INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY
by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Krysten Lindsay Hager joins me today for an interview to discuss her new middle grade/young adult book, True Colors. This book blast and giveaway is brought to you by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.
Landry Albright enters a modeling competition with her two best friends, but runs into jealousy when she advances to the next level without them. Enter the gorgeous Devon, who also makes the first cut of the modeling contest. Devon seems like the perfect new best friend, but can their friendship survive the competition? Throw in a new boy, jealousy and loyalty issues, and insults from hair stylists. How’s a girl to deal?
The competition was for girls between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, but it felt like Ericka, Tori, and I were the youngest ones there. I only saw a couple of girls from school, and the lineup looked more like something you’d see on a music video set. All the girls were gorgeous, and they had these curvy womanly bodies. I looked like a skinny little kid next to them. The first girl walked out, and I heard the judges say she “owned the runway,” and, “walked like a gazelle.” I was starting to feel ill. I wasn’t sure which way it was going to come, but I knew I had to find a bathroom — fast. I started to get out of line when Ericka grabbed my wrist.
“It’s almost time,” she said. A tiny bit of spit flew out of her mouth and hit my cheek.
I wasn’t sure why she was so intent on me going through with it, but she had a death grip on my arm, so I didn’t have much of a choice. Her number was called and she walked out to the stage. One of the other girls said she walked like a kid with sand bucket stilts on her feet, but she came back with a smirk on her face like she knew she’d get chosen.
“They said they had never seen such long legs,” she said.
Tori was next.
“She walks like a gorilla at feeding time,” said the girl behind me. I went next, and I tried to focus on not tripping over my feet. My mom’s pumps had a rubber sole on the bottom, which probably wasn’t the brightest idea seeing as my shoes were making squeaking noises as I walked. I was so nervous I couldn’t stop smiling as I walked. I looked like the plastic clown who blows up balloons with its mouth at the Pizza Palace. When I got to the end of the runway, I tried to cross my feet to turn like the other girls had, but I over rotated and ended up doing a full spin which made my kilt fan out and gave the mall walkers a view of my blue underpants. I tried to act like it was intentional and did an extra turn. One of the judges put her hand up to stop me, and I held my breath as she started to speak.
My high school and middle school daughters read this and so did it. We loved it. I enjoyed the positive messages while the girls could relate to some of the situations the main character ends up in. Well done.
Interview with the Author
Hi Krysten, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, True Colors.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
It’s from a "clean reads" publisher (Astraea Press), so suitable for ages 9 and up.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I saw an album cover years ago when I was in the sixth grade of four women in a band and wondering what they would have been like at my age (at the time). Years later, I had just finished a independent study where I worked on a novel and I was thinking about writing a YA/MG book and that idea came back to me.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
For me it’s usually the character. I do a lot of character studies and from there I come up with a setting and story idea.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Going back to some of the painful memories of middle school! The scene where Landry feels excluded from Ericka and Tori in class and goes over nervously to join India and Peyton - that scene really hit me. It’s technically been years since I was in that very position and yet it felt like yesterday. All those sick feelings came rushing back to me. I still feel all that anxiety when I re-read those scenes. I relive it each time.
I've got some back middle school memories, too, so you're not alone there! How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope the readers realize that everyone goes through these sorts of things - rejection, being left out, excluded, and feeling insecure. I want them to realize they are not alone and it sounds hokey, but that, "this too shall pass."
Great message, Krysten. How long did it take you to write this book?
Hard to say because I rewrote the book at one point. The idea came to me in the sixth grade, started fleshing out the idea in college - so it took a while for Landry’s whole story to come out!
What is your writing routine?
I don’t have a specific routine, but I always begin by editing. I have often said I’m the only writer on the planet who enjoys editing, but I do! I get back into the story that way and see how I can make it better. I was very lucky on this project to work with such amazing editors. I realize how blessed I was on this book.
How did you get your book published?
I had maybe a chapter of the book done when I went to my first children’s book writing conference. I signed up for a critique and the editor was really into the first chapter. So I knew I had something to build on. I went back and wrote the first version of the book and then through the query process and rewrote sections of it. I moved away and focused mostly on newspaper writing and other freelance humor essays, but eventually heard about my publisher through a freelance writing program that I belonged to.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Learn as much as you can. Go to countless conferences, read over 100 books in whatever genre you want to write. Enroll in both creative writing and literature classes. Get professional critiques AND join critique groups. You simply cannot learn enough about this business. And what my character, Talisa Milan, says about modeling applies to publishing, too, "It is a business."
Great advice. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like to read. My friends are all over the place now, so to keep in touch I stay on social media a lot. It’s fun; sometimes my old high school friends or my good friends from when I lived overseas will all watch a game or a show together and talk about it online as we watch. I like to shop, too. Putting together outfits and accessories relaxes me.
What does your family think of your writing?
My dad enjoys listening to my stories and my mom is a sounding board for me. She’s a reader, not a writer so she sees it from that perspective. I think my extended family think I’m a bit crazy when we go someplace and I take pictures with my phone and tell them it’s something or someplace my characters would like!
Recently my dad had an accident and was in the I.C.U. He was really out of it, and he couldn’t have a conversation with me the first day, so the second day, I brought some of the finished story to read to him and I heard laughter. I looked up and a bunch of nurses and aids were standing there listening to me read. I really didn’t think any of the story sunk in with my dad, but a few weeks later, he brought up the zoo that Landry and her dad go to - it was based on a trip to the zoo my dad took me on, and the whole snake scene? Yup, that all happened! So it was interesting to me that my dad had absorbed some of that.
That's great! Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in a town that was obsessed with golf. I went to a private school for 9 years and I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, too. I was very lucky to have my grandparents so involved in my life. I was the first grandchild, so I was a bit spoiled with toys and attention … I can neither confirm nor deny that at one point my grandparents had an entire hallway of photos of me.
Sounds like you're confirming it ... Did you like reading when you were a child?
Loved it. My parents were both very much into education so books were a big part of my life growing up. My mom used to take me to the library all the time and once a month we made a bookstore trip to pick up all the series books I loved. My mom didn’t insist that I just read the books that were deemed, "proper literature". She would read about what was popular and get those books for me, too.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I always enjoyed making up stories with my dolls and I’d come up with whole storylines and sagas for them. Like a running soap opera!
At the time, it didn’t occur to me that I’d do anything with that as an adult. In the fifth grade, my teacher told my parents she thought I’d become an author. Writing and coming up with stories was something I had always been doing, so it always felt like it was my path.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing (apart from the snake bit)?
I have to say watching soap operas with my mom helped a lot - believe it or not! My dad thought it was cute when I was so little, I’d be in the stroller and telling him about the soap opera storyline my mom had been watching. Little did they know that attention to detail (and plot) would come in handy later!
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Of the YA/MG writers, I’d say: Paula Danziger, Betsy Haynes, Erika Tamar, Francine Pascal (the Victoria Books), Cathy Hopkins, Cathy Cassidy, and Judy Blume.
Of the adult writers: Edith Wharton, Leo Tolstoy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, May Sarton, and Sylvia Plath.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I have heard a lot of people say it was like I somehow got into their heads and learned about their middle school experience - haha!
I guess a lot of us go through that! What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I am working on a sequel to True Colors, along with a couple other MG/YA novels and an adult book. I have a story coming out in an anthology about grandmothers later this year.
Sounds like you're very busy, Krysten. Thank you for taking the time to stop by today and best of luck with your future projects.
About the Author
Krysten Lindsay Hager is an author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and also writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. Her debut novel, True Colors, has just been released by Astraea Press. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows.
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