Interview: Kendall Kulper, YA Author

Kulper_Headshot_Small2Kendall Kulper is a YA writer living in Chicago, IL with her husband and adorably befuddled dog. She graduated from Harvard College in 2008 and worked as a radio journalist for a few years before she heard the YA call and decided to write full time. Mostly she likes writing historical fiction (with a fantasy twist), and when she’s not writing, she likes making elaborate five-course dinners and convincing her 27-year-old feet that they can still do ballet.

Her debut novel SALT & STORM is coming from Little, Brown in September 2014.

Keep up with Kendall on her blog, website and Twitter.

Let’s see how Kendall answers the Proust Questionnaire!

What is your idea of happiness?
Sunday afternoons, after eating blueberry and whipped-cream puffed pancakes with my husband, collapsing on the couch with my puppy on my lap and a good cup of tea (and a book, of course).

What is your favorite song? When do you first remember hearing it?
Only one song?! Totally impossible–I could never pick just one. When I’m feeling happy, I love Here Comes the Sun, by the Beatles (I can remember dancing to that one in preschool). My go-to karaoke song is Valerie, by Amy Winehouse (a power hit that is always fun to dance to). My husband and I had our first dance at our wedding to Moonlight Serenade, so of course it has a special place in my heart. And Dear Avery, by the Decemberists is the song that best captures my latest manuscript–so I pretty much have been listening to it non-stop lately.

Which talent would you most like to have?
So! Many! I wish I was better at writing humor (a seriously underrated skill). I wish I knew how to make a fabulous meal out of only the stuff in my pantry (working on it). I wish I could do jumps and leaps and pirouettes like I used to. Right now, though, I’m trying to train my puppy, so some sort of Dog-Whisperer talent would really come in handy.

On what occasion do you lie?
I am a pretty terribly horrendous liar, and so I rarely lie because when I do, no one believes me. Does writing fiction count?

What is your present state of mind?
Right now I feel equal parts anxious and excited. Or 40-60. I’m starting a new manuscript, my husband is getting ready to graduate and go on the job market, our little puppy is slowly learning how to behave, and my latest manuscript is out in submission-land. Mostly I feel pretty positive and happy about all this, but there’s a *little* bit of anxiety, too.

What is your motto?
Adapt and overcome.

What character trait do you most value in your friends?
Basic human kindness. The older I get the more I seek out people who are sweet, genuine, and loyal. Cynicism and snark doesn’t get too far with me–I like people who like people.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Lovely is one I use a lot. An old coworker used to make fun of me for saying “Yup” all the time which I never realized before but OMG I SAID IT ALL THE TIME. And definitely. As in “I definitely say definitely way too much.”

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh (1888)

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh (1888)

Your favorite painting?
Again, too hard to pick just one! I have a giant chalkboard wall in my apartment and I’m redrawing my favorite paintings on the wall. Right now it’s Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, but I am also very fond of Wyeth’s Christina’s World and Whistler’s Nocturne, Blue and Gold.

What is your favorite journey?
That’s a tough one. Writing is a pretty incredible journey. So is being married. College taught me a lot about life and friendship and priorities, and having a puppy is teaching me a lot about patience and empathy and responsibility. It’s hard to pick one as a favorite because even the bad ones have helped make me the person that I am, which I’m grateful for.

What is your favorite time of day?
Most days I break things up and get out of the house, either for a ballet class or a run with my dog or a trip to the gym or grocery store. It’s a nice breather from my work and a good reminder that sometimes the best ideas come when you’re enjoying a pretty view or moving your body or having a random conversation.

With which literary hero or heroine would you most like to share a coffee?
Francie Nolan from A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (although Francie and I would both pour our coffees luxuriously down the sink and drink tea instead). Francie is a character I fell in love with from the first page, when we were both 11 years old, and the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to appreciate her sensitivity, insight, and compassion.

What do you need to achieve before you can die happy?
I would never want to think that I need to achieve something to die happy, because I think that puts a lot of pressure on your goals. There are lots of things I’d like to accomplish in my life–publish, be a mom, own a house with a little garden–but I feel really happy with my life right now. I’m working towards what I want and I’m thankful for what I have.

Who or what is your first love?
Oh books. Stories in general. Reading, writing, watching great movies or great TV shows or hearing people tell stories about their lives. I fell hard and I’m still recovering.

What’s the last dream you remember?
Last night I dreamed I was back in my old journalism job, and that they had hired me to work for only a few days and so I was just filling in. I’ve actually had this dream a bunch of times since quitting my job and it always fills me with anxiety. Must mean something but I haven’t figured it out yet.

What’s your madeleine?
Music. So many times I’ll hear a song that I haven’t heard in years and just instantly be transported to another time in my life, like singing on the beach with my girlfriends in middle school or crying in my dorm room or falling in love with my husband. It always surprises me how intense these feelings are and how quickly they come back to me.

Without thinking, in one word: what is life?

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