The Dayton area is rich with authors who know their craft and are willing to share their insight with emerging folks like myself. Kristina McBride falls into that category. A former English teacher who left her job to tackle writing full-time, she can often be found around the area supporting other authors, speaking at seminars and on panels, leading workshops, or critiquing manuscripts. She is the author of The Tension of Opposites, One Moment, A Million Times Goodnight, and The Bakersville Dozen, all books for young adults. Knowing Kristina, she has another story (or two or three) in the works even as we speak, so I’m grateful to her for taking the time to answer my questions. I have to be honest though: it’s always a little odd interviewing someone with the same name. As I sat down to enter this post, I may have suffered somewhat of an identity crisis.
Christina: You are a former high school teacher and write primarily for young adults. What about that age range calls to you?
Kristina: Honestly, I think part of me never really grew up. I hope that’s true for all of us! Beyond that, I love thinking back to the freedom of being a teenager—I had obligations and rules, but they were negotiable and not lifelong commitments . . . unless I chose for them to be. It felt like the whole world was open to me, that all I had to do was choose my path. I suppose that can be true at any stage in life, but the teen years are also often full of strife and yearning. It’s the perfect breeding ground for a niggling thought to turn into a story that can then to grow into a novel.
Christina: In the past, you’ve been honest about the fact that your path to publication took longer than you might have liked. What kept you going?
Kristina: Oh, that’s simple. I’m stubborn. Like, way stubborn. Tell me No, even politely, and I’ll see it as an invitation to find another way to grab hold of that Yes. My dream of becoming an author was born in the quiet stacks of the library I lived across the street from as I was growing up, a place that felt separate from reality. A desire that raw and deep-seated simply must be seen through.
Christina: All of your books are set in Ohio. What does writing about this area allow you to accomplish that perhaps another setting would not?
Kristina: One word: authenticity. I’ve lived in Ohio my entire life, and while I’ve traveled quite a bit (within the US and to many other countries), even falling in love with many other areas, something about Ohio just seeps into my creative mind and takes over. I think this works for me because I don’t have to think about the details as I go. With just a thought, I can invoke all of my senses to detail a scene taking place during any of the seasons, from a farm town surrounded by cornfields that ripple in the wind to the nightlife of a city like Cincinnati. That said, many of my towns are of my own creation, but based on real places. “Blue Springs” for instance, the setting in my second novel One Moment, is based on the actual town of Yellow Springs.
Christina: On your website you state that you have a mild case of OCD. (I do as well!) Do you think that helps you or hurts you with respect to writing?
Kristina: It’s definitely a help! Writing is such a solitary endeavor, one that takes a great amount of time and patience. My obsessive need to follow a routine is essential to keep me on task until I have finished a project. I’m religious with my schedule when I’m drafting or editing a novel. Once I see the kids off to school, I start with a meditation to center my mind, and then I get to work. I spend several hours per day writing, including the weekends. Even on those days when the writing feels stale, I keep going. Those are often the most important moments, as the only way to get through is by writing your way to the other side. There are many days when I feel like my writing is awful, but I always remind myself that the only way to fix the bad stuff is to get words on the page.
Christina: Many writers will tell you that coffee is a part of their writing ritual, but you despise coffee. What, then, is a part of your writing ritual?
Kristina: Ha! I’ve never understood the fascination with coffee. I mean, if you’re going to have a warm, flavored drink, why would you choose anything but hot chocolate? As for my writing ritual, I already shared one of the most important aspects—meditation. I start with a 15-20 minute meditation to clear my mind and focus my attention on the story itself. I then grab a big jug of water and set myself up at my treadmill desk, two more very important aspects of my writing ritual. I use a laptop to draft, but spend a lot of time brainstorming and outlining in a notebook (usually filling one per novel). I also need quiet—no music, no chatter, nothing but my footsteps on the treadmill track. Perhaps the most important part of my writing ritual is the reward—chocolate!—because knowing that I get a treat for my hard work is essential!
Christina: What is your writing Kryptonite?
Kristina: Sunshine! It’s so hard for me to work when it’s nice outside. I love hiking, biking, camping, being at the pool, taking the kids to a park, etc. I work best when it’s rainy or snowy and I can close out the world without the distracting need to get outside and enjoy nature.
Thanks to Kristina for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.