Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Kay!
Before we get to the interview, can you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I am Kay Bratt, a child advocate and author. So far I am known for my work as a volunteer in a Chinese orphanage, and the subsequent memoir I wrote about those experiences. I have recently released a novel titled Chasing China: A Daughter's Quest for Truth.
How long have you been a writer?
I have been a writer since elementary school, always writing short stories, journals, poems, and various projects. However, I was first published in 2007.
Do you have a "day job," or is being an author your career?
I am first and foremost an advocate for children. Most recently a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), but I recently came on board with AOW (An Orphans Wish). I used to have a career in Human Resources, but decided that it was not fulfilling enough for me and I left a great job to focus on volunteer work and writing. I do still work outside the home part-time as an executive assistant, but that job only helps pay the bills and doesn't define who I am.
What inspired you to become a writer?
The first story I wrote was at the age of eleven, after my best friend was killed right in front of me. I wrote out the details in story form, I believe it was an unconscious attempt at self-therapy. From that moment on I was an writer.
Please give a brief description / storyline about Chasing China.
Many years ago Mia was born to an unknown family in China but soon discarded to fend for herself in a busy train station. Fate stepped in when Mia was taken to the local orphanage and was adopted at the age of four by her American family. Now at college and struggling with her identity, Mia takes a journey to the mysterious land of her birth and embarks on a mission to find answers. As she follows the invisible red thread back through her motherland, she is enamored by the history and culture of her heritage - strengthening her resolve to get to the truth, even as Chinese officials struggle to keep it buried. With her unwavering spirit of determination, Mia battles the forces stacked against her and faces mystery, danger, a dash of romance, and finally a conclusion that will change her life.
What was the inspiration for this story?
I lived in China for almost five years and became very involved in the orphanage environment and the subject of adoption. Recently there have been breaking stories in China about exactly where some of the orphans come from that are later adopted, and one story in particular gave me the idea for Chasing China.
How did it feel to have your first book published?
When my first book was published I felt a sense of accomplishment, yet a bit of anxiety that no one would want to read it. I was pleasantly surprised when it sold thousands the first few weeks and has kept on selling since that time.
What genres are your favorite(s)? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?
I love courtroom drama, especially John Grisham. His writing keeps me entertained while also feeding the intellectual side of my brain. For pure enjoyment purposes only, my favorite book was Gone With The Wind. I think what pulled me in and makes me read it again every few years is the way the author took me through the years of living with the characters. It wasn't a quick read, and when I read the final page I felt like I knew each character intimately.
Do you have a special "spot/area" where you like to do your writing?
I have an office that I write in, but for me the kicker for serious writing is that I have to be wearing my writing sweater. When I wrote my memoir, I was living in China and our house was freezing cold in the summer and winter. I always wore the sweater and found out later that it makes me feel like a writer. It is sort of a good luck kind of item.
How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?
So far all four of my published works are set in China or related to China in some way. The details and character mostly come from memories of my time there. With Chasing China, the plot came straight from breaking news in the New York Times.
From concept to publication, about how long does it take for you to complete a book and have it released?
For me it is approximately one year.
When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?
I have to write when inspiration hits me. I can't force creativity. Some days I might crank out 5,000 words, and other days I have to focus on research and editing because I can't focus on the story.
What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?
I enjoy bringing the character alive with quirks and personality traits. The aspect of writing I struggle with the most is action scenes.
What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
I love to read. When I was growing up and well into my thirties, I would read about 3-5 books a week. These days I am much too busy to get that much reading done, but if I have nay down time at the end of the week, I spend it reading. I also enjoy walking my dog Riley. He is such a sweet and gentle soul, and so thankful for my attention that it gives me peace to bring him joy just by taking him on long walks.
What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was to write what I know. I've stuck to that for the most part. When I try to venture off and write something that I have no experience with, it is much more difficult. That is why you'll probably always see my writing relate to China or disadvantaged people in some way.
What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?
When someone writes to me and tells me that one of my books has inspired them to do something for a child that is when I know I've met my goal. Whether it be to adopt, volunteer or sponsor a child in some way, every little step helps.
How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?
I have a large Facebook friend list - please feel free to friend me! I also have a Facebook fan page and I blog, though not as frequently as I once did.
Are any things in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?
Everything in my books are based on real life. For Chasing China, though the main characters are fictional, all of the supporting children characters are from the orphanage I worked in.
What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?
When I first started out, JA Konrath was an inspiring writer with a lot of good advice for newbies. Though his books are not in the genre I usually read, it was his adventurous and risky attitude that made me think I could follow in his footsteps. I am not as successful as he is, but like him, I refuse to stop trying! I still follow his blog because he is the trail blazer for us other Indie authors. I am very grateful that he takes the time to share his experiences with others.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
The same that was given to me, write what you know! Use your world experiences and weave a story around cities you've been, people you've met and things you have done. That is how your story will sound authentic.
Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit with us?
I am currently working on a novel about two girls that disappear without a trace. The book leads the reader through their kidnapping and their lives going forward, while also following the father of one of the girls as he refuses to give up the search for his daughter.
Thank you Kay for stopping by Jersey Girl Book Reviews and allowing us to get to know you! Best wishes for continued success in your writing career.
About The Author:
Kay Bratt is a child advocate and author, residing near the base of Wacau Mountain, in the rolling hills of Georgia with her husband, daughter, dog and cat. In addition to coordinating small projects for the children of China, Kay is an active volunteer for An Orphans Wish (AOW). Kay lived in China for over four years and because of her experiences working with orphans, she strives to be the voice for children who cannot speak for themselves. Kay kicked off her career as an author with her best selling memoir titled Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. Since that time she has been writing material to entertain readers while raising awareness of world issues. Kay is the author of The Bridge, Mei Li and The Wise Laoshi, and an upcoming novel titled A Thread Unbroken.
BUY THE BOOK: Chasing China
BARNES & NOBLE
Chasing China Virtual Event Contest: Win A $10 Amazon Gift Card!
To enter the contest, click on the above link and post a comment on Kay's tour page to win a $10 Amazon gift card. If you purchase your copy of Chasing China before march 5 and send your receipt to Samantha@ChickLitPlus.com , you will get five (5) bonus entries!
Book Description: Chasing China
Mia is beautiful, talented and has the world at her fingertips. But what makes her different than the average college student who juggles a heavy workload and a rat of a boyfriend? Many years ago she was born to an unknown family in China but son discarded to fend for herself in a busy train station. Fate stepped in when Mia was taken to the local orphanage and adopted at the age of four by her American family. Life has been good for her, or at least as much as she has allowed it to be while pushing her deep feelings of abandonment to the back of her mind. Finally she has decided that in order to move forward, she must confront her past. Mia takes a journey to the mysterious land of her birth and embarks on a mission to find answers. As she follows the invisible read thread back through her motherland, she is enamored by the history and culture of her heritage - strengthening her resolve to get to the truth, even as Chinese officials struggle to keep it buried. With her unwavering spirit of determination, Mia battles the forces stacked against her and faces mystery, danger, a dash of romance, and finally a conclusion that will change her life.