Kaira Lansing is the author of the popular Matilda’s House Series, scaring children across America one classroom at a time. Her Matilda Series is filled with mystery and paranormal and also touches on teen bullying.
She is also the author of the Aierlyn Ryanne Romances, which are romance books without murder. She currently has three Aierlyn Ryanne Romance short stories published.
She also writes the Hattie Gray Mysteries, which follow fictional character Hattie Gray through her career as a journalist/reporter/investigator, as she bring to life stories that convey raw realism and genuine emotion raging from elation to devastation. She currently has one Hattie Gray short story published.
Kaira is also working on releasing a novel mini-series this fall, You Promised Me Heaven, where she will publish a few chapters three times a month.
Kaira enjoys writing fictional mystery, romance and paranormal books for tweens, young adults. She is currently finishing up her YA Romance Novel, A New Kind of Love set to release late Summer of 2014.
Kaira Lansing Interview
Books By Kaira Lansing
Kaira Lansing Transcript
Tim Knox: Kaira, welcome to the program.
Kaira Lansing: Thank you for having me.
Tim Knox: I’m so excited to have you here. We were talking on the pre-call and it’s like we’re old friends all of a sudden. This is the first time we’ve ever talked. The wonder of the internet. I am glad to have you here. You are a very, very busy young lady and I want to talk about everything that you have going on but before we get started if you will, just give the audience a little background on you.
Kaira Lansing: Well I actually write mystery, romance and paranormal novels and short stories for tweens, young adults and adults. My tween novels, actually all of my novels all include mystery and that’s because I enjoy reading mystery and I also enjoy writing mystery. My tween novels have paranormal kind of tossed in with them because the tweens are kind of at that beginning stage where they like the scare factor and the ghosts and all that fun stuff.
The romance novel for the young adults that I’m working on right now, A New Kind of Love, which is set to release next month. That one basically since it’s young adult I only touch on a little bit of the romance, kind of like your first crush, first love back in high school, middle school type thing.
My adult novels basically touch on mystery, romance and paranormal. Sometimes it’s all together and sometimes it’s separate. I do have them kind of classified as separate. I write romance without murder and I label those as my Aierlyn Ryanne romance novels so that way you’re not picking up a novel and expecting something else. It kind of just differentiates different things that I write.
I also write my Hattie Gray mysteries and those are of course mysteries and can include murder, paranormal and kind of wherever the characters lead me – so kind of a little bit of everything that I like to write.
Tim Knox: You really are crossing genres. Do you ever find yourself working on a young adult novel and the romance gets a little too steamy? Do the other genres ever come into play?
Kaira Lansing: Actually the young adult one I’m working on right now is the first young adult romance novel I’ve done. I really try to keep myself on track to where I keep it young adult. I know that my daughters who are 13 are going to read it, you know.
Tim Knox: I have an 18 year old daughter. Can you write a book specifically talking about how crappy and icky boys are, especially once they become men? I want to talk to you about everything that you’ve got going on. If you don’t mind let’s go back in time a little bit. Have you always been a writer?
Kaira Lansing: Actually for as far back as I can remember I’ve always loved to write. I would always have a pen or notebook in my younger years. I was writing poetry or short stories or little things here and there. I guess my first aha moment where I thought that I really wanted to be a writer came in – I’m going to date myself here – 1990, 1991 when I was sitting in my 7th grade algebra class and I knew that I was just not into algebra. I did not enjoy it, didn’t like it and I knew then that I’m going to be a writer. I’m not going to use my algebra. I’m not going to use science. I’m just going to be a writer.
That carried over kind of through my entire high school years where I took in my math and science classes, 20% notes and 80% writing stories. I kind of explained my dismal grades in math but then I thought to myself I’m just going to be a writer. I don’t need that stuff and low and behold after high school I ended up in the pharmacy field so I really had to study my math and my science, which was a lot harder to do once you’re out of high school and you got to pay for it.
So I did all that again and spent 13 years in the pharmacy field and then I had my second aha moment in 2010 and 2011 where I decided I’m actually going to be a writer and that is when I published my first book and haven’t looked back since.
Tim Knox: So you really did start very early and just said, “I’m going to be a writer. I don’t really need all this book learning,” as we say in the South. I think that’s so interesting. Then you ended up going to pharmacy school, which is one of the hardest things you could do.
Kaira Lansing: Yeah.
Tim Knox: Do you remember the first thing, and you may have to go back a ways to do this – do you remember the first thing you wrote that you thought you were ready to show people?
Kaira Lansing: Actually yeah, that would be the first book in my Matilda series. How that book came about is I wrote a little bit about it during high school and I just kind of shoved it away in my folder. Our set of twins were in the second grade at this time and they were kind of struggling in figuring out what to read. I kind of had this feeling of I know what they like to read. I bet I could write something that they’d like to read and get them reading that way.
So I actually went back into my folder and this summary popped out at me. I pulled it out and I was talking to my husband. “Well I think I’m going to write this into a book and see what happens.” So I sat down and actually talked to the kids and let them choose their character names so in the book they actually are their own characters. We use their little characteristics in the book and everything.
After I wrote that book I kind of read it a few times and that was when I realized I am going to publish this book. So that’s where everything kind of just took off.
Tim Knox: So really you pulled out an old idea and you wrote a book for your daughters. That’s so sweet.
Kaira Lansing: Two daughters and our son, yeah.
Tim Knox: You named the characters after them in the book.
Kaira Lansing: They each got to choose their character’s names, yeah. It was really kind of fun to write the story. Every time I came to a question in the book I’d ask them, “So what would you do?” They gave me ideas and I kind of wrote them all in the book.
Tim Knox: Were you still working as a pharmacist full-time?
Kaira Lansing: I was in the pharmacy field at this time, yes.
Tim Knox: So you were writing at night.
Kaira Lansing: All the time.
Tim Knox: You were doing the proverbial write when you can.
Kaira Lansing: Yeah.
Tim Knox: Once you had that manuscript finished what made you decide to go from just something that you had written for your daughters to actually trying to find a market for the book?
Kaira Lansing: Actually I just decided, I sat down one day and I just figured I’m going to look online and see how to even publish it. I didn’t even know where to go. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to contact. I just kind of looked online, did a little digging around and some research and learned how to download them myself for Barnes & Noble and Amazon and Kobo. So I did all that and that was online with 24-48 hours so I was very impressed with myself from that aspect.
Then I did research on learning how to find a paperback company that I could deal with and created my own cover and went from there and it actually worked kind of well surprisingly.
Tim Knox: So you decided to self-publish rather than try to find an agent and go the traditional route.
Kaira Lansing: I did, yes.
Tim Knox: Have you ever regretted that decision? It’s obviously worked out very well for you, self-publishing. Do you look back and wonder what it would be like if you had gone the traditional route? Of course it may not have been nearly as good as it’s been.
Kaira Lansing: I always thought if a big publisher looked at it and wanted to pick it up that would be really great but I know when you go with a big publisher it may take years to months to get your books out there. When I got that first book out I actually published the next two the following year so I kind of already had myself going and I’m like I’m just going to do this. I’m just going to see where the road takes me.
Tim Knox: Right. Were the next two books part of a series?
Kaira Lansing: Yeah, it’s the Matilda series. Matilda’s House is book one and then Kellie Lynn’s Diary and The Neighbor.
Tim Knox: They were for what age range?
Kaira Lansing: The tween age range. That’s the series that my kids are in as well.
Tim Knox: What really attracted you to the kids’ book? Was it the fact that you had kids of your own and you had a built in audience and built in critics and everything right there? Is that what attracted you to that genre?
Kaira Lansing: I think it was a little bit of that and also when I first started writing I was in middle school and high school and you don’t have as many life experiences at that time so kind of all I knew was growing up and being a kid and the drama and all that fun stuff. As an adult in my late 30’s I’m kind of realizing I have a whole lot life experiences I can write with, a lot more knowledge. That’s kind of why I’ve broken off and geared off and I write for the adult market as well and kind of use my more life experiences that I have now versus when I first started out.
Tim Knox: The first book was Matilda’s House.
Kaira Lansing: Yes.
Tim Knox: Talk a little about the plots of those books. Were they scary books? They had mystery in them, paranormal stuff.
Kaira Lansing: Yeah it actually takes place in middle school where you have the popular kids and the not so popular kids and you have these new kids that come to school and they’re Clarice and Justin. They of course come to this new school not knowing anybody. They get kind of bullied by the popular kids and get told, “You can be part of our popular crowd if you spend the night in this mansion,” and it’s haunted and of course they do and that’s where the story goes from there.
So it kind of deals with a little bit of the bullying and that actually comes out in the end. The ghosts and the paranormal and the house is alive and changes rooms. I just kind of added things in there along with the comments that my kids made as I asked questions. It actually turned out really well.
Tim Knox: So your kids were even suppling dialogue.
Kaira Lansing: Yeah.
Tim Knox: I’ve got a smartass teenager who won’t talk and you’ve got all these wonderful little kids. I find that so interesting. I’ve talked to a number of the YA authors and they seem to respect their audience tremendously because their audience really is more honest than the adult audience. Is that what you’ve found?
Kaira Lansing: I did actually. There were some questions I asked them and I’m like, “Yeah I’m not putting that in the book.” Especially at that age they give really good insight into what they see.
Tim Knox: As you are developing this series and you self-published it yourself talk about the marketing side. How did you market the books and at what point did the books really start to build momentum?
Kaira Lansing: When I finished the first book I actually contacted some of my friends who had kids at the same age range that I wrote the book for. I shipped them all off a book and told them if you read it and give me your review I’ll print it in the book so when the final book comes out you’ll have your three sentence review in the book and all that so they were pretty excited.
So after I did that and I got it all together all of a sudden I’m getting calls from schools and they’re reading it in their classrooms and they’re wanting it for their libraries. It just kind of took off from there so I really didn’t get a chance to market it and at the same time didn’t really know how to market it so I just kind of went with the flow at that time.
Tim Knox: Right so the libraries started picking it up. Did you find that once you were writing full-time that you did have to learn about the marketing and the business aspect? That’s one thing I hear from a lot of authors. You really have to approach this as a business, especially if you are self-publishing. The writing is creating the product and you’ve got to build relationships with your customers. How much time do you spend doing that sort of thing?
Kaira Lansing: Actually now since the last two years I’ve actually taken a step back and actually worked and realizing oh I do need a marketing plan for this. I need to figure out what to do so the last year I’ve been dealing more with talking with more authors and reading more up on marketing and advertising and promotional and just kind of building out my plan on where to go from here out.
Tim Knox: You’re obviously doing a great job. How many books in total have you written in the past two, three years?
Kaira Lansing: Let’s see here, nine.
Tim Knox: So after the Matilda series what came next?
Kaira Lansing: After the Matilda series I published three short story mysteries and that was geared for the tween/young adult market so it was all mystery and paranormal for all three of those.
Tim Knox: Let me ask you. There has to be a very fine line when you’re writing mystery stories for the young adults and the tweens. You’re not going to be nearly as graphic I would think as a Dean Koontz.
Kaira Lansing: No.
Tim Knox: Where do you know to set that bar and how do you know when to pull back?
Kaira Lansing: I write a little more detail into the paranormal scare aspect of it than I typically would I guess for that age.
Tim Knox: So you’re really creating more tension than being graphic.
Kaira Lansing: Yes.
Tim Knox: What were those called?
Kaira Lansing: We have County Road J is the first one that came out. The funny story behind that one is we actually have a road and town in here named County Road J so the people, the kids around the area read it and asked me, “Did that really happen over there?” They kind of know where the road is which is kind of funny.
The next book is Esdaile. There actually is a town around the area here that is named Esdaile so I did a little paranormal story based off of that area too. The third one is 1485 Glenhearse Drive. That story is actually based off of kind of true events of when I myself lived in a haunted house.
Tim Knox: Was this a series or were these standalones?
Kaira Lansing: These were standalones.
Tim Knox: And all scary, scary stuff.
Kaira Lansing: Yeah.
Tim Knox: When you’re writing those books… I’m fascinated by the paranormal aspect of this because I don’t think I could ever write for kids. I don’t know. The scarier aspect, I guess the kids seem to really love that don’t they?
Kaira Lansing: They do actually, yeah.
Tim Knox: They don’t want to know what’s under their bed but they want to read about it.
Kaira Lansing: With the lights on, yeah.
Tim Knox: As you’re developing these stories, I mean you’ve been really prolific. Where are you getting your ideas from?
Kaira Lansing: Actually I kind of get them, oh my gosh, life experiences. I had quite a few things happen when I lived in that one haunted house that I kind of feed off of. Me and a few of my friends also took a ghost hunting 101 class a couple years ago so we kind of got the insides of kind of a lot of that stuff. I do watch a lot of those paranormal shows on TV so I kind of pick and choose and sit down and write and see what happens.
Tim Knox: So you’re a fan of the ghost hunter type TV shows.
Kaira Lansing: I am.
Tim Knox: Those guys are so easily scared, aren’t they? It’s amazing. They’re sitting there taunting the ghost and then a mouse walks by and they’re three feet off the ground. So you were writing in the young adult and then you shifted gears into romance. Is that correct?
Kaira Lansing: Romance and more towards adults, yes.
Tim Knox: Talk a little about writing romance and how did that differ from what you had been doing.
Kaira Lansing: I wrote a lot of the young adults and then it was like growing up and I was a lot older now and I really found myself kind of just writing more and listening to more adult issues that were going on in the world and everything. When you read the newspapers or watch CNN things pop up and it’s just things like that where I was like, “Oh that would make a good story” and that’s not geared towards kids at all. So I decided to branch out and start writing and see where it leads me.
Tim Knox: Now were your kids older by this time?
Kaira Lansing: Right now two of them are 13 and one’s 14.
Tim Knox: Oh teenagers. The real horror’s about to begin for you.
Kaira Lansing: I hear.
Tim Knox: Do you have boys or girls or both?
Kaira Lansing: We have two girls and one boy.
Tim Knox: That poor boy. Is he older or younger?
Kaira Lansing: He’s actually one of the twins. He’s 13.
Tim Knox: At least he’s on par with somebody. So the romance books – talk a little about those. Is that Aierlyn Ryanne? She is the heroine of these books. What are they about, just romances or is there also mystery in there?
Kaira Lansing: All of my books include mystery and the Aierlyn Ryanne romance books are romance and mystery but without the gruesome or the murder or the killing or anything like that.
Tim Knox: I love it in your bio it says romance books without murder.
Kaira Lansing: Yeah so you know it’s your basic nobody’s going to die here, nobody’s going to get murdered.
Tim Knox: Then you also write the Hattie Gray Mysteries. This is another series that you’re doing. Tell you us about those.
Kaira Lansing: That one actually, that’s the books that take me more time. I’m working on two or three of those right now and they involve a lot more research because I’m actually basing them off of things that could happen to you in real life, could happen to the person next door, could happen to anybody. I have Danielle’s Body that is actually coming out I hope sometime this fall. That one’s kind of based off of a girl, Lauren, whose best friend has passed away and she begins having these nightly visions of her friend, Danielle. She of course confides in her fiancé who tells us her, “You’re just stressed out. Your friend just died and you have to take it easy.”
So then the story kind of continues and Lauren starts having mental conversations with Danielle. As the story goes on she starts piecing these brief mental conversations and the visions and she finds out that Danielle’s death was not an accident and that she fears that it’s somebody that knows her that’s close to her. The case becomes reopened and she finds herself kind of in the middle. She has to help figure this out before she’s an accomplice to her friend’s murder. So it’s kind of more complicated to write than my typical young adult tween novels that I’ve written.
Tim Knox: So it’s really more of a true life crime type thing.
Kaira Lansing: Right.
Tim Knox: How much more difficult is that kind of book to write than the children’s books. I know they’re difficult to write as well but one where you’re dealing with real world things and potentially real world people. How difficult is that?
Kaira Lansing: As I wrote my tween and young adult novels I can sit down and I can just write those. Now that I’m writing on the adult level I’m finding myself do a lot more research, doing a lot more in-depth. For example for Danielle’s Body, the paranormal aspect of it when she has brief conversations with spirits I wanted that to be more real so I didn’t really know. I’ve never personally had that myself so I did a lot of research on how people communicate with the deceased and then of course the police procedures investigation-wise is a lot of research so I know that what I’m writing in the story is the right way it’s done and not really fictionalized.
Tim Knox: Right, right so you really have to think about the details and be more real there. Do you enjoy writing on that kind of book than you do the YAs or is it the other way around?
Kaira Lansing: I’m actually really enjoying it and I’ve spent two years now writing Danielle’s Body and I find myself writing that one and taking a break to write something for the adult market or the tween market. So it’s kind of like I just take a break and switch up a little bit.
Tim Knox: Do you almost have to take a break just to let the air out and do something fun?
Kaira Lansing: I think it’s all fun.
Tim Knox: Even when people are dying it’s fun.
Kaira Lansing: Yeah.
Tim Knox: Do you enjoy writing in any one genre over the other?
Kaira Lansing: As of right now I’m really enjoying writing Danielle’s Body. So I’m actually having a lot of fun doing that and I can’t wait until that one comes out. It’s the most fun. I’ve learned the most.
Tim Knox: And once it comes out this is going to be a series as well, right?
Kaira Lansing: This one is not.
Tim Knox: Okay, why?
Kaira Lansing: I don’t know if I can continue it as a series by how I ended it.
Tim Knox: Well it’s paranormal. You can bring her back.
Kaira Lansing: That is true. I can do that.
Tim Knox: You’ve written a lot of series. Do you enjoy writing the series or do you enjoy the standalones more?
Kaira Lansing: I kind of enjoy the series because I really like when I’m reading a book from another author. You enjoy reading it and all of a sudden the book ends and you’re like, “Oh I want to read more.”
Tim Knox: When you’re developing characters, especially like Hattie for the adult market, do you find that you relate to them more because they could be more in your age range? I have one author. I won’t name them but they write for little kids and they said this is great because they think like a little kid.
Kaira Lansing: I think I do relate more to the adult books and that’s why right now in my life I’m having a little bit more fun writing for the adult market because I can relate better. I understand. I know where I can go with it.
Tim Knox: And you’re still self-publishing everything.
Kaira Lansing: I am.
Tim Knox: Talk about that a little bit. The audience for this show primarily are authors who want to do what you’ve done. They want to come up with an appealing book. They want to find a market. They want to build relationships. They want to be published either traditionally or self-published. What is your best advice on going the self-publishing route? Are there things they should do, things they should look out for?
Kaira Lansing: I have found in the time that I have done it basically it’s a lot of keep writing, kind of don’t lose the path that you’re going on. If you’re looking to publish it by yourself keep yourself on a schedule, get it published, look for the avenues that you need to use.
Tim Knox: Do you treat this as a business? Do you get up every day and write on a certain schedule?
Kaira Lansing: I do. I write full-time so I get up in the morning around 6:00 or 7:00 and I’ll write. Especially when the kids are at school I’m writing all day long – writing, editing or working on covers or graphic design. Then in the evenings based off of what family activities we have going on. If we don’t have anything going on I might find myself writing more.
Tim Knox: You do your own cover design.
Kaira Lansing: I do.
Tim Knox: Do you have an artistic background? How did you start doing that?
Kaira Lansing: I love taking pictures. My husband loves taking pictures and we love just going out, road tripping and snapping pictures. When we went out to Montana these last few times that’s pretty much all we did was just a lot of picture taking and then we’d come back and as I’m looking through them I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that would make such a great cover.”
Sometimes I get my story ideas off of a picture. Sometimes I’ll have a story idea and I’ll see a picture and think it’s great. I kind of save the picture and add it to my print shop program and play with colors and position titles and go from there.
Tim Knox: Years and years ago when you were writing those stories did you think one day that you actually would be a full-time author?
Kaira Lansing: Not at all. At that time I just thought about being a writer and I think at that age that’s as far as I thought. I didn’t know the many avenues you could take. I didn’t know what was all out there.
Tim Knox: What’s on the horizon for you? Are you going to stay working in the adult market or are you going to go back and do some YA? What are you going to do?
Kaira Lansing: At this point in my life I’m going to stay doing the tweens and young adults and the adults. I tried to narrow it down to just one and it’s really hard to do because I enjoy writing for all of them.
Tim Knox: That’s one thing I was going to ask you. How do you balance that though? A lot of the authors I talk to, I always ask do you think of getting out of that genre. Most of them say no. I asked a guy who wrote zombie novels if he ever thought about doing romance and he said, “Are you drunk?” Nope, just making conversation. How do you do that? How do you cross genres like you do so successfully?
Kaira Lansing: Well when I’m writing an adult novel and if I get to a point in the novel where I’m like I don’t know where to proceed or I’m a little stuck I’ll close that up and go to a tween novel or my next piece of work that I’m working on and I’ll just open that up and work on that until I get to the point of okay I’m stuck or just need a little break and then I pick up the next one. It kind of breaks it up but I also feel it keeps me more organized. I’m not sitting with writer’s block and not having anything to write on write with.
Tim Knox: Do you use an outline? Do you always know where the story’s going before you get there?
Kaira Lansing: When I first started writing the Matilda series I wrote an outline for up to eight books. I found myself as I was writing it, it really wasn’t staying with the outline. The characters kind of took it off in their own way. So when I was doing some of the short stories I again tried an outline and it just did not work for me. I kind of write a summary and I just kind of write.
Tim Knox: One thing you just said is the characters kind of took over in spots. Talk a little about your character development. I always find this interesting. Some of the authors I talk to talk about how the characters literally take over and hijack the book sometimes. I think Diana Gabaldon was talking about the first Outlander book all those years ago. She kept having to reel the heroine in because she would go off and say and do things and Diana was like what are you doing? Do you ever have that problem?
Kaira Lansing: I do actually and it’s kind of funny because I just have to kind of put the book aside for a minute and be like, okay, I need to figure out if this is the way I want it to go or if I really want to change it back to what I envisioned the first time around. So I kind of just take on step at a time and go from there.
Tim Knox: Do you do self-editing on your books?
Kaira Lansing: I do and I have some friends that read them as well.
Tim Knox: And they help you edit and get things straight.
Kaira Lansing: They do.
Tim Knox: Very good. This has been fascinating. I wanted to talk to you primarily because you’re so all over the place, which I think is amazing. Are you very happy with the way things are going? You’re going to continue doing the YAs. Any other plans?
Kaira Lansing: Right now I’m very happy where it’s at. I’m starting an adult novel series this fall and it’s called You Promised Me Heaven. I’m going to publish a part of the book three times a month and I have some of it written. I’m going to publish three times a month and then get reader feedback and see where the book goes.
Tim Knox: That’s an interesting concept. It’s almost like doing a blog post but you’re literally going to publish it in eBook format.
Kaira Lansing: Yeah, three times a month and get reader feedback. Whoever reads it can send in comments and that will base how I finish writing the story or where the story goes. I’m kind of excited to see where it’s going to go because I don’t know.
Tim Knox: Do you do a lot of social media? I think you and I met on Twitter. Are you always on Twitter and Facebook?
Kaira Lansing: I’m on Twitter more often now than I ever was. The reason why I’m on there is I like interacting more with the authors and getting to know them on a more personal level. I find myself branching out more and reading their books and actually becoming more interested in what everybody else is writing.
Tim Knox: What do you like to read?
Kaira Lansing: I read a lot of mystery, mystery romance. I also read a lot of non-fiction so John Maxwell’s kind of taking over a lot of my bookshelf. Bob Burg is another one I like to read.
Tim Knox: Kaira Lansing, this has been wonderful. You’re one of my favorite people even though we just started talking today. Tell the audience where they can find out more about you and your books.
Kaira Lansing: KairaLansing.com and I’m also on Twitter and Instagram.
Tim Knox: Kaira, it’s been wonderful. When you get another book out will you come back and talk some more?
Kaira Lansing: I will, absolutely.