Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Author Interview: Kristi Strong

Can you tell us a little bit about your books?  
I have one stand-alone series (all the books tie together, but can be read individually or out of order) which are NA but older YA appropriate (I suggest 16 up) and 1 YA contemporary. The overwhelming theme that is found in my books is to challenge destiny, pushing against what society thinks you should become because of your family or your past and really striving to create the future, and the world, that you want. 
In the Land of Kaldalangra series, you are introduced to Rhea, a woman from Virginia who is kidnapped and taken to the realm of Kaldalangra, a place where lost objects from our world tend to turn up. This land is ruled by a King who hates everything and everyone who doesn't give him pleasure, and is filled with mysteries, secrets, and people who are not who they seem to be.
Finding Keepers tells the story of 16-year-old Alyssa Doe, a girl who entered the foster care system at age ten, when her mother dropped her off at school and then never came back. She is now placed with her newest "keeper", and can't help but wonder when the ball is going to drop, because why on earth would a twenty-five year old want to adopt a teenager? She doesn't know that her newest guardian has her own secrets, and her own reasons for taking in a girl who has all but given up on her future.

Do you remember the title of the first story you wrote?
I believe it was "The Magic Vegetable Garden". It was about, wait for it, a vegetable garden that was magic. I wrote it in 4th grade and it was all about a vegetable garden that came alive at night.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? 
I usually only get to write during my lunch break and on the rare day off when the kiddo is in preschool, so I usually jot down plot ideas, dialogue lines, and sentences of books in a notebook whenever inspiration strikes, then feverishly get it down in type when I have the rare chance. When that happens, it's typically with me in jeans and my JMU sweater, hair in a pony tail, snacks and drinks on my desk, and some inspirational music in the background.

Where do you find inspiration? 
I like to think about the "whats" and "whys" of people. What is their deeper story, why do they act the way they do? Finding Keepers was supposed to just be a one paragraph backstory for a NA novel that I was working on which quickly took on a life of its own and turned into the YA novel. When I starting writing The Lady of Steinbrekka, the characters had completely different roles, but when I started looking into "why" they might be motivated to do what they were doing, the story took a different direction. People are so rarely showing all of who they are to the world, and I love the deeper stories!

What have you learned about publishing that you didn’t know about when you first started writing?
That it's just as much about you as an author as it is about the books, especially if you are self-publishing. My first year, I didn't treat it as a professional. I enjoyed my books but never imagined it would turn into a career, or that others outside of my family would read them. Then The Lady of Steinbrekka was picked up by a high school to be used during a book competition, and suddenly I had a school district purchasing copies of my book and featuring it! I went from having my grandpa telling me he liked my book, to teenagers I had never met emailing me to ask if I could come speak with their class and purchasing the rest of the series. I'm going on year 4 of being self-published now, and finally working on branding "me", instead of only focusing on my books, something I wish I had realized much earlier.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  
My other creative outlet is to crochet, and I love to make all sorts of things, from blankets and hats to stuffed animals or the roses that I brought to Utopya2015. I also have a full-time job and a family, so between work, laundry, dinner, playtime, bedtime, etc. there's quite a bit going on!

Can you tell us about your future projects?  
Right now I'm working on the NA/Adult companion novel to Finding Keepers. It's actually the original book which started Alyssa's story, except it is now almost completely different than the first concept. It has turned from a story of falling to pieces and being strong despite being alone, to a story about falling to pieces and trusting the people who love you to help put you back together.  Alyssa, Caleb, and Brianna are back and better than ever.

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