Faculty Spotlight: Kayla Hults
Woodcrest Christian alumna, middle school English teacher, and recently published author, Kayla Hults (class of 2012) shares her remarkable journey from middle school inspiration to a dream finally come to fruition.
Not many people can say they were inspired in middle school to pursue something that is still a passion in adulthood. While most adults shudder when remembering the tumultuous pre-teen years, Kayla Hults remembers them as the moment her dream began. It was during her eighth grade year at Woodcrest Christian that she wrote the first draft to a novel she would eventually publish fifteen years later. “It’s ironic that I now teach in the same classroom that I sat in for English class as an eighth grader,” Kayla says smiling. With a vivid imagination and the discovery in middle school of a talent and passion for writing, Kayla’s journey has come full circle: from student, to teacher, and now published author.
Kayla discovered her love for writing as a child when she wrote her first book called Kate the Pirate. “My mom had it spiral bound for me, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to have my own official book. I still have a copy of it somewhere!” she says. Reading stories and writing continued for Kayla, and in eighth grade she made up a story about a young girl named Larissa set in a world of different kingdoms with magic gemstones.
“My story was one that I would pick up and work on and then set aside for several years,” she says. “I kept thinking I’d publish it when it’s ready or when I’m ready. But I was never ready, so I kept setting it aside. Eventually, as I continued working on it, the story changed so much. The premise is kind of the same as the original and the same characters remained, but everything else— setting, magic system, and additional characters changed. My story, and myself, needed to mature so that I could publish the right story.”
In November of 2023, Kayla’s 441-page novel, Well of Dreams, was published. In the first week it hit #1 in New Releases on Amazon.com in the Teen & Young Adult Country & Ethnic Fairy Tales & Folklore category. With strong dystopian elements, the book takes readers into a world of ancestral magic following seventeen-year-old Larissa, younger sister Halla, and friends Darien and Anara as they uncover secrets of their past, discover the bonds of sisterhood, and struggle to survive in a world of ruin, wounded and hunted by agents of a villainous empress. Combined with exciting plot twists and rich Nordic lore, the story captivates with adventure and intrigue. Well of Dreams is Kayla’s first book in The Runic Saga, a series of four books and multiple short stories Kayla has planned for the future.
As an avid reader, Kayla’s work has been influenced by both modern works and folkloric legends. She explains, “The whimsical, mythological elements of Percy Jackson, the sisterly bond between Katniss and Prim in The Hunger Games, the runic magic from The Infernal Devices, and the idea of regaining the kingdom one commonwealth at a time from Eragon all inspired my work.
Drawing questions to the reader’s mind, the resulting work is a theme of fate versus free will as characters do things because the Norn are in control and pulling the strings or because they have a say in who they become. “I love how two of the main characters, Larissa and Darien, have been around since the first draft,” Kayla says. “And although it isn’t as evident in the first book, by the end of the series, I’m hoping that my biblical themes will be even more evident. I can’t say what that biblical theme is without giving spoilers for the last book, so I’ll just leave it at that,” she says.
Kayla admits that the entire publication process was a roller coaster of emotions. From hoursof research and hundreds of pages of notes to critique partners, beta readers, developmental editing, copy/ line editing, proofreading, ARC readers, aggregators, and distributors, the process for a first-time self-publisher was overwhelming. “It’s not as simple as ‘here’s my book, let me put it on Amazon,’” she laughs. However, Kayla’s favorite part of the experience was the drafting. “Writing the book is just so enjoyable. Letting the characters grow naturally, responding to reader feedback, and watching the story unfold is just pure enjoyment.”
Over a 15-year span, many have come alongside Kayla to encourage her writing endeavors. She credits her time at Woodcrest Christian for expanding her love of reading, which in turn spurred on her love and knowledge of writing. “Woodcrest Christian taught me that God belongs in everything, even a creative book. He is not just a Bible class entity or a church entity, He is a part of everything in my life. What I write needs to honor Him.” Kayla explains that even in her social media presence and promotion of her book, she takes the lessons learned from her time at Woodcrest Christian to be sure she is representing the Lord well. “Everything I do,” she says, “can and should glorify Him.”
Recently, Kayla says the Lord placed two other self-published authors in her life who greatly supported every step of her publishing journey. “They are both Christian moms, and they have encouraged, motivated, and guided me through the entire self-publishing process while reminding me to keep my focus on glorifying God and not myself,” Kayla says. “Finding a community of writers and supporting other writers changed the game completely for me. I am convinced that God intentionally placed people in my life and in my writing community, and they are the reason why I was encouraged and educated on publishing my book this year.”
At the launch party for Well of Dreams—held befittingly in the Woodcrest Christian library—nearly 100 people gathered to celebrate Kayla’s publishing achievement. Among the strong support of her family, editor, current Woodcrest Christian students, and friends, Kayla above all gave the glory for her success to the Lord. “Christ is the ultimate author. My story pales in comparison to Christ’s story,” she shared at the event. “God has given me both the passion and talent to write, but I need to make sure that I am always returning the glory back to Him or I run the risk of writing becoming my idol.” Kayla went on to encourage young students and aspiring writers by sharing, “If you love writing, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s just a dream. My dream took 15 years to fulfill, and it is 100% worth it!”