Kayce Stevens Hughlett is a long-time blogger and contributor to several collections and online publications. Her 2012 non-fiction book, As I Lay Pondering: daily invitations to live a transformed life, is a lyrical and lucid treasure that invites readers to new awakenings throughout the year.
Blue, her first novel, releases September 10, 2015.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kayce (via iPhone) while picnicking on the shores of Green Lake, Seattle, WA.
Kayce Hughlett: I was having writer’s block after writing, As I lay Pondering. It had come out and I had been working on it for a really long time. It was nonfiction and it felt like an important piece of work, at least for me. Whenever I would think of writing something else, I couldn’t imagine what else I could write, so I didn’t write. Then I saw the invitation to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Something perked inside and I thought how much fun it would be to just make stuff up!
S.R. When you started this novel, was there an experience that triggered the beginning? Did you have some kind of structure or process in place?
K.H. I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo in October, maybe 2 – 3 weeks before it began. I purchased a couple of little books about how to write novels by people who were doing NaNoWriMo. They asked questions like: “What kind of stories do you like? Don’t like?” I made lists. I knew the book was going to be about relationships, because I like stories with relationships, and I like stories that have a little bit of suspense.
As far as the absolute beginning, I literally woke up on Nov. 1 and had the first scene in my head. I had no idea where it was going, but the scene was there, waiting for me.
S.R. Is that scene still at the beginning of the book?
K.H. Yes it is (smiling).
S.R. The first scene introduces us to Daisy. How did Monica and Izabel appear?
K.H. I remember the day I met Izabel. I was sitting having lunch by myself and was flipping through a magazine and this image of a woman in an evening gown on a paddle board jumped out at me and I knew I had met one of my characters; she evolved from there.
S.R. How did you name your characters?
K.H. Daisy went back and forth between a couple of different flowers. A lot of the things came from images. I am very visual. I had this picture of a Lily and thought her name was going to be Lily; ultimately it switched to Daisy.
This might sound kind of odd but I had forgotten that my mother’s first name is actually Daisy. She didn’t go by Daisy, she went by Ernestine. Her name was Daisy Ernestine.
Monica was going to be Penny. Then she turned into Monica.
S.R. Of your 3 heroines do you have a favorite one, or one you identify more with than the others?
K.H. That’s a really hard question because I love some attributes of (and identify with) all 3 of them.
I adore that Izabel is an artist, creative, rides her bike, has a spiritual side and all those things.
I used to be Monica, other than one of her serious quirks, which would be a spoiler alert for readers. With Monica, I identify with her perfectionist side; not wanting to be seen, and her hope that if she just puts herself all together maybe no one will notice how terrified she is on the inside.
Daisy probably comes from more of my daughter. The way she is relationally and her big imagination. I don’t know if it comes across in the book, but I think there was a lot of angst in Daisy’s life before she went to the Blue place. Maybe it’s more about her age: younger, adolescent, almost adult —wanting to be independent, but everybody’s telling you what to do.
S.R. Is the title of the book a result of the first scene?
K.H. I used Blue as the working title, after the first scene popped out. As the characters started to develop I found other connections. They started to take on their own characteristics of blue and what it means.
The quote at the beginning: “Blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones…it will always stay blue.” Raoul Dufy
S.R. Did you know that quote prior to naming your novel?
K.H. No, I googled it, once I started working with the theme of Blue. I often start my writing with prompts and then I looked for quotes starting with writing prompts associated with blue. When I saw that one, I felt like it encapsulated where I was going.
S.R. Are there scenes or settings that are personal to you?
K.H. Some are whole scenes. One that comes to mind is the scene in the Alzheimer’s unit with Edna. We write from what we know and my mother had Alzheimer’s. For Monica to become a caregiver/administrator touched on my life. One time I went to visit my mother and this little woman named Edna latched on to me, and she wanted ice cream and she would not let go. The rest of that scene is fictionalized.
S.R. How did Sir Albert come into your consciousness or stream of writing?
K.H. He showed up that first day. He was the Blue. I started to do a little research on peacocks and found a little known fact—Tausi, which is the island that Daisy and Sir Albert are on, is actually the Swahili name for peacock. In him came this knowledgeable, kind-hearted mentor for young Daisy.
S.R. You are a licensed therapist. How did your knowledge and skill-set play into your novel?
K.H. I’m fascinated with relationships. I’ve primarily worked with fairly high functioning clients. I find relationships form how we interact, like how the relationships play out between many of the characters.
I liked the idea of adding in an edgy kind of thing or two. I researched symptoms for accuracy, as I didn’t want it to look or sound like a soap opera. The facts regarding each of the characters’ “issues” fit diagnostically. It was fun to take something a bit out there and have some fun with it.
S.R. Izabel goes to a dance with Miriam. Have you participated in something like this?
K.H. That’s one of my favorite scenes, the soul dance. I have participated in something similar to that. I went to Bermuda a few years ago with girlfriends and one night we went down to the beach and had a bonfire. We didn’t have official instruments but we made our own. We brought down pots and pans and brooms, anything that would make noise. We drummed and danced and bella luna rose.
There’s another form of personal awareness called constellation work. I have only read about it, I haven’t participated in it. But it is where different people are assigned roles of the primary person’s family. Like Miriam did in the Soul Dance. So again, the scene is a compilation of a few things.
S.R. How did Miriam’s character come about?
K.H. I probably met Miriam the first time I was in my own group therapy. This woman with flowing white hair and steel blue eyes was leading our group and I felt like she could see right inside me. She kind of scared me and I trusted her immediately. I loved the idea of creating this person who can see all, but you don’t know how or why. Sadly the final editor made me cut Miriam’s backstory. I’m thinking of releasing her story in a separate short story. (smiling)
S.R. Did you know how you were going to end the book?
K.H. The ending came kind of like the beginning. I was doing NaNoWriMo and it was getting close to the end of the month. I sat down and started to write and the stories started to spill on top of each other and I got to the ending and then I cried. Every time I’ve read the book and get to the ending – I cry. It came from this place that felt bigger than me.
S.R. Thanks Kayce for this wonderful incite into the fabulous, magical, mysterious, ‘Blue.‘
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