Long and Short Reviews welcomes Kaya McLaren whose newest book How I Came to Sparkle Again is now out. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book (US and Canada only please).
Kaya told me she thought it would make a great movie. There's beautiful mountain scenery, fast skiing, a few jumps, hunky men, and lots of laughs—what's not to like? HOW I CAME TO SPARKLE AGAIN would make a great movie! Beautiful mountain scenery, fast skiing and a few jumps, hunky men, and lots of laughs.
She loves to listen to music while she writes. For How I Came to Sparkle Again, she listened to music that she likes to listen to while she skies, like old Coldplay. During the sad parts of the book, she listened to David Gray and Damien Rice; during the silly parts, G Love. When she worked on Church of the Dog she told me that she must have listened to Bruce Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad CD thousands of time. Her WIP has her listening to a lot of cello music: Matthew Schoening, Zoe Keaton, and Yo-Yo Ma.
Lisa in Kaya's new book is a lot like her. She’s trying to figure out how to have integrity in her relationships and still maintain some level of autonomy so that no one will have the power to turn her life or her heart upside down.
"We both can have a little edge to us sometimes that we just can’t help," she told me.
Kaya was inspired to start writing fiction because of loneliness and a broken heart, but when she was a teenager, she used to write letters to around thirty pen pals all over the world.
"That’s really when I became a writer, and what inspired me was wanting to learn about the world and escape my small town," she said.
When she chooses books to read, she finds herself drawn to flavor—natural settings, characters that are beautifully imperfect, and that have a hopeful ending. She also appreciates people who string words together in a poetic way.
"Linda Hogan and River Jordan both write so beautifully in this way that I read their books out loud just so I can taste those delicious words," she told me. "I love Linda Hogan. She’s a very poetic and nature-centered writer. Masterful. If I ever become one-quarter of the writer she is, I would feel so proud."
"What comes first, the plot or the characters?" I asked.
"Well, I think it would be easier if the plot came first, but plot is not easy for me because I don’t really like problems. I know. It’s hilarious. So for me, I start with characters, and then ask myself what they want and why they can’t have it."
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver was the first book Kaya read after graduating from college and was the first book she had read for pleasure in years.
"I fell so deeply in love with it and couldn’t put it down. Had I not had that experience, I probably wouldn’t be writing fiction today," she said.
I asked Kaya to describe her writing space.
"It’s one part of a u-shaped loft in my little log cabin with a window that looks out on my neighbor’s five trailers and some mountains to the south. It’s small and cluttered, despite my best efforts to keep it organized. I keep a sweater a friend brought back from Peru on my chair for when I get cold, and on the floor by my chair, two pairs of wool socks a reader knitted me that I believe give me magic writing powers."
"What is the most surprising thing I’ve discovered while writing your books?" I wondered.
"Well, I had a story end with a happy single woman because I’ve never been married and I think I’m overall pretty happy. I wanted to give hope to women who found themselves in my shoes involuntarily. One editor told me readers were going to want a more conventional happy ending. So, I was surprised to learn that my life wasn’t a happy ending—or at least a recognizable happy ending. That said, I have to give full props to that editor, because giving her a more conventional happy ending really tightened up the plot."
When it comes to research, Kaya looks things up on the internet and calls people she knows. If she needs to find people to answer specific questions, her friends on Facebook have been very helpful in networking her with just the right people.
She told me that she's had a wonderful journey on her road to publication and wouldn't change a thing.
"I met some wonderful people along the way, and it all happened slowly enough that I was really ready for it when I reached this level of success. I also struggled enough so that I really, really appreciate what I have now," she admitted.
"eBook or print?" I asked.
"I’m a paperback girl. Light, easy to hold, easy to carry. They won’t electrocute me in the bathtub where I do most of my reading or run out of batteries on a river trip. And I can give them away when I’m done, which I love to do. Perhaps when I’m older and my eyes go, I’ll appreciate the eBook feature where I can change the font size, but at this point in my life, the last thing I want to do in my spare time is look at a screen of any kind."
"What is one thing my readers would be most surprised to learn about you?"
"I was at a book club meeting in Kansas City where many members couldn’t fathom that an old woman would ride a bike. They were surprised to learn that women in my world are really active and gutsy. I climbed Mt. St. Helens with a 69 year-old woman. Now she’s in her 80’s, so we just snowshoe."
About the Author:
Find Kaya online at
Set in a Colorado ski town, Kaya McLaren's How I Came To Sparkle Again is a remarkable breakout novel that chronicles three people and their journey from loss to love; heartbreak to hope.
Jill Anthony spent her young adulthood in the ski town of Sparkle, Colorado. But more than a decade has passed since she left when, only weeks after a very late miscarriage, she finds her husband in bed with another woman, she flees Austin, Texas for the town she knows: Sparkle.
Lisa Carlucci wakes up one morning after another night of meaningless sex, looks in the mirror and realizes that she no longer wants to treat her body like a Holiday Inn. She’s going to hold out for love. The only problem is, love might come in the form of her ski bum best friend, who lives next door with his ski bum friends in a trailer known as “the Kennel.”
Cassie Jones, at age ten, has lost her mother to cancer and no longer believes in anything anymore. She knows her father is desperately worried about her, and she constantly looks for messages from her deceased mother through the heart-shaped rocks they once collected in the streams and hills of Sparkle.
Three people at the crossroads of heartbreak and healing. Three lives that will be changed one winter in Sparkle. One tender, funny, tear-jerking novel you won’t soon forget.