Lakeland romance writer’s self publishing journey across the globe

Photo courtesy of Kayla Tirrell | Tirrell at a local author event at Pressed Books & Coffee.

Dylan Olive
The Southern Editor

Growing up, Kayla Tirrell fell in love with reading because of scary books, specifically R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” series. Flash forward to the future: she is now a published romance novelist, hearing responses from readers as far away as Iran.

The decision to start writing books came later in Tirrell’s life. Married for 16 years with three children, she has led a family-oriented life in Lakeland, raising her kids as a stay-at-home mom before taking on her current role as an administrative assistant at Lakeland Christian School. 

After being an avid reader and lover of the horror genre, she stopped reading entirely at one point. Rediscovering her love for reading 10 years ago, Tirrell dived into general literature, reading books of various genres at a rapid pace while her baby at the time took naps.

Reading young adult novel series such as “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight” and “Divergent” that contained romantic themes alongside dystopian ones is how Tirrell discovered her interest in the romance genre.

“As I started reading more books and kind of reading across genres, I realized that I wasn’t really enjoying the books that didn’t have a romantic subplot or even romance as a major plot point,” Tirrell said. “As I kind of discovered what I really enjoyed, that’s kind of where I started to gravitate. So that’s what I was reading, and that’s what I was wanting to write.”

Part of why Tirrell loves romances is due to their predictability: the happily ever after. She said that she has noticed people struggling with depression, anxiety, and other conditions that they love romances because they don’t have to ask, “Are they going to be okay?” — in the end, you know they will end up together.

Reading books in such a quick turnaround, Tirrell found herself saying “I wish there were more books; I wish that I could write my own book.” A friend who’s a published author told her she should try it, and after joining online writing groups and researching the publishing landscape, Tirrell decided she would.

After several months of writing, “All The Things We Lost” was completed, and June 2017 marked Tirrell’s first self-published book release. Authors frequently say their first book has a lot of themselves in it because of the saying “write what you know,” and for Tirrell, that was no exception. 

One of the main characters in the story is in a sorrowful state, finding herself back in her hometown after her mom passed away. In real life, 12 years ago, Tirell’s mother did pass away — writing the book allowed her to work through her grief.

“For a long, long time, I was really homesick for the place where I spent my elementary years, and that was Idaho. So I wanted to write a character who was dealing with this grief, kind of going back to the safe place where she spent her childhood,” Tirrell said. “I’m not exactly the same as my main character in that book but I think that was just a great way to release some of those emotions that I was struggling with.”

Tirrell said she “would definitely not publish it today.” Since her first release, she has published an additional 13 books in the young adult and romance genre. That number is because Tirrell decides to self-publish, which she’s deemed convenient — a book’s writing, editing, cover design, formatting and marketing are all reliant on the author if they self-publish, but the process can be significantly quicker than traditional publishing.

Tirrell says that releasing books and then hearing audience reactions and reviews to them is incredible. A fan from Iran reached out to her, sending a picture of the dedication in one of her books written on a chalkboard because the fan was so inspired by it that she wanted to have it there. The two of them still keep in contact today. 

“That was a little mind-blowing to me,” Tirrell said. “To know that somebody on the other side of the world was reading my book — that they actually liked it and were inspired by it…it was just something I never expected, especially as a self-published author.”

Currently, Tirrell is amidst the process of going the traditional publishing route, making edits for a novel she submitted to a publishing house. She hopes this novel will get accepted, and she is also about to start querying another completed manuscript. Having a few traditionally published books under her belt within the next 10 years is what Tirrell aspires for. 


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