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Monday, September 20, 2010

INTERVIEW: KRISTINA McBRIDE

Aurora is pleased to welcome Kristina McBride, whose debut YA novel, The Tension of Opposites, was released in May. Kristina wrote this story in response to the safe return of a child who was kidnapped while riding his bike to a friend's house. It has been nominated for the 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults List from the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association).

Kristina was a high school English teacher for eight years before quitting to stay at home once her first child was born. At that point she started writing seriously, with her first book being a suspense for adults. Although it didn't attract the attention of an agent and is still sitting on the computer, probably never to be published, it did teach her that she enjoyed teen characters more than adults.

"The two teen characters from that manuscript stood out more than the others, helping me open my eyes to my strongest point in writing," she said.

While she was growing up, she lived across the street from the library.

"I cannot remember a time that I did not want to create a fictional world, write a novel, get it published, and see my name on the cover," she told me.

She's currently working on the second book of a two-book deal with Egmont USA.

"That’s about all I can say for now," she told me. "Except that I’m getting pretty excited about this new book. I really like it!"

The first thing she bought after selling her book was a netbook—a small computer that fits inside her purse.

"It’s awesome," she said, "and I now use it for all my drafting. I still do like to use longhand for some scenes. It kind of just depends on how well everything is flowing."

She credits her agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, for being one of the biggest factors in Kristina's success.

"She worked with me on several drafts of The Tension of Opposites before it was ready to be pitched to editors," she explained. "Alyssa can ask one question and lead me in directions I had not yet considered. It’s wonderful, because when you’re so entrenched in a story, you often need a second eye to help ponder believability, etc. My family (husband, parents, kids, friends) has also been imperative to my success. Without their support, I would not be when I am today."

"What are some of your hobbies?" I asked.

"I love to be with family and friends. I also love to be in the woods – there’s something about hiking that makes me feel very at peace. I also love to read and write – obviously."

In fact, if she could be anywhere in the world right now, it would be a toss-up.

"Alone – a cabin in the woods so I could just write like a mad woman and finish this current novel," she said. "Or with family – the Caribbean . . . do I need to explain?"

I asked her about her favorite and least favorite words.

"When I really think about words – the power of words – I am overwhelmed," she told me."I mean, I wrote this book and it’s just a long string of words that I stuck together in a specific way. Someone could take all the words I used and mix them up to tell a completely different story. This fascinates me. Not enough to try it, but you get the point. Words are so very powerful, and such a part of me. I have no favorite. I love them all."

Kristina keeps note cards in her purse to jot down ideas for each chapter of her book so she can ideas whenever they strike. She gives herself the freedom , though, to not necessarily stick to the outline she's created. If ideas no longer fit, she changes or scraps them. When she starts her writing for the day, she grabs her netbook and reads the previous chapter to get steeped in the characters' world. Then she just goes. Sometimes she will turn on a fan to drown out any noise from the house. "The little ones can get a bit crazy at times," she confessed.

"Writers are known to set their own schedules and work at their own pace," I said. "Do you enjoy that kind of spontaneity in your life? How great is it to be able to take a vacation or just take a day off without calling in sick?"

"I feel like I’m cheating at life." She smirked. "I have this job that doesn’t feel like a job because it’s something I’d do regularly without payment. My hands just need to move to get the words out. That I can work from home based on each day’s specific schedule is awesome. The only problem is that there aren’t enough hours in a day to get all my thoughts down."

Finally, I asked Kristina, "Do you have any advice for young writers?"

"Write often. Read voraciously. And research the business – how to get an agent – how to write a query letter – etc. And develop a thick skin – there’s a lot of rejection in this business, and you can’t let it get you down. At least not for longer than one hot fudge sundae. Remember one thing, if you’re getting rejected, you’re in the game, and that’s a huge step in the right direction!"



Tagline: What happens when your best friend is kidnapped - and returns home two years later?

Short Summary: Two years ago Noelle disappeared. Two long years of no leads, no word, no body. Since the abduction, Tessa, her best friend, has lived in a state of suspended animation. She has some friends, but keeps them distant. Some interests, but she won’t allow herself to become passionate about them. And guys? She can’t get close—she knows what it is like to really lose someone she cared for.

And then, one day, the telephone rings. Noelle is alive. And maybe, just maybe, Tess can start to live again, too.

A haunting psychological thriller taken straight from the headlines, The Tension of Opposites is a striking debut that explores the emotional aftermath a kidnapping can have on the victim, and on the people she left behind.

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