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Interview with Kassidy VanGundy

A Little something about Kassidy VanGundy:

Kassidy VanGundy was born and raised in South Bend, IN, a city juxtaposed between Chicago and a sea of cornfields. Built with a set of wings, she set out to see as many parts of the world as she could, from Athens to Sao Paulo. Although, she admits that heat lightning and driving on dirt roads occasionally tempts her to come back home. Right now, she’s nesting on the East Coast with her beautiful husband, Douglas, who is constantly subjected to chapter reviews of her writing, especially during the development of her first book, Cursed Fate.

In 2020, Kassidy VanGundy graduated from the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University with her Masters in International Affairs and a specialization in Diplomacy, where she also taught multiple courses on sustainable development within the earth and environment department. Prior to this experience, she graduated from Hanover College with her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a minor in English. She incorporates everything she’s learned from both her academic and personal experiences into her work.

Questions and Answers:

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was pretty shy as a child, so as a result, I would sit around and watch other people more than interact with them. I was on my own a lot, so I read and made up stories all the time. As I got older, I grew more outspoken and made more friends, but I still wrote stories in my diary in my free time. I told myself in middle school that I was going to grow up and write books for other kids like me, so they didn’t feel as lonely. I hope that my books can do that someday, even if it’s just for one person.

2. How long does it take you to write a book?

It took me about a year in quarantine to finish Cursed Fate. However, during that time I was also looking for work and interviewing for different jobs before deciding to become an author. Now that I’m devoting all of my time to writing, I’m hoping to complete the sequel within a few months (fingers crossed).

3. What is your work schedule like when you're writing? I try my best to cycle through research, writing, and marketing everyday. I typically post to my social media accounts and interact with my readers in the morning as a way to ease into my day. Then, I spend some time researching elements in the next scene or chapter of the book, although a lot of random googling occurs when I write. The majority of the time, I try my best to give myself a few hours of the day where I do nothing but write. Some days are better than others, but when I’m serious I try to hit my goal of writing 1,000 words per day.

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

I can’t spell anything correctly. Especially the word “Coelacanth”. I probably used that word hundreds of times while writing Cursed Fate, but every single time I spelled it wrong. Likewise, I’m constantly looking up simple basic words to make sure it actually means what I think it means. I don’t know if it’s because I’m anxious, or because my brain is too focused on what I’m writing that it has to push all other trivial things out to make space for new ideas.

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

I’m still relatively new to the publishing process, since this is my first published work, but things have gone better than expected! I have a really strong relationship with my current publisher, Ukiyoto Publishing. They’re always on top of everything and are very quick to respond if I ever have any questions about anything. It’s honestly been a breeze since they’ve gotten involved. I think the hardest part is pitching your ideas to a multitude of publishers and agencies. You’re bound to hear a no, if you hear back at all. It can be hard to not take this sort of rejection personally, but you just gotta keep your head up and try your best!

6. How much of your writing process involves research in your subject matter or plot?

A good portion of my writing process involves research and planning. It’s essential to any kind of world building in books. Even when I think I’ve gathered all the information I need, I’ll get a brand new idea halfway through writing that I need to learn more about. I’m constantly fact checking myself so that I can put out quality work for my readers. Regarding plot, I think it’s important to have a solid structure for your story, but don’t be afraid to make changes if better ideas come about further down the road.

7. When did you write your first book and how old were you?

Before Cursed Fate, I wrote plenty of poetry and short stories as a child, but I never tackled a full length novel. I started Cursed Fate when I was 19 years old during my freshman year of college, but a lot has changed since then. I didn’t finish it until I was 25 years old and trapped inside during a global pandemic. I’ve been putting this project off in order to finish my degree, get married, and earn another advanced degree, but now that I was forced to slow down, I was able to reconnect with my true passions. I’m very grateful for that realization.

8. What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I actually have a YouTube channel called Kutiefly where I make videos about my personal life and my hobbies. I have a lot of makeup tutorials on there as well as cosplay, anime reviews, and video game playthroughs. I mostly play Pokémon and animal crossing, but I’m hoping to post more writing content on there as well. I’m also pretty good at making cocktails and desserts if I do say so myself.

9. What does your family think of your writing?

My family has always been very supportive of my writing. Now that the book is officially out, they’ve kicked it into high gear in terms of marketing it to everyone they know! I’m really lucky to have such a tight knit family and a strong supportive community back home.

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

My husband joked with me originally that the content in my book, especially the scarier scenes, didn’t match my bubbly personality, but all of it is still me. I even spooked myself sometimes after writing certain chapters, but they are some of my absolute favorites. I think this just shows that people are multifaceted and there’s a lot more lying beneath the surface than others may think.

11.What is it you particularly like about the genre you write?

Right now, I’m writing a dark fantasy/adventure story and I absolutely love it. I think there is real freedom in fiction to express yourself and tackle real world issues in a space where you can control. It’s liberating and therapeutic at times, even if you don’t intend it to be. In the future, I hope to write more sci-fi pieces as well, because that’s my favorite genre to read.

12.Do you have any suggestions to help others become writers? If so, what are they?

JUST DO IT! Honestly, the hardest part is just getting started. Once you establish a routine for yourself, things will happen naturally. Even if you don’t have time in your schedule to write a whole chapter in a day, start with one paragraph at a time. It isn’t a race. Just be sure to make writing a regular habit. It’s easy to let things fall by the wayside if you aren’t focused.

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

My book is still relatively new on the market, but so far I’ve gotten a lot of positive reviews from people who’ve read it so far. A lot of them comment on the characters and the descriptions of the setting as their favorite aspects of the book. Of course, I’m excited to get more feedback as more and more people read the book!

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

I LOVE writing for young adults. I think your late teens/early twenties is such a powerful age. You have a real taste of freedom and a newfound independence that you won’t feel later on in life. You start really taking in the world and thinking critically for the first time. It’s important to foster peoples’ curiosity at every age, but there’s something special about the dichotomy of fumbling through life and being invincible when you’re young that really inspires me and the characters I like to write.

15.What do you think makes a good story?

I tend to focus a lot on emotional relatability or how well I can connect to characters more than anything else. Yes, a solid entertaining plot is super important, but if none of your characters are likeable, or if they don’t feel real, people won’t stick around to read the rest of the book. Your main character really is your first impression, so it’s important that they have a strong identity and mature as the book continues.

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

I never like to use the phrase “writers block”, at least not out loud. When I feel this way, I always say “I’m stuck” instinctively. I think it’s because when you’re stuck, it implies you can still wiggle your way out of this rut eventually, whereas block implies that something is towering in your way. What really helps me when I’m stuck is shifting gears. I try to do something else creative, like drawing bugs or baking pies. It still keeps that side of your brain going without stressing you out as much. Walking away and coming back to your work will allow you to look at it with fresh eyes. If that doesn’t work, sometimes talking it out with a trusted loved one really helps. They might come up with a solution you didn’t previously consider, or even if they don’t, they might ask the right question to get you thinking. Just remember you can consider their input, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow their advice. Just do what you think feels right!

Final Note:

Kassidy intrigues me as an author and I cannot wait to sink my teeth in her book. I love the otherworldly aspect to her genre. I don't mind getting into a book where you escape down into the dark rabbit hole. Cursed Fate is definitely my cup of tea. Watch out for Kassidy VanGundy because I can tell she's going

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