Kelsey Macke has a passion for writing. But she also has a passion for music, and performs in a band. When her debut novel, Damsel Distressed releases in October – out from Spencer Hill Contemporary – it will be accompanied by a soundtrack of original songs written and performed by the author’s band, Wedding Day Rain, combining prose, technology, drawings, and music.
It all came about thanks to her agent, Jessica Sinsheimer, whom Macke refers to as “some kind of maniacal genius.”
“She is the one who originally suggested that I bring our music into the story of Imogen. From there, we continued to brainstorm and we eventually figured out all of the super cool pieces of our little puzzle,” explained Macke.
Macke’s road to publication began in the spring of 2012, when she first began writing Damsel Distressed.
“I queried and revised for about nine months before signing with my incredible agent. About two months after that, we were in business with Spencer Hill Contemporary and working on the pretty gigantic undertaking of making a book with its own companion soundtrack.”
Damsel Distressed touches on several sensitive topics. Its main character, 17-year-old Imogen Keegan, struggles with obesity, self-harm and an infuriatingly perfect stepsister.
“I have long considered myself an advocate for equality of all kinds, particularly mental health awareness. My work as an educator for young people with emotional and behavioral differences fueled my desire to write a character with significant problems who also has a support system of therapy, medicine, and self-reflection. This book addresses the complexities of living with the stigmas related to being a person with a mental health issue and also body image issues,” said Macke.
Macke said she has always had one goal as a writer: “I hope that a single reader can see his or herself on the pages and know without a shadow of doubt that they’re not alone.”
Though Macke loves getting to combine both her passions – writing and singing – she admits she doesn’t think she would survive doing it for every project.
“Additionally, as a band, it’s important to have freedom to write songs as they come and not necessarily restrict writing to a specific concept. That said, I wouldn’t rule it out. I’m really excited about how new it feels. I don’t actually know if this project is a pioneer, but it’s definitely fresh and I am thrilled.”
Along with writing and band practice, Macke also juggles a full-time job. But she would never dare complain.
“I am so lucky and grateful for the opportunity to create stuff, let alone lots of different kinds of stuff.”
One thing that helps Macke balance everything she does? The support of the OneFour KidLit group.
“I’ve been active in the YA writers community on Twitter for a few years, so I knew that a debut group would be coming eventually. Actually being a part of it, though, and making a tribe of friends who understand every facet of publishing is incredible,” said Macke.
With nine months until Damsel Distressed hits shelves, Macke says the process has been “incredible.”
“It is hard to believe that so many people are willing to work together, just to bring my story to light. I’m so grateful. Every. Single. Day.”
In the meantime, she’s working on a new project.
“I’m working on another contemporary YA about one of my favorite themes: self discovery in the midst of feeling completely misunderstood.”