Here is my interview with Kalen Cap, author of the humorous crime thriller Tangled Ties to a Manatee. I'd just like to say a massive thank you to Kalen for taking the time and answering my questions! Hope you all enjoy the interview and check out my review of Kalen's book Tangled Ties to a Manatee!
1. As Tangled Ties to a Manatee is your debut novel, what inspired you to write this book as your first book?
In general, I have received so much from the art of storytelling in my life. I'm driven to give back through writing. I enjoy writing and have had short stories, poems, and nonfiction articles published, as well as plays produced. This first novel was a more involved undertaking.
People giving of themselves for causes they care about inspire me. For my debut novel, I touched on issues I care about in an entertaining way. Activism feeds my writing and my writing feeds my personal activism as well.
I've also been told I have particular strengths with group dialogue. I wanted to expand on this strength to create something unique, or at least seldom seen, in a novel with intricate, interwoven storylines involved among characters.
2. Tangled Ties to a Manatee covers many different issues including the environment, depression, divorce and the way society treats adults with special needs. When writing your book, was there any specific message you wanted your readers to grasp?
While I prefer leaving most interpretations of any message to the reader, I hoped I presented messages with an open hand instead of a sledgehammer. I'll just touch on those mentioned in this question.
Regarding adults with special needs, I hope Tangled Ties to a Manatee presents the case that each individual has a full life with the same needs and desires of others, even when differently-abled. A developmental disability doesn't define the whole individual, and someone differently-abled can be just as heroic or antagonistic as anyone else.
For the divorce topic where depression did play a role, I believe there are always complex feelings around divorce. Experiences with any breakup affect how individuals approach other relationships, and can also affect how one approaches work and other matters.
Regarding the environment, even in more urban areas, the environment is still there. People may choose different activities or try to avoid it, but how a character relates to the environment is a characteristic of anyone. This is as true for those living in the city as for those living in remote wilderness.
3. The plot in Tangled Ties to a Manatee is very intricate. There are many different characters with their own story lines, and they all interact with each other throughout the book. Did you have any problems when trying to link each character together and tying them back to Ankh (the manatee)?
Some linkages and interactions took more work than others. Some of the more challenging connections are presented through dialogue. While writing plays, I was told dialogue was a strength of mine, particularly when more than two characters are involved. Whether in plays or novels, I enjoy writing group scenes.
In group scenes, I find more can be revealed more succinctly about characters and their relationships than with one-on-one dialogue. I think of these in terms of potential "reveals."
During a scene with two characters, there are three reveals. Say Al And Bob are two characters involved in a dialogue. Regarding individuals and relationships, this could provide the reader with three "reveals" - insights about Al, Bob, and Al & Bob's relationship.
If a third character, Carol, is added, there are seven potential "reveals" - Al, Bob, Carol, Al & Bob, Al & Carol, Bob & Carol, and all three characters' relationship as a group. For a 4-character dialogue, the potential "reveals" are 14, and the complexity advances from there.
In suspense, up to a point, more intricacies add to the mystery. With the suspense genre, that is part of the enjoyment. With the interwoven storylines, I wanted to take that mystery from intricacies further than usual, but keep everything anchored with strong through-lines in Tangled Ties to a Manatee. group dialogue was a key to achieving that.
4. You label the genre of your book a ‘humorous crime thriller’. What other authors of this genre do you like to read and did any of them influence you in writing Tangled Ties to a Manatee?
Carl Hiaasen is my favorite author in this genre. He employs environmental themes in his work and uses humor effectively.
So much of what's written or otherwise produced about environmental themes around activism is focused on the negative. Bringing environmental issues up in a humorous context reaches people in a valuable way while being entertaining. While my humor is more understated instead of madcap, I've been influenced by those who stretch the comedic.
5. After finishing your first novel what’s next for Kalen Cap? Is there another novel on the horizon, can you tells us anything about it?
My new work-in-progress is a novel with the working title, "The Peace Cipher." It is also a type of crime thriller where artifacts are stolen from a museum exhibit. The setting is primarily in Ottawa County, Ohio along Lake Erie, featuring the fictional Sandusky Bay Community College.
6. And finally, after finishing your debut book is there any advice you would give to other writers?
My advice should be confined to those considering self-publishing a novel, since that is what my experience is limited to, but here goes....
Take risks with your first novel. There are hundreds of thousands of books published each year and tens of millions already published historically still available to readers. The only way to provide real value to readers is to give your unique take on things. That requires taking risks because anything differing from the norm invites criticism.
I realize the "academic wisdom" bandied about among writers is that there's nothing new under the sun - that all the stories to be told have already been told. I don't buy that. I believe every individual writer has a unique perspective they bring into their work based on their life experiences and views. That's what gives each novel its distinctive flavor. At least, it does when chances are taken.
So, take some risks.