Author Spotlight: Kylie Schachte
June 19, 2020
We are excited to feature author Kylie Schachte and her debut YA novel, YOU'RE NEXT (Jimmy Patterson July 12, 2020). Enter to win a copy!
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Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.
I’ve been a storyteller all my life--I won an award from my girl scout troop for telling the best ghost stories--but I never thought I wanted to be a writer. I primarily studied theatre in school, even traveling to Russia to study at the world-famous Moscow Art Theatre. I thought that was what I wanted to do when I graduated, so I moved to LA and did that whole thing. I never stopped writing, but it was just kind of this hobby I did on the side.
Meanwhile, I started working as a high school and test prep tutor. I was decent at teaching math, but where I really excelled was the relationships. I became more of a mentor, talking to my students about their lives, their friendships, their families. I had a brutal high school experience, and getting to work with those students and be the kind of person I needed at that age was beyond meaningful. That was definitely a big part of the reason I started writing YA.
Congratulations on your debut novel, YOU'RE NEXT. Tell us about the book and what inspired it.
Thank you! The book is about a sixteen-year-old detective named Flora Calhoun. When her ex-girlfriend is murdered, she’s determined to solve the case. But doing so means unraveling the dark secrets lurking beneath the surface of her quiet small town. She soon finds that everyone has something to hide, and someone has already killed once to keep those secrets from coming out.
When I started writing the book, I really just wanted to write something fun--the kind of thing I would enjoy. I’m a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, and I was really inspired by the way that show portrayed a character that was so strong and badass, but also had a lot of vulnerability. Writing Flora, I really wanted her to be this hardcore badass who could pick a lock, run from the cops, and stand toe-to-toe with murderers...but she cries when she fights with her best friend, and she has a love/hate relationship with her mom, and she regrets not kissing the girl she liked when she had the chance. Another major source of inspiration was the old, hardboiled noir detective stories, like Raymond Chandler. Those detectives are hardened and disillusioned. Flora desperately wants to be that--she’s seen more horrors than anyone her age should have to experience--but she’s not quite fully shut down yet. And it’s that tiny sliver of something soft, tender, and fragile left in her that makes for a compelling story about justice.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Weirdly...both? By the time it comes out, I’ll have been working on the book for six years, which is definitely not short! But YOU’RE NEXT is the first book I ever finished all the way through to the end. It took about two years to draft it, and shortly thereafter I was accepted to Pitch Wars--a mentorship program that helps you revise your manuscript for an agent showcase. When the showcase ended, I was watching a lot of my fellow mentees sign with agents and left and right, and it felt like my own journey had totally stalled out. What felt like an eternity later, I got my own offer from an agent. But when I go back and actually look at it on a calendar, that offer came in less than a month after Pitch Wars ended! There are definitely much longer and more arduous publishing journeys than mine, but it goes to show that no matter what your path is, it always feels impossible and endless while you’re in it.
What are some recent favorite YA reads?
I have so many!! Probably the coolest part of being an author is that you have an excuse to bug other writers for advance copies of their books. I am so excited for CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas to come out so that I have other people to talk about it with. I also loved FOUL IS FAIR by Hannah Capin--so vicious in the most delightful way--and THE SOUND OF STARS by Alechia Dow, this really lovely sci-fi story about a girl who keeps a library even after all human art & culture has been banned by alien invaders. And I just finished and am obsessed with A SONG OF WRAITHS & RUIN by Roseanne A. Brown, who went through Pitch Wars the same year as me.
What projects are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on this kind of YA Indiana Jones story about two girls who can’t stand each other, but are forced to study together for their AP US History exam. Along the way, they uncover a piece of a treasure map that belonged to a gang of women pirates from the Civil War. It’s also a rivals-to-lovers romance between the two girls, and it’s been a blast to write so far!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Two things. The first is to write what’s fun--not what you think will sell, or sounds cool/important/whatever. Once you finish a first draft there’s still a ton of work left to do to get a book published...but you’ll never get to those things if you don’t finish the first draft. And that’s so much easier to do when you wake up excited to work on it every day.
And my second piece of advice, hokey as it may sound, is to find your community. For me it started with a local writing group, then I found my fellow Pitch Wars mentees, then my fellow 2020 debuts--definitely wouldn’t have made it here without each of those groups. It’s easy to view publishing as a race, or a competition, but every bit of success I’ve found has happened when I’ve reached out and connected with other people.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I was a horse girl for a big chunk of my adolescence! I started riding when I was 6, and until I was about 16 I really thought I was going to be a racehorse jockey when I got older. I read this book series as a kid about teenage jockeys, and it obviously was very influential!
Where can people find you online?
I’m @KylieSchachte on both Instagram and Twitter, and you can pre-order YOU’RE NEXT everywhere you buy books!
Kylie Schachte lived in nine different different cities--from Moscow to Los Angeles--before making her home in Portland, Oregon. She studied creative writing and psychology at Sarah Lawrence College, and is an active part of the Pitch Wars community as both a former mentee and mentor. When she's not writing, Kylie can be found attending concerts, exploring the Pacific Northwest, and refereeing between her tiny cat and giant dog—the cat always wins.
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