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.
Until 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…
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: http://confidenceatyourcore.com/confidence-exposed-kayce-hughlett/
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.
Kayce Stevens Hughlett is an author, life muse, ponderer extraordinaire, speaker, joy monger, soulstroller.
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