From his work as a blogger, writer and editor, Kern Carter boasts several titles. None, however, may be so prevalent—in both his life and work—than his role as a single dad. His latest essay on the difficulties and delights of solo parenting was published on Narratively this week.
Kern sat down with Narratively to talk about his writing career, his teenage daughter’s influence on his work, and his new YA novel, Boys and Girls Screaming, which is set to come out in the spring of 2022.
Your piece, “Diary of a Bachelor Who Suddenly Became a Solo Dad to a Teenage Girl” focuses on your family life, with your writing career in the backdrop. How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve always been writing; I wrote my first book when I was in third grade. I would say, though, that it became something serious and professional around my last year of university. That’s when I started writing my first book, and when I figured out about copywriting and ghostwriting as a way to make money writing.
Your piece is about both writing and parenting. I was wondering if you saw a connection between being a good father and being a good writer.
The biggest connection is patience, which is the hardest part of being a parent or a writer. For me, being patient with my writing—extending scenes, giving more details—is just now sinking in. My daughter is a teenager, and I often see her make mistakes that I could easily fix for her, but I know I have to suck it up, be patient, and let her go through it on her own.
What drove you to write about your personal experiences?
To be honest, at first I wasn’t comfortable writing real-life stories about myself. I had my blog, CRY, where I vented about the stress of being a writer and trying to “make it.” That writing came from a really raw, honest place—I was genuinely frustrated by what I was going through. People started reading the blog and connecting with my work, and that made me feel more comfortable writing about myself. Now, I’m able to tell personal stories like “Diary of a Bachelor Who Suddenly Became a Solo Dad to a Teenage Girl.”
Tell me more about your online magazine, CRY. What is it all about, and what are you aiming to achieve with it?
The magazine is focused on the emotional side of writing: How to deal with rejection, how to cope with comparing yourself to other writers, and how to handle not feeling heard. All of those things are important parts of being a writer, but I didn’t see many spaces that would allow people to talk about those emotional aspects of writing. So, the goal with CRY is community building for writers.
Let’s talk about your upcoming novel, Boys and Girls Screaming. What is it about?
Boys and Girls Screaming is about a teenage girl named Ever who goes through some trauma—her father passes away, and her mom gets sick—in order to heal, she forms a group of high schoolers called “Boys and Girls Screaming.” The group meets in her basement and talks about their problems. As these sessions go on, everyone else is making progress but Ever is deteriorating. In the climax, Ever reveals a secret about her family that she’s been holding back for years, and that’s been messing with her mental state. The boys and girls crew then goes on a mission to help her and find out what the secret is all about. The book is a fun, slightly sad adventure, and it’s meant to be light but also culturally relevant and a little painful.
The book seems related, thematically, to your own life as a father. Is there a connection between your daughter and the teenage protagonist of Boys and Girls Screaming?
I’m always thinking about my daughter when I’m writing, but for this book specifically, I used my daughter to develop the characters: their voices, behaviors, and how they interact with each other. There are many descriptions of the characters in their bedrooms because my daughter spends all her time in her bedroom. It was easy for me to find those feelings and connections because my daughter went through similar experiences—we went through them together.
Since you’re such a prolific writer, I’m curious about your writing routine and habits. What advice would you give to a young person who wants to make writing their career?
In developing a routine, it’s important that you give writing the same amount of dedication and attention you’d give anything else you want to be great at. I start my day by creative writing— something I genuinely love to do—because then if something distracts me during the day, I know I’ve already accomplished what I wanted to do. To aspiring writers: Read books on how to write and study each writing niche, like ghostwriting and copywriting. If you want to make money as a writer, you have to be versatile. Learn different forms of writing, even if you’re not into all of them. If you understand marketing, copywriting, SEO, and advertising copy, then you can be involved in all of these things for your own projects as an author.
What are you working on right now, and what’s next for you?
Currently, I’m working on a bigger memoir piece, “My Failures As a Father,” that encapsulates my parenting journey. I’m really excited about it because, like “Diary of a Bachelor Who Suddenly Became a Solo Dad to a Teenage Girl,” it’s personal but also very creative. I’m also working on the “Love and Literature” newsletter where a different author puts out four real-life stories every month. It’s giving back to other writers, and that makes me proud.
A couple months after I got my book deal for Boys and Girls Screaming, my agent called me and wanted to know about my next book. I was like, “What do you mean—this book hasn’t even come out yet!” So I’m starting my next book. I just got my foot in the door. Now is the time.