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Kara Thomas

Author of Young Adult novels

 

What is your typical working day like?

I am always working to meet a deadline, whether it is for a first draft, a revision based on my editor’s notes, or a copy edited manuscript about to go into production to be printed. The bulk of my day is spent actually writing, but I spend a good amount of time on promotion. That includes managing my social media pages, participating in interviews, and traveling for festivals/school visits/book tours.

What is the most frustrating part of your job?

The instability of working contract to contact and being at the mercy of the market. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write full-time, but I don’t know if I’ll still be able to do it five, ten years from now. Of course, I would love to still be publishing novels ten years from now, but in order for me to get more contracts, my books have to continue to sell.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

There are so many, but one of my favorite things is getting an email from someone that says “I’m not a big reader but your book(s) got me into reading.”

What is the part of your job that still excites you?

It’s hard to compete with the thrill of finishing a first draft, but I also love starting a project once I have an idea I’m passionate about. I also get really excited over research, which must be the English Major in me.

What was the process like from graduating to publishing your first book?

It was hectic. I was in the middle of student teaching when my literary agent called me to tell me a publisher offered to buy my book. They wanted me to write a three-book series on a tight schedule, so I had to put all of the post-graduation plans I was making (applying for teaching jobs, starting my Master’s degree) on hold. It was so surreal that when I called my dad to tell him I had a book deal, he asked, “Are you sure it’s not a scam?”

What are your goals for your future writing projects?

My next YA book comes out next year, and I’m working on a suspense novel for adults. Two of my books were recently optioned for television, which I’m excited about, because seeing a film adaptation of my book(s) is high on my career bucket list,

Do you have a story (job-related or otherwise) that you think would help undergraduates reading your alumni page to learn?

I had wanted to be an author since I was a kid, but I also really wanted to be an English teacher. I always saw myself as a high school teacher by day and a novelist by night. Then I graduated during one of the worst teaching job shortages in history. It took some hustling (and living at home for a few years) to make writing work as a full-time job. Even now, I tell people that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I think, if when I was in college, I had heard someone who is my age now say that, I might have stressed out less about what was going to happen after graduation.

For Stony Brook students interested in your line of work, what is your advice for what they should study or do at this point in their education?

Anyone, regardless of what they’re studying, can become a published author. I would advise an aspiring writer to stay in school and have alternate career goals in mind. Publishing fiction is not a career you can plan or study for— you have to do the work first. I wrote my first novel in the Humanities building in between classes. (I feel the need to include the disclaimer that it was a terrible book, and every literary agent in New York rejected it.)

How has your experience at SBU generally and in the English Department in particular (a) helped you find your first job after graduation, and (b) help you in your current work?

I had professors in the English department that demanded a lot from my work, and I know I became a better writer because of them. The English department is a very supportive place, and even though I didn’t pursue teaching after graduation, Professor Lindblom and Professor Dunn (of the education program) stayed in touch and connected me with opportunities that got my books into the hands of young readers.

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