In the classrooms of Purdue University’s English department, students learn to master plot, character development and voice in their works.
Kailey Davenport came to Purdue for this exact reason. The 19-year-old Edinburgh native wants to write novels when she graduates, taking after her favorite authors such as J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins.
And with one novel published and another in the works, she’s already ahead of her classmates.
“It’s surprising for other people. A lot of friends I’ve made in creative writing are surprised that I’d put forth the effort to do that when I’m only 19. But I’m surrounded by people who love to do what I do now. It’s a good place to be,” she said.
The Davenport File
Family: Parents Cheryl Moran and Doug Davenport; siblings Ben Davenport, 21, and Maggie Davenport, 14
Education: Graduated in 2012 from Franklin Community High School; currently attending Purdue University
Future plans: Majoring in creative writing, with a possible double major in graphic design
Favorite authors: J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins
How to buy “Seraph”: Email Davenport at firstname.lastname@example.org; copies cost $15.
Davenport’s first novel, “Seraph,” is the first book of the “Everlast” series, a fantasy trilogy. In it, she has envisioned a world in which angels and evil forces work among everyday people, and navigating those perils is combined with surviving high school.
The experience has exposed her to the rigors of professional publishing and has taught her how to take the ideas bouncing around her head and put them to paper.
“You have to make sure that even if something seems awful when you’re putting it down, you keep going. It’s really important to keep writing every day,” she said.
“Seraph” is based around a mysterious 17-year-old character known as Olivia Tyler, who comes from a dark background that the readers aren’t initially aware of. The book opens with her on the run, having to hide out in a high school.
Davenport’s story poses two main conflicts for Olivia — the challenge of breaking into a new community and school in a small town, as well as avoiding the larger evil pursuing her.
“It’s all about her coming to terms to what she is in an environment she’s never been in before, trying to be someone that she’s not,” Davenport said.
Davenport has been a voracious reader since she was a child, going through piles of stories in every genre, from adventure to science fiction and fantasy. When the Harry Potter books came out when she was in elementary school, she was smitten by the way words could come together to paint a vivid, captivating picture and make you care about the people in the story.
“I really think the magic behind the story and what that did for me as a kid made me fall in love with writing,” she said.
Her fifth-grade teacher at Creekside Elementary School, Julie Hart, first encouraged her to sit down and put her thoughts on paper. That was the first time she tried writing herself.
From that point, her interest blossomed.
Davenport spent years working on her writing voice and developing characters. Using authors such as Rowling and Collins as inspiration, she tried to mimic story development and technique. As she read, she tried to pick up whatever she could.
Before her junior year of high school, she helped lead a team of five students to write “Common Ground,” a book aimed at helping children and teenagers deal with everyday challenges they face at school and home.
The book was intended to honor a former Franklin student, Daniel Mercer, who died of a brain tumor in 2006.
“Her writing reflects the talents of someone much more experienced. She has a very clear vision of what she wants to create and the willingness to work until her writing mirrors her vision,” said Jeff Mercer, Daniel’s father and executive director of finance for Franklin schools.
The idea for “Seraph,” and the rest of the “Everlast” series, came to Davenport while she was at church camp. While attending the camp the summer before her freshman year at Franklin Community High School, she became fascinated by the concept of angels. A lesson on seraphs, a hierarchy of angels, stuck in her mind.
She had the first few chapters written that summer, but the project tailed off when school work and high school athletics intervened. When she was inspired with a new idea, she’d add it to the notes she had started.
By the time she was a senior in high school, Davenport was ready to put the entire book together as one. Working with Mercer and her high school administrators, she was allowed to substitute an independent study into her class schedule that allowed her to focus entirely on writing.
Writing the first draft took almost all of her senior year, from August until May. Throughout the process her mother, Cheryl Moran, and a teacher, Christina Poparad, helped edit and put final revisions on it.
“Kailey is an exceptional story teller; she weaves an exciting tale that is accessible to any reader. She’s very aware of the detail work in her stories and remembers that it’s the small things that truly make an incredible story,” Poparad said.
The book was finished in the fall and printed through the Indiana Business Journal’s book publishing division. She had an existing relationship with the company after working with it on “Common Ground,” so it was easy to get back in contact with the publisher.
“Seraph” has been on sale for about a month. So far, sales have been modest, with mostly friends and family purchasing the novel. Those who have read it have given it good reviews.
“I love this story. She has successfully found the balance between leaving the reader on the edge of their seat trying to figure out the mysteries of her story and creating too much confusion that you just want to put the book down,” Poparad said. “It’s a very fine line that she walks with the mastery I would expect from a veteran author.”
The experience has been strange for Davenport, who is dealing with the fact that the story she kept private for so long is finally out in the public eye.
“For so long, I didn’t let anyone read it, and now everyone wants to talk to me about it. But it’s been cool,” she said.
Davenport already has the second entry in the Everlast series mapped out, and she plans to start writing it this year. She also has a rough idea on the overall arc of the series and how it will end in the third book. But she understands that some tweaking will be needed.
“It’s a little bit harder to find time to write at Purdue than it was here. But I hope to have at least the second (book) done by the middle of my sophomore year,” she said.