One Four Kids: Interview with Kelsey Macke, Author of Damsel Distressed

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Kelsey Macke’s amazing debut, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, is out today, and you are crazy if you’re not out buying your copy this very second!

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Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters’ story. Those girls don’t get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.

Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after-in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy.
When Imogen’s new stepsister, Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.

While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.

And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.

 

I’m Jessica Taylor and I had the incredible pleasure of reading this book and interviewing Kelsey. DAMSEL DISTRESSED is a contemporary fairy tale that manages to be light and heavy hitting at the same time. It touches on the issues of self-harm and OCD in a way that broke me into pieces (there’s a scene regarding Imogen’s scars, between Imogen and her friend, Brice, that had me sobbing). Imogen is sarcastic and wry, yet always completely relatable and sympathetic—a difficult balance that Kelsey Macke has artfully achieved. One of my favorite things about the book was the love interest, Grant, and the subtle and realistic development of the relationship. There’s beauty in the support system built into their friendship. I desperately wanted them to get together! The secondary characters are so well-developed and compelling. You will undoubtedly love Jonathan, Brice, and Antonique almost as much as Imogen. The book hits a wide range of emotional notes—you’ll laugh and cry as you navigate Imogen’s world. DAMSEL DISTRESSED is for theater lovers, fans of fashion, lovers of Disney, haters of Disney, women of all ages, men of all ages, french fry aficionados, and basically anyone with a beating heart. Get yourselves to a real live bookstore or your favorite online retailer immediately!

Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indie Bound.

Kelsey is a writer, teacher, a Vlogger, and half of the indie-pop group Wedding Day Rain. I had the amazing pleasure of meeting Kelsey in real life at DFWCon last year, so I can also tell you that she’s hilarious, super sweet, and always wears a stylish shade of lipstick. I had so much I wanted to say about DAMSEL DISTRESSED that I asked Kelsey about some topics that aren’t as closely related to the text itself. On to the interview!

J- Kelsey, you are a true renaissance woman! Everywhere I go on the internet, I find more of your amazing creativity–from your vlogging skills to your band Wedding Day Rain. I see that you and your talented husband (as Wedding Day Rain) have even produced a soundtrack to DAMSEL DISTRESSED called Imogen Unlocked. Tell me about the process of writing and producing 12 original songs to complement DAMSEL DISTRESSED.

K- Writing songs is VERY different than writing a book, so they absolutely require different skills. That said, working on the album was a collaboration with my husband, so I never really had to go it alone. Creatively, writing a soundtrack for the book was very fulfilling. I like to think of Damsel Distressed as Imogen’s thoughts–the ones she’s aware of. The music, to me, feels more like her subconscious thoughts. She might not ever know that those are her exact feelings, but they’re deeply true and occasionally they’re projections of things she fears or thinks other people believe to be true.

The actual production process is one that Daron and I are very familiar with, but making an album is no joke. So many long nights in the studio, not to mention the long nights revising and re-writing. To do both at once was absolutely crazy. We’re very hopeful that it will prove to have been worth all of the work in the end. 🙂

J- You have one gorgeous cover! It’s so hard to stand out in the current YA market, yet the cover for DAMSEL DISTRESSED is eye-catching, evocative, and most importantly unique. You found your cover artist through a DAMSEL DISTRESSED cover contest. How did that process result in such an incredible cover?

K- I remember being pretty scared at first when Spencer Hill Contemp agreed that a cover contest was the way to go. We’d been talking back and forth for so long about what we wanted and how we wanted the cover to look. We all knew so much of what we didn’t want, but finding what we DID want proved to be very challenging. I have to say that I believe Jenny Zemanek’s design was one of the single most important things to happen to Damsel Distressed. We had something like 50-60 covers submitted and Jenny had submitted a few designs. In the end, two of her designs made the top ten, and the pair of them held the MASSIVE majority of the more than 10,000 votes. She just nailed it.

Like it or not, books get judged by their covers all the time, and I can’t even tell you how many people have stopped dead in their tracks at events or book expos and said, “WOW. That is an awesome cover.”

I can never thank Jenny enough for that. Her cover design is perfect. Moody and evocative. Her contribution has been utterly invaluable.

J- DAMSEL DISTRESSED is the Gold Medal Winner of the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for YA, and MTV Act said [Kelsey Macke is] “changing the state of YA books as we know it with her must read novel.” How does it feel to have your debut novel already receiving critical acclaim?

K- I’m still reeling over that MTV act blurb. I often cover it with my hand when I’m holding my book just because those are BIG WORDS and they’re pretty intimidating–though endlessly awesome. I wouldn’t ever say such a thing about my own work, obviously, but it’s pretty cool that the book + soundtrack pairing is very new, if it’s ever been done in this way before at all.

And the Gold Moonbeam Award gives me the same feeling. I am just so floored to find that human beings are reading it, let alone liking it, let alone having emotional responses to it. This story has been just mine for so long, it’s hard to explain the feeling of possessiveness that has flooded my mind over these past few months. Now that it’s out though, all of that has melted away. It feels ready to be read; now I just have to let her fly.

It is a great joy to be able to share something of myself with the world, and words and gestures such as these great honors return that joy to me tenfold.

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Kelsey Macke has been creative for as long as she can remember. From an early age she was on stage singing, penning poetry, and writing notebooks full of songs. When the idea for her debut novel, DAMSEL DISTRESSED, popped into her head, she was undeterred by the fact that she had no idea how to actually write a novel. Her bff, the internet, was her guide, and after much trial, error, and candy, she finished it, and set out to get it published… a process far more difficult than, the internet (now her mortal enemy), had lead her to believe.

Her whirlwind adventure was made even more unbelievable when she signed with fabulous agent, Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency and, shortly after, Danielle Ellison of Spencer Hill Contemporary bought her debut.

 

This innovative, mixed-media art project has given Kelsey an incredibly unique opportunity to join two of her passions: writing and making music with her husband as half of the folky, indie-pop band Wedding Day Rain. Visit her online at http://kelseymacke.com/ or follow her on Twitter @KelsNotChels.

Jessica TaylorJessica Taylor is an author and fashion industry professional. She adores sleepy southern settings, unrequited love, and characters who sneak out late at night. She lives in Northern California with a sweet-yet-spoiled dog and several teetering towers of books. Her debut, INVINCIBLE WILD, a young adult magical realism novel, is slated for Fall 2015 release from Egmont USA.
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