Mud daubers tunnel And leave geodes behind them Like time-cracked crystal --Kailey Ann
I will admit that I don’t read a lot of fiction. I tend to focus on books of poetry and non-fiction. However, I am also very aware that there are limitations in this approach. Just like a good poem can stretch and expand your understanding about a situation, so can a good work of fiction. That is why I am so glad that I met Kailey Ann, and I was able to learn about her work.
As you will hear in this interview, Kailey Ann is a talented and prolific writer. With writing influences that range from J.K Rowling to Emily Dickinson, she is able to move between writing styles with ease. You can find her creative work on a variety of online platforms, as part of a project for Indiana’s Department of Tourism, or on her new podcast where explores the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender with her husband AJ. Currently, she is getting ready to publish her third novel Mily the Millennial, which she describes as a work of climate fiction. Mily the Millennial is expected to be released in mid November, 2021.
I hope you enjoy this conversation with author and poet Kailey Ann.
NaturalistWeekly: Hi Kailey Ann, can you please introduce yourself to the readers?
Kailey Ann: My name is Kailey Ann (she/they), and I’m a Millennial author born and raised in Indiana, USA. As a Midwesterner, Millennial, and Middle-kid, I tend to see things at all-angles, and that kind of perspective is probably what attracted me to writing in the first place. I was lucky enough to get my foot into self-publishing at the age of 16 when I was asked to be Lead Writer on a collaborative children’s book project. That team-based foundation in storytelling drove me to explore all kinds of writing throughout the last decade. Since 2011, I have published two fiction novels and two poetry collections. I have also contributed to a number of organizations’ websites and print/digital publications, from Indiana Visitor Guides, blogs, newsletters, and social media, to becoming a regular author and content contributor at The Prose.
NW: What role does your connection to nature play in your writing?
KA: I have always been captivated by nature’s motion. I was lucky enough to spend part of my childhood a stone’s throw from the Indiana Dunes, which is one of the most biodiverse places in North America. With ‘living’ singing sand dunes, beaches, bogs, creeks, forests, prairies, and wetlands, things are never truly standing still in Duneland. I love hiking and climbing, and I’ve always been fascinated by rock formations — which are bountiful in Indiana if you know where to look! Travelling all over the Midwest has taught me how important the “Crossroads” are to sustainable living. As it happens, people aren’t the only ones who consider Indiana a ‘fly-over’ or ‘drive-through’ state. The glaciated flatlands and southern hills serve countless bird species and even monarch butterflies throughout the seasons, and I have seen numbers decline significantly in my lifetime. You may have heard that old jingle, “There’s more than corn in Indiana”? It may sound silly, but my mission is to show people that more than anything.
I spent most of my life in Central Indiana, where I can always see the whole sky. It’s because of the amazing things I see out here in the cornfields everyday that I decided to bring nature into my writing with hyperfocus. I hope my work can raise public awareness about the amazing diversity of nature in my home state, and hopefully encourage visitors to experience some Hoosier-style outdoor recreation.
NW: You have written both poetry and prose, what is your favorite style of writing and why?
KA: I’m not sure I have a favorite style of writing. I certainly have the most experience writing prose, but my voice in prose would be nowhere without writing poetry. I studied poetry with American poet Bob Hicock during my undergraduate years, and he totally flipped my idea of poetry on its head. Poetry, especially free-verse with loose rhyme schemes and haiku forms, have become my way of journaling. Poetry helps me make connections between words I find more difficult when writing in sentence-form. Many of the themes and symbols explored in my poetry wind up in my fiction, and vice versa. I really just love exploring new ways to express complex ideas with simple language. Nature has a way of bringing me back down to earth.
NW: Beside finding inspiration in nature, are there poets or other writers that inspire you?
I grew up in the Golden Age of Harry Potter, so a lot of my influence certainly stems from the explosion of FANDOMs that I’ve seen and been a part of growing up. I love C.S. Lewis (The Magician’s Nephew is unquestionably my favorite story ever), but beyond those well-known stories, I’m all over the place. I didn’t get into poetry till I was already a young adult, but I would have to say Emily Dickinson has had an immense influence on my voice and style. “Write it slant” is a mantra of mine. Probably the biggest influence on the kinds of stories I want to write would be Avatar the Last Airbender — My husband AJ and I actually do a podcast about the show, called ATLA *Shrugged*.
I’m also a huge Benjamin Franklin fan, and not just because my hometown was named after him, or because his friendly statue in town has been painted and repainted so many times that it’s quickly losing likeness. Ben’s autobiography speaks to a certain brand of “fake-it-till-you-make-it”, a mentality that strikes me as stunningly prophetic in the age of social media. I also love Margaret Peterson Haddix and Gordon Korman, two incredible children’s chapter book writers from the late 90s and early 2000s. I’ve always been a reader, but I’d say that I gravitate toward tales with strong, third-person-limited or first-person narrators.
But at the beginning and end of the day, it’s the traditions of oral storytelling, both in my family and in the communities that raised me, that inspire me to write.
NW: Is there a short piece of prose or a poem that you would like to share?
KA: I would love to take this opportunity to share the back-cover description for my new novel, Mily the Millennial — Available Late November 2021:
Mily the Millennial is a tall tale. The story picks up in the summer of 2001, when eight-year-old Mily Junegrass Womack-Yoder trips into a patch of Pitcher’s thistle. All at once, she loses almost all her marbles and winds up with magic bugs in her brain.
The ‘Clairs’ — a name Mily coined on account of the bugs’ various clairvoyances — give Mily a higher sense of awareness. With the Clairs’ powers, she might just stand a chance against her family’s curse of Schleprockness.
Mily’s story is riddled with ‘impossible’ events. The uncanniest parts may make some readers feel lost in the Land of Far-fetched. In light of that, remember this: The facts are straight-forward when you know whatever happens is just a Euchre trick.
NW: Thank you very much for time today. Before we close, how can people find out more about you and your work?
KA; You’re welcome to explore my personal writing website, HEDERAREADS.COM.
I’m easy to find! Feel free to connect with me on social media @bykaileyann on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, or @DANdeLION_Page at TheProse App.
I highly suggest that you explore TheProse App or any of Kailey Ann’s social media channels. On these sites you can read excerpts from her upcoming book, see the Mily the Millenial artwork, and read some of her poetry. Plus, you will be the first to know when Mily gets published.
A special thanks goes out to Kailey Ann for joining me for this email interview. It was so much fun to learn about her and her work.
If you are a poet, author, or visual artist who is interested in talking about nature and how the natural world inspires your work, send me an email at naturalistweekly[at]gmail.com for more details about the process.
I love these author interviews! I can related to being attracted to nature from a young age (it’s Montana – you don’t really get a choice!), and having that bled through every word and pixel of my art. I love getting an inside look at similar writers/artists!
Hi Tressa, thanks for comment and I am so glad you can relate to this! It sounds like you have had a similar experience with the natural world and your own creative process. If you are interested we can connect and do a piece on you and your work. I hope all is well!
Hello Mark – Thank you very much for the offer! I love your blog and what you do here – it is a pleasure to read it!
Hi Tressa! Thanks you for your kind words. Talk soon and keep sharing the wonderful photos.