Last week on our Facebook page, Center staffer, Katie shared a book review of Knoxville Central High School alum, Dan Kilday's debut middle school novel, Molly Warner: School Reporter. Dan was gracious enough to answer a few questions about his brand-new release! Read what he has to say about his connection to Knoxville and what the future holds for Molly Warner: School Reporter (now available on Amazon)!
How did Molly come to be? Where did you get the idea to write her story?
A handful of years ago, I had the idea to write a book targeted to adults about a reporter who gets in a little too deep with a story. For some reason, I just couldn't make it work. I had a hard time getting characters from point A to point B and it got to a point where I wadded it all up and threw it away. Flash forward a few years, and I have a 10 year old daughter who loves to read. I decided I wanted to write something for her and I revisited that reporter story. Only now, I wrote her as a sixth grader and my target audience was sixth graders. This time, it worked! It made more sense as a middle grade novel and the ideas just started pouring out of me. I was a machine with putting the pieces together and, this time, it all fit into place.
There are several realistic journalist “tips” throughout the book. Talk a little about why you included that side in your story.
I come from a journalism background. I started my career as a news anchor and reporter on local television and bounced around the US to different local markets doing both news and sports. Now that I'm out of the business, I'm still very picky about how reporters deliver the news. Social media has truly changed everything related to journalism because we can literally take in information about something that is happening right now! The consequences have been both positive and negative. The positive side is obviously that we get our information faster. The negative is that faster isn't always accurate. It's led to a lot of speculation, instead of actual reporting. "I'm hearing this is happening," safeguards reporters from admonishment when it turns out that what they were hearing was 100% false. It's frustrating as a consumer to not know what is accurate and what is fabrication. In my opinion, it's the number one reason why distrust in our media is at an all-time high. Freedom of the press is being called into question. When that happens, it aids in the corruption of our institutions. I wanted to write a book that addressed some of these issues in a kid-friendly way. My hope is that young readers will be inspired to become journalists. We need more good ones out there.
Throughout the book, a lot of Easter Eggs appear. Any Gresham Middle or Central High alum will be able to spot some nods to the schools. Tell us about the process of adding those in.
I guess you write what you know, right? As I wrote the story, I had a mental picture of what the school grounds looked like, and it was Gresham! When Molly is walking down the hallway, I'm seeing the old halls of the 6th and 7th grade wing inside my old middle school on the hill behind the Fountain City duck pond (I still refuse to call it Fountain City Lake). "The Scratching Post," was the name of Central's school newspaper that I was a part of in high school. It just felt right that Molly should write for a newspaper with the same name. It wasn't necessarily intentional at first. But it became fun to add some of those elements into the story as I wrote it.
What has been the most challenging part of writing your first novel?
The easy answer here is "finding time to write it." All of us are busy. I'm a full-time dad with a full-time job. I'm currently coaching three different basketball teams for three different age groups, which means three practices and three games every single week. I have one kid in guitar and another one playing hockey. My wife, Liz, and I are constantly driving all over Austin for these kids. It's very easy to say, "I just don't have time for something like that." But, I still somehow keep up with my favorite TV shows. I still squeeze in a trip to the movies with the family every now and then. I'm able to exercise and watch football on the weekends. My point is, if you enjoy something enough, you'll find time for it. This was something that I really enjoyed! It was fun to write and the response to it has been amazing. I'm so excited for everyone to meet Molly!
Can we expect to see more of Molly?
I will slyly say that the wheels are in motion for that, yes.