Originally Published: April 1, 2008 8:58 p.m.
Kristen Kauffman, like many 23-year-olds, is balancing her job with college classes. Promoting her recently published novel also takes its toll on her free time.
Kauffman spent a year and a half writing the novel "Just Pretend," and two years looking for a publisher. She said the novel is about an actor with deep-seated insecurities who realizes he has spent a lifetime being other people and tries to discover himself.
"The publishing was the most challenging part of the whole process," Kauffman said. "All the big publishing houses required that you have an agent, and the agents know that you need them, so they play hard to get. I finally found a publisher that didn't require an agent - Publish America - and they also let me have a lot of creative control over my work."
Kauffman said that Publish America, a Baltimore-based publishing company, publishes far fewer copies of the books it signs than a traditional publisher would, and tends to handle its sales online or at select retailers.
"Writing has always been a passion of mine," Kauffman said. "Since I was 5, I wrote. I was writing a lot of the novel in college, scribbling away during geology class. When it comes to writing, people would always ask, 'What else are you gonna do?' I decided then that this is what I'm doing to do, not something else - I was going to write."
Kauffman went to Mesa Community College, where she received two associate's degrees. She and her family moved to Prescott two years ago, and she began working at Barnes and Noble at the Gateway Mall.
"My grandparents lived in Prescott, and we'd visit here all the time," Kauffman said. "We were really excited about living here. I've been really busy ever since - working, promoting the novel and teaching classes at Yavapai College."
Kauffman has done book signings at Barnes and Noble, Hastings and Cuppers coffee shop in the tri-city area. She is teaching a class called "Unleash the Writer Within" in which she helps other authors "find their artistic voice" and navigate the path to finishing and publishing their own works.
"I had a lot of inspiration from literature classes in college. They introduced me to a lot of the classics - works that inspired me and helped me find my own style," Kauffman said. "I like character-driven fiction, with strong dialogue that helps flesh out the characters' depth. That's what I gravitate toward and that's what I try to write."
Working at a bookstore has been a valuable experience for Kauffman, she said. It has taught her about the business of book publishing and popular trends in literature - and the employee discount doesn't hurt, either.
"I'm constantly reading, and I'm always looking for inspiration," Kauffman said. "I get inspiration from books, from people I meet, from dreams. It's all of a combination of creativity, imagination and life experience that shapes my writing."
Kauffman is working on three different novels now, and keeping up with the whirlwind schedule of booksigning and marketing "Just Pretend."
"Sometimes when I'm showing people the fiction section and they see my novel, I'll admit I'm the author," Kauffman said. "Other times I'll get all dorky and embarrassed, and not say anything. I'm still getting used to the reality of it all."
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