Building A Legacy

15-year-old Cayla Kluver releases first novel to national distribution

Abi Zimmer, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

At 3am, while most people are sound asleep, perhaps dreaming of faraway kingdoms, independent princesses, and mysterious boys, 15-year-old Cayla Kluver can usually be found wide awake, hunched over a flamingo pink laptop dubbed Philippa, and pounding out the story of a faraway kingdom, an independent princess, and a boy with a mysterious past. Her first novel, Legacy, released April 15 and containing all these plot points, has already been picked up by national distributor Baker and Taylor, and copies of Legacy are now available in such places as New Zealand and Canada as well as libraries across the nation. She has even received fan letters.

But she’s unpretentious about her status of published author. “I’m just kind of normal,” she says, sipping lemonade (with a straw) at Grand Avenue Café.

Legacy was birthed from a video game in which Cayla Kluver grew bored with the plot and took the characters on her own quest. Supported by her family, Cayla Kluver thoroughly outlined the plot and characters before hammering out the details, often talking out different ideas with her family.

“Part of her creative process, we’ve realized, is talking through it,” says her mom, Kimberly Kluver. “She works through everything.”

Cayla Kluver admits that her friends and family might have gotten tired of her obsession. “Someday,” she says, “I’ll have to marry a very tolerant man.”

But Cayla Kluver is convinced that writing is what she wants to do. In nine months, she finished the first draft, and spent the next seven months editing. Eventually, Cayla Kluver was no longer correcting errors, but rearranging sentences arbitrarily. Then she knew Legacy was finished. “It was done once I’d gone over it so many times I thought I’d go crazy,” she says.

After sending out the manuscript, Cayla Kluver couldn’t find a publisher. “People automatically assumed she can’t write,” says Kimberly Kluver, who decided to establish her own publishing company, Forsooth Publishers.

    In the course of drafting, Cayla Kluver saw her writing greatly improve, saying, “My sister said my first draft must have been written in a vacuum because I didn’t include any description or gestures.” Cayla Kluver says it was heavy on dialogue and lacking description because she could see the scene in her head, but would forget to include it on paper.

She believes her strengths are dialogue and character. Her mom backs her up. “She can tell you anything you want about any of the characters, their family, and their past, which adds to the coherence,” says Kimberly Kluver. Some characters may be based on real life people. “Good writers are observant,” says Kimberly Kluver. She would often be reading Cayla Kluver’s draft and pause, suddenly recognizing someone she knew because of a particular characteristic. “But we don’t confirm anything,” Kimberly Kluver jokes.

Cayla Kluver says that extensive reading prepared her for actual writing and character development. Her genre of preference is historical fiction. “Not high fantasy with magic, but based on historical times with a few liberties taken,” she says. “I’m kind of enamored with that time period.”

Cayla Kluver has written some poetry and short stories as well and would like to branch out in more contemporary pieces. “My problem is kind of a lack of experience in limiting what I can do right now,” she says. “History is a little different. I can research that.”

This summer, she’ll graduate from high school early and plans to take a year to promote the book and finish her sequel, Allegiance. Then she’d like to continue studying writing, perhaps in Knoxville, Ill. “There’s still a lot of stuff to learn and develop in,” she says.

    Cayla Kluver will read from her work at 3pm Aug. 7 at the Fall Creek Public Library and sign books at 7pm Aug. 17 at Borders.