Character Focus: Kayla Falk

Today, I would like to give you a brief introduction to the main character of The Azrael Initiative, Kayla Falk. At the beginning of the story, Kayla is finishing her last year as an engineering student at South Dakota State University. Like many people at that stage of life, she is trying to figure out what kind of career to pursue and where she wants her life to go. Highly intelligent, Kayla is an excellent planner and has a talent for thinking her way through tricky situations. She cares very deeply about her family and her best friend, Olivia Bellamy. It is this passion that drives many of her actions throughout the story.

The inspiration for the character of Kayla Falk came from a number of sources. Ever since I thought of the story idea, I’ve known that The Azrael Initiative would feature a female lead. I always enjoy a strong female protagonist and women tend to be underrepresented in thrillers of this kind. Part of Kayla’s background is derived from the experiences of my sister and myself as engineering students at SDSU. I wanted to start the story in a place where many readers could identify with the main character. From there, I wanted to explore what it would take to turn a typical young woman into a motivated and skilled terrorist hunter. What skills would she need to learn? How would she get pushed to blur and cross moral lines?

There are a few elements that Kayla has in common with characters from other works. Like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, Kayla is clever and quick to think her way out of a dilemma. Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider video game series is another character who is pushed toward violence by circumstance and tragedy. In the Throne of Glass series by Sarah Maas, Celaena Sardothien is a badass assassin who struggles with the morality of the life into which she’s fallen. If any of those sound like characters you do or would enjoy, I expect that Kayla will be another character you will like. I hope you enjoy following her journey when you read The Azrael Initiative.

Reflections on the Chicago Writing Workshop

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Chicago Writing Workshop. Despite being just a single day event, it was packed with great sessions on several topics of interest to me. I learned a lot from the speakers to whom I listened and was even able to pitch an agent on my first novel, The Azrael Initiative. As my first time attending a writing conference such as this, I found it to be a very rewarding experience.

The first session that I attended, a presentation by Chuck Sambuchino on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, was quite timely for me. This has been a debate I’ve been having in my head for a while, as I’ve thought about how best to bring my novel to market. I’ll save the discussion of my personal thoughts on this matter for another time, however, this presentation did an excellent job of laying out the pros, cons, challenges, and opportunities of each option. Self-published authors get to keep more of the income from their sales and have the benefit of complete control over the editing, marketing, and selling of their books. However, they are then responsible for handling each of those aspects on their own. In traditional publishing, on the other hand, an author gives up a greater portion of his or her earnings, along with some control, in exchange for a team of editors, artists, and publicists provided by the publisher. As I am still somewhat on the fence, I have settled on pursuing the traditional route for now, while still building my own audience and doing my own marketing. If the traditional path does not work out or if my audience gets large enough, I can always change course toward self-publishing later.

Next, there was a session on agents and query letters, again led by Chuck Sambuchino. However, while I got some great information out of this talk, I missed a large chunk of it due to a pitching session. My pitch was scheduled with agent Alice Speilburg of Speilburg Literary Agency and it went very well! She seemed quite interested in my novel and requested to see the first three chapters. I have been editing those pages this week so that I can send them off over the weekend. I’m very excited that my first pitch ever went so well and I look forward to seeing where things go from here.

After lunch, there was a first page critique session with a panel of agents. At the beginning of the conference, each author could submit the first page of his or her novel. During this critique session, the moderator, Jessica Bell, randomly drew from the collection of pages and read the each selection aloud. As a page was being read, agents would raise their hands whenever they would have stopped reading. Once five agents had raised their hands, the moderator would stop reading and the panel would provide feedback. It was an intense, rapid-fire way of providing advice. I didn’t know whether to be afraid or hopeful that my submission would be picked. While my own first page ultimately escaped judgment, I did pick up some great ideas to implement in my writing to make it more engaging.

In the second to last session that I attended, Lori Rader-Day provided some tips for revising, editing, and proofreading. Since I am currently in the midst of fine-tuning my novel, I found this to be incredibly useful. Already, I’ve been able to apply some of the lessons learned. It was also fun to hear about her own experience as an author working within the traditional publishing structure. Hearing a firsthand account has helped to provide perspective as I consider my own publishing path.

Finally, Chuck gave a presentation on Ten Keys to Writing Success. The main focus was on the things writers can control to give themselves the best shot at achieving their goals. As a new author, I found these tips to be inspiring and helpful.

Ultimately, I had a wonderful experience at the Chicago Writing Workshop. I left with a wealth of fresh knowledge, some new friends, and an agent’s request to see the first part of my novel. I can’t wait to put all of what I learned into practice. I will definitely be attending more conferences such as this when I can. Before the workshop, I was excited to get into writing and I am now more eager than ever to take this journey.


Welcome to K Hanson Books, the official website for new author K Hanson! Here, you can keep up with K’s writing journey. His current project and first novel is The Azrael Initiative. Check it out and, if you enjoy the synopsis, please share it with your friends. To stay updated, visit the social media links to the right to get all of the latest news.