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.
DAMSEL DISTRESSED, and the companion album of original songs, Imogen Unlocked, are scheduled for release in October 2014.
Did you catch that? Her book is being released with a companion album! How amazing is that? I cannot tell you how excited I am about this project. If you’re curious about what it might be like, check out her vlog, where you get a tiny taste of her music intertwined with her book.
And now, five questions with Kelsey!
1. Tell me about Damsel Distressed. Where’d you get the inspiration for the story?
Damsel Distressed popped into my head shortly after I read John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars. It was after reading THAT book and watching his vlogbrothers videos on youtube that I realized for the first time, that he was not some magical word elf. He was a regular dude, with a family, and an obsession with the internet, and he wrote books. It wasn’t long after that that I got the inspiration to write what was basically a Cinderella story from the point of view of the “ugly stepsister”. The Cinderella thread was all but forgotten, however, as I began to outline. What WAS emerging, though, was a girl, Imogen, who had a lot of baggage. I heard (and can still hear) Imogen’s voice LOUD and clear… which was why the first draft came relatively easily. I wanted to write the story of a person who had problems, but those problems could not be glossed over as in so many books. I didn’t want a main character who was “sad.” I wanted a main character who was clinically depressed, medicated, and who had struggled with self harm. I didn’t want a main character who was constantly saying, “oh, I’m so plain and un-beautiful, but all the boys like me.” I wanted a main character who doesn’t match any of societies biggest requirements for stereotypical beauty.
2. How did you come up with the idea of Imogen Unlocked? Did you know you wanted to do the companion album while you were writing the book?
Imogen Unlocked came out of a collaborative brainstorming session with my agent, Jessica Sinsheimer. We were discussing the book, and also discussing my experience as a recording artist (in my younger days) and how much singing/songwriting is a part of my life. She thought there must be someway that we could tap into my own musical interests in connection with the book. It was like a bolt of lightning struck my head when I realized that my band, Wedding Day Rain, would be perfectly suited to create the companion album and that I would be able to enjoy the fruits of both writing, and also experience the joy that I feel when performing/writing/recording with my husband Daron as Wedding Day Rain.
3. What’s your favorite band/album? Who are your musical influences?
I know that it’s annoying when people can’t name a specific band or album that is their favorite, but truly, it would be impossible to choose just one. Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and even before that. Through my life, I’ve listened to all sorts of music, from growing up on southern gospel quartet music, to my obsession with New Kids on the Block in elementary school, to emulating Mariah and Whitney with my hairbrush for hours on end, to my punk rock phase in junior high school when I wore baggy pants and saved my money to buy Green Day albums that were YEARS older than “Dookie”. When I was in high school I was in a sequined-vest wearing, jazz hand waggling show choir, and I fell in love with broadway musicals, and in college, I became nostalgic for 80s hair metal and subdued alternative rock music like Augustana and the Fray. Now I listen to just about everything. In my car, I almost exclusively listen to 90s on 9 for my throwback jams, but at home, I listen to bands like Tegan and Sara, the Civil Wars, Bon Iver, The Temper Trap, Death Cab for Cutie, MGMT, Phoenix, Imagine Dragons, Of Monsters and Men, Metric, and M83… I really could go on for hours. It’s best we stop here.
The point is that art inspires art.
Every word I’ve ever read, every painting I’ve ever contemplated, every song I’ve ever sung along to has inspired every single piece of art that I, myself have put into being. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about art, really. We NEED art to MAKE art. I NEED art to MAKE art. Art isn’t made in a vacuum.
4. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what’d you listen to while writing Damsel Distressed?
I am weird.
I can’t listen to music with lyrics… or truly, music with structure of any kind while I am actually putting new words on the page. I can’t turn off the lyrics. I can’t stop thinking about what the music is saying and free myself up to say what I AM saying. Even so, I could have music on prior to writing, or while editing/revising, and I had a playlist for DD that always put me in the perfect state of mind for working on Imogen’s story.
Playlist: DAMSEL DISTRESSED
5. Do you think of yourself more as a writer or as a musician, or is it possible to separate the two?
I think it’s hard to separate the two, but certainly not impossible. I’ve been singing/writing songs for way, WAAAYYYYY longer than I’ve been writing. I’ve been singing my whole life and only really began writing fiction in 2012. That said, I think that writing is just another form of creative expression and for me, all creative expression is precious and useful and important. I see these experiences as a way for me to connect with a totally new side of my creativity. In truth, I don’t really think of myself as a writer… unless I’m actually writing. Like, right now, I’m far more of an tumblr-wench than a writer, and when I’m teaching, I’m certainly more of a teacher than a writer. Being a writer is “in” me, but it’s not all that I am, not at any given moment anyway.
I think that everyone has creativity in them, and it just takes a bit of trial and error to see what the best ways are for them to get that creativity expressed! I’m lousy with clay and paint, but I draw a MEAN DOODLE, and I think that counts for something. I hope that everyone who already identifies as a writer or a poet, or whatever, would give songwriting a try, or slam poetry, or playwriting, because I feel that creative expression only makes you a more well rounded artist and human being.
Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, Kels! Don’t you guys LOVE HER?! Now’s probably the perfect time to add Damsel Distressed to your Goodreads shelves, right? Right.