by Timothy Pike
It’s March 2018, and we’re in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, where author Kaitlyn Abdou is hard at work on her award-winning fantasy novel, The Daffodil Witch. It’s here, on Boston’s South Shore, about thirty minutes south of the city, that Kaitlyn recently bought a house. “In 2016 I bought a cute little Victorian,” she says, “and I’m currently renovating it.” This picturesque part of the country, where Kaitlyn was born and raised, seems an ideal setting for writing a novel.
Perhaps not ideal is the renovation itself, which could be going better—at least according to Kaitlyn’s posts in our Facebook writing group.
“You probably remember me whining about losing power the other day,” she posted at the time. “Not only did I lose power, my basement flooded with four feet of water and I had to evacuate my house. I am without heat and hot water and have been since Friday.”
“It’s 30 degrees out,” she hastened to add, “so it’s been rough.” Yikes.
Yet several weeks later, Kaitlyn emerged as winner of the Challenge Choice Award in the ChapterBuzz 10K Novel Writing Challenge for The Daffodil Witch. I soon realized this is just how she rolls: effortlessly dealing with a million things at once, but not dwelling on any of them long enough to let them hold her back. For Kaitlyn, the Challenge was just one more, well, challenge, thrown into the mix. “I tend to dive into everything I do headfirst,” she tells me, “and figure it out as I go.”
Figuring it out as she goes seems about her only option, because Kaitlyn has a lot going on. She works side by side with her father as a junior partner in his food brokerage company. She runs a “party princess” business, dressing up as popular characters for birthday parties and other events. She sews professionally, creating wedding gowns, tuxedos, children’s clothes, and even doll clothes. In the midst of all this, there’s that stubborn house renovation. And still—somehow—Kaitlyn finds the time to crank out superb, award-winning novels.
This is just how Kaitlyn rolls: effortlessly dealing with a million things at once, but not dwelling on any of them long enough to let them hold her back.
“The Daffodil Witch is a young adult fantasy adventure book about a young man named Oliver who wants to become a wizard,” she says. It’s still not done, though. After getting some feedback from a beta reader, Kaitlyn decided to take it in a slightly different direction, but still hopes it will be done by this summer.
In the meantime, Kaitlyn is diving right in to her new Hawthorn Throne series, “a dark, adult fairy tale series, very different from my novel,” she says. The first installment, The Unseelie Prince, has been on shelves since November 2018.
Kaitlyn’s love of writing goes back to childhood, and it all started with an author not at all associated with fantasy. “I credit Jane Austen with teaching me to write,” Kaitlyn tells me. “She is the original and strongest source of inspiration for me. Her writing helped shape me as a person, not just as a writer.”
Austen was such an influence on Kaitlyn that the instructor of her first writing class in college had to intervene. “I remember my professor asking me if I liked Jane Austen,” says Kaitlyn. “When I said yes, she replied with, ‘It shows. Read a little less Austen so you will find your own voice instead of emulating her.’ I will never forget that advice, and even now I still worry that I will accidentally emulate an author if I have their voice in my head when I sit down to write. So I mix it up.”
Kaitlyn became quite prolific as her college years went on. With her laptop full of short stories, poems, and even a novel that was almost complete (“a dark, twisted retelling of Snow White“), Kaitlyn was finding her voice and feeling optimistic about her future as a writer.
“I don’t really have the fear of rejection, and I am not a shy person or an introvert,” she says, “so for me, everything about entering the world of authorship has been fun and exciting and amazing.”
Well, maybe not everything.
What happened next came out of nowhere: Her laptop—which contained all of her work throughout her college years—was completely destroyed (“literally shattered,” according to Kaitlyn) in an unfortunate accident. In a split second, everything was gone. “This was back in the day before the ‘cloud,'” she says, “and I was stupid enough not to have backed it all up on an external hard drive.”
“When I lost everything in college, I definitely felt like quitting—and did quit,” Kaitlyn recalls. “For eight years, I didn’t write anything. I just lost all desire to write and even fell out of reading for a while.” It was during this eight-year period that Kaitlyn forgot she even wanted to be a writer.
Not many people can say that their proudest moment happened on Twitter, but for Kaitlyn, it did. Someone she didn’t even know tweeted about their favorite characters—and one of Kaitlyn’s made the list.
Then, a subscription to the audiobook site Audible lured Kaitlyn back into the literary world, and she began devouring book after book. “When I started reading heavily again in 2016, the urge to write started coming back,” she says. But what to write? While the desire was there, concrete ideas remained elusive.
And then, in February 2018, she says, “inspiration suddenly struck, and I jumped in like I had never left.”
Her sudden inspiration had a lot to do with her discovery of Josh Lanyon, a male/male romance author. “It occurred to me that there was actually an audience for what I wanted to write,” Kaitlyn says. “Stories with queer main characters, stories that normalize queer people in general.”
Indeed, Kaitlyn’s stories speak to people who might not feel totally confident in their identities. “I want to write books that show uncertain queer people that they can be the protagonist, not just the sassy side character or the butt of a joke,” she tells me. “I even run a group on Facebook, a safe place for writers who have queer characters in their books to ask questions about sensitive topics.”
Kaitlyn often thinks about her writing future, and although she doesn’t aspire to be “J.K. Rowling famous,” as she puts it, she does want to be someone’s favorite author someday. “I would love to come across fan art of my characters, or fan fiction written by someone who read my books and fell in love with them,” she says.
Sounds like it’s already happening.
Not many people can say that their proudest moment happened on Twitter, but for Kaitlyn, it did. “Someone I didn’t even know had made a cute, silly list in a tweet called ‘Characters I want to wrap in a blanket and give hot chocolate to,'” she recalls. As Kaitlyn scanned the list, her eyes suddenly stopped in their tracks. “Oliver—my Oliver, from The Daffodil Witch—was on her list. That was a big moment for me. I remember thinking, ‘I’m still writing this book, yet people remember my characters and have developed emotional bonds with them.'”
“I want to inspire people,” Kaitlyn tells me. And I would say that by finding this much success despite life’s many challenges, she’s already doing it.
You can become one of Kaitlyn’s Fans on ChapterBuzz, and connect with her on her blog. The first novella in her dark, adult fantasy series, The Unseelie Prince, is available on Amazon in print and for Kindle.