One of the beautiful benefits of this interview series is that each interview has the power to bring authors and readers together as well as connect me with new-to-me authors. Shortly after I ran an interview with Charissa Weaks, an email arrived in my inbox from author Kristin Smith, a “former Pitch Wars mentor who loves giving back to the writing community.” I have great respect for Pitch Wars and the writing community (obviously), so I was happy to correspond with her. Kristin recently released her fourth and final book in her Young Adult Deception Game series, Unbreakable. Fans of Kristin’s have been waiting for this book, and one wrote of it: “A must-read if you like feisty, capable heroines; swoon-worthy book boyfriends; futuristic worlds with cool tech; and fast-paced adventures with a crew that has become family.” Sounds like a great book, right? In addition to writing, Kristin likes to travel and spend time with her family, and I’m so thankful for her thoughtful answers. I’m a little saddened I didn’t ask about the bunnies she loves to cuddle, but there’s always next time!
Christina: Congrats on the recent publication of Unbreakable. For any new readers coming on board, can you give us a few details about the book and the series itself?
Kristin: Thank you! The past couple of weeks have been quite a whirlwind. The Deception Game series takes place in a crumbling, futuristic Las Vegas, where the wealthy choose genetic modification and genetic matchmaking for their children. Unfortunately, those in power want to use that perfect genome for nefarious purposes. The main character, Sienna, gets caught in a power struggle between good versus evil when she’s hired to steal an important computer chip from Match 360, the genetic matchmaking and modification facility. It sets her on a journey she’s unprepared for. Along the way, she meets and falls for two very different guys. One is the poster child for his father’s genetic matchmaking and modification company; he’s the first genetically modified human. The second is a rebel, the leader of an extremist group who sees the injustices in his world and wants to right the wrongs. Sienna has to figure out how to follow her heart while protecting the people she loves.
Christina: A book series needs to be well-planned. Had you always wanted to write a series, or is that something that arose organically? Whether you planned it or not, how much work goes into the writing of a series?
Kristin: Crazy enough, I actually had not planned on writing a series when I first started writing Catalyst (Book 1 in the Deception Game series). I originally thought there would be at least two books, but it wasn’t until I was partway through Book 3 that I realized I would need to write four books in order to complete the story. Hence, a series was born!
There’s a ton of work that goes into writing a series versus writing a standalone. With a series, there needs to be some long-term planning. I knew where I wanted my story to end up, but I just didn’t realize how many books it would take to get me there. In hindsight, I wish I’d done a little more planning before starting the series. Also, when writing a series, the details of the story have to be consistent throughout all the books. Sometimes that might mean rereading or taking detailed notes so things stay consistent. Furthermore, you have to end each book so it leaves the reader wanting to read the next, but it also has to satisfy the reader enough that they don’t want to throw the book across the room. It’s a perfect balance of revelation and intrigue.
Part of the reason my series was so tricky to write is because with each book I added a new point of view (POV). Writing multiple POVs can be a beast in and of itself. In Catalyst , we solely get Sienna’s point of view, but each subsequent book adds a new POV until in Unbreakable, we get to dive into the POVs of four different characters: Sienna, Zane (the genetically modified poster child), Trey (the hot leader of an extremist group), and Trina (Sienna’s best friend and a genetically modified runaway who left her home in search of a better life). So, in addition to keeping everything consistent for the series, I also had to create distinct and unique voices for the alternating POVs.
Christina: The first two books in the series focus mainly on Sienna, who seems strong and fearless. Where did the inspiration for this character come from? What did you do to capture the nuances and characteristics of a teenage girl? And finally, what was your intention in bringing on those new voices to each subsequent book?
Kristin: You nailed it! Sienna is definitely strong and fearless, and as we learn in the fourth book, when she has something terrible (life-changing!) happen to her, she’s unbreakable too. To be honest, I’m not really sure where the inspiration for her character came from. When she first came to my mind, I pictured her with fiery red hair in this underground pool hall where she’s surrounded by rather sketchy-looking men. In order to understand who she was, I had to ask myself: What is she doing here? What has she done in her life to get her to this point? This place? That scene is now the second chapter in the book and reveals a lot about how much Sienna changes after her father dies.
As far as being able to capture the nuances and characteristics of a teenage girl, I tend to immerse myself in all things teen. I read a ton of YA books; I binge-watch a lot of shows that might be deemed “for teens.” I’m a regional leader in my church youth group and get to work with hundreds of teen girls. And, of course, as a former teenager myself (however long ago that might’ve been, lol), I use past experiences and emotions to try to capture the teen experience.
I wanted to add Trina’s voice in Unbreakable because she has such an interesting past and a unique story to tell. She’s experienced heartache in the form of feeling unloved by her parents and “not-good-enough” for the life she was born into. A life that was chosen for her. Her experience of being genetically modified and matched from birth was so different from anything Sienna experienced in her childhood as a “normal” girl, so I really wanted Trina to have a voice in the story.
Christina: On your website, you write, “I enjoy writing about the joy of first love and the struggles and uncertainty of the teen years.” What is it about those topics that you find so compelling?
Kristin: I LOVE love! There’s nothing better than first love—that first kiss or falling in love for the first time. I’m sure we all remember our first kiss or first love, so as an author, I adore capturing that on the page. Some of my favorite stories are coming-of-age ones, those that highlight the struggle and uncertainty of the teen years, and although this is a dystopian, it does have a lot of coming-of-age themes in it. Sienna is discovering herself—what she’s able to do when really put to the test. She’s falling in love for the first time. Experiencing her first kiss. Of course, she’s also fighting for her life, but at the heart of the story is a teen girl who’s experiencing her world and figuring out how she fits into it.
Christina: Regardless of genre, books can teach our children (and us) so much. As a young adult author, what’s the main message you hope to impart with your writing?
Kristin: For this series in particular, I hope readers come away with the knowledge that they have the ability to change. Sienna goes through some incredible changes on her way to becoming a better person. After her father’s death, she does some questionable things in order to survive and provide for her family. But during her character arc, she comes to realize that the things she’s done don’t define her. Like a butterfly, she can shed that part of her life and grow and mature into something beautiful. I hope all readers take that message to heart.
Also, I hope readers take away a love of reading. I had a young woman reach out to me after reading Catalyst. She said she hadn’t read anything in years but saw my book in the bookstore and picked it up because the cover caught her eye (apparently, she was a redhead too!). Reading my book ignited in her a love for reading again. She read the entire series and went on to share it with her friends, who also weren’t big readers. If I can get one person to love reading (either again or for the first time) I will have succeeded.
Christina: Some equate writing and birthing a book to having children. Considering you have five sons, I think you’re more than qualified to comment on that statement. Do you think it’s a valid comparison? Do your children inform your writing at all?
Kristin: Oh, absolutely. Each book I release is my book baby. Obviously, I love it a little differently than I do my children, lol, but just like a child, that book needs love, attention, and nurturing in order for it to grow into something that’s ready for the world.
As for my children informing my writing…I would say maybe a little? I do tend to listen in on their conversations, either with each other or when they have friends over, and that helps when writing dialogue between teens.
Christina: In May of this year, you and your husband hosted a 1920s-themed party. It looked like quite the affair! What do you enjoy about hosting parties, and did you ever consider becoming a party or events planner?
Kristin: Oh, yes, that 1920s Murder Mystery dinner party was such a fun night!
I think I enjoy the creative side of hosting parties. I love decorating (whether that’s interior design or in the form of party planning), so I really enjoy that aspect of hosting. I can spend days (weeks!) planning, creating, and decorating for a party, but food prep is where I lack sometimes, lol. Thankfully, that’s where my husband thrives, so we tend to make a good team.
Have I thought about becoming a party or events planner? Honestly? Yes, I have. It has crossed my mind so many times, especially after I post pictures of the party and many people say the same thing: I need to become a party planner. I take it as quite the compliment, but I know that in order to do that, I’d have to give up writing. There’s no way I could do both. So, for now, I’m happy just planning birthday parties for my kids and fun Murder Mystery dinner parties for friends.
Christina: What’s next for you?
Kristin: This is a GREAT question! I’m actually trying to figure that out myself. There will definitely be more writing, more creating, more books, but I have no idea what that timeline will look like. I have several manuscripts currently sitting on my computer, so the next step is to figure out what to do with them. Another agent? Another publisher? I’m not sure yet. But just know that there will most definitely be more books from Kristin Smith in the near future! 🙂
Kristin can be found in multiple places!
Thanks to Kristin 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.