Kalie Cassidy is someone you can't help but admire. She is working on the second draft of her YA fantasy novel, In the Veins of Drowning, and managing to be an awesome member of the online writing community. I've been following her writing journey through Instagram and can honestly say she is a huge inspiration to me! I was honored to interview Kalie, and I hope you enjoy her wisdom about second drafts, stubborn first chapters, and so much more!
L: First thing first, please introduce yourself!
K: Hello! I’m Kalie Cassidy. I’m a former actor, current freelance dialect and voice coach, frazzled mother of two little wildlings, and a very lucky wife to the best guy I know.
L: How long have you been writing for? Is it something that you’ve always done or is it something that you’ve picked up recently?
K: I have not always been a writer. I kept a journal of poetry in middle school that I was very passionate about (and I’m so grateful I lost it), and dabbled in short stories in high school, but I never considered myself a “writer”. But I have always been a storyteller. Story, and character, and dialogue were all such a huge part of my life as an actor that the transition to writing made so much sense. Late 2019 was when I decided I wanted to write a novel and I dove in headfirst.
L: Has your background as an actor and a dialect coach affected your writing in any way? Has it been beneficial?
K: When I started, I had no idea just how beneficial it would be. Writing felt so foreign when I started (and still does sometimes!) but as I built up my plot, and my characters, so much of my training as an actor kicked into gear and fed not only my story, but my confidence as a writer. I also think that studying and performing theater for so many years was a study in story beats and how to share them with an audience effectively.
L: That's wonderful! I definitely agree, I think theatre and writing truly go hand in hand. Can you describe your current project, In the Veins of the Drowning?
K: the Veins of the Drowning is a YA Fantasy novel about Imogen, a siren, who has been kept from the water and her kin her entire life. She knows little of what she is until the day she’s forced into a tub of sea water at the hands of an abusive captor, and learns that she can lure, and kill, without making a sound. Her journey to save herself and her people takes off from there! It’s a story with themes of belonging, finding your magic, and your people, and your strength.
L: How long has In the Veins of the Drowning been with you?
K: For almost a year now. It took me awhile to build up the courage to actually write the story. My ideas (I don’t get many, I don’t have a notebook full of new ideas) come to me as images. Quick little scenes that flash into my mind. This book’s image was a young woman in a glistening, tiled pool room. She was laying on the bottom of the pool, very much alive, and very happy to be there. I knew that it was a special place and moment for her and that she’d been away from the water for a very long time. And I went from there.
L: That's really interesting! For you, what is appealing about YA fantasy?
K: For me, it’s the high emotions and other worlds. I love me some escapism. I love building something new and finding the differences and similarities to the world we know. There’s also some addictive magic in the journey to finding yourself, in real life and fantasy stories alike. Stories about where you belong, what you’re capable of, and finding the people that will join you for your life adventures are my favorite kind.
L: You are a prominent member of the Instagram writing community and inspire so many other writers! What made you decide to join Instagram and share your writing journey?
K: This is really kind of you to say. Thank you! Well, I started my account because I was lonely. Ha! I’m a collaborative creature by nature, and I worked in a very collaborative industry, so when I started writing it was a little shocking to be so excited, or frustrated, or confused by a scene or chapter and have no one to talk to about it. I needed writing friends. So, I went out and found them. It’s been the most amazing experience learning from, and with, so many in the writing community.
L: You are currently working on the second draft of your novel. How did you prepare for the second draft?
K: When I finished my first draft, I took a break. I read for pleasure, and I rested, and I let my brain have a month to switch from writer to reader as I got ready for the first read through. I read Save the Cat and worked through the beat sheet. And I made a very detailed outline, down to the chapter, before I stared re-writes and revisions for my second draft.
L: How have the writing processes of the first and second drafts differed?
K: My first draft was wild and thin, like a pile of bones waiting for shape and flesh. It wasn’t meant for other people’s eyes. And as I wrote it, I didn’t care that it was less than perfect. I knew I’d make it what it was meant to be later. My chapter lengths were all over the place. Scene structure was non-existent. I just wrote. I finished it in three months. Character’s descriptions changed halfway through! For my second draft, I’m shaping it into an actual story, and that take significantly more effort. I’m trying to craft pacing with my chapter lengths, motivations are becoming clearer, and I’m getting to know why characters so much better. I much prefer edits to drafting, but the work feels slower and I care much more about the level of work I’m producing for the second draft.
L: Are you rewriting the second draft from scratch or just editing the first? Why did you decide to go with this process?
K: A bit of both. After the first read through of my first draft, it was clear where the story was weak. Where the air let out – the place I would have put it down as a reader. So, when I went back in to re-outline I realized that the first chapters needed to be completely re-written. Damn you first chapters! You are the worst. They will likely need to be revisited a bunch. A good bit of the middle of the book has usable parts so there’s going to be a lot of weaving new and old together. I find weaving to be really tedious, but I’m always so happy I took the time in the end.
L: I agree, first chapters are the absolute worst. Do you use beta readers or critique partners? If so, what do you think some of the pros and cons are with using their services?
K: Yes, both! I’ve been lucky enough to find a community of writing friends that I feel comfortable sharing my work with while it’s in a less than polished state. While I haven’t reached the “official” beta stage for my draft just yet, I still think there is tremendous value in sharing your work with a trusted few as you go. We’re so close to our work as writers and getting some other eyes in the mix brings light to things that we’ve passed over, or can’t figure out on our own. As far as cons go, feedback is a delicate thing. Four people can read my chapters and I’ll get four different impressions and fixes. Finding partners that you work well with, feel safe with, and who’s opinions you respect is key. It’s important to remember that you know your story best. My betas and CPs help me identify an issue, but it’s up to me to fix it.
L: What have been some challenges with writing the second draft?
K: Oof. How long do you have? I’ll try to collect all my problems with draft two under the umbrella of “I want it to be good right away”. But that’s not how second drafts work. If the plot is a skeleton, and making your prose beautiful is the skin, then I’d say the second draft is the sinew-y bits and the muscle. Still not pretty; better than bone. But I want blushed and dewy flesh NOW. So, I’ve had to force myself to slow my pace and focus on working in passes. The current state of the world and my personal life (hello cross-country move) have certainly complicated the work too.
L: What are your goals for In the Veins of Drowning?
K: I’m pursuing traditional publishing. There’s a long way to go before I’m ready to query, but that’s the end goal for this word-baby!
L: Any advice to people regarding the journey of second drafts?
K: This is my first novel, and there was such a high at the end of completing my first draft. I’d done it! I wrote a book. And while I think that accomplishment and feeling is a really important one, I naively thought that something amazing would happen with the story now. But in reality, I ended up having to rewrite a ton of stuff. It was a little jarring. It’s likely that I’ll rewrite it again. And one more time after that. One of my favorite things I’ve heard it “writing is rewriting”. I have it on a post-it on my notebook to remind me that I’m actually doing that “amazing” thing right now. I’m building up this story, layer by layer. Don’t be blinded by the frustration and miss the magic.
Follow Kalie on Instagram: @kaliecassidywriter