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Supernatural situation



Last modified: Sunday, October 03, 2010
The characters in Kate Kaynak's books may be able to read each others' thoughts, start fires with their minds and mysteriously compel people to do their bidding, but, quite frankly, they've got nothing on Kaynak herself. A mother of twin 5-year-olds and a 3-year-old, and a part-time corporate consultant, Kaynak has just published her first two young adult novels. The third comes out in January, and she recently got a contract for the fourth. Meanwhile, she's working on the rough draft for the fifth book in the series and composing notes for the sixth.

I don't care if she's hooked up to a Starbucks Italian Roast intravenous drip, something does not compute here.

'I've been called a cyborg before,' Kaynak, a fourth-generation writer (her great-grandmother, grandmother and uncle are all published authors), admitted in a telephone interview from her Hopkinton home. 'But really, I do a lot of daydreaming and write myself little Post-it notes all through the day. Then I herd them back to my computer and try to write for two hours every night after the kids are in bed.'

(Luckily, Ms. Perfect - I mean, Ms. Kaynak - couldn't read the thoughts I was thinking about her when she made that statement.)

During those hours of daydreaming and writing, Kaynak, a Yale graduate with a Ph.D. from Rutgers University, inhabits a world filled with angst-ridden teenagers who, in addition to the usual adolescent dramas, are learning to understand and control their special powers.

Kaynak's main character, Maddie Dunn, finds herself plunged into this world after she accidentally kills three malicious teenage boys purely with her mind in the first book in the series, Minder. A mysterious man intervenes in the police investigation and whisks her away to Ganzfield, a training facility for young people with supernatural abilities such as hers.

While other folks outside the Twilight demographic might feel like foreigners in such a world, Kaynak is perfectly at home there. 'There's just something about young adult literature,' Kaynak said. 'Everything is new when you're dealing with a teenage protagonist. There's this great sense of exploration, of endless possibilities, and such emotional intensity.'

Less brooding, perhaps, than Bella, Edward and their clan but equally tortured by their various personal crises, Kaynak's characters are not mere products of her large imagination. She uses components of the leadership course she teaches at business seminars to graph their personalities and assign them believable character traits.

'People are motivated by three things: Wanting to help others, wanting to win and wanting to be right,' said Kaynak, who taught psychology all over the world before settling with her husband in New Hampshire. 'Whenever I plot a new character, I put them on this chart of motivational values . . . it not only tells me what's going to motivate them, but how they're going to talk.'

But if she relies on science and research, Kaynak also conjures raw emotion to create the Ganzfield universe. Where depicting adult dramas - particularly love stories - requires restraint, young romance is inherently passionate and all-consuming. 'Maddie is a 16-year-old with her first love,' Kaynak said. 'It becomes this overwhelming force. In adult fiction, some of this would be over the top, but in this context it's very believable.'

It works for Kaynak's young fans, anyway. The series, published by a small independent publishing house, has made a splash among teenagers since Minder came out in June. The Facebook fan site has more than 1,500 fans, and the books have gotten enthusiastic reviews from book bloggers and reader review sites.

'It's pretty exciting,' said Kaynak, who has forged a strong presence for her books online and obliged her fans by attending a few fantasy conventions. 'The fact that these squiggles on a page have turned into characters . . . and the fact that other people are hanging out with my imaginary friends is incredible to me. It does feel a little bit like alchemy.'

(For more information about Kaynak's books, visit ganzfield.com.)