YEM Author Interview: Chris Halvorson chats about adding a supernatural and environmental twist to his book Kaitlyn’s Wheel

Chris Halvorson is the author of Kaitlyn’s Wheel. Kaitlyn’s Wheel follows eighteen-year-old Kaitlyn Stokes In rural Iowa and Zachary Taylor the Pacific Northwest. The book explores teen romance with a supernatural and environmental twist. YEM was able to speak with Chris about what his writing process looks like, taking real life inspiration for the book, and his favorite quote from the book.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first realize that you wanted to become an author?

Chris Halvorson: Starting in elementary school, I loved reading novels and hoped to write one of my own someday. Back then, I wondered how anyone could write over 200 pages, as it seemed impossible. I also remember entering a short story contest in fifth or sixth grade. Unfortunately, it did not win any prizes, and I took the rejection pretty hard.

YEM: How does it feel having Kaitlyn’s Wheel coming out so soon?

Chris: The pandemic delayed the publication by several months, so now I’m super anxious to finally see it about to come out. The print version will be released in February 2023. I believe the e-book comes out sooner. I’m thrilled!

YEM: What can you tell us about Kaitlyn’s Wheel?

Chris: In rural Iowa, Kaitlyn is a high school senior who witnesses a UFO over her house the night her father dies of cancer. She wonders if the UFO came to take her father to heaven, as with Ezekiel’s Wheel in the Old Testament. Her mother reminds her she used to sleepwalk as a child, and most likely, it was all a dream.

Soon after, Kaitlyn sees a story going viral: Zachary, a high school senior in Washington State, was abducted by a UFO. She connects with him on Instagram, and thus begins a long-distance relationship. Little does she know that Zachary made the story up—as he needed an excuse for skipping classes. As their romance escalates, Zachary struggles with his conscience, and whether he should tell her the truth. Meanwhile, he starts experiencing supernatural occurrences, which raises the question: Was an alien force truly putting them in contact? If so, why? And what’s the connection to her father?

That’s my “movie trailer” version of the book, without giving too much away (I hope!) .

YEM: What did writing Kaitlyn’s Wheel teach you about yourself?

Chris: Writing younger characters was a “return to innocence” so to speak because it put me back in touch with my teenage self. I also faced the uncertainty of the book being rejected, so I became much better at focusing on doing the best work I could, and letting go of what I can’t control.

YEM: What does your writing process look like?

Chris: I write 2-3 hours before my day job. On my days off, I write in three-hour blocks, twice per day. Lots of coffee and energy drinks.

YEM: Did you draw upon real life inspiration for the book?

Chris: Yes, my brother Chuck died from cancer at the age of 42, which is close to the age of Kaitlyn’s father dying in the book. Just a day or two after my brother died, he visited me in a dream as a “light being” described in the book. He was (literally) glowing with happiness and positive energy. I know he was saying goodbye, and letting me know he was in a much better place. On another occasion, my mother and sister were saying how much they missed my grandfather during the holidays. Just then, his former reading lamp came on very brightly. In the novel, there is a similar “visit” from Kaitlyn’s father during the holiday season. I do believe that spirits are forms of energy which can visit us. That theory is portrayed in Kaitlyn’s “scientific research.”

YEM: Which author is your biggest inspiration?

Chris: For YA fiction, I think John Green sets the highest standard possible. He drives his story through characters that are so well developed, you feel as if you are experiencing their lives with them. He also lets them be human and far from perfect, which allows the reader to identity and connect with them.

YEM: What advice do you have for those who want to become authors?

Chris: There’s an old adage that all great writers are great readers. It’s so true. Also, I would start with writing short stories instead of diving into a novel as your first work. Writing workshops can also be beneficial, but they can also be very discouraging. It really depends on having classmates and instructors who give constructive criticism and encouragement rather than simply tearing your work apart (often through jealousy). If you have the passion to write, you will find your path.

YEM: What is something that you would like your readers to take away from Kaitlyn’s Wheel?

Chris: To make a difference, you don’t have to be a superhero. We are all a small part of something much bigger; however, being “small” doesn’t mean insignificant.

YEM: Where did you get the idea for an ultimate teen romance but with a supernatural and environmental twist?

Chris: I originally had the idea of a boy-girl connection through a UFO sighting, i.e. the supernatural element. The environmental twist originated with writing Zachary’s character—a teenager  disillusioned by his parents selling gas-guzzling vehicles at their auto dealership.

YEM: Is there a book in particular that made you fall in love with literature?

Chris: I fell in love with “The Three Investigators” series when I was a very young reader. While that was more reading for fun, it set me on the path to become an avid reader of more literary works. If I had to pick a favorite novel, it would be Gods without Men by Hari Kunzru. But there are too many great works to comment on.

YEM: Are you thinking of making another book for young adults soon in the future?

Chris: Yes, most definitely. I have a few concepts in mind, one for tweens, another for teens, and another for the “New Adult” category. I’m not sure which one I will dive into.

YEM: Favorite quote from the book?

Chris: Zachary telling his high school biology teacher: “I happen to think the human-ape was better off before we came down from the trees.” (That’s before he falls for Kaitlyn, and he’s still pretty cynical about life in general).

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