Monday, July 30, 2012

Interview with debut novelist Kalen Cap

I'm happy to introduce another debut novelist. Today's guest, Kalen Cap, is here to talk about his novel Tangled Ties to a Manatee and how his interest in the environment makes its way into his writing.

Kalen will award a $25 Green Gift Card from -- redeemable for gift cards from hundreds of your favorite merchants to one randomly drawn commenter during his virtual book tour. If you'd like to be entered, please leave your e-mail address along with your comment below. You can also visit other tour stops and leave a comment to increase your odds of winning.

Kalen Cap is a writer living in Columbus, Ohio. Active in environmental and other causes, he often brings such concerns into his fiction writing. Tangled Ties to a Manatee is his debut novel.

Welcome, Kalen. Please tell us about your current release.
Tangled Ties to a Manatee is a humorous crime thriller with environmental themes. It is a great story with interesting characters. The storyline's threads progress and interweave to a denouement connecting all involved.

The following is the novel’s description:
A pregnant manatee is rare at any zoo, and a first for the Grove City Zoo in Ohio. Ankh is a delight to zoo patrons, a concern to its staff, and the unintentional victim of two con men. She has no idea how many human relationships, problems, and dreams tangle around her.

Jerry is a young developmentally disabled man who happily follows Ankh's pregnancy on the zoo's webcam. He has a shy crush on Janelle, a pretty college student who volunteers for his group home’s outings to the zoo.

Jerry's Aunt Vera also loves nature and runs an environmental retreat center. But all is not well, with Vera or the center. The center needs money and is under investigation as a cult.

Amid their college studies, Janelle and her friend Cecily try to help. Instead, Janelle re-awakens an old obsession in Vera when an innocent tarot reading hints at how the center might be saved.

Two bumbling con men are attempting to sabotage the region’s electrical grid as part of a lucrative scheme. But, Jerry accidentally gets in their way and becomes their captive.

When the con men surprisingly succeed in bringing the grid down, it spells danger for Ankh, her unborn pup, and the many people tied to them both. With investigations of their own, Cecily and Janelle try to untangle it all to find Jerry, save a manatee’s life, and rescue Vera from herself.

Excerpt: Stan

“What we gonna do with him?” Craig asked.

Stan held the door open, motioning for Craig to carry their intruder inside. I’m glad we’re at this site.

Another retired hub station was a few miles away. That station’s maintenance was scheduled for Monday and Thursday, and Stan originally planned to use that location. But, with the forecasted weather, the current station, with its maintenance on Wednesday and Friday, was proving the better choice. Particularly now, since it had a second building where they could stow their intruder. The retired grid hub station was used for remote relayed processing, so there wouldn’t likely be any surprise visits by the electric company before Wednesday. Stan figured they’d be long gone by then.

Craig took the load inside and turned back to Stan.

“We’ll put him in the basement,” Stan said.

“There’s a basement?”

“No, I’m going to dig one while you hold him. Of course, there’s a basement.” Stan flipped the light switch and led the way down the steps inside. The basement had a storage area and what had been a break room, complete with a cot, and adjoining bathroom. Craig followed him into the break room, and Stan motioned to the cot. Craig let the guy fall there with a thump.

“Easy! Let’s get the sack off him,” Stan said. The two men pulled the burlap off their surprise guest. They both leaned over, peering at him.

“I know him,“ Craig said.

“You think you know everybody.”

“No, really. Can’t remember where I saw him, though.”

Stan handed his partner a couple lengths of cord. Craig set the intruder upright and proceeded to bind his hands and feet.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’m inspired creatively by many things, particularly art, music, and people volunteering to do extraordinary things to help others. Particular circumstances also inspired me for this specific novel.

After getting a sense of audience response as a local playwright, I wanted to explore some themes and storytelling methods more in-depth. I was told I had a knack for group dialogue, and revealing a threaded story with multiple points of view appealed to me. Dramatic events in real life are likely to involve more than one person’s experience and I wanted to mirror that in a story with entangled relationships.

I also had a good deal of personal experience with nonprofits and college-aged folks. Generally, nonprofits are underrepresented in fiction, but the environmental and animal protection movements are populated largely via these nonprofits. Other than stories emphasizing partying or romance, college-aged protagonists are also underrepresented in fiction. So, I found an opportunity in combining these elements to provide something unique in a novel.

I’ve found people like my light humor. So, when the storyline for a humorous crime thriller came to me, I jumped into the story. With developmentally disabled characters, another concern addressed by nonprofits with limited fictional exploration, the storyline with two core threads came together for the novel’s structure and I developed it from there.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m writing another crime thriller with the working title, “The Peace Cipher.”  While it also emphasizes college-aged protagonists, it is rather different from Tangled Ties to a Manatee. The main setting is in Ottawa County, Ohio, and includes a fictional Sandusky Bay Community College. Artifacts are stolen from a museum exhibit, and the protagonists find themselves in the midst of competing parties vying for them.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
While I had a few things published before then, I truly felt like a writer when I had plays produced. I could hear and see the audience’s response to the work more than I had in previous publications of mine. So, the audience response is really what clinched it for me.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like?  If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, my full time job is in retail. While writing the novel, I often had two part-time jobs simultaneously. Like many, I fit the writing in around my work schedule. I do tend to have time off the hourly job while others are working. That limits distractions so it is easier to focus on the writing. Also, being part of a local writer’s group that meets regularly helps me maintain that accountability for keeping at it.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know how unusual it is, but I find when I’m writing fiction, I tend to read more nonfiction. When I’m writing nonfiction, as I do with newsletter articles for nonprofits, I tend to read more fiction.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A game show host. Winners seemed happy and excited to be on game shows – much different than how busy adults appeared in everyday life. Thankfully, I outgrew that notion.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Hope everyone enjoys the novel. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Goodreads are currently the best social networking sites to connect with me about Tangled Ties to a Manatee and my other writing.

Thanks, Kalen. Readers, don't forget about the gift certificate giveaway - leave a comment here and at other blog stops to be entered to win!


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Kalen today.

Lisa Haselton said...

My pleasure. This is a nice kickoff to a new week. :)

Kalen Cap said...

Thank you for the interview and hosting today.

I'm hoping readers might share what sort of things they find underrepresented in fiction they read as well.

Anonymous said...

Love the former game show host aspiration...I'd read a book about one, for sure!


MomJane said...

Love the sound of this story. This is one i would love to read.

Kalen Cap said...

Thanks Anonymous. The perceptions kids have about jobs is a little naive. But, aspirations of our younger selves definitely can give some good material for writing.

Kalen Cap said...

Thanks MomJane. I've been pleased with the response to it so far.

Rebecca Hipworth said...

Thanks for the interview, it was fun to read. :)


bn100 said...

Congratulations on the book! Nice interview.