July Author Spotlight — M.J. Kaestli

The fireworks are over, unless you live in my neighborhood which seems to think two weeks before and two weeks after the 4th of July is primetime for fireworks until all hours of the night.

So why should we stop the fireworks? And this time, I don’t mean the ones that go BOOM and frighten my tiny puppy.

These fireworks come from a seemingly endless pool of fiery romance. So let’s meet the source of this fun, steamy romance that’s better than a roman candle backfiring and hitting your neighbor’s leaf pile…

M.J. Kaestli writes Young Adult (YA) Dystopian Romance. She writes strong female leads who don’t know they were born to conquer the world.

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Hi, M.J.! Thanks for joining us. Please give our readers an introduction of yourself, not just the writer in you, but who you are.

I’ve created and shared stories since I could speak and written them since I could
hold a pen. I publish under M. J. Kaestli and I’m primarily writing YA Dystopian
(currently 5 out of 7 books in series).

On top of writing, I’m also a book reviewer. I post weekly book recommendations
on my website, YouTube channel, Instagram and Facebook. If you enjoy YA,
Dystopian, and Urban Fantasy, then come check out my reviews!

I live in Vancouver Canada and I love and go for nature walks along the sea wall
or in the forested areas. I hope to someday soon add a dog to those walks and my
home. I will admit, I often walk in the off-leash section of the park just so I can pet
all the dogs. It’s time I get my own…

What genre do you prefer to write and why?

My first love is Dystopian and I have since I was a kid. I think the reason is
because my dad was a survivalist. Any and every illness, turn in the economy,
governmental change, and new technology were all viewed as potential culprits for
bringing the end. How life as we knew it would soon end was weekday
conversation at the dinner table in my house.

I used to have regular nightmares as a kid and often daytime anxiety as well. I
thought way too much about how or if I would survive our looming destruction.
When I discovered Dystopian books at first it was a comfort because it represented
the reality I lived in and always ended well.

I know it sounds like I should hate Dystopian, but I think it safely explores
elements of humanity that really opens the mind to what surrounds you. I don’t
write out of fear of the future but more out of wanting to see the world on a wider
spectrum, to consider what I’ve never considered.

Do you write under a pseudonym? What made you decide to do so/or not? What
inspired your pseudo?

Yes, M. J. Kaestli is a pen name. There were a few reasons why I wanted to
publish under a pen name but I’d say the most prevalent is because I want to write
so many different genres. I’m a fan of grouping genres together under one
umbrella to protect the reader and ensure they continue to get what they want
without confusion.

I knew I wanted this pen name to feature strong female leads so I drew inspiration
from the strong women in my life. The M is for Michelle which is my real first
name. The J is for Jean which was my mothers name. And Kaestli was the maiden
name of my great-grandmother. I never got to meet her but was inspired by stories
of her as a child. She seemed to have more spunk and attitude than what was
deemed appropriate in her day.

Do you have a small or large circle of author friends? How do they help you
become a better writer?

My circle of non-writer friends has become rather thin. Most of my friends both
locally and online are fellow writers.

I’m heavily involved with my local Nanowrimo community. We formed our own
group outside of the annual writing challenge and host weekly write-ins. I think
writers need to be constantly surrounded by other writers, even just to have people
who make you feel normal.

As writers, we sacrifice so much of our personal time and money in pursuit of a
dream most think isn’t realistic. It’s too easy to give into self-doubt, insecurity, or
doing something easier with our time. We need each other for emotional support.
There is also a huge perk to get an extra set of eyes on your work or to have
someone to bounce ideas off of. Collaboration helps to keep the words flowing,

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or do you prefer writing series?

I’m incapable of writing short stories or stand alone novels. If the idea isn’t
multiple books with complex plots then I can’t get excited enough about it to get
through the writing process.

The State Series has overlapping timelines with multiple character points of view.
It has taken me longer to finish than I would have liked so moving forward, I plan
to work more in worlds with multiple series while releasing the timeline and main
character. I hope this speeds up my process while holding the integrity of what I
love in the finer details.

Do you base characters off people you know If so, do you let them know before
they read the novel?

Everyone and everything I’ve experienced in my life has an impact on my writing.
Modeling characters after real people isn’t something I do with intent, but can
happen organically. And yes, if I become aware of it (which usually takes time for
me to see it) I will tell them.

My main character Freya in The State Series was just a character to me until I
finished writing the first 3 books. While editing, I realized that Freya in so many
ways was my mom. She passed before I finished writing Compliant and so I never
got the chance to tell her.

What does success as a writer look like to you?

This is a hard question as there are multiple levels of success. Naturally, I want to
earn enough money that I don’t have to do anything else to live. I want to focus
full-time on writing and have the money to hire out all the background work I can
so that I can write even more.

But there are other kinds of success than money. I think my biggest moment as an
author was receiving feedback from one of the first people who read Compliant.
She read it in less than 24 hours and reported she was a “bad mom” because she
couldn’t put it down. To me, knowing I’ve touched someone’s life is success.

I feel that the world is made a better place through reading and storytelling. It’s an
honor when I can help connect people with stories that impact them, both as an
author and reviewer.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice or strictly as a business?

It’s definitely both and more. I feel like when I started taking my writing seriously
was when my life really began and I discovered who I am. It’s spiritual,
therapeutic, entertainment, social, all the things.

It’s also a business because if you want to share your stories with the world, you
have to spend money to get them out there. Publishing is expensive. And if I want
my stories to touch lives (which I do) I have to pay money to market them. There
has to be a balance of both income and spending. Plus, the more income I receive,
the more backend work I can hire out, and the more books I can write.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Of course! I love to read my reviews because it helps me to figure out what the
readers liked about my books so I can try to give them more.

The most negative review I’ve received was someone hated my main character
(and wrote paragraphs about how much and why) but then closed with saying they
would still recommend my books because the story’s so good.
I laughed, shrugged, and thought they must have really loved my story because
they really hated Freya. I want people to feel something when they read my books.
Even hating my character is better in my mind than writing one that’s forgettable.
You have to take the good with the bad because someone else told me Freya was a
real person to them. We each have our own tastes. My books aren’t for everyone
and I accept that as I don’t like every book I read that others love.

What is your favorite childhood book?

Monica Hughes became my favorite author in elementary school when my teacher
read our class Space Trap. It was the first Sci Fi book I was exposed to and that’s
when I discovered I love to read.

I later found Invitation to the Game at my library, the first Dystopian novel I read.
I was forever changed. I checked all her books out multiple times and they had a
huge impact on shaping my young mind into the person I’ve become.

When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

The moment I understood what an author was as a child. I used to talk people into
corners telling them my stories before I could write. Once I realized why I had no
friends, I started to quietly write my stories down. At the time, I didn’t know it was
a possible answer to the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Ideas have always come easy, it’s the writing that was hard. As I’m also dyslexic, I
struggled to get through the writing process as I was continually challenged with
spelling, grammar and the use of language. That kept me blocked until I realized
one day that 40 was just around the corner (I was 36.5).

I set out a very clear goal to write every day because I had to finish at least 1 novel
before 40 and self-publish it. I was about 6 months late on publishing Compliant,
but I had written about 6 books by 40 and published the first 3 in series by the end
of that year.

I still struggle with sentence structure, grammar, spelling, all those things that
received the red pen strike from my English teachers. But, I learned that the only
thing that really matters is I tell my stories to the best of my ability. Between
editors and all the software’s available, I have no longer allow my limitations to
hold me back.

Thanks so much for joining us, M.J.

If you want to learn more about M.J., her books, and what she has coming up in the future, you can find her at the below links.

Her website & blog: https://www.mjkaestli.com/

Purchase link for her latest book: http://mybook.to/Compliant

Amazon.com: Compliant: A Young Adult Dystopian Romance (The State ...
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H8Z34QX?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mjkaestli/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjkaestli/

Book Review YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Zxh5Fz7FQuEQ0-D-uy61w?view_as=subscriber

Until next time, dear readers! Stay safe, Stay cool!
KC