Interviewed By: Meg McAlarney
When my sister and I started brainstorming and creating a list of people we think can have an impact on readers, one of the first people to pop into my head was Haley. Due to my husband's not so ordinary career path as a professional basketball player, I've developed amazing relationships with wives and girlfriends whose husbands also play professionally all over the world. Haley was one of these women and through social networks, Haley and I became friends. I soon learned that she was an author and writing a book called, Pink Lies. I was always interested in a behind the scenes look at writing a book, and thought she was the perfect candidate for our first interview. When I emailed Haley about our new site, she was immediately on board. It makes me so excited to bring you our first Hobbyist, Haley Todd Kitts.
Haley currently lives in Cary, North Carolina with her husband Marcus. She went to East Carolina University, where she studied Communication and Public Relations. Pink Lies is her first published book, but it surely won't be her last. I myself could not put it down and I am excited to see what she creates for her fans next. Interviewing Haley gives us an inside look into the life of a writer and what it takes to turn a dream into a reality.
Looking to publish a book? Achieve a goal? Connect with someone new? Check out Haley's interview. In it you will find all sorts of inspiration
When you were a child did you always dream of becoming a writer? Growing up I was mostly focused on being an athlete; I spent fourteen hours a week doing gymnastics from the time I was two until I was thirteen. I went to swim practice every day from four years old until I was eighteen. As a matter of fact, I wasn't into academics until I went to college because I was a tri-athlete in high school for swimming, diving, and track. My dream was to swim and dive in college, or run track, but I got very sick with mono my junior year of high school making me unable to perform at states. It was then that I realized I needed to focus on school and becoming the best student I could be since sports weren't a ticket into college anymore. I was an average student at best in grade school. When I got to college, I focused diligently on academia and started competing with myself, instead of competing with my opponents in the pool or on track.
Do you remember the moment you decided that you were going to write your first book? Like it was yesterday! I remember sitting down with my husband, Marcus, telling him I needed a New Year's Resolution that would mean something to me; something that would change my life this year and last longer than the usual three months. We had just returned from Buffalo, New York where we visit his family annually for the New Year. I realized that I would be turning twenty-six this September and wanted to do something pivotal with my life. I've accomplished a lot and traveled the world, but I haven't done anything for myself that made a huge difference in the way I see myself. When I made my resolution, it was to do something meaningful with my life this year. I had no idea that would mean write a novel. It was a couple of weeks later on a cold wintry day that I was in my home office with my Macbook and a cup of chai tea when I started Pink Lies.
How do you go about getting a book published? I started writing my book and realized I had about 20,000 words or so, roughly ten chapters when I realized I needed to do something about this. My husband told me that I couldn't just let it sit on my desktop and let it go. Luckily, his cousin, Stacey Lynn, is an international bestseller of more than sixteen romance novels. I didn't want to bug her, but I knew she would be a valuable resource and have a lot of guidance. After chatting with Stacey over a period of three weeks or so, I decided to do it. She self-published her first four novels; then she got picked up by a publisher. She convinced me to self-publish because I would be able to have my book released when I was ready instead of waiting in agony to have a publisher do it for me. Stacey and I became close over the course of five months learning the ways of the industry. She taught me how to self-publish and what outlets I would use to do so. I used a company called Create Space for my paperback edition, and Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) for my Kindle edition. Both allow self-publishers to publish your books if they are approved. That was the other part: my book had to go through a series of approvals. It takes time for them to validate whether your book qualifies or meets their strict guidelines. It's a long and arduous process, but I'm glad I didn't wait around for a literary agent or publisher to follow my dream. I realized there are many famous authors that self-publish and I could be one of those authors. I had to have my book formatted by someone, and thankfully Stacey gave me her formatter, and she did a wonderful job. One of my best friends is the illustrator and artist for the cover art, and she will do the sequel and hopefully all the others if she's able. I have a friend who is a graphic designer who made the colors vibrant and rearranged some of the artwork. The whole process is very daunting because I had to do everything myself, and find people who I trusted to help me with this process.
What was it like when you found out your book was going to be published? I waited for Create Space and Amazon to approve my book on pins and needles. I was so concerned that something with the formatting or the content wouldn't be approved. I wasn't able to do this until the very last minute. My book was 100% done the week I released it. I was very much relieved when everything came back perfectly. They review your files and then tell you if there are errors. My manuscript came back with zero errors, so that was great. That doesn't mean it didn't have grammatical errors; it just means that it was cleared to be published. You can preview what your book will look like on both Create Space and Amazon before it's published which took away some of my fears. I also had a sample of my paperback sent to me before I released the real thing. I decided then to change a few things with the content and the color of the pages. There are many aspects you have to consider before publishing that I was unaware of before I became an author. I had an idea of what Pink Lies would look like to my readers. I was happy with the way it turned out, and very pleased that there weren't mistakes with the formatting. Who knew there were so many guidelines to have a book published! Not me.
What was your biggest motivation behind writing Pink Lies? Last summer Marcus and I were making a trip to NYC to celebrate a friend's birthday, and we stupidly decided to take a bus instead of flying. I was very anxious about making the trip by bus because I had never done it before, but of course, Marcus had, and he convinced me it was the right thing to do for a quick weekend trip. Well, little did I know then that it would be miserable. Take a fourteen-hour bus ride from Raleigh to China Town in the middle of July and let me know how you feel about that. My mom convinced me to journal my experience to vent and said it would be cathartic. I wrote a short story called, "The Blonde on the Bus" that I will probably never share with the public, but always know it motivated me to pursue a career in writing. Writing has become an emotional outlet and very therapeutic when I need stress relief.
Did any of your friends or family give you inspiration for any of the characters in your book? I think that's the biggest question anyone buying my book wants to know. It doesn't matter if that person knows me, or doesn't know me; they want to know if Pink Lies comes from a real place. One of my best friends was the driving force behind Addison Webster's character. My mom is on the executive team for the governor of NC, so I guess her position in politics led me to make Scarlett's mom, Kate, the lobbyist for a senator in the book. As for Scarlett, of course, everyone thinks I am her character. She's blonde, she's from the south, and she's a writer. Much like Scarlett, I too struggled to find that "perfect career job" after college. I guess some things are from a real place. The first chapter of the novel is actually a true story. I did save a man's life on Wrightsville Beach the month before we got married there. Everything I said about being a pre- med major, and taking EMT courses, teaching swim lessons at the country club in my neighborhood was all-real. I changed the scenery and added some theatrics, but for the most part, I retold my story. You can find my story online and watch the interview that I did with the news reporter on Youtube.
Pink Lies is your first published book, are you planning on writing more books? I have about fifty ideas cached in my brain for the future. I know that Pink Lies is going to be a series because I'm writing the sequel as you know by now, and I already picked the title for book number three in the series. Whether it will be a trilogy or tetralogy, I have yet to decide. I love watching television series, which is the reason I decided to make Pink Lies a series. I did the copyright for Pink Lies in Paris the day after I published Pink Lies. I do know that I will most likely stay in the Women's Contemporary Genre, and stick to the romantic comedy storylines. I can only write what I enjoy reading.
What’s your perfect setting for writing? Instead of the setting, more the time of year. I love when it's cold outside, and overcast, and I can bundle up in some Nike sweatpants and a cozy long sleeve shirt and a blanket and write the day away. The reason I published Pink lies in July was that I knew I'd be busy writing the sequel in the fall and winter months. I love to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea or coffee and turn on my French Cafe radio station and write for hours. I like to be home alone where nobody can distract me. Sometimes if I can't get any words down, I will change the scenery. I enjoy being by the ocean so I can people watch and get ideas for characters, but I'd have to drive an hour and a half to do that, so I usually just write from home in my office.
Writer’s block, is it real? And if so, what do you do to get your creative juices flowing? What does the process look like? I have a very organic writing process, which is quite rare for an author. Most writers map out each chapter or do webs to help with ideas and topics for the storyline. When I was writing Pink Lies, I didn't even have the title or character names for the first five chapters. I literally named Scarlett Hanes while folding my husband's red boxer briefs and a Hanes tank top. It's weird how things came to me, but it worked. Most of the time I would type as I thought of the idea. I rarely ever knew where the story line was going. I created Chase's character when I got to that chapter. I had know idea she would meet Chase. It's as if Scarlett told me what to write. I know that sounds weird, but she became part of my life in a major way. I got frustrated when I couldn't think of the perfect title for my book, and almost threw in the towel completely. I took a few weeks off from writing to go on a trip to NYC for Valentine's Day with Marcus. When I came back, I was ready to go. The second half of Pink Lies is predominantly in Manhattan, so it helped a lot to take a step back and gain a new perspective. The rest of the book wrote itself, and I shortened Little Pink Lies to Pink Lies after that trip.
What are the top three things you want to achieve in your writing career?
1) New York Time's Best Seller
2) Top 100 must read novels at Barnes & Noble
3) To stay humble after I achieve the above-mentioned.
Now that you’ve found success with having your first book published, what would tell someone who might be afraid to step out of their comfort zone to chase a dream they have? First of all, you won't ever chase a dream if you're scared. There is no fear in dreams. Dreams are supposed to be magical and wonderful. You are always told by wiser people to chase your dreams. They are right. You'll never know what will happen if you don't try. I knew I was taking a huge risk publishing my book, something so vulnerable, and quite possibly to be criticized harshly, but I didn't do it for those critics. I did it for myself. I wrote a book for ME. Once you realize it's for yourself, you can do anything if you're willing.
What is your biggest piece of advice for aspiring writers?There will be haters. Block them out. You will cry, but pain makes you stronger. When your Macbook has a low battery, save your work (learn some things the hard way). Email your work to yourself after each writing session. Copyright your title before you tell anyone. Laugh at yourself.
Who has inspired you in your life and why? My mom has been a huge inspiration for my writing a book. When she was growing up, she journaled; when she wasn't journaling her life, she journaled me and my brother's every move. She is a profound writer, and I really hope she will write a book one day.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? For a while, it seemed like all I was doing was writing, and I wasn't able to do things I liked besides that. I will say, though, I love to write. When I'm not writing, I like to exercise and cook- probably my two favorite hobbies or activities that I enjoy. My husband and I cook together or go to hot yoga classes, so we can do things as a couple which is nice. Surprisingly, he is the one who motivates me to go to hot yoga; not the other way around. We also love to travel and hang out with friends and family. If we could go to the Caribbean twice a year, we would.
THE HOBBYIST TEN
At The Hobbyist Life we are always looking for common themes and connections with the women we interview. We came up with The Hobbyist Ten as a way to gather information from our Hobbyists and find common factors in what makes people successful. Every few weeks we will do a Hobbyist Ten recap to show you just how much we really have in common when it comes to pursuing a dream.
- My Happy Place...Any Sandals Resort, they're incredible.
- My Comfort Meal...Chicken and Dumplings.
- My Spirit Animal Is...Priscilla, my stuffed animal monkey.
- I am scared of...Spiders and snakes.
- Because...Because who isn't?
- I am most proud of...Following through with writing a novel and having it published.
- My guilty pleasure is...Unbirthday Cake from the Nantucket Bakery
- I can’t live without...My husband, Marcus.
- Who are your role models...My parents, Ina Garten, Cameron Diaz, Emily Giffin and Beyonce.
- Your life’s work disappears, except for a billboard with three things you know to be true, what are they?
- I believe in the power of prayer.
- My family means everything to me and I know they love me unconditionally.
- Money does not grow on trees.