Arts & Culture / Mosaic / February 16, 2013

Kristen-Paige Madonia discusses successes and failures in publishing

Caxton Club brought Kristen-Paige Madonia to talk about her experiences publishing her first novel, “Fingerprints of You,” Friday, Feb. 15 in the Alumni Room. (Casey Mendoza/TKS)

Caxton Club brought Kristen-Paige Madonia to talk about her experiences publishing her first novel, “Fingerprints of You,” Friday, Feb. 15 in the Alumni Room. (Casey Mendoza/TKS)

“As writers, we spend so much time alone with imaginary people, so it’s nice to be out with real people,” said Kristen-Paige Madonia during her Caxton Club reading on Friday in the Alumni Room of Old Main.

Her novel, “Fingerprints of You,” was recently published by Simon & Schuster. Madonia began writing the novel in 2008 when she was working on another novel. Madonia was sitting in a San Francisco café writing when she saw a mother and daughter, which sparked an interest in Madonia’s mind. Madonia knew there was a story behind the two women.

“The characters just kept haunting me … I remember the two of them, trudging through this world together. I remember the contrast between the intimacy and the competition,” Madonia said.

The mother and daughter would ultimately turn into Stella and Lemon. She began writing about them, which turned into a short story, which ultimately became her novel.

“I was motivated [to keep writing the story] just to give [my character] time to learn. It was my reason to keep on going,” she said.

Madonia was still bothered by the fact that her previous novel, on which she had spent years working, was not receiving recognition.

“I wrote a novel that no one wanted, and [“Fingerprints of You”] kind of saved me in a way. I wasn’t in it for the industry; I was in it for the art. I was writing because I wanted to write the right story. I was writing for the right reason,” she said.

After she finished reading, Madonia invited audience members to ask her questions. Students and professors appeared excited and energetic about Madonia’s writing, and many questions were asked. Madonia talked about her friendship with author Judy Blume, the process of getting published and the fact that the novel was placed in the genre “Young Adult.”

“There’s no real definition of Young Adult,” Madonia said. “But, the book’s gotten more attention because it’s Young Adult. Adults are reading it all the time. I just wanted it in the hands of the people it would have the most impact on. You want your novel to be in the hands of someone who loves it as much as you do.”

Though some authors are sometimes embarrassed or less happy to have their books published as young adult novels, Madonia appeared humble and proud.

“I’m gaining all these new readers because it is Y.A.,” she said. “[The readers] are so passionate and they find you on Facebook and Twitter. They’ll track you down and talk to you and there’s nothing like that.”

Madonia also reached out to Knox’s writers and offered some of her writing secrets.

“I encourage everyone to read out loud. It’s incredible what you’ll catch,” she said. She also talked about her writing process.

“I always start with short stories because it’s so scary to start a novel. I use it as a jumping off point,” she said. Madonia is working on her fourth book now.

She also keeps a journal for each of her books with details about her characters and stories, so she has a good grasp of her stories and characters, being a “character-driven novelist.”

“There are things I have to know so that the characters are authentic. You don’t always have to tell the reader everything. Some things are implied,” she said. Madonia uses the journals as a “safety net” to avoid writers block.

“I’m really inspired by books,” Madonia said. “If I’m stuck, I just read. That’s the best way to fix any situation if you feel stumped. I also like to listen to what I think [my characters] would be listening to.”

“I really enjoyed seeing a young author come and talk about her first experiences out in the real world after writing a book. It was inspirational,” freshman Krishna Kanhai said.

The event seemed to attract many like-minded writers and artists.

“Coming [to the event] gave me some ideas [about my own writing] …  The voice of her character was so dynamic and it was great to listen to, and it was great to listen to her read because it’s a totally different experience,” freshman Niki Acton said.

Madonia appeared to reach out to her audience and inspire aspiring writers.

“I loved listening … to someone who’s not too much older talk about the process, especially the publishing process because that’s the part of writing I’m not too sure about,” junior Ashley Hamilton said.

Kate Mishkin
Kate Mishkin is a senior majoring in English literature and minoring in journalism. She started working for TKS as a freshman and subsequently served as managing editor, co-news editor and co-mosaic editor. Kate is the recipient of four awards from the Illinois College Press Association for news and feature stories and one award from the Associated Collegiate Press. She won the Theodore Hazen Kimble Prize in 2015 and 2014 and the Ida M. Tarbell Prize in Investigate Journalism in 2014. She has interned at FILTER Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and WGIL radio and the Virginian-Pilot.

Twitter: @KateMishkin

Tags:  Caxton Club Fingerprints of You Kirsten-Paige Madonia

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