Hello everyone! I'm Isela! I'm very excited to introduce to you the truly talented debut author Kayla Olson, who simply can't live without black coffee, dark chocolate, and an army of sharpie highlighters. Her first book, The Sandcastle Empire, brings you into a dystopian world that is guaranteed to take you on a wild journey of emotions. You'll definitely want to be the first to buy her new book when it comes out this Tuesday! You can also enter to win some signed swag, including an awesome Sandcastle Empire tattoo. Now let's get onto the interview!
Isela: Hey Kayla! Thanks so much for joining us today! I just finished The Sandcastle Empire, and I'm obsessed. Can you tell our readers what it's about?
Kayla: Hi, Isela! Thanks so much for having me, and for all of your kind words. Sure, I’d love to talk a little about what the book is about! I usually describe it like this: it’s a YA near-future sci-fi/survival thriller set in post-sea-level-rise America amid a future global war. When main character Eden sets off for Sanctuary Island—rumored to be the only neutral territory left in the world—she and the three girls she’s escaped with quickly discover the island is even deadlier than the world they’ve left behind. Surviving it is the only thing standing between them and their freedom.
Isela: On your website you mentioned that you couldn't deal with heights and snakes. I noticed that Eden also fears heights and snakes. Do you see some of yourself in Eden?
Kayla: Heights and snakes were *for sure* a part of Eden that was easy for me to tap into—I’m shuddering just reading the question, ha! Aside from her fears, I see some of myself in a few other aspects of her personality; there’s a line in Chapter Five, for example, where she thinks, "It’s never quiet in my head, so I don’t always realize I don’t speak much." I’m very much a quick to listen/slow to speak sort of person, so her thoughts here are very true to my own experience as a person.
Isela: The Sandcastle Empire is jam packed with action scenes. What was your favorite scene to write?
Kayla: Ooh, great question! My very favorite scenes all contain huge spoilers, so it’s tricky to give an answer that isn’t super vague. The opening chapter has one of the more major action scenes in the book, though, and I did love writing it—for a long time, it was actually all I had of the book, because I was right in the thick of another project. Every time I opened the file to read that first chapter, it made me want to write the rest of the book—I’m so glad I eventually did!
Isela: Did you write any of the book on the beach? Were any literal sandcastles built during the writing of the book?
Kayla: I wish I’d been able to write some of the book while hanging out on an actual beach! A huge inspiration for it was Castaway Cay, an island owned by Disney that my husband and I visited while on one of their cruises. I had such a strong desire to go back, I decided to set an entire book in that sort of setting! I did end up visiting the island again after the book sold—and we did, in fact, build the most epic sandcastle.
Isela: Back in 2016, you wrote a blog post called Currently. So I'd like to know what you're currently reading, watching, and listening to?
Kayla: Yessss, I love this question! Right now I’m reading THE TAKEDOWN by Corrie Wang (who is lovely, and you should all go follow/befriend her)—it feels almost like a futuristic Mean Girls, and it is seriously addictive. As far as what I’m watching, I’m super into Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend right now. Both shows are so clever and have a ton of energy; I’m already going through withdrawals in anticipation of their next seasons! And what I’m listening to: I’ve been bouncing between two podcasts for a while now. One is called ScriptNotes, and is screenwriting-focused—they just posted their 300th episode! Even though it’s not specific to being a novelist, I find it refreshing to hear the perspectives of the hosts, John August and Craig Mazin, who have tons of experience as creatives who’ve made a living with their words. The other podcast is called First Draft with Sarah Enni; she’s been interviewing authors for years, and it’s always so interesting to hear their various backstories and processes. I was actually a guest on Sarah’s podcast recently—you can find that episode here.
Isela: I know that you're a musician. Would you ever want to produce your own music or try out your talents on Broadway?
Kayla: Ooh, possibly? Writing novels takes such a huge amount of creative headspace, so for the foreseeable future, I’ll likely continue to focus on that since I have a lot going on. I do think it would be fun to produce my own music, though—my husband would certainly be excited about that, as he’s fantastic on the bass and the piano. If I were to pursue it, my style would probably be most like that of Patty Griffin or Erin McCarley! (Of course, if I ever had the chance to play King George in Hamilton—or ANY role in Hamilton—I would jump on that opportunity SO FAST.)
Isela: Are you excited about The Sandcastle Empire being picked up by Paramount and Leonardo DiCaprio? And will you be a part of the making of the film?
Kayla: I’m thrilled about the film deal, for sure—I cannot imagine a better team than the one working on this project, and I’m so grateful and excited to see what transpires from here! I’ve always been fascinated by all things behind-the-scenes, so I’d love to be involved in any way I can.
Isela: There's one huge question that was left unanswered, and I'm dying to know! What happened to Eden's mom?
Kayla: Sadly, Eden’s mother was killed in a car accident when Eden was young—which means that even before the war, Eden had suffered a very serious and significant loss. I just…want to hug her.
Isela: The last sentence of the book is left open-ended. Do you plan on making a series out of The Sandcastle Empire?
Kayla: I’ve always seen The Sandcastle Empire as a standalone that could be expanded—so while the first book has its own full story and conclusion, I definitely have ideas ready to go if given the opportunity to expand into a sequel!
That’s it for today’s interview with Kayla. And if you want to let Kayla know why you’re excited for The Sandcastle Empire, be sure to visit her website or follow her on Twitter. While you’re at it, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram so you never have to miss another interview or giveaway. Whatever you do, be sure to come back next week when James will be interviewing the amazing S.K. Ali about her new book Saints And Misfits. See you then!