Kara M. Taylor is living in the dream world that a great many aspiring authors fantasize about. She writes television scripts and she’s the creator of the hip and very much celebrated elite teen series Prep School Confidential. It can’t be very easy being on the writing staff of a popular television series (“The Revengers”) and, at the same time, be looking over manuscript edits and approving book blurbs and book covers. But this is the life that was handed to Kara M. Taylor, and she jovially manages it all, thank you very much.
Were you one of those types of students who would sit there and scribble stories in a non-writing related class when you know you should be paying attention to your teacher?
Absolutely. Especially during math. My fourth grade teacher eventually caught me, and she surprised me by giving me a binder for all of my stories. Once a week, she’d read them. I wish I could find her and thank her.
You’ve credited Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as the one book that sparked this desire in you to write. What did you learn about storytelling and story structure from that novel?
It sounds simplistic, but I learned that the first ingredient of storytelling is having a story to tell. I knew as soon as I finished that book I wanted to tell my own story. It was probably also about a pre-teen wizard, but every writer’s journey starts somewhere. That book was the spark for me.
Were you pretty popular when you were in middle and high school?
I’d say I was middle of the pack. Not many people knew who I was, although the ones who read the school paper probably recognized my name. I remember a popular kid describing me as one of the “smart girls.” I never saw myself that way, even though I was in honors classes. But in retrospect, I guess that was me. One of the quiet kids with her head always in a book.
How did the Prep School confidential book series take shape?
It started with the idea of Anne, this female teen anti-hero who had screwed up really bad and was seeking redemption at her new boarding school. Instead, she found herself at the center of a brutal murder mystery. I’d always wanted to write a crime procedural, but after several embarrassing attempts at adult detective novels, I realized my voice was naturally YA.
So you have a chihuahua named Izzy and a kitten named Felix. Do you sometimes read your first drafts to them?
I don’t read my first drafts to anyone! Probably because they’re so bad, even a dog would realize it.
For some it’s Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, while others swear by Stephen King’s On Writing. Is there a book that you found especially helpful in your journey as a writer?
My mom gave me a copy of Janet Evanovich’s How I Write as a gift in high school. It’s short, to the point, and enormously helpful in cementing the basics, such as “show, don’t tell”. It also explained to me how the traditional publishing process works: querying agents, submitting to publishers, etc. Janet Evanovich’s voice was with me in the first draft of my very first novel.
Do you ever find yourself—either in the early stages of your career—or recently—fighting feelings of self-doubt?
Always, always. It’s the universal truth of being a writer that no matter where you are, you will doubt yourself. You’ll doubt the quality of your work, you will be jealous of other writers, and you’ll question the viability of writing as a career. It’s how you manage the doubt and don’t let it become the only voice in your head that separates the people who don’t give up from those who do.
At this point, you’re a full-time writer. What factors should writers weigh in before going full-time?
Are you more suited to a structured work environment? Do you like to socialize with other people? Are you not self-motivated, and prefer group tasks? If you answered yes, writing full-time might not be for you. But it’s not all or nothing—I know tons of writers who have full-time jobs and have sold many books. For me, my series schedule was demanding (a book to be released every six months), and a deal writing for Warner Brothers arose that would demand even more of my time.
I should mention there are times I long for a different day job. I taught high school briefly, and I miss being around people. Having lunch at the same time every day. Coming home and being able to put on sweatpants and leaving work at the door. I know I’m very lucky to be able to do what I love, but I’d caution people against viewing writing full time as a “dream.” Just like anything else, work is difficult, and writing from home has its pitfalls.
You’re a television writer and a fiction novel writer. How do you manage these two segments of your writing career? Television writing is known as being rather demanding after all.
Book writing in the morning, and TV at night! But really, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have trouble juggling lots of projects at once. Right now, the TV show I’m working on—”The Revengers”—is categorized as “in development.” That means the show is not yet being filmed, nor is there a guarantee it will be filmed. I’m working on writing and revising the pilot. Don’t get me wrong—it’s extremely demanding, but not as demanding as it will be if the show goes into production.
What advice do you wish to give to those who want to write for television?
Have a strong writing sample. Try other things—a screenplay or a novel, maybe. I always wanted to write for television, but it was Prep School Confidential that got me noticed by film producers and United Talent Agency.
And those who want to write novels?
Write the book. Re-write it. Write another book. Do it because you love it, and don’t think about getting it published. Writing my first book helped me through a very difficult year. It was never published, but they’re not lying to you when they say the only way to be a better writer is to write more books. Prep School Confidential was my third complete novel.
Wicked Little Secrets of course is your agenda. What’s next after that?
Deadly Little Sins, the final book in the series, comes out August 5th. If “The Revengers” gets picked up as a TV series, I’ll be working on that. But there are a lot of unfinished book ideas demanding my attention, including another YA mystery featuring a complicated female lead.
Keep up with Kara M. Taylor and be the first to know of her latest book releases and get news of her adventures in the world of TV. CLICK HERE to visit her website.