Author Spotlight Interview: Kyle Prue
Every few weeks we try and pin down a talented author for a heart-to-heart about their career and books. This week we’re thrilled to be chatting to Kyle Prue, the teenage sensation behind The Sparks – part one of an epic fantasy trilogy that has been celebrated by critics and readers alike.
Often, aspiring writers are warned that they might have to wait years to hit their stride. Talented teenager Kyle Prue deftly sidestepped that process when his first novel, The Sparks, received instant (and well-deserved) acclaim – winning the FAPA Presidential Awards for Best Fiction and Best Fantasy for Young Adults in 2015, earning a place as runner-up for Best Young Adult Fiction at the Florida Book Festival and Honorable Mentions at the New England Book Festival, Midwest Book Festival, Southern California Book Festival, and the International London Book Festival.
Far from letting this go to his head, Kyle used his success to kick-start a tour of over 100 middle and highschools across the country to champion literacy and writing, and also founded the Sparking Literacy foundation, dedicated to lowering the high school dropout rate by inspiring teens to read, write and follow their dreams.
As if that wasn’t enough, Kyle is also a talented actor and comedian – having trained at the Second City Comedy Club in Chicago and performing onstage and online in a variety of productions.
And yet in addition to all that, Kyle’s status as a talented ‘triple threat’ hasn’t stopped him from being an incredibly kind, down-to-Earth and warmhearted soul who’s always eager to help people from all sorts of different backgrounds achieve their dreams. We’re thrilled to have been able to sit down with him and have a chat.
HG: Kyle, you were just 16 when you wrote The Sparks. I know you write it was sparked by a bout with insomnia, but is there more to it than that? Where did the idea of Altryon and the three dynasties come from?
KP: I had a light concept that I’d been fooling with. I was always fascinated by the family feud concept and I realized what made these families powerful was usually always wealth. From there I decided to substitute money for superpowers so I could put them through rougher stuff. The rest developed as the manuscript did.
HG: Writing a 300 page novel is a pretty daunting prospect in and of itself, but to have that level of focus and commitment at 16 is incredible. Why do you think you managed it?
KP: The summer of my sophomore year in high school, my parents took away the Internet, television, and cellphones, so there was little else to do. Nothing’s more inspirational than boredom!
HG: Okay, so before The Sparks, what was Kyle the 16-year-old like? How was your high school experience, what were you into, and how did it influence your path into writing?
KP: Honestly, I was a little bit of a class clown. So much so that when I had the finished manuscript it took a while for me to convince my teachers that I was serious about it. But once they read it, they really pushed me to try and get published. I went to a small private high school, Seacrest Country Day, in Naples, Florida. They really pushed us to follow our dreams. So I was lucky to have incredible support.
HG: When you were writing The Sparks, did you know it was going to be part of a trilogy?
KP: I knew by the end of the second chapter. Things were appearing that I knew would take time to be resolved.
HG: Was The Sparks traditionally or self-published? Why do you think it became so noticeable?
KP: The Sparks was originally published by a small, independent press. I didn’t know enough about publishing in the beginning so I wanted a publisher to show me the ropes. But after a couple years I realized that we were doing all the work anyway so when my contract expired I decided to start my own publishing company. We have a great team of people that help me with all aspects of publishing.
As for how it gained traction, I took a year off from college and toured around the country speaking at middle and high schools. I knew I didn’t have the marketing budget I needed to blow up without hoofing it. I also think winning some great book awards helped with credibility too.
HG: Young Adult fantasy is a pretty competitive genre – what do you think makes The Sparks stand out?
KP: I think the major standouts of The Sparks are its characters. The legacy of conflict and the world they’ve grown up in textures them nicely, and I’ve always allowed them to influence the story rather than fitting them into a rigid and unforgiving plot structure.
HG: You’re also an actor and do stand-up. How do those passions influence your writing, and vice-versa?
KP: It certainly helps with dialogue. You spend quite a bit of time practicing speech in acting and stand-up. It’s also been helpful as I do a lot of speaking events and bringing comedy into the presentation helps me to connect better with the audience. I think all of these passions are centered around story telling so they all help me to be a better writer.
HG: One of the coolest things about you is the Sparking Literacy project. How did you come up with the idea for that, and what’s the goal of the project?
KP: Right after I published The Sparks, a teacher asked me to come and speak to a group of 8th graders that were at risk of dropping out of school. Many had never read a full book before but the librarian had a grant so all the kids could get a free copy of The Sparks. I had a great day speaking to the kids and afterward, I started getting calls and emails telling me the event had been transformative. The kids had read The Sparks several times, had started a book club and some were even writing their own books. That’s when I realized I had a chance to make a difference.
Sparking Literacy is dedicated to lowering the high school drop out rate by inspiring teens to read, write and follow their dreams. We bring in authors to schools where over 75% of the students are below the poverty line. A lot of these schools can’t afford speakers so the kids are so excited for our events. Only 1 in 300 of those kids have ever owned a book, so it’s an amazing thing to give a kid their first book. It truly changes lives.
HG: How can people support Sparking Literacy?
KP: The great thing about Sparking Literacy is that we are a volunteer organization so all of the donations go toward providing programs and books for the kids. Every donation, big or small can really help. You can donate at www.sparkingliteracy.org.
HG: You’re currently two books into the series. When will The Ashes be released?
KP: This fall! Stay tuned!
HG: Do you have anything planned after the release of The Ashes?
KP: I’ve been working on another young adult book that is separate from the series. I also have been writing plays and scripts. I’ve started a podcast that’s been fun called “Before TV Killed Radio.” I also plan to release a book of poems just because I love writing them.
HG: There is talk of a Hollywood adaptation of The Feud Trilogy. Do you care to share anything about that?
KP: Sadly, I’m not supposed to talk about that yet. But fingers and toes are crossed. I’ll be sending any updates to my newsletter subscribers on kyleprue.com.
HG: Could you tell me a little about your writing process? When do you write? What do you write on? Do you have a process or a routine?
KP: Writing is about consistency, and in order to make sure I stay consistent I write 1,000 words every day, in some form, before I go to bed. It’s impossible to get off your game when you’re always putting the hours in.
HG: What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received as a writer?
KP: “Read. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or tools to write.” -Stephen King
HG: What’s your favorite book, and who is your favorite author?
Favorite author: Stephen King
Favorite Book: Salem’s Lot
HG: Finally – how can people catch up and follow you next?
Thanks so much to Kyle for taking the time to speak with us!
Kyle’s books The Sparks and The Flames were actually included as part of the Hidden Gems program last year – so if you’re interested in reading books similar to his critically-acclaimed work, be sure to sign up today!