Interview with Author Kari Loya

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I have spent nearly three decades in education, starting my career in a bilingual 1st and 2nd grade classroom in Los Angeles as part of Teach For America, and most recently running a private school in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I have managed to have a parallel career in entertainment – recording voiceovers in both English and Spanish for everything from commercials and corporate videos to network promos and video games.

I have kept a journal since college – I have found that helpful to clarify how I think and feel. My first major writing project was a unique way to celebrate my upcoming 40th birthday. I spent that year writing down my favorite stories I’d shared over the years with friends and family, and most of that writing I did on my daily train commute into and out of New York City. It helped turn the worst part of my day into my favorite part of the day! The result was my first book: My Top 40 at 40: Making the First Half Count (A Modern Man’s Story Collection).

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

My dad and I biked across the country along the TransAmerica Bike Trail in 2015, something we’d dreamed about for several decades. He was 75-years-old at the time and had early-stage Alzheimer’s. Since I had done other shorter bike adventures in the past, I knew that the most interesting thing for me about bike travel was the people that came up to us along the route. With that in mind, I made a point of transcribing all the conversations we had with people along the way and asked if I could take their photo. I figured it would make a really cool coffee table book. It was only after the trip that I realized there was a much bigger story to tell – the father and son story, the story of facing Alzheimer’s, and the story of adventure – could we even pull this off?

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope readers reflect on their own relationship with their father and their children – and on what really matters to them.

I hope readers gain a better sense of the Alzheimer’s journey – more than six million Americans have Alzheimer’s – and develop helpful perspectives for navigating through the difficult terrain.

I hope readers appreciate the diversity and generosity of the American people, especially across Rural America. We have a lot more in common than social media and media would make us think.

Most importantly, I hope readers will feel inspired to seize the day with someone they love – whatever that means to them.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I wasn’t thinking about genre. I simply wanted to share what happened in the hopes that this might be helpful to others.

5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

This is still to be determined. I haven’t historically been active on social media. To be blunt, I’d rather be outside exploring, creating, and connecting deeply with others than posting, swiping, and counting “Likes.” That said, I am beginning to use in a limited fashion LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m treating them like my car. I love my car, especially for road trips. But in a perfect world, I’d probably walk and bike most places and rarely be in the car!

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Keep a journal regularly and write about anything that captures your fancy. I find the most interesting things to write about are often the extremes – whatever has you really excited, and whatever has you really pissed. At least that’s a great starting point! The let your curiosity guide you.

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7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

As part of a creative sabbatical, I have also undertaken a musical journey, systematically building my skills and releasing 40 songs since 2020. It’s a really fun way to synthesize life experiences, observations, and ideas in a three-minute story. As for genres, I’m all over the map – unabashedly eclectic – but most of my music falls into what you might hear if Keith Haring, Dr. Seuss, and Ricky Martin formed a band 😊

I am also building an executive coaching practice, helping people get from Point A to Point B, whatever that means to them. And if the right opportunity to lead another school or educational organization comes along, I’ll seize it – I love being part of learning communities.

About the Author

Kari Loya is an educational leader, storyteller, and adventurer. He has worked nearly three decades at a range of innovative educational institutions, beginning with Teach For America in 1993 and serving most recently as headmaster at the Good Hope Country Day School in the U.S. Virgin Islands, when he received a Klingenstein Fellowship from Columbia University. He is also an Emmy-winning bilingual voice talent, musical artist, and author. He spoke at TEDx UC Davis in April 2022 on the theme of “Metamorphosis.” He holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Columbia University. He currently lives with his wife and daughter in Sugar Land, Texas.

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