K.L.O calls himself a “Millennial Author” so it’s only fitting that his new, national reading initiative is #WHATAREYOUREADING? With this social media initiative, the Portland author hopes to build one of the largest, most diverse book reference sources within 30 days. He also recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for his novel 2Empires. WOHM caught up with K.L.O to discuss #WHATAREYOUREADING?, the 2Empires Kickstarter, how literacy is an overlooked issue, and more.
What got you into writing and when did you know you wanted to pursue it as a career?
The obvious answer would be that creative writing were my favorite assignments in school. Other than that…AOL Instant messenger, the rise of texting, and the first version of Facebook status. All of those mediums gave me an instant audience to work with when I was growing up. That’s why I refer to myself as a ” Millennial Author.” That type of writing path was not available to all generations of writers coming up and I think that’s a natural benefit.
According to your bio, you were born in Northern California and raised between Georgia and Oregon. Did moving back and forth between those places influence your writing and if so, how?
Yes, it influences my writing a lot. Every writer’s style is their perspective, whatever it is or however they got it; Anthony Kiedis is chill California, Spike lee is Brooklyn Jazz. My style is a combination of the conversations that I’ve had in those places and many areas in between. I’ve talked to many people from varying backgrounds and lifestyles. I try to bring that out in my writing.
Do you feel as if literacy is an issue that’s not getting enough attention and how do you think social media can be effective in addressing the problem?
It really is an issue, so much so that it gets overlooked. I was in San Francisco waiting on the platform for the Cal Train. There was this girl, as pretty as day, trying to get a ticket. The machine was rejecting her card and she began to get more confused and panicked. Any minute the train was going to come. She looked around and signaled me to come over. I’m thinking “what the hell do I know about fixing machines?” Though I had a sneaky suspicion to what the problem was though. Next to the card reader was a two sentences of instruction to the user on how to enter their card. The girl was there for at least three minutes attempting to force the machine to accept her card, completely neglecting the answer that was an inch away. We swiped the card the correctly; she got a ticket and I came off looking like a machine wizard. Scenarios like that become bigger and more significant the bigger and more significant that they are. Many individuals will have the same disconnect as that pretty girl because like her, they don’t read…they won’t read.
Social media, to me, just means reach and reference. I can get the message to more people quicker and perhaps more effectively. The foundation of the campaign is on the internet, but I’m also out in the streets pushing the same agenda of literacy.
Can you talk about the #WHATAREYOUREADING? campaign and the importance of building book reference sources like the one you’re aiming to create?
Unfortunately, I believe the buildup of words like “campaign” and “initiative” make my goal seem more complicated than it is. The aim is to get everyone, especially those with particular influence in society, to recommend a book to someone who may be paying attention. One of the themes of 2Empires is education through mentors and role models. If you admire Amy Poehler, maybe you benefit from knowing what she is reading to make her so Amy Poehler-ish. I’m on Instagram and Twitter with a sandwich boards asking mothers, snowboarders, educators and more to suggest a book to their followers, simple. It’s been going for about a week and still the reception does not reflect the little effort that participation requires. The novel also uses cultural proverbs as a theme, #WHATAREYOUREADING? references one of my favorites, “reach one, teach one.”
Where do you go/who do you talk to when you’re looking for book recommendations?
Some of my favorite books came from recommendations of people I ask. Usually if I’m finishing reading something and I don’t have another book in mind I’ll get someone to testify on a title they enjoyed. People are often open to share with me what they like. A talk about books quickly turns into conversations about favorite authors.
Can you talk about 2Empires and the Kickstarter campaign?
2Empires is the story of the tipping point of a historical war that ended in defeat for a powerful kingdom. The circumstances that led to this loss is told from the perspective of four people; a warrior, hero, sage, and king. My favorite stories are the ones that gain importance as the days pass after you read it. You closed its covers on Tuesday, but has only gotten better since Friday type of thing. I believe I’ve accomplished that with this novel. I took chances while leaving the perspective intact.
I was finishing up the last pages of the book when a buddy put me onto Kickstarter. I’m in the beginning stages of promoting the novel and added the platform to the schedule. I think crowdsourcing this way is another one of those cool millennial ideas. My pledge goal is $30,651 dollars. For Kickstarter that appears to be an inflated number, but I believe it’s still far less than any adequate budget for publishing. A question I continue to get is “what will happen to the book if I don’t receive the funds?” The answer is I’ll still sell it on a smaller level. The pages are already written the campaign outcome of the campaign doesn’t change that. If I met my pledge successfully it would positively affect schedule and scale of promotion.
What are five books you found particularly influential in your life?
Things Fall Apart, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Catcher in the Rye, The Book of Secrets, The Tipping Point, and 2Empires the Novel…because it’s dope.