Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister (Scholastic, January 2012). Her poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in periodicals for children and adults. Kami also works as a teaching artist for SC schools, and teaches writing courses for continuing education programs. She lives with her family in balmy, buggy, and beautiful Beaufort, SC. Recently I finished reading Kami's middle grade book, The Boy Project. I really enjoyed it—there were so many laugh-out-loud segments. This past week, I interviewed Kami about her process of writing the book, what inspires her, and of course, who she would duel if given the opportunity!
1. So I loved The Boy Project, and I wanted to know a bit about what inspired you to write it. Can you talk about when you first got the idea for the book?
I got the idea for writing The Boy Project after reading my old middle school and high school diaries. As an adult, I hadn’t remembered wanting a boyfriend in middle school, but when I read the diaries it all came back to me. I thought that girls who are in middle school now could relate to that feeling.
2. You do a really great job of making the main character Kara feel authentic—she wants a boyfriend pretty badly. And yet, she comes across as independent and likable. How did you strike that balance as you wrote the book?
Thanks Amy. I think it is important to acknowledge that wanting to be loved is a basic human need, and that wanting that doesn’t make us less independent. I knew I would be criticized by some for writing a book about a girl who wanted a boyfriend – and I have been occasionally – but more often I get fan mail from girls who could really relate to Kara. As I wrote the book, I tried to make sure Kara reflected a normal girl who had talents and personality but who wasn’t afraid to admit that she also wants to be liked by a boy.
3. The Boy Project is a uniquely middle grade novel. Can you talk about the difference between writing a middle grade novel and a young adult novel? What is easier/harder about writing a book specifically for this age group?
Right now, the trend is for middle grade novels to have main characters who are twelve and younger. This in and of itself is a little limiting. You also have to keep the language fairly clean, and although there can be kissing scenes, there can’t be more. There can be allusions to murder, but you wouldn’t show a murder. Usually characters in a middle grade novel won’t smoke or do drugs. There are always exceptions, but these are the general rules.
Since I haven’t written a YA novel, I’m not sure I could say which is harder. One is probably not harder than the other, but you do have more freedom with a YA novel in regards to language and content.
4. What is a typical writing day like for you? And when you write, do you have any special habits? Any favorite snacks that you must have or music that you must listen to as you write?
I haven’t had a typical writing day in a while, sadly. But a good writing day would start out with me walking the dog, then checking email and social media, then writing for a few hours in my small office until I pick up my daughter from school. I have to have quiet when I write, so I don’t listen to music. When I am working on a tough revision, I like to snack on Hot Tamales. It’s a bad habit, but it works for me.
5. What authors inspire you? What are you reading now?
I am currently reading Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen. I love his novels for adults. They are the best kind of crazy. I like funny books, so authors like Hiaasen, Tom Angleberger, and Jeff Kinney inspire me, but I also love beautifully written books like Wonder by R. J. Palacio and Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. J.K. Rowling is also inspiring, of course!
6. I love your blog, Nerdy Chicks Rule, and the “nerdy chicks” you talk about in history and literature. If you could be any heroine in a novel who would you be?
Hmmm. I would be Alice from Alice in Wonderland. That’s what popped into my head, and I’m sticking with it!
7. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do? Do have any favorite hobbies?
I like to create things. Sometimes I paint, sometimes I make jewelry, and sometimes my daughter and I make things for her crafts blog. (www.craftycrafts.wordpress.com)
8. Which character in literature or history would you duel if given the chance? Why?
I’m basically a pacifist, so I’d have a hard time dueling anyone unless we were using Nerf swords. If it came down to that, I think I’d still have to duel with someone like Greg Heffley’s friend Rowley or Barney Fife. Maybe then I would stand a chance…
Thanks so much, Kami, for the great interview answers!
Here's a summary of The Boy Project:
For anyone who's ever felt that boys were a different species....
Wildly creative seventh grader, Kara McAllister, just had her best idea yet. She's going to take notes on all of the boys in her grade (and a few elsewhere) in order to answer a seemingly simple question: How can she get a boyfriend?
But Kara's project turns out to be a lot more complicated than she imagined. Soon there are secrets, lies, and an embarrassing incident in the boy's bathroom. Plus, Kara has to deal with mean girls, her slightly spacey BFF, and some surprising uses for duct tape. Still, if Kara's research leads her to the right boy, everything may just be worth it...
Full of charts and graphs, heart and humor, this hilarious debut will resonate with tweens everywhere.