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Interview with Hailey Sawyer

A Little Something About Hailey Sawyer:

Hailey Sawyer is the author of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale and a proud native Rhode Islander. She has possessed a great interest in learning about Japanese culture since she was about nine or ten years old. When she’s not writing, she loves to read and code.

Questions and Answers:

1. What made you want to be an author?

I think I wanted to be a published author a little while after the idea for Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale popped into my head and made the decision to turn the idea into a novel after giving it some thought.

2. Typically, what was the timeframe it took you to write your books?

For Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, it took me four years to actually finish and release it and let me tell you, those four years were quite the journey.

3. Are you a planner or pantser?

I would consider myself the kind of person who fits neatly into the “planner” category. When it comes to writing stories, the first thing I start working on are the character sheets. These contain things such as a character’s role in a story, their likes and dislikes, and so on. I’ll even throw in bits of plot that’s relevant to that character. After the sheets are created, I move onto writing the plot outline and then I start writing the actual story when that's all done.

4. What would you say is your unique writing style?

I guess my unique writing style would be making the dialogue between characters sound as natural and believable as possible, even if it means throwing in the occasional “uh”, “um”, or pause.

5. Whether it be traditional, self, or story book apps. How did you find the publishing process?

I discovered the self-publishing route while researching different publishing options. There were a couple things I learned in my research. The existence of self-publishing platforms such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords and the abundance of author and beta reading groups, marketers, editors, cover designers, and many others on Goodreads alone. It was through these revelations that I realized I didn’t have to go through a traditional publisher in order to publish my novel or get the resources I needed for it.

6. How much of your process includes doing research into your subject matter or plot?

Whenever I write a story, I like to be as accurate as possible and because of this, I tend to do a ton of research. This involves using things like videos, articles, Google Maps Street views, and whatever else I can get my hands on. Even though I had some knowledge of Japanese culture prior to writing Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, it was still no exception.

7. How old were you when you first discovered your passion for writing?

To be honest, I really don’t remember what age I was when I got into writing. But I do know that I was a little kid when it happened.

8. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing with your time?

When I'm not writing, I like to read, code, and go to the beach. One of the reasons I like reading so much is because it allows me to travel without leaving my house. I also like how it lets me learn about perspectives I may not have been aware of otherwise. Coding is something that I enjoy because it encourages me to have a sharp eye and try more than one way to fix a bug. I also feel great when the code comes together and the bugs are eliminated. When it comes to going to the beach, not only are there a wide variety of beaches in my state, but I grew up near the beach so to me, the beach holds a special place in my heart.

9. Is your family supportive?

I don’t even think they know that I’m an author, let alone if they’re supportive of it or not.

10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books (characters, location, plot)?

Oh my god there were a ton of things I learned while writing Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale. But I think if I had to narrow it down to the most surprising, I would say that the most surprising thing I learned about myself was how quickly I could actually finish things just by changing one part of how I typically write stories. Prior to the completion of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, I would write the entire plot outline then write the actual story. Now for a shorter work, this isn’t really an issue for me. But during the development of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, I realized that this way of doing things wasn’t efficient for novels. So, I decided to implement what I call the “outline then chapter” method. Basically, it involved writing a single chapter’s plot outline first then writing the actual chapter and repeating the process until the book’s writing stage was complete. Boy did it make a difference! I think if I decide to write another novel, I’m definitely using this method again.

11. What is your favorite component about the genre you write?

So, Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale is a Young Adult novel that falls into multiple genres. These include romance, coming of age, and so on. For me, my favorite component of a novel like this is getting to write how the characters grow in multiple ways at the same time.

12. What advice would you give to help others become writers?

I would suggest taking a look at Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, as in my view, it’s some of the best writing advice out there. Also, don’t be afraid of writing what you want to know. By doing so, it can really help you grow and, in a way, expand your knowledge of the world.

13. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

During the development of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, I’ve had a bunch of beta readers look at it and I think aside from maybe one, I haven’t really heard much from my beta readers in a while.

14. Do you like to create books for your target audience?

In the case of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale, I certainly enjoyed writing it and one of the reasons why is because it really allowed me to challenge myself in figuring out how to implement context clues as naturally as possible, especially when it came to certain aspects of Japanese culture that the target audience may not be super familiar with. By doing this, I feel that it allowed me to teach the target audience about these things in a way that’s respectful to their intelligence.

15. What pulls you in about a book? Do you read a book based on the cover or the summary?

For me, deciding whether or not I’m pulled into a book goes a little something like this. If I like the cover, I check out the blurb. If I like the blurb, I read the preview. If I like the preview, then I’m hooked and ready to read the entire book.

16. How do you handle writer's block and what do you tell other aspiring authors who may be fighting or fearful about hitting that wall?

When it comes to writer's block, there’s one piece of advice that I felt has been really effective in helping me overcome it. That advice? Rule number nine of Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling, which goes, “When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.” If you’re an aspiring author and you’ve hit the wall or are afraid of hitting the wall, get what you think wouldn’t happen next onto paper or a Word document or whatever else you have on hand.

Final Note:

Hailey is a writer that is ruled by her desire to learn. To take on such a deeply rooted culture such as the Japanese culture and for it to be relatable and realistic to those not of that culture is not only bold, but it's brave. She works hard to know her characters personalities, strengths, and weaknesses by researching and learning all she can of the deep, rich various cultures of the Japanese people. I believe her immense talent and love for her work shows in the time it takes to be as detailed and accurate she is while telling a fantastical story. Check her out!

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