Interview with Kristen Kooistra

How’s it going? Looks like I’ve been slackin’ on the ol’ blog here for the past few weeks. For that, I would like to apologize. I’ll skip the excuses about life being busy and adulting being time-consuming and craziness happening randomly, even though those are all true and are the reason I’ve been derelict in my blogging duties. Oh . . . I guess I did just throw out some excuses. Aw well, such is life.

But I’m back and I have with me another author who has graciously agreed to an interview. Today we’ll be sitting down to talk with the talented Kristen Kooistra and we’ll find out what she’s been up to.

I enjoy all my interviews and I appreciate the authors opening up about their interests and their projects, but I’m particularly excited about interviewing Kristen because I’m currently reading Heart of the Winterland and it’s a fun and enjoyable read. Having Kristen on here is a great pleasure and I recommend her book.

Here’s a little bit about Kristen before we leap into the interview:

Kristen Kooistra fell in love with reading at a young age and never resurfaced. She loved solving mysteries, riding across the prairie, and sailing on the open sea. But her favorite books were those that held the fantastical. So when the time came for her to seriously approach publishing a book, it had to be fantasy!

Living in Michigan (her own winterland) with her husband, three kids, and two cats, she has lots of free time . . . Okay, so more like she squeezes in writing time late at night when only the cats are awake to pester her.

Heart of the Winterland is Kristen’s first novel, and though it started as a whim, it grew into so much more and has inspired a sequel (in progress), Heart of the Sorceress.

Tucked into a quiet countryside, Kristen spends most of her time being Mommy. She loves spending time with her family and hopes that her writing will entertain and inspire them as well.

Besides writing, Kristen enjoys reading (of course!), chatting with her writer’s group, sewing, swimming, gardening, and cooking (please no baking!). She’s also developed a fondness for water gun fights with her three year old. Actually, she’s found that most everything becomes a lot more fun with little kids.

Delusions of Sanity: First, I’d like to thank you for dropping by. I’ve got a few questions, and I figure I’ll start with a fun one, first: what is your all-time favorite book?

Kristen: An easy question! Watership Down. Hands down, my favorite book. It’s sitting on my computer right now—the only book in the room that’s not a library book or HotW. I love Watership Down and I never would have read it if I hadn’t felt like I was backed in a corner. (An adult kept telling me to read it, and then gave me their copy when I kept hedging. Little kid me felt like there was no way to get out of it then.)

Who knew a book “about rabbits” could be so interesting? I’ve read it tons of times and it never gets old. And the fact it’s a classic makes me feel like I’ve passed some sort of test.

Delusions of Sanity: Watership Down? Excellent choice. That was one that I didn’t appreciate as a kid, but I did enjoy when I got older–another example that “kid” books shouldn’t be dismissed by older readers. On the topic of books you love, do you think there are any authors who have had a sizable influence on your writing?

Kristen: ARGH! I hate this question. *goes to hunt down prepared answer*

Delusions of Sanity: Hey, you know that’s what I’m like–always asking the annoying questions. *evil grin*

Kristen: Until I started writing (seriously), I never thought about the man or woman behind the curtain. I was happy to let Oz do his thing and enjoy the magic show. In other words, I love stories, lots of them, but I rarely had any interest in who wrote them. At most my interest would extend to “I like this story, what’s your name so I can see what else you wrote.”

That’s led to a bit of embarrassment in general when it comes to author interviews/bios and such (I say as I’m doing an interview), because I expect most readers to be like I was (am, let’s be honest, not much has changed) and not care two figs about me. I don’t mind that really. I’m happy if people enjoy my stories and don’t notice the puppeteer holding the strings.

So I’m thankful to the thousands of authors whose work I’ve read and enjoyed. As a group they’ve influenced me, because I’ve seen what they create and I know what kind of journeys those adventures took me on and it’s made me what to be part of that. I want to take someone on a fantastical ride.

Delusions of Sanity: I completely understand since I’m rather similar. I can name some authors who have impacted my writing for sure, but so many others whose works I remember while the author’s name eludes me have shaped how I approach both reading and writing.

Since you mention wanting to take people on a fantastical ride–something that I think is one of the purposes of a good speculative fiction writer, I’m curious to ask a rather probing question: if you had to convince somebody to read your book, what would you say? What do you hope readers will take away from your story? And yeah, I cheated and asked two questions because I’m a jerk.

Kristen: Why? Well, since I’ve mentioned how precious time is I have to say, no one should read it. Goodness knows there are more important things to do in a day than read. And “should” is a strong word. But if you’re making time in your day to read, then I can tell you why Winterland might grab that slot.

*takes deep breath for pitch*

Heart of the Winterland is a clean fantasy for all ages. It appeals to children, teens, and adults. It’s an adventure that isn’t mired in romance or love triangles. It’s got a diverse cast with strong female characters at the forefront. Heart of the Winterland is engaging, emotional, with characters you can connect with. This is the story for anyone who enjoys characters, regardless of the fantastical setting.

It’s the story that made my mother cry. It’s a tale that even a historical fiction author who is a non-fantasy reader said she couldn’t get enough of—that I was “channeling Dickens” (best compliment I’ve ever had). Not to mention a writer who told me after reading HotW that she had a book hangover.

Delusions of Sanity: That’s a darned good pitch, and I’ll be the first to say people should give HotW a read. Also, I appreciate the book hangover–good stuff.

Something I’ve found interesting in your work is that you pulled off two converging timelines well. What inspired you to write the book in non-linear fashion?

Kristen: Originally, I didn’t plan on it. I started the book without knowing Amee existed or had a story to tell. My first prologue was . . . not good. I’d set up this idea that there was a sort of wise woman who watched various worlds in a magical pool. I thought it’d be a good launching point to give my stories something in common but would allow me to show different worlds.

I realized that was a very bad idea. It had nothing to do with the story and was just this extra thing that sent the few people who read it on this whole path of “how does this tie in.”

When I rewrote it, I decided to change it to the scene with Cali’s mother and how Cali ended up being alone. Setting the stage for chapter one. Well, now I had these interesting characters from the past and I wanted to know their story.

Things snowballed from there and I ended up having Voice tell Amee’s story. It became obvious early on that Amee’s story was a huge draw to readers even in the early draft stage. So I started working in more parts of her story and ended up with two timelines that worked very well together.

The hardest part was finding logical places for Voice to tell the story.

Delusions of Sanity: A non-linear timeline can be tricky, but I think it works well and gives an added dimension to your work, so as a reader, I’m glad you took that chance. Speaking of chances in writing, how often do you find yourself thinking about writing?

Kristen: I feel like to some extent it’s always close to the forefront of my mind. Especially now that I’ve published, I spend time thinking about what I have written as well as how I need to hurry and get through the next book.

Delusions of Sanity: I’m looking forward to your upcoming book, and I’m happy that you took the time to hang out with us and indulge my quirkiness. Thanks again, and best of luck with your projects.

Well, that wraps up today’s interview. Kristen has been a great sport to drop by and answer my questions. If you’re interested in what she’s up to, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Want to pick up your own copy of Heart of the Winterland? You can find it on Amazon as both an ebook and a physical copy.

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