1 - So Kristen, first up. What are you having? Name your poison, or in this case the hot beverage of your choice. Are you a latte or a lemon tea? A ginger parkin or a chocolate cake? Or did you have something else in mind. The chef is very accomplished with a whisk and a rolling pin.
KS – First let me apologise for being a bit late. It has been a hectic day. Still, here now. Builder’s brew with just a dash of milk and no sugar, please. And I’ll have a piece of that Bailey’s cheesecake, please. My favourite, especially if there is a smidgen of Bailey’s poured over it, just a smidgen, mind, I’m driving.
2 – Let’s get to know a little bit more about how you ended up here on my sofa. Are you a full time writer or do you have an additional occupation that drags you away from the keyboard. If you moonlight as something particularly exciting, we want to hear about it...we really do!
KS – I can now claim to being a poor pensioner – yes I am that old, I just look 18. I’ve never worked full time thanks to a very hard working, old fashioned husband who still believes it’s the fella’s job to provide for his family. I’m not complaining. It has been a wonderful life and I have always been able to do what I want to do – even if that’s nothing! I’m a whiz on a computer and have spent my life doing various office jobs and have progressed from a manual typewriter to the latest technology available. I have never had any other ambition than to write.
3 – How did you get into writing, Kristen? Perhaps you’re lucky enough to be a member of a writer’s group. Or maybe you just fell into it by accident.
KS – I first put pen to paper when I was still at school. I loved English lessons when the teacher would give us a theme or a title and often had to read my work out to the class. Fiction has always been my thing, 10 pages for a story, half a page if I had to do something factual! I’m still like that now. I finally decided to give it a serious go when the thought occurred to me that I could work somewhere in the sun during the winter. I was looking at becoming a web designer (I used to be a computer programmer a long, long time ago, before desktop computers and microchips) but learning all the code was too much to ask. Then I thought, why not sit and write all those books in my head. Fortunately we could afford for me to rent an apartment in Tenerife for a month. We don’t go on any other holidays so it’s not that extravagant. I’m just about to go back for my fifth visit and this time I’m going for two months, with my husband coming out for Christmas. And no, he doesn’t mind. Positively encourages me. Claims he doesn’t get nagged all the time about what time he is coming home (he’s a white van man and loves driving. Can’t understand it myself).
Years ago I belonged to a writers’ group and when I started writing ‘seriously’ I went back for a couple of years and actually won a couple of short story competitions but I prefer writing novels to short stories so left.
4 – What was the first thing you had published and how did you go about it? Did you run the gauntlet of the query letter? Enter a competition or decide to self publish?
KS – Yes, initially I went through Writer’s and Artist’s Year book trying all the agents. One was almost interested but I think they only wanted money off me for editing. The one thing I won’t do is spend my hubby’s hard earned pennies on someone trying to change what I write. I didn’t keep all the rejection letters, just crossed the names out. After that I found Authonomy where I met some people I’m still in contact with.
Then I offered Edge of Extinction to Night Publishing and was accepted. By the time my next book was ready I’d worked out how to do it myself and set up Blue Hour Publishing with Stephen R Hulse (he tells me the R is very important).
5 – I love to genre hop, how about you? Do you write in a specific genre? Which is your favourite and why?
KS – I hate that word ‘genre’. One book fits into horror without a doubt. One is a thriller, two are what I would call ‘fictional biographies’ but others have called ‘human interest’ and where Edge of Extinction fits is anyone’s guess! I have been told it is Literary Fiction which throws me completely because that sounds far too sophisticated for a girl from Stoke Newington. (That’s where I grew up in London).
6 – Okay at the risk of using that hated word, Is there a particular genre or type of scene that you would avoid and if so why?
KS – I’m not overly keen on erotica, maybe because I’m getting older. When I was younger I read books by Harold Robbins, but I prefer to read and tell a good story these days.
7 – As a child which was your favourite book? Were you read to as a child and did that develop your love of books? Do you have a favourite book and author now? What are you reading now?
KS – Lots of questions here. So firstly… It’s a wonder being read to as a child didn’t put be off books for ever. The only book I can remember from very early childhood was something with the word Nowhere in the title, which I read as Now Here. I can’t remember much about it apart from the fact that there was an old man who wore several pairs of spectacles at once and a spider in hobnailed boots!
I missed a lot of time at school when I was very young and as a result was late reading. Then I discovered The Famous Five and the other Enid Blyton books, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and then the historical novels of Rosemary Sutcliffe and from then I wanted to write.
Favourite author? Six years ago I would have said Wilbur Smith. But just lately I’ve really lost interest in established authors and tend to read indies almost exclusively. I really like the books of Brendan Gisby (he pushed me towards Night!), Tom Winton, Stephen R Hulse, Gerry McCulloch oh, and some author called B A Morton, not sure who that is but she/he writes fantastic books! (Ha ha...extra cake coming right up ma’am)
What am I reading at the moment? I have three books on the go at the moment, Devil’s Brae by Faith Mortimer, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (I’ve been reading it ever since the film came out and haven’t finished book one yet!) and another long book I keep dibbing into Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale by Russell T Davies (I’m a bit of a Who fan and it is a really good insight into writing).
8 – Tell us a little about the books you currently have published.
KS – The Edge of Extinction – my chosen book to read.
The Penhaligan File – a mystery thriller about a journalist who is blinded while looking into a reason for a drug being withdrawn from his father’s company.
Shattered Dreams – the story of how Tony Walker copes after a devastating road accident. This story is told in alternating chapters between Tony’s current life and his childhood.
Silent Love – my latest offering. A deaf boy meets an ordinary girl and they fall in love. Put simply like that it sounds like a pretty standard love story, but there is more to it than that.
DayStalker – the most out of character book for me. A raunchy, bloody romp with a man who claims he is not a vampire, he loves sunbathing and has a reflection, but lives entirely on blood – and Bloody Mary’s. I wrote it as a protest against all the lovey-dovey vampire stories that are about. It certainly isn’t for those of a sensitive nature!
9 – Can you give us a hint at what you have planned next?
K.S Well, this is hot off the press. I don’t know what will come of it but I’ve been asked to write a script for an anti-drug video, emphasis being on the latest trend of ‘legal-high’ substances. Sounds quite exciting.
Added to that, while I’m away I’m hoping to work on two half-finished novels while I’m away this year.
10 – And tell us even more about the one you’ve brought with you. I did explain about reading an excerpt later didn’t I? Oh good. Don’t think you get tea and cake for nothing.
KS – Edge of Extinction is my first and favourite book. It started, honest, when I learnt a song as a Brownie Guider about what sort of tail would you choose. One option was a prehensile tail and from that song grew the idea of Kianda Mala, the Monkey Man. My aim was to create someone unbelievable and make that person seem real. From the reviews the book has received, I think I managed that and touched on some sensitive subjects along the way.
11 – Pick one of your characters and sell him/her to us in twenty words or less.
KS – A man born by chance, intelligent and caring, worshipped by those around him but with his feet firmly on the ground. (ok. That’s 21 words, will you let me off?) (That has to be Kianda Mala. And having read the book I’d agree. Well sold.)
12 – While I top up your tea would you like to read a short excerpt from your book?
To set the scene – Kianda Mala, the narrator, has left the jungle to find out why people in his village are dying. He has been taken into the home of Hannah, an English doctor, as the rains have started preventing him getting back home. While he is at Hannah’s he has learnt to speak English and is learning about the world. His dialogue is purposely stilted, it improves as the story moves on and he learns more.
‘One day when Hannah came back from her work I was pacing restlessly around the room. I had been watching a DVD about the nature of the world and its place in the universe. It contradicted every belief that I had and I felt ashamed of my ignorance amongst all these wise and knowledgeable people. I could barely meet Hannah’s gaze when she came in, careworn from her day at the clinic. She swept through the house and went to make some coffee. When she brought it into the living room I was staring out of the window, my back to the room.
“Kianda, what’s wrong?” she asked.
I shrugged. Turning to face her I asked:
“Why you care about my people? We are stupid. We think the valley is whole world. That stars are holes in blanket of night. What good are we?”
Hannah came to my side and stroked my arm.
“Come and sit down,” she said.
I followed her to my cushion and sat down but I could not meet her eyes.
“It doesn’t matter what you believe or what you know,” Hannah assured me. “Your people have a right to live just as much as anyone else. Okay, they don’t know anything about what is going on in the world but that doesn’t make them any less important. The world is full of different peoples and different cultures. They all believe different things. They all have their own myths and legends. Just because your people don’t know what the stars are, that doesn’t make them worthless. From what you have told us you have a wonderful life that many out here in the civilized world would envy.”
“Sometimes I wish I no learn about things,” I said. “There is so much. You no think I stupid for believing Chachinka things?”
“Everyone believes what they are taught as a child,” Hannah said. “The only difference between your people and mine is that we have lived in a world that has gained knowledge over centuries while you have been isolated. Just because we know more, doesn’t mean we are any wiser. Every child has to be taught these things, we don’t know any more at birth than you do.” She reached out and squeezed my hand. “You and your people are very special. Don’t ever doubt that.”
Her smile and her reassurance brought a return of my confidence. That night when I whispered my prayers to the Kianda Chaka I did not feel foolish.’
13- And let us know where we can find it?
At the moment this book is on offer at 99c/77p or thereabouts. (Haven’t got my head around how these companies price things)
14 – And finally a little game that I hope all my guests will contribute to. Can you give me 100 words of your choosing to follow on from this? Your last line will be picked up by the next guest... and so on:
“The door was meant to be bolted, but someone had left it unlocked... Not only unlocked but open! The girl shivered as she looked around the empty castle kitchen. Where was everyone? She crept cautiously towards the open door that led out into the stable courtyard. Had the cook gone out for some supplies? Unlikely. The evening meal had long since finished. Had someone crept into the castle who shouldn’t be there ? More than likely, but what should she do? She was hardly in the position to go to the Lord of the castle, she was just a serving girl.
There was a noise behind her. Her heart-rate increased as she ran to the door, pulled it closed… ”
Thanks so much for coming, Kristen. I wish you much success with your books and hope you’ll come again and let us know how your script writing venture resulted.