INTERVIEW: KODY BOYE

This month, Brave Wings has interviewed prolific author, Kody Boye, who has churned out over thirty books in his young life. Kody also faces numerous challenges, as he is living with HIV and struggles with bipolar disorder.

You’ve published so many books. It’s mind-boggling. And you had your first story published at fifteen, first novel published at seventeen. Tell us about that.

I started writing when I was about seven years old, after my teacher assigned my second-grade class to write a short story. I naturally took to it and continued writing on and off until I got bit by the bug again when I was twelve. My first publication was a short story called [A] Prom Queen’s Revenge, which was published by the Yellow Mama Webzine. I attribute that the editor of the webzine at the time taking her time to make sure the story was as polished as it could be, given my skill level. The first edition of my novel Sunrise was published by the Library of the Living Dead Press when I was seventeen. Unfortunately, it was not ready for mass consumption; and because of that, I later rewrote it for the same press, where it stayed until the business folded.

You write fantasy, horror, science fiction, and contemporary fiction for young adults. What has drawn you to these genres?

It has only been within the last few years that I have been drawn to write for young adults. Before, I was convinced that I would write exclusively for an adult audience. Then the first few lines of my novel When They Came appeared in my head, and I realized it was meant for a younger audience.

My willingness to write YA fiction primarily comes from the genre, but also because a lot of the ideas I have at-present involve very young people (usually between the ages of fourteen/fifteen and eighteen.) There’s such a huge market for YA fiction that I feel that it’s too good to be ignored. Combined with the popularity of (and my love for) speculative fiction and it’s a match made in heaven.

How long does writing a book generally take you?

It depends on the book, its length, and how well it flows. When I’m doing really well and writing consistently, I can finish writing the first draft of a book in one or two months. The time it takes to revise and then edit can take longer depending on what I need to think about and consider with the specific work.

Do you do your own editing? Formatting? Covers?

I revise my work and then turn it over to someone for editing, since it’s impossible for anyone to see all of their errors no matter their talent. The formatting I do myself, and the covers I hire out for (since I have very little artistic skill.)

Tell us about your newest book, A Deadly Bloom (The Plague Bloom Book One).

A Deadly Bloom, which is the first in my Plague Bloom series, centers around a young woman and her people’s quest to make their way to their god’s Promised Land. Bryce Song, our main character, becomes an orphan at the beginning of the novel, and after the Elves arrive atop their massive flying whales to proclaim that the Promised Lands are upon the horizon, chooses to journey from the Guardians atop which they ride to the ground to reclaim a fabled relic that is said to slay any foe.

Of all your books, which was your favorite book to write and why?

As of now, A Deadly Bloom was my favorite to write, primarily because I’ve wanted to write it for years, but also because my first love in the young-adult genre was fantasy.

Can you give us an insight into one of your main characters and tell us what he/she does that is so special?

Most of my main characters suffer from mental duress as a result of either their previous experiences or their situations within my works. Because of that, they usually suffer from a lot of self-doubt, some personal loathing, and a lot of insecurities. In my When They Came trilogy, our main character Ana Mia exists in the shadow of a seemingly-insurmountable danger. In The Beautiful Ones, my main character Kelendra Byron lives in fear of remaining in poverty. And in A Deadly Bloom, my character Bryce Song suffers from the reality that she may never truly find family. All of these young women encompass several fears that I personally experience, and as a result of their very-ordinary selves, must learn to overcome the monsters of consciousness that we all experience.

What are the challenges in bringing your books to life?

The challenges I often find in bringing my work to life is making sure that I’m not projecting myself into the characters. I find that, a lot of times, I feel that my experiences are universal to a lot of people. However, we are all different; and as a result, experience things uniquely.

Are there messages in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

The primary message I would like people to gain from my work is the power of the self. Whether you want to believe it or not, you are (almost always) capable of changing your life, whether that be personally or on a greater scale.

Is anything in your books based on real life or purely all imagination?

I try not to base my books on real life. The locations in my “real-world” fiction have, of late, focused around areas of Texas I’ve either lived in or passed through. Otherwise, everything in my work is purely imagination.

Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?

I always feel that I’m a patient person when it comes to writing, and not as insecure. However, each book teaches me that my patience threshold is always thin, and my insecurities will likely continue to follow me until the day I die.

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

I feel, for the most part, that once the characters tell their stories in the novels, that I will likely not go back to them. However, there are a few stories from my teenage years that I plan on rewriting within the (hopefully-near) future. One of them, which I have titled The Monsters Within, will focus primarily around one young man’s relationship with a very mentally-ill partner, and their battle to contain the world that brims within the partner’s mind.

Do you have any actors in mind that would you like to see playing lead characters from your books?

It’s really rare when I find an actor that looks just like or that I want to play one of my characters. However—Michelle Williams looks exactly like the heroine in my Adventures of Carmen Delarosa series. Nicole Beharie was also the inspiration for Scarlet Jane in the Scarlet Jane Files.

Why do you write?

I write because it’s what I feel I do best, and because I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It’s also become a stream of income for me. While that shouldn’t fuel anyone’s desire to write, it is definitely a perk.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I always find getting a feel for the world within the first few pages of the work the hardest part of writing. Once I get past that, and am able to establish what exactly is going on and the parameters it’s occurring within, I am usually fine.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

The easiest thing, for me, is dialogue. I’ve always been comfortable writing it, and have been told that I write it fairly well.

Do you research your novels?

I research aspects of my novels. Given that I’ve taken to writing things in familiar locations, I find that I don’t have to do a ton of research on my immediate surroundings.  However, when it comes to things like star-systems, weapons, and other aspects of life, I find that I have to do a lot of research to get them as right as I possibly can.

Do you write an outline before every book you write? 

I rarely outline, but when I do, it’s usually very ornate and very specific. For example: I have a thirty-thousand-word outline for one novel I’ve yet to write.

Are the names of the characters in your novels important?

I try not to lend too much power to the names of my characters in my fiction. While names do have power, I find that they don’t normally influence my stories.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

My hands hurt sometimes from writing, so I do caution people to be careful to not strain their wrists or fingers.

How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?

I don’t often talk about my childhood due to the horrible experiences I’ve had during it. I’ve talked about being bullied, my “high school death threat” experience, and some other things, but I keep my childhood behind closed doors for a reason. I’ll talk about it eventually. Now is just not the time.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I think the toughest criticism I’ve been given wasn’t even related to my writing at all, and has instead come from people who I’ve once thought were friends. As to the best compliment: I’ve been told I’ve been a go-to author for some people, so that’s nice.

Was there a person in your career who has impacted you the most or who has really made a difference? 

Cindy Rosmus, from the Yellow Mama Webzine, gave me my start, so I’ll always be thankful for her influence on me.

Which writers inspire you or are your favorites, and what really strikes you about their work?

Stephen King has been one of my biggest influences on my writing style, as have authors such as Jennifer Haigh and Tristan Egolf, and Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix. Their tendencies to create larger than life worlds and characters have always made me envious of their work, so I’ve strived to be like them in those respects.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

I think maintaining a sense of confidence is always the best thing to do. Also: actually consistently writing, or at least producing some kind of content, helps.

Do you admire your own work?

I tend to like most of my work. I don’t admire it, per se, but I do give myself kudos for being able to produce so much content so consistently.

Have you ever hated something you wrote? 

I’ve never hated anything I wrote. I try to learn from everything, even if it causes me grief.

When are you going to write your autobiography?

I start on it every so often and then stop. This is because I feel I’m not ready to face that. Trauma takes a toll on the psyche, and reopening wounds always hurts.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I market primarily through social media. I’ve found what works best in my genre are newsletters and blog tours, however.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

  1. Build a fanbase.
  2. Build a social media following.
  3. Save money and buy advertising.

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I think reviews are reviews. At the end of the day, it’s how you feel about the work that matters.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

I feel that giving books away works because it helps lead people to seek out more of your work. I see most of my income come from ‘roll-over’ sales (as in, people buy books 2 and 3 of the When They Came trilogy because they downloaded book 1 for free.)

Besides writing, what are your interests or how do you relax?

I love animals, and play video games. I occasionally watch movies as well, but find that working on writing-related stuff helps me relax the most.

You also have a business offering editing and formatting services for writers. Would you like to talk about that?

I’ve been offering editing and formatting services for about ten years under Kody Boye Publishing Services. I primarily work on speculative fiction, but have worked with authors on historical fiction, self-help books, and more. I edit primarily for content, and format eBooks and paperbacks with various software to make them as crisp and professional (but also unique) as they can possibly be.

You struggle with bipolar disorder and you are also living with HIV. Do you wish to share about that?

I would be more than happy to!

How has living with HIV changed your life?

I’ve found that HIV, as well as Herpes, have changed my life primarily in that people are more wary to date me for fear of their own personal health. I would say that I’m not as ‘acceptable’ to date, in that respect, to some people, and that is my biggest challenge when meeting with new people.

Beyond that: I tend to suffer from some health issues as a result of my HIV infection. I primarily deal with fatigue (more so than I did when I was HIV-negative,) but also experience nerve pain and some stomach issues because of the infection.

What do you have to say that might help others who are afraid to get testing for a mental health issue or for HIV?

It’s easier to be treated for both than it is to suffer silently. Both can kill you if left untreated, so it’s always best to catch things early.

How have you dealt with stigmas?

I don’t think anyone ever really gets over the stigma of being HIV/Herpes-positive, or with mental illness. They learn to deal with it, mind you, but its emotional impact comes and goes to various degrees.

Who are your heroes?

Laverne Cox, off the top of my head, would have to be my biggest. Her championing for HIV/AIDs and LGBT/human rights is a huge deal in my book.

What is your greatest fear?

I would say leaving behind my pets (even though I know they’d be cared for.)

Your proudest achievement?

Garnering a fanbase, getting my work out there, and learning more about publishing each and every day.

What is your biggest regret and why?   

I regret not finishing and putting out my A Brotherhood of Men fantasy series before my grandparents could see it. My maternal grandmother was a big fan of those in particular when I was drafting the first book around ten years ago, and I’m always saddened that she didn’t get to see it finished.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be? 

I’m happy to be in Texas (specifically: the Rio Grande Valley!)

What book/s are you reading at present?

I’m currently reading Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.

What books have most influenced your life most?

The Tortall universe by Tamora Pierce influenced my love for fantasy fiction. Bag of Bones by Stephen King made me love the darker side of horror. And A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice inspired me to accept my sexuality when I was just fourteen. I have a list of books that “stayed with me” on my blog.

What is your favorite film and why?

I would say The Exorcism of Emily Rose is my favorite. I have a certain love for possession movies, but this one gives it a whole new human element that makes me love it even more.

What were you like at school?

I was very shy, quiet, and reserved, but that was primarily due to the fact that I was severely bullied throughout my life.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

To not be afraid of what’s going to come—that the future is going to be pretty good.

Have you ever found true love?

Not yet, unfortunately. I’ve experienced intense affection for people, but never ‘romantic love.’

What makes you cry?

Surprisingly? Kittens.

What makes you laugh?

Animals in general.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

To keep working at their craft and keep learning from it and other writers.

Thank you very much for taking part in this interview!

Kody’s books are available on Amazon.com.

You can read an excerpt from his novel, A Deadly Bloom (The Plague Bloom Book 1) here.

Connect with Kody on social media:

Website

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

YouTube

He also offers publishing services (editing and formatting):

Website

Facebook

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