Monday, October 20, 2014
Hot Coco: Interview with Author Krysten Lindsay Hager
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I always knew I wanted to be a write creatively, but I started out in journalism. I began doing TV internships and worked at newspapers. I did everything from consumer reporting to sports to entertainment to hard news. What I love about journalism is that every day there was something new to learn and I loved interviewing people. I’m very curious about people and the world, which is why I love interviewing people and learning about new things. I got the opportunity to write a column which let me be more creative and people started to take notice of my work. I realized that the creative side of writing was my passion even though I truly enjoyed working in news.
Q. Thinking back, what were you like in school?
A. In grade school I was very into reading. I liked to make up stories, listen to music, and play with makeup and clothes. I was more of an observer in grade school/middle school. I was definitely a daydreamer, too. When I got to high school it was very different. I was much more social and much less introspective. I think that’s why my middle school fiction characters differ from my older young adult fiction characters. I wasn’t crazy about grade school, but I LOVED high school, therefore I can get more introspective on grade school.
Q. What are your ambitions for your writing career?
A. I want to continue to write the stories I feel need to be told. I love to create stories and sharing them with others is a wonderful part of it, but it is the creating that I enjoy the most.
Q. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
A. Landry wants to be singled out and special (she wouldn’t mind being discovered as the next big model), but there’s a part of her that just wants to fit in and fade into the background. She doesn’t recognize her uniqueness and thinks what everyone else has is better than what she has—from hair color to clothes, etc. She definitely assumes the grass is greener on the other side and she’s fortunate enough to make new friends who appreciate her individuality and help her to see it in a better light, too. She’s a loyal friend, maybe too loyal and trusting, but she tries to see the good in people. She has a humorous way of looking at the world, too. She was a fun and thoughtful character to write and I’m enjoying working on the part of her story.
Q. What genre are your books?
A. I write middle grade, young adult, and also women’s fiction.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A. To take literature class before starting. It’s so important to learn the craft before you begin. I was lucky to have great professors that helped me along the way. Any workshops, conferences, independent studies you can do—it all helps.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer? Why do you write?
A. I started writing stories as a child. I entered and won my first writing contest in the first grade. I’ve just always loved creating characters, worlds, and stories. When I was getting ready to graduate from high school, my mom took me to a bookstore to get “serious” books on writing and signed me up straight away for writing conferences. I think she thought it would scare me off being a kid in a sea of adults trying to prove myself, so I would see if I really wanted it enough to pursue it. It ended up being the perfect way for me to learn throughout the years. I had my first professional critiques right after high school and although I went in terrified, it helped me to learn and grow as a writer.
Q. Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
A. I write best at night when people aren’t calling, texting, emailing, etc. I need complete peace and quiet to focus. Oddly, I used to be able to write with background music on, but now I need silence.
Q. Where do your ideas come from?
A. I get influences from all over—personal experience, things I’m curious about, bits of dialogue that come to me out of nowhere. I carry a notebook with me everywhere and jot down notes all the time. I’ve noticed some of my book reviews say things like, how did she get all my old middle school/high school memories and people I know have said, “Did you steal my old diary?” And I get asked if I went undercover at a school to get the dialogue down—haha! I just remember how it felt to be that age very vividly. As I write the scenes, I feel all the same emotions Landry does whether she’s feeling insecure or excited or afraid as if I’m going through it myself at the same time.
Q. What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
A. Making sure I stayed true to the storyline and the readers. As I finish writing the sequel, my goal is/was that the story line stay very organic and not seem contrived, but be genuine and real. I am a big believer in letting your characters take you where they want to go and letting the story unfold naturally.
Q. Do you ever get writer’s Block? Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
A. I sometimes feel I’m hitting a brick wall with a plot and then I stop and usually read or listen to music and don’t put any pressure on myself. Usually reading will kick start my mind into thinking a certain way and that gets me going again.
Q. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
A. I think as a child I was more introverted, then as a teen and in my college years I was more of an extrovert. More recently, I moved a lot and had to basically start over in new places (including a new country), and that gave me more free time to be introspective. I think going through some of the difficult times in the past few years has made me more sensitive to others in some ways and less fearful of what people think in other ways. So when I approach my writing now, I think I have the sensitivity I had as a child back. I feel I’m more of an introvert now (I usually rest right down the middle with a little more on the extrovert side), but family and friends tell me just the opposite. I took another one of those tests, which proved them right, but I still feel more like an observer.
Q. Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.
A. I love to read. Some of my favorite authors are: F. Scott Fitzgerald (I call him my literary boyfriend), May Sarton, and Susan Shapiro. In the YA and middle grade genre, I read Judy Blume, Cathy Cassidy, Cathy Hopkins, and Erika Tamar.
Q. Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
A. The cover artist, Cora Graphics, and I exchanged emails and I shared with her my Pinterest board of inspiration for the story. Prior to Pinterest, I had been collecting pictures that inspired the story for years. She sent me some pictures to look at and one of the models reminded me of a few cousins of mine and I immediately thought, “That’s Landry.” We also have Devon, Peyton, and India from the book on the cover, too. The book came out in June and in August the cover model, Evell, contacted me and I got to know her. It was a crazy series of events and what’s funny is that she has things in common with the character, Landry. In fact, I just found out she has the same favorite color and plush toy that Landry cherishes in the book!
Q. Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
A. I think a great cover does attract attention. I have gotten so many positive comments on Cora’s work. I think it really stands out and it reminds me of a TV movie poster.
Q. Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
A. I think it’s important to begin before you have the contract and by that I mean getting your name out there with blogging and book reviewing or hosting authors.
Q. If you had someone asked you why they should read your book, what would you say and why?
A. True Colors deals with all the friendship drama, jealousy, insecurity that we felt back in middle school and high school and still deal with even as adults. And it does this with a sense of humor. We all go through the friendship struggles—who is a true friend, who is a frenemy—and trying to find our place and voice in the world and Landry thinks she is the only one feeling insecure about all these things. I wrote the book so that kids, tweens, teens, and even adults would realize that everyone has these feelings and that we are all connected—we’re not alone with our insecurity issues.
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