Q&A With Kassandra Cooney, Award-Winner
Please welcome Kassandra Cooney to our Featured Q&A series at Writer’s Fun Zone. She is one of the Honorable Mentions to the 2016 Genre Novelist 1st Chapter Contest, sponsored by Beth Barany, in conjunction with the 2016 San Mateo County Fair Literary Arts Stage. Kassandra’s story, “New Holland,” along with all the winners, is featured in the book, Carry The Light.
If you’d like to be considered for an interview, check out our guidelines here.
ABOUT KASSANDRA COONEY
Kassandra grew up in Santa Cruz where she was the founder of her high school’s Writer’s Group. She currently lives in Fresno and works at Keller Williams Realty as a Real Estate Agent. She has two complete novels, as of yet unpublished, and is working on a historical fiction piece. She reads ravenously and, when it comes to writing, just can’t seem to get story ideas out of her head fast enough.
On to our interview!
1. Tell us who you are and what inspires you to write in 100 words or less.
My name is Kassandra Cooney, and I’ve been writing stories since I was very young. I grew up on a 12-acre horse ranch with sparked a lot of creative inspiration for me in my formative years. I’ve also had a long standing love of novels and read every chance I get. The things that inspire most of my own novels are dreams that I have and research that I do when I become interested in a new topic such as what life was like in the Middle Ages.
2. How did you get to this place in your life? Share your story!
My mom is an amazing person. I am at this place in my life today because she always found new ways to foster my creativity and help me succeed. She’s been my first and best beta reader, and she helped me find my first writer’s group. Another factor in where I am today is my ridiculously overactive brain that makes me feel like I need to be working on a project all the time. If I have a scene in my head it’ll bother me endlessly until I get it on paper.
Click to Tweet: If I have a scene in my head it’ll bother me endlessly until I get it on paper. #amwriting #kassandracooney http://ctt.ec/Oejg7+
3. What are you most passionate about?
I’m very passionate about mythology and fairy tales, especially when it comes to dragons. Fantasy has always fascinated me because there are so many possibilities when it comes to intangible things. That is why fantasy is the genre I focus most on in my writing. World building is another thing that I am passionate about. Working to come up with new ways of life all the way down to smaller aspects like currency and clothing is so much fun.
4. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, routine, and/or rituals around your writing?
My writing process begins with jotting down the first draft in a composition notebook. I have to write everything longhand first. Last Christmas I was gifted a Livescribe+ smart pen which uses a laser to read what you write and convert it into text on your phone or computer. So when I use my smart pen I don’t have to worry about re-typing everything later. Once I have my draft in a Word doc I do my first round of edits. When I feel like I have a polished first draft I print a copy and read it aloud to myself to catch any awkward places and make those changes so I can give the book to my beta readers. After beta reading I do another round of edits. After that I feel like a piece is ready to be shared in a more professional environment.
5. What are a few challenges you faced in creating, marketing, or publishing your creative work? And your solutions to them.
For this historical fiction project, my biggest challenge has been making everything factually accurate and flow smoothly. There are so many things for this project that I don’t know such as what weapon technology was like during this time period and how the Australian colonization process went. So finding accurate sources has been my greatest struggle. I tried starting my search online but quickly found that the info I got there was conflicting. The best solution I’ve found so far is using scholarly papers to get my info. Other than that, I struggle balancing my full time job and part time college classes with finding time to write.
6. What do you wish you had known before you started writing fiction?
I wish I’d known about writer’s groups and peer review groups when I had first started. Honestly I would have finished my first book so much faster if I’d been in a writer’s group from the beginning. Having the support isn’t just for editing. They can also help keep you motivated to reach your weekly goals and suggest ways to get through blocks. Now that I’ve been a part of groups like this, I can’t imagine going back to working on my writing independently.
7. What’s next for you in your creative work?
I have two goals that I would like to meet before this time next year. One is that I want to self-publish my first book so that I can finally distribute it to my friends, family, and sphere. My second goal is to finish the research I need for my historical fiction piece so that I can write more of that book because when I accepted my award at the San Mateo Fair I got a lot of feedback from people wanting to read the rest of it. Sadly I had to say it’s not written yet.
8. Is there anything else you wished I’d asked? Please share!
I just want to say that I’m so glad I was encouraged and pushed to enter the San Mateo Fair literary competition because it was an excellent exercise and the treatment that I received from the staff and members of the audience when I attended the event was full of caring. This being my second writing competition, I’ve found that the experience and feedback is an irreplaceable part of my writing career now. If anyone would like to read the first chapter of my historical fiction piece, as well as the work of many other great writers, they can visit the Amazon link for the Fair’s 2016 anthology, Carry The Light.
New Holland follows the journey of Thomas after he is torn from his family in London and sent as a prisoner to aid in the colonization of Australia. But Thomas won’t accept this fate and will stop at nothing to get off the prison continent and see his family again, whether that means becoming a rogue and commandeering a ship or trying to bring down the British military.