Kacie Bawiec has been scribbling stories in notebooks since she was in the third grade. And just two weeks ago, the 15-year-old teenager published her first novel, "Silver Dagger."
The fantasy manuscript, which Kacie wrote when she was in the eighth grade, was picked up last year by Tate Publishing, a small, family-owned Christian-based publishing house that specializes in emerging authors.
In its 198 pages, "Silver Dagger" is full of evil spirits, ghostly possession and magical weapons, such as the eponymous blade with its jewel-encrusted hilt, which materializes when Bawiec's characters are enraged. There are a pair of young lovers determined to vanquish the demons, a jaded police officer who gets involved despite his better judgment, children who are less innocent than they seem and two sisters who love each other deeply but can't get along.
Kacie recently took time away from her family (she lives with her mother, father, 9-year-old sister, three cats and a puppy), her studies at Aberdeen High School, where she is enrolled in the Science and Mathematics Academy; and violin practice (she plays in the school orchestra) to discuss the writing life.
How did you come up with the idea for "Silver Dagger"?
I've started tons of books, but this is the first one I've ever finished and sent to a publisher. I started writing in December of 2010 and I finished in September 2011.
I have all kinds of stories that are half typed up, three-quarters done. But then another idea would come into my head, and I'd drop the old book. New stuff is always more exciting than old stuff.
Before I began "Silver Dagger," I'd been reading books by Christopher Pike that had in them death and suicide and the paranormal. I wanted to write about how a decision that one person makes can affect a lot of other people.
I liked writing about Cassandra and Riley [the novel's teenage sweethearts], and I liked the idea of something traumatic happening to Cassandra, which would be the death of her sister, on what was supposed to be a special day for her.
How did you get your novel published?
After I got the book typed up, my mother and I started Googling publishers willing to consider authors younger than 18. Not very many will accept minors, because there are contracts you have to sign. We found two: Tate Publishing and Old Line Publishing.
When we submitted, we were told it would take two or three months before we heard back. But, we got a call that weekend — it was maybe four or five days at most. They said they loved the book and wanted to go ahead and publish it.
I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe they had accepted my book, because they're so selective.
[According to the company website, Tate receives "tens of thousands" of manuscripts a year but accepts only "a single digit percentage" of submissions.]
What was the editing process like?
That was the hardest part. I had to do a lot of rewriting. First, they edited for spelling and grammar, the basic stuff. That took about a month. Then they did developmental editing: the story line and characters. That took another month.
One thing that got added in during editing was the spirits. My editors wanted more about the paranormal to make the story flow better, and to explain what the characters were going through.
Do you base your characters on people — your friends or classmates?
To be honest, my characters almost invent themselves. When I was young, I would write about myself and my friends. When I was a little older, I started changing their names, but they were still me. After a while, it got so that the characters were entirely their own and not based on anyone in real life.
When you're writing, it feels like you're actually inside the character's head. They're talking to you and telling you what to write. You can't control it. It just happens. You kind of become that character. When you're writing, you think what your characters are thinking and you feel what they're feeling.
You sound awfully busy. How do you find time to write?
I don't always have time for writing, and I do miss it sometimes. I wrote "Silver Dagger" while I was in the eighth grade and before high school started, and I had a lot more time then in comparison to what I have now. Every now and then I have characters that I want to write about, and I don't always have time for them, and it bugs me. They take a back seat sometimes.
But someday I would like to write a sequel to "Silver Dagger."
"Silver Dagger" was released Sept. 25 by Tate Publishing. 198 pp. $16 at amazon.com and at tatepublishing.com.