Friday, August 22, 2014

Author Spotlight: SM Koz

Today's, Jazzy World of E's Bookshelf Author Spotlight shines on new author, SM Koz. Koz released her debut novel, Breaking Free earlier this month on Aug. 1 and has received steller reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Breaking Free tells the story of Kelsie Sullivan, who's life is changed forever after an accident and copes with the trauma by cutting herself. A subject Koz will elaborate on more in her interview below. Get ready to meet SM Koz, today's Author Spotlight.

SM Koz's Biography

SM Koz was born in Michigan, but moved to North Carolina for college and never left.

She enjoys traveling, camping, hiking, photography, reading, spending time with foster kids who call her house home, and learning new things. When she’s not creating online training for pharmaceutical companies (her day job) or writing, Koz can be found at the local community college taking courses on various topics ranging from digital art to HTML to desktop publishing. Next in line are auto mechanics and cake decorating.

Being trained as a veterinarian, it’s not surprising that Koz and her husband were recently told they have a mini-zoo with their two dogs, fish, cockatiels, and foster cats. In the past, they have also had parakeets and a snake. Other than the fish, all the animals were acquired through rescue organizations, something Koz wholeheartedly supports.

Breaking Free is Koz’s third original novel and fifth overall, but the only one she feels compelled to publish at this time. Her hope is that individuals who struggle with cutting may be inspired by Kelsie’s story and find the strength they need to begin the healing process. 

An Interview with SM Koz

You Just released your debut novel, Breaking Free on August 1st, how have you found the reception so far?

It’s been overwhelming positive! I was really nervous about publishing it, so the kind words readers
have shared make me realize I made the right decision. Of course, there are some people who aren’t
overly fond of the story, but even they provide constructive criticism, which is helpful as I start my next book.

How long have you had the idea to write Breaking Free?

I first started Breaking Free in Oct of 2012. I wrote the first chapter (which is now the second chapter)
and then decided to focus on a YA sci-fi story instead. The sci-fi story took about a year to write and
it’s still not in a place where I’d feel comfortable publishing it! When I became tired of working on that, I switched back to Breaking Free, which seemed so much easier than my sci-fi book. In fact, I finished writing it in a month. I think my heart was always more into Breaking Free and I should have stuck with it back in 2012.

What inspired the story of Kelsie Sullivan?

I have a friend and a family member who have both cut in the past. When I first learned about self-
injury, I didn’t understand why people would purposely hurt themselves and, therefore, I thought it
was to attract attention. I ended up spending quite a bit of time researching the topic, which opened
my eyes. Most people who cut don’t do it for attention. In fact, like Kelsie in the book, they try to
hide what they’re doing. They’re ashamed, but it’s beyond their control as it has become an addictive
coping mechanism to try and deal with their overwhelming emotions, whether it’s depression, anxiety, whatever.

After learning so much about self-injury, I wanted to help others who were in my position—wishing
to help their friends, but not understanding how to or even why their friends did what they did.

That’s when I decided to turn it into a story. Because I typically write adventure-filled books, I knew
immediately that the main characters would be in the wilderness and run into some unexpected hurdles along the way. I think it ended up being a nice mix of emotion, suspense, and romance with a couple plot twists to keep things interesting.

The story deals with the tough subject matter of self-harming. How did you go about researching the topic? Did you find it hard to write about someone who cuts themselves?

I always knew it would be a happy ending so it wasn’t too difficult. If I had alternate plans for Kelsie, it would have been really tough, though. I know a few people find Kelsie to be selfish and stuck-up, but that was a defense mechanism to try and protect herself from everything that was wrong in her life.

Once we got to know the real Kelsie, I hope most readers came to realize what a strong and amazing person she is. Because of this, I knew she would make her own “happily ever after.”

As far as researching cutting, I turned to my friend who has cut in the past, as well as the internet,
through both support group websites and scientific articles. I spent a great deal of time trying to make
that aspect of the story realistic. It’s been very rewarding to read comments from people who have
been in similar situations saying how true to life the book is.

I’ve read that you’ve written other books but held off on publishing them. What is it about Breaking Free that made you decide this was the book to publish?

I was really nervous about publishing Breaking Free! I’ve had a number of actual and virtual friends read my stories in the past; however, it’s totally different to put it out there for the whole world to see. But, ultimately, I knew I had to do it with Breaking Free because it’s a story I believe in. I feel like it may help others. If it stops even one teen from cutting or helps one person understand how to support a friend who cuts, then I’ll feel like it was a success.

How was your writing process for Breaking Free?

It was surprisingly easy once I sat down and got serious. I think that’s a result of having the story sit
in my head for two years. That’s a long time to come up with various scenes, even if they’re just in my mind. The other thing I had going for me was a light month at my real job. I knew things would get busy the next month, so I set a goal to finish before then. Obviously, there was a lot of editing, review groups, beta readers, etc. afterwards, but it was by far the quickest/easiest first draft I’ve ever written.

What has been favorite part about writing and publishing a book?

My favorite part has been interacting with readers, bloggers, and other authors. Everyone has been so
nice and supportive. Even when Breaking Free isn’t someone’s preferred type of book, they still provide me with encouraging words and helpful feedback. It’s been absolutely wonderful, and I’m so happy I’ve been able to share this with others!

Who are some of your favorite authors?

As far as mainstream authors, I’m a huge fan of Janet Evanovich, Stephenie Meyer, Dean Koontz,
Stephen King, Suzanne Collins, Nicholas Sparks, Robin Cook, Richelle Mead, and Patricia Cornwell.
I’ve just recently gotten into reading indie authors, and two that I’ve enjoyed are Cassie Mae and
Jennifer Lane.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do for fun?

I like to be outside with my husband, our foster kids, and our pets. That can be hiking, camping, taking nature photos, jogging, or going to the dog park. I also like to travel. Visiting every continent is on my bucket list and something I hope to someday accomplish. (I still have a long way to go since I’m only at 3 right now!)

In 10 words or less can you tell readers why they should read your books?

You’ll cry, laugh, smile, be heartbroken, and inspired!

Is there anything you would like to say to your fans and readers new to you?

Thanks for taking a chance on a newbie author! Please spread the word about Breaking Free so that it
might end up in the hands of someone who would benefit from hearing Kelsie’s journey. Thanks!

Breaking Free

Kelsie Sullivan’s life has changed forever. The once outgoing cheerleader has a secret to hide. The car accident that killed her best friend Jenna? She caused it.

With an absent father and unforgiving stepmother, Kelsie has nowhere to turn. She manages her guilt and grief with razor blades. The fleeting release she experiences becomes an obsession and soon she's unable to hide it any longer. Once her cutting is revealed, Kelsie’s parents enroll her in a Wilderness Therapy program designed to rehabilitate troubled teens, but North Carolina is a world away from California.

Kelsie fights against everything the program has to offer until she befriends JC, a boy with a tortured past of his own. He’s also the only one who is able to ease her pain. The two grow close, but quickly discover that nature—both human and otherwise—can easily rip them apart.


Purchase Breaking Free on Amazon

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1 comment:

  1. Breaking Free is the kind of book that makes you laugh (and cry) out loud! A must read for any age.