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Sandy Journal

Local Author Draws on Experience for Book Series

Aug 03, 2016 09:38AM ● By Kelly Cannon

Karla Jay continues her series with “Speak of the Devil.” —Karla Jay

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]

Sandy, Utah - Karla Jay knew she wanted to be a writer when she was 7 years old. She had read “The Boxcar Children” by Gertrude Warner. She was enraptured by the stories. She would sit at her father’s typewriter, banging out short stories.

“I wanted to make up stories of my own,” Jay said.

In college, Jay took creative writing classes and had professors point out some of her short stores. She wrote for short story contests and screenwriting contests.

However, it was never her career. Karla Jay has been a speech therapist for the past 34 years. She began to write a nonfiction book based on her different experiences in her field.

“It was the weird and strange things that happened,” Jay said. “My book agent told me it would be so much better as fiction.”

She put the stories away for a few years before taking them out again to write “Speaking in Tungs.” The book tells the story of Marleigh Benning, a speech therapist from San Francisco who travels to the town of Tungston in rural Pennsylvania to search for her birth parents.

“I made those funny stories and put it in a different situation,” Jay said. “It’s not the real stories that happened to me but there are little flashes of stuff that happened.”

One example is Marleigh has to help a client who creatively swears after a stroke. There are five quirky clients featured in the book.

The rural Pennsylvania is also based on Jay’s life. Though Tungston is a fictional place, Jay grew up 35 minutes away from the rural area she describes in her book.

“Speaking in Tungs” was recently nominated for a Thurber Award for American Humor. Jay will find out if she won in September.

When writing “Speaking in Tungs,” Jay wasn’t planning on a series. Her character Marleigh plans on spending the summer in Tungston but the first book only covers two weeks.

“My friend said I should write a series and my agent agreed,” Jay said.

Her second book, “Speak of the Devil,” follows Marleigh as she continues working with her clients and continues her relationship with a local fireman. However, the biggest challenge occurs when she inadvertently becomes entangled with a clandestine heroin operation.

Jay is currently working on the yet unnamed third book but doesn’t think the series will go on for more than four or five books.

“I’ll just keep going. People seem to like them,” Jay said. “You want people to like them but when they love them, it’s even better.”

Because Jay has to balance writing and her career as a speech therapist, Jay spends most of her weekends writing. She said she’s not the type who can write for just a half hour a day.

“I have to have a few hours,” Jay said.

However, Jay is always thinking about her writing. She works with word-count goals, either how many words she’s going to write that day or how many she’s going to write that month.

Jay said she encourages other young aspiring writers to keep writing.

“There are so many things I’ve written that will never see the light of day,” Jay said. “The idea was good but the writing wasn’t there yet.”

She also encourages writers to read. She tries to read at least 50 books a year.

“Read stuff people like and see what works,” Jay said.

To learn more about Jay’s work, “Speaking in Tungs,” “Speak of the Devil” and her upcoming book, visit