Author Encounters: Heather Bee talks with Blue author, Kayce Stevens Hughlett

Author Encounters

Early in the summer, whilst perusing the digital bookshelves of NetGalley, I stumbled across an interesting looking book titled, Blue. You can see my full review here, but, suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this book! Shortly after posting my review, I was thrilled to be contacted by the author, Kayce Stevens Hughlett. As it so happens, she and I have quite a bit in common! We’ve both attended graduate school for counseling psychology, enjoy long baths, and share a love for fountain pens and fluffy cats.

Here’s what she had to say about her book, Blue, and about life as an author.

About Blue…

BluebyKayceStevensHughlettUntil now, you’ve primarily written non-fiction. I recall reading that Blue was born from National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Why did you decide to participate and make the jump to fiction?

My first book, As I Lay Pondering: Daily Invitations To Live a Transformed Life was several years in the making. I finished and self-published it in January of 2012 and I didn’t know how to follow it up. In fact, I was deeply immersed in a bout of writer’s block. Enter NaNoWriMo. The thought of making up stories rather than trying to make meaning out of life was extremely appealing to me. So I signed up and entered into Nanowrimo as an experiment that turned out to be fun, cathartic, and extremely rewarding.

How did your experience as a therapist influence the stories in Blue?
As a therapist and life coach, I have spent hundreds of hours listening to other people’s stories. I never tire of the way these stories are intricately intertwined within families and the greater world. In my practice, I work principally with high-functioning individuals who go about their everyday lives without much attention to how or why they do the things they do. Everyone has some method of coping with challenging situations and unchecked these coping mechanisms can turn into addictive or avoidant behaviors. It was fun for me to play with some of these extreme and subtle behaviors in the form of my characters.

Why the color blue? What meaning does it have for you?
From day one, the working title was Blue. As the novel progressed, I found multi-layered meanings and ways of expressing that small word. I love the idea of having a simple word with multiple connotations and the way it calls upon readers to use their own imaginations.

When things begin to go awry for Izabel, her friends organize a “soul dance.” How was this event inspired by the spiritual work you do in real life?
This scene is one of my favorites in the book. In fact, several advance readers have asked when I’m going to host a “soul dance.” I’ve told them I’m working on it! I am an experiential learner and deep listener. I believe the most profound changes in our lives are often “wordless” events. Like those times when you just know something has shifted inside, but you can’t quite articulate it. It could be holding a newborn in your arms for the first time or experiencing profound beauty or silence with or without another person. It’s also like those wild times when the phone rings and you know who’s on the other end before you even answer. You can’t quite put it into words, but you can feel it deep within you. This is the spirit of the soul dance in Blue.

Where did you find inspiration to create the psychedelic landscape of Tausi?
Tausi is a bit of a mystery to even me. I literally woke up on November 1, 2012 with the first chapter rolling around in my brain. Blue everywhere. And then Sir Albert, the talking peacock showed up and next came Chauncey the okapi. They were such wild and rich characters that I felt they deserved a fantastical landscape to support them. I’m a very visual person, so when I got stuck wondering what to do next I turned to photographs, magazines, and personal collages for inspiration. Then I envisioned everything in shades of blue. Those chapters were extremely fun to write, because I was able to let my imagination run wild.

A woman should be able to luxuriate in her own toilette was her motto” is my favorite quote from this book. Do you have an extravagant bathroom at home, too?
I live in a 100 year-old farmhouse where space is at a premium, so I don’t have an extravagant bathroom. I do, however, have an amazing claw-foot tub and I’m quite fond of lavender and rosemary bubble bath. So even without the extravagance, I take time to “luxuriate” several times a week.

About the author…
kayce on a bench

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I prefer to read novels in the summer and non-fiction/memoirs in winter. I prefer writing with a fountain pen over computer keyboards. I prefer summer in Seattle over winter almost anywhere. I prefer Paris over Rome. Big dogs over small. Fluffy cats over sleek.I abhor that the world is filled with suffering, and I know affliction has helped create the individual I am today. I thrive on new experiences, adore reading, blogging, and movies ranging from romantic to contemplative. Play time with friends and family is sacred, as is quiet space and solitude.

Why did you decide to change careers from accounting to counseling?
Like Monica, I spent much of my life following other people’s rules. I was afraid to stand out and believed I could only support myself and find value through a practical job like accounting. After several years of trying to get everything right, my family experienced a heart-rending chasm and I turned to professional counselors for help. It was in receiving compassionate care from others that I became passionate about offering some sort of care back to the world. I returned to graduate school at age 45 to study counseling and never looked back.

Which authors (or psychologists) inspire your work as a therapist and as a writer?
One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamott. She writes non-fiction, fiction, and spiritual work in a raw and real way that inspires me. My favorite quote of hers and one that keeps me going in my writing is: “Write the shitty first draft.” I carried that mantra with me when I began Nanowrimo. Five or six drafts later, I have a finished product that I’m delighted to share with readers. (I’ll be borrowing your favorite quote while I try to complete my Master’s thesis!)

What’s up next? Do you have more fiction coming down the pipeline? Right now, all I can see is Blue. I do, however, have a travel memoir manuscript tucked in my drawer and look forward to diving into that this fall after I return from Paris where I’ll be leading a small group of soulstrollers on their own life-transforming adventure. Is there a sequel to Blue? I do believe Monica, Izabel, and Daisy have a few more things to say. Perhaps I’ll sign up for Nanowrimo one more time and see what happens.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers or NaNoWriMo participants? I’d love to share a recent interview I just did on this topic:

Thanks so much to Kayce for taking time to talk about Blue, which hits bookshelves on September 10, available in e-book and print from BQB Publishing and all major booksellers. 

kaycehughlett.comKayce Stevens Hughlett is an author, life muse, ponderer extraordinaire, speaker, joy monger, soulstroller.

Take your soul for a stroll with her or connect with her on social media  Facebook  | Twitter | Goodreads  | Instagram

Sunday Salon: July Reading Wrap-up Mash-up

Reading Wrap-up

Happenings:// Thesis stuff. Everyday I spend a few hours either at the library or tucked away somewhere quiet to write. I’m hoping to be ready to defend it in September or October, then I can graduate in the Fall!

Reading:// July was a slower reading month for me. I finished three books this month: The Martian by Andy Weir, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker’s Guide #2) by Douglas Adams, and Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey (see my review here). I’ve been continuing my spacey theme, and each of these was different, but fun!

July Wrap Up

Currently, I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Part of me is glad I waiting this long to read it because I can see several parallels between Offred’s world and my own. The other part of me is absolutely terrified. I’ve also picked up a handful of galleys that’ll keep me occupied for August (and maybe into September)

Watching:// Mr. Holmes. MB and I caught a matinee this weekend, and it was fantastic. Ian McKellan killed it (because he always does). He was very convincing playing a 93 year old (and the make-up was very well done, too). Definitely a different take on the character, and worth a watch if you’re into Sherlock Holmes.


Loving:// Health insurance!!! We’ve been without it for a couple of months since MB changed job recently. I’m glad we didn’t need it during that time, and I’m super psyched that we’ve got it back!

Hating:// toothaches… Grr… I’m blessed to still be cavity-free at 33. But my streak may be ending. Good thing we got that insurance, right?!

Anticipating:// my first author interview in the coming week. I’m going to be including in Kayce Hughlett’s book blog tour for her debut novel, Blue (see my review here). Expect to see my post on the interview on August 12!

How was your week (or month), readers? Have you done interviews before? Got any tips???

Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Our Dried Voices by Greg HickeyOur Dried Voices by Greg Hickey
Published by Scribe Publishing Company on November 4th 2014
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 234
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity. Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence. With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony.

With the recent buzz about “Earth’s cousin,” you’d think I’d found inspiration in science facts for my next choice of science fiction. I wish I was that cool, to be honest. But I’m not. I chose this book because of one word: Pearl.


So, yea, I was excited because the colonized planet in the book shares a name with one of my sweet pups. #crazydoglady? But I digress… Our Dried Voices was an OK read. It was hard to describe my thoughts without spoilers, so here goes.

This book fits in my current sci-fi/space travel mood, and I was intrigued by what all could possibly go wrong in this utopian, new world colony. The storyline was interesting, keeping my attention until the last page. The book opens with a chronology of the next 200 years, outlining fantastic medical and technological achievements. Then, BLAM, the story picks up on Pearl, with an established colony of humans that have evolved into bald, brown, simple creatures. I was really interested in finding out how that happened, and was pleased with how the author explained it, weaving some thought-provoking social commentary; each colonist follows the person in front, and when the system breaks down, they just shut down. I worry sometimes about people today falling into this same routine of “follow the leader” and then can’t figure out what to do on their own. Definitely some good stuff going on in this book…

…but then there were a few things that really left me wanting.

The author presented the colonists, even Samuel, as simplistic thinkers with limited vocabulary. As such, when describing new experiences from a colonist’s point of view, I expect the author to utilize similar thinking patterns and terminology available to them. Yet the author chose to use words that felt beyond their scope. For example,

“The paper–the first sample he had ever encountered of such a material–was tough and fibrous, similar to papyrus, but not as crisp.”

Based on Samuel’s presentation, even if he demonstrated higher levels of thinking than the others, I wouldn’t expect him to examine this new material and think, hey, it’s like papyrus. Where did that come from?! It’s like the author didn’t have faith that his readers could figure it out without being so explicit. I also felt like there were several plot holes that left me with questions. While the author ultimately explained how humans devolved into the state of the colonists, I still feel like there was something missing to achieve such bovine lifestyles. It’s hard for me to further elaborate on this point without spoilers, though…

Overall, I give this book three stars. It was fun, but not without some flaws. If you’ve read it, I would love to hear what you think!