Like some people who get woken up as the sun is rising by an insistent dog needing to go outside, author Kaya McLaren gets woken up by words, pushing at her just as persistently, urging her out of bed and to her computer.
"My stories sometimes come to me in the early morning hours," she said. "When I'm able to wake up slowly, I have great clarity and the ideas come right on out."
Likewise, if she hits a wall while writing, McLaren heads back under the covers.
"I take a nap, and while I'm sleeping, my brain works it out," she said. "I wake up clear and ready. I love that. Productive sleeping. I'm all about multi-tasking."
The Washington state resident is in town today for an author meet and greet at the Bookworm of Edwards. Her third book, "How I Came to Sparkle Again," was released Oct. 2 and she's been on the road ever since. Much of the book takes place in a fictional Colorado ski town called Sparkle where two women and one girl are all mourning or searching for love in their own way.
Vail Daily: How did you come up with the story line of three women who are all grieving and looking for healing?
Kaya McLaren: I don't do grief well. Not at all. I get really attached to people, pets, and situations. I work out a lot of my own stuff through writing fiction. Or, at least I try to.
VD: Is Sparkle based on any particular town?
KM: No. In my mind it's a little bit Telluride, a little Crystal Mountain, and little Pagosa/Wolf Creek.
VD: What is the most common thing you hear from people regarding the novel?
KM: Here in Colorado, everyone is saying that they love that there's finally a book about them. In ski resort towns, booksellers are so excited to not only have a book locals will love, but to have the perfect vacation book to offer tourists. They say the setting is distinct, but the issues are universal. Men and women alike have told me it made them cry and then the next moment made them cry from laughing so hard.
VD: Where do you live? And are you still a teacher?
KM: At the moment, I'm living outside of Cle Elum, Wash., where all the wildfires are burning. I grew up in Washington State. I lived and taught on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation a few years ago, and after driving through there a few days ago, resolved to move back to the Lumberton-Chama-Pagosa region at some point in my future - at least for three seasons a year. I do love Eastern Washington summers (well, when it's not on fire), but the icy snow and dark, foggy winter situation is not remotely adequate. Not remotely.
I'm on a one-semester leave of absence from teaching right now. I teach third and fourth grade in Easton, a district with about 70 kids. It's like family. I love that part of it, and I love having the opportunity to laugh every day. The national teacher witch hunt thing really gets me down, though. We teachers aren't the problem; we're the solution.
VD: Are you working on something new?
KM: I just finished writing "The Embers," my fourth book, which is about six women who save each other while they try to save a summer camp. And this fifth book, "The De Vine Winery and Goat Ranch," is coming to me now. It's going to take place in northern New Mexico, the land of milagros.
VD: What have you read lately that really got under your skin?
KM: When I write, I have to be careful about reading because other people's finished books are stronger and louder than the books coming out of me. I find myself thinking about books I've read instead of my own stories. So novels are treats that I indulge in when I'm not writing. While I'm writing, I like to read poetry and non-fiction. Lately, I've been reading "For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics" and "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking." In my really indulgent moments, I'll pick up my favorite book of all-time, Linda Hogan's "Solar Storms," and treat myself to a few pages. Sometimes I read it out loud, just to taste her beautiful words.
VD: What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a writer? And for someone who wants to get a book published?
KM: Write to entertain yourself. Write the book you want to read. And understand that getting published is a lot like dating. Just because someone is looking for something different doesn't mean you're not a catch.