Kendall Kulper writes historical fiction with a fantasy twist for teen readers and knows more about nineteenth century whaling than she ever imagined. Her debut YA novel, SALT & STORM was published by Little, Brown. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history and literature in 2008 and spent several years as a journalist before deciding to write full-time. She grew up in the wilds of New Jersey and now lives in Boston with her husband and chronically-anxious Australian Shepherd mix, Abby.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
There are so many challenging parts to writing, but one that I’ve dealt with lately is keeping my head clear from outside voices and opinions. For example, I don’t really read my reviews, good or bad. I trust certain people’s opinions about my writing—my editor and my agent, my beta readers and critique partners—but otherwise I find it really hard to trust my own instincts when I’m constantly wondering what other people will think.
Henry: Yes, they say that the only thing more perilous than reading reviews of one’s books is responding online to those reviews. That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
I think writers tend to be observers and tend to think about things from many different angles. Writing really encourages empathy, because the whole process of writing requires you putting yourself in a stranger’s situation and imagining a completely different perspective from your own. I try to take that point of view and carry it into my daily life, and, I hope, it’s made me a more empathetic and caring person.
Henry: Wait, my picture books can be from the perspective of someone other than myself!? ☺ I agree that writing makes us more sensitive to universal truths.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
The “I’m doing this for a book” excuse has taken me on some really wonderful adventures, and my favorite so far was a research trip I did out to Arizona. I’ve long wanted to write a Western and sort of randomly decided to go to Arizona to check out the geography and history, and I am so happy I did—within a week we drove from 90-degree desert border towns to 30-degree mountain forests and finished with a few days hiking in the Grand Canyon. It’s something I never would have done had I not thought about writing a Western, and because I was book researching, I paid so much more attention than I otherwise would have to the sights, sounds, smells, and feeling of the places we visited.
Henry: That gives me an idea. I shall now go research a picture book about vacationing in Monte Carlo. Thanks, Kendall!
Read the rest of this interview at Henry’s blog on KidLit, Fantasy & Science Fiction.