by Morgan Hawk
K.M. Walton crackled with energy as she discussed her passions with a classroom of graduate students at Rosemont College on September 16. Already an author of two published books, Cracked and Empty, Walton has many more she is eager to see published, one of which is currently in the works. Although Walton is unable to reveal much about her next story, she is very excited about the novel, an adapted version of a fan’s personal story. Walton was surprised to sell her book quickly based on a one-page summary.
With a lot of ground to cover rapidly, Walton spent her morning before visiting students writing 11 pages for her new book. For Walton, a normal work day starts with checking her social media before beginning to write. But when Walton is on a deadline like she is now, she puts off the social media until she has finished writing for the day. Facebook is a sneaky wormhole for everyone.
Walton began writing while teaching sixth grade. She realized she had always been a writer; it just took some time to realize. “The first day it just flew out of me, and I wrote 12 pages,” she revealed. After finishing her book, Walton received 148 rejection letters before finding an agent, and two months later had a book deal with Simon & Schuster. She now writes full-time, and it was a terrifying leap for her. “Teaching was my favorite thing besides being a mom. I went in with wings every day,” explained Walton. She loved the challenges of middle schoolers because of the attitudes they were trying out. Now Walton speaks at schools against bullying for her Kindness Matters campaign.
There is evidence for her platform of anti-bullying in both of her books, and the students at Rosemont had a lot to discuss with Walton after reading Cracked. She explained that the idea for alternating perspectives came after attending a SCWBI conference, and started with a simple bulleted list that she still has. The voices of each of the two teenage boys are very distinct, and it was during her second draft, once she had a real sense of her two characters, that she was able to do this. For Walton, her characters become real people. She yells at them, cries for them, wonders about their futures, and wants them to be happy. When asked which of the two boys is her favorite, Walton pleaded for each. “I love those boys equally. Picking a favorite is like picking between my own two sons.”
The group also discussed the acceptance of upsetting endings and rough situations in young adult books. Walton believes young adults are more accepting of the harsher realities because the readers are more open and haven’t learned to be afraid of the world yet. There are definitely some tough situations to bear in Cracked, and Walton confessed that even reading it over 100 times, she still cries.
Walton is never afraid of writing the truth, whether it is bright or dark. However, what she is hoping for with each story is to teach children to look past the labels. To see this at work, take a day to read Cracked or Empty. I promise you it won’t take any longer, because you will not put it down until the last page is turned. Even after, the voices of the characters will still be echoing in your head, as you too become concerned about their lives and future happiness.