Why I Wrote “The Kyla”

So at this point, The Kyla: Call and The Kyla: Return have been published and available for some time. Not long after the first book was published, a dear friend of mine, over tea and cookies, asked, “This may sound trite, but what was your motivation for writing your book?” It was an excellent question, one that I answered quickly but also one that deserved more attention than I could give in the moment. Now, after what I believe may be sufficient pondering, I offer the following.

The Kyla symbol
The Kyla symbol

I grew up in the woods, without a TV until I was eleven, and reading from the time I was five. I credit my mother with making me who I am. Not only did she teach me to think, to respect, and to create, she also taught me to read. In the woods, on a farm, there is a lot to keep the mind, body, and imagination active. I explored, and I pretended. On rainy days, I curled up in the corner with a book.

What did I read? Classics – tons of them. Treasure Island, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, The House of Seven Gables. I knew the characters inside out, the plots thrilled me, and Poe’s short stories terrified me. Mom took me to the Stanly County Library where I checked out any book I could get my hands on. She bought books for me from the Library when they would have their used book sales. My parents also owned a collection of books called Child Craft. I believe they were probably published some time in the 60’s, resembled school readers, but were bigger, like encyclopedias. They smelled of my grandparents’ house and creaked when I opened them.  One of these volumes contained myths, and I devoured it. For some reason, the older the story was, the more I loved it.

Mountain symbol
Mountain symbol

I scribbled my first short story at eight. It was about a horse named Black Lightening (Yes, I had read and LOVED the Black Stallion series), but the main character was a boy. So I wrote a new story, set out West, and of course, featuring an orphaned girl.

So this was what was missing from my beloved classic literature – a female hero. I call her this because heroine does not mean female hero. A heroine is typically, especially in classic literature, a damsel in distress who needs to be rescued. The boys rode the horses, the boys sailed the boats, and the boys fought the pirates – all activities in which I wanted to be engaged. I didn’t want to be saved. I wanted to do the saving. In short, I had little in common with the heroine, her pretty dresses, and elegant parties. Had a dragon tried to steal me, I would have either kicked him in the nose or talked him into taking me for a ride instead.

And so, years passed, I matured, learned, and lived. As a freshman in college, I had a dream that was so vivid I still see it today. And contained in that dream was a rough plot outline of The Kyla, complete with the Mycarian race. And when I woke, the process started. Do the math, and you will realize that the novel was forever in growing and developing and I discovered the seed from which it sprung many, many years ago.

Battle symbol
Battle symbol

As I progressed through undergrad and grad school, world mythology continued to fascinate me, and I took as many courses featuring it as my programs would allow. My area of North Carolina experienced its worst drought in my lifetime. My favorite theatre professor (who also taught me screenwriting) introduced me to the work and theories of Joseph Campbell. I met the graduate professor who told my class, “I’m going to push you off a cliff. I might be at the bottom.” – a line one of my wisest, most powerful characters would use in The Kyla: Return.

Then, finally, a couple years ago, all of it came together – the female hero, the myth, and the world in which I grew up. I wrote the last word, sat back, and thought, “There it is…the story I wanted most to read when I was young.”

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