Monday, January 30, 2012

THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF KARSTEN KNIGHT, or: Karsten, the Magical Typing Fetus (the Musical)

Hello friends. It’s been a while. Where have I been, you ask?
IN REVISION HELL. (See sophisticated graphic in margin)

But more on that graffiti later. Let’s talk about a conversation with semi-strangers that has happened regularly since I signed a book deal (dramatized for entertainment purposes, fairly authentic to reality).
Enthusiastic Observer: You are so blessed to be published at such a young age!
Me: I feel very blessed.
EO: And on your first try no less!
Me: More like 10 tries and 20 years.
EO: But you’re only 26. [Does quick mental math] Did you start writing as a fetus?
Me: Yes. On an in-utero typewriter.

So with that said, I go on a barely relevant tangent in which I present to you my own disreputable writing history, in timeline format, starting with myself as a prolific fetus.
What this post isn’t:
1) A “Never give up!” blog post (there are enough of those as it is)
2) A patronizing “Look how long it took me!” post (Ew), or
3) Exciting.
What this post is:
1) Me being self-indulgent in what has been a nostalgic month,
2) The result of me discovering a Karsten-sized leaning tower of old neglected manuscripts at my parents’ house, and
3) Me attempting to end the two-month patch of silence on my blog.

KARSTEN KNIGHT: A Literary History

1985: I am born. To quote what Douglas Adams once said about the creation of the universe, my birth “has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
1987: My parents let me pick out my own coat. I pick out a puffy pink one. I overcome my paralyzing fear of grass.
1991: I write my first picture book series, about the adventures of a saucy worm. It has an unintentional obscenity in the title, which my 6-year-old self remains oblivious to. Parents and teachers alike laugh at me.
1993: I discover the unintentionally obscene word from my title scribbled on a bathroom wall. After polling my classmates, I learn the hard way that what I thought was just another word for "cat" is also slang for genitalia.
1994-1996: Inspired by my love of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, I start writing my first “novel,” THE SHAPESHIFTER, about a girl hunted by a shape-shifting demon. It takes 3 years to write 15,000 words, which is how much I sometimes write per week. I learn the ropes about the relationship between authors, agents, and editors, and begin the query process.
1998-2000: After a few years of starting books I’ll never finish, I write FRESH WATER, a story about a waterborne plague that possesses the inhabitants of a seaside Carolina town with the demonic soul of a slain dragon. I meet R.L. Stine and he actually critiques the first chapters for me. Squee.
2000-2001: I write THE SHADOW STAFF, about the first year of a boy in a special island-based archeological school. It was 50% Indiana Jones, 50% Harry Potter, and 97% poop. I go to a writing conference at Bread Loaf in Vermont, where I discover that not only are there lots of other teenage writers out there, but that all of them are more sophisticated and eloquent than I am.
2001-2002: I write ARACHNE, a post-apocalyptic thriller in Earth’s (supposedly) last remaining city. Years later, I will pat myself on the back for anticipating the dystopian/post-apocalyptic craze that will one day sweep YA.
2002-2003: I write AUTUMN TIDES, a spirit- and mythology-based fantasy that takes place in the cornfields of Nebraska.
2003: A week before my 18th birthday, I sign with a NY-based literary agency to represent ARACHNE and AUTUMN TIDES. Both books go on submission to editors at major publishing houses, but ultimately fail to get picked up. I should probably be crushed, but I mostly feel like a baller for being eighteen and having a pile of (albeit rejection) letters from real editors. I go to college.
2004: I write TRIPLE HELIX, a futuristic thriller about DNA manipulation, political coups, and the voices inside of one girl’s head. I am ultimately unhappy with it and dump it into the Realm of Forgotten Novels.
2005: I write SHEPHERD, the only contemporary realism I’ve ever attempted, about a school for troubled children. My agent finds it too similar to Lord of the Flies, which I have (to this day) never read. SHEPHERD agrees to keep TRIPLE HELIX company in the Realm of Forgotten Novels.
2006: I write GRIMALKIN, a novel based on Etruscan mythology about a boy being hunted by his own great-great-great-(insert seventeen more greats) grandfather. It will soon join the others in the RFN. My agent suggests that I have an inner adult fantasy/sci-fi author struggling to escape, and I should try my hand at writing for an older audience, which leads us to—
2007: I write PATCHWORK, an adult novel that was sort of like the bastard child of Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, only with murder. After I finished it, I realized that I’d basically written a YA novel with an adult protagonist (if that makes any sense), and that my heart just wasn’t in adult literature. Into the RFN it goes.
2007-2009: I dissolve the contract with my first agent. I get a big-person job. I get another big-person job. I don’t write a single word for two years.
2009-2010: I enroll in grad school. I start writing a book about a Polynesian volcano goddess reincarnated in the body of a sixteen-year-old girl. I call it a lot of things, but ultimately settle on WILDEFIRE.
2010: WILDEFIRE sells to Courtney Bongiolatti at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, and I sign with Mary Kole from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
2011: WILDEFIRE comes out. Simon & Schuster buys its sequels, EMBERS & ECHOES (2012) and AFTERGLOW (2013). I start writing (another) book codenamed PATCHWORK that bears zero resemblance to the eponymous novel I wrote in college. It is my favorite thing I’ve ever written, but it’s one of those projects that keeps morphing into something else (and something better). So by 2012…
Present Day: Working on the 4th Draft of PATCHWORK and continuing progress on AFTERGLOW. Overindulging in blog posts chronicling my writing history. Using MS Paint to create graffiti art for said blog posts. No longer a fetus; must still closely resemble one considering how frequently I'm carded at the pub.


  1. That was actually pretty fascinating. I'm jealous of all your rejection letters. At least you went for it!

  2. I'm super excited to hear more about PATCHWORK. Hope you have some news to share soon. :-)

  3. Your writing history certainly sounds better than a lot of folks--more proactive at the very least. I spent ten years avidly studying to be a lawyer...only to go to a mock trial and pass out from the stress of talking in front of a 'real jury'. Writing kind of came after I got over the fact I wasn't going to be an awesome lawyer (which was only two years ago -.-;;)

  4. I think you should really look into this whole graffiti business. You could go pro.

  5. Isn't amazing that people are sure that your signing to a book deal is an overnight success moment?

  6. What's this word you thought was another word for "cat," but is a euphemism for genitalia? I can't even think what it could be.

  7. The Realm of Forgotten Novels sounds like kind of a cool place. I am picturing an endless corridor lined with shelves jammed with books that are crying out "read me, read me". Fun post. I can't believe how much you have written in ten years. I find it impossible to stop fussing with the same one novel and move on to something else. Anyway- good luck with all your works in progress!

  8. I'm a bit envious of you. We're the same age, but i'm pretty sure your RFN is a lot bigger than mine... And also, that whole published thing.

    Glad to see you back, Karsten. We've missed you <3

  9. Secretly reading this during my AP English class where I'm supposed to be blogging about rhetoric and such on current events isn't a good idea. Because I start laughing, and then have to cover my ass saying I'm that amused by politics... whoops...

    Now, if only I found some way to actually FINISH a damn story...