice (with a few modern conveniences, of course.)

Q--Is there somewhere you go for inspiration?
I get a lot of my inspiration from music. Sometimes its not even the words, but just how the song feels to me when I hear it. I also get inspiration from the world and people around me. The book that I just finished writing is partly inspired an experience I had while working in a high school English classroom several years ago. One of the students sang this heartbreaking song before telling us a story about her best friend. That story has never left me and I knew it needed to be told. 

Q--If you were going on a long trip and could take only one book with you (aside from the scriptures), what would it be and why?

That's why my husband bought me a Kindle. :) I could never just take one book with me when we'd go on a trip, and he got sick of carrying around a suitcase that weighed more than him! I guess if my Kindle died and I could for sure only have one book, I'd take Pride and Prejudice because it is my favorite book and I don't see myself getting sick of it any time soon.

Thanks Kaylee! I'm heading to the library right now to find Meg's Melody!

Tune in next week to learn more about published author Stephanie Humphreys.

As always, if you'd like to be a guest on Saturday Stories, make sure to drop me a note in the comments section. Please include either your email address or a link to your blog.


  1. I enjoyed reading this interview. It was fun to get to know Kaylee a little. I loved the book These is My Words, too. I think it is one of my favorites.

  2. It's so great to learn more about Kaylee. I've seen her name on the ANWA groups, but it's wonderful to put some personal information, and a face, to the name. I wonder if Kaylee will be at the ANWA conference this month? I'll keep an eye out for her!



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