Interview with Veronika Kiley
Photo by Charles Krause
How did you become a writer? I’ve always been an avid reader, which evolved sort of naturally into an interest in writing my own stories. In third grade, I wrote an original Christmas story as a gift for my mom. I was new to computers, so rather than using the spacebar, I used the mouse to create the spaces between each word. By sixth grade, inspired by the likes of R.L. Stine, V.C. Andrews, and Christopher Pike, I was writing short stories for critique by my teachers.
As my love for writing grew, so did my desire to do it professionally, which led me to the journalism program at Toronto Metropolitan University. However, with the changing media landscape, a job in journalism was hard to come by. I pivoted to public relations, the flip side of the journalistic coin, which allowed me to write and create professionally. Eventually, though, the desire to create my own stories rose above the press releases and media pitches I was writing daily, which inspired me to write my first novel during the pandemic.
What inspires you to write? I’ve found inspiration in song lyrics, in television shows, in beautiful images. For me, I tend to get simple concepts or questions stuck in my head that I feel compelled to expand upon and explore. For my work in progress, COSMIC GIRLS, the driving narrative question was inspired by an episode from an early season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wherein Buffy briefly dies. It worked out for Buffy in the end, but the episode prompted me to ask: “what would it be like to have a destiny…and lose it?”
How do you develop your plot and characters? I tend to write scenes out of order, inspired by very specific images, themes, or emotions I want to convey. Once I have those building blocks, I write toward them, asking: “what else needs to happen to get the story to this point?”
My cast of characters are usually written to either contrast or complement my main character. If my main character is shy and quiet, I want to surround her with people who feel distinctly different, even if they share some of the same traits. Ultimately, I want to represent a range of traits and personalities so that everyone reading my work can find a character that resonates with them.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer? I spend more time thinking about my characters and story than I do writing. If I haven’t fully realized a scene in my mind first–which usually happens while I’m in the shower or trying to sleep–I find it difficult to sit down and write it out!
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness? My protagonist, Demetra Kalimeris, is confident, proud, generous, and bold–in other words, a total Leo! On the flip side of that Zodiac coin, though, is a bone-deep sense of insecurity that’s always driving her to be better, faster, smarter–which ultimately gets her into trouble.
How does your antagonist create conflict? My antagonists tend to be people who are working toward their own deeply held ideals and ambitions. They’re rarely cruel for the sake of cruelty; they’re all people who believe deeply in an idea and want to see it come to light, even if it’s in direct opposition to the people around them…or humanity as a whole.
What are your current/future projects? I’m currently editing my work in progress, COSMIC GIRLS, which I imagine as a universe unto itself. I also have ideas for several young adult horror stories, which is a space I’ve always wanted to create in.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing? I do most of my writing with Toronto Blue Jays games in the background. The team’s longtime play-by-play announcer, Buck Martinez, provides the soundtrack to most of my work!
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be? I’d tell myself to keep writing! There was a time where I stopped creating for myself and focused solely on my career, which was professionally fulfilling but a little empty on a personal level. Now, I’m writing the stories I’ve always wanted to see in the world.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? I’d tell aspiring writers the same thing: keep writing. Even if you’re writing individual scenes with no overarching story, or fan fiction, or stories you never intend to see the light of day–it all represents the opportunity to practice your craft, develop a personal style, and become a stronger writer.
* What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you? If readers would like to contact me, they can find me on Twitter @veronikakiley!