I’m spinning the silk threads of my story,
weaving the fabric of my world…
- – Laurie Halse Anderson
Great stories are like a magical hook. They reel you into their fantastic world and hold you prisoner until the whole journey is over. Ask the author is a tribute to talented authors that weave an awesome story. Today’s spotlight is new author, Kristen Kooistra.
Kristen’s exciting debut novel, The Heart of the Winterland, released today. I’m a great fan of the way she weaves her fantastic tales and creates awesome characters that are very realistic and multi-dimensional.
I had the honor of interviewing her on her book and her writing process. Here are some snippets of our conversation:
Krisna: Kristen, congrats on the publication of your exciting debut novel, Heart of the Winterland. Could you tell us a little more about yourself and how you ended up writing such wonderful stories?
Kristen Kooistra: Thanks! Let’s see … about myself. I’m a stay-at-home mom. My husband and I have been married six years and we have three kids. I’m a bit dull, to be honest. I like doing things that put me squarely in the boring category: gardening, sewing, cooking. I love reading and spending time with my family.
I have to admit, that I haven’t written that many stories (wonderful or otherwise). My favorite part of creating a story is the imagination part. I’ve always loved daydreaming and inventing stories to play in my head like a movie. Books helped me fuel my imagination and I’ve been a book-aholic all my life. The writing was something I enjoyed, but it never progressed far in terms of fiction. I often found myself frustrated with the imperfectness of what I wrote(I guess I expected a perfect first draft!), and so I’d quit.
Winterland was different in the sense that I decided not to plot it out. I didn’t want any expectations set before me. Without that perfect picture in my head, I didn’t feel like I was failing.
Krisna: That’s a very insightful tip for aspiring writers. Just free-write while doing the first draft and then worry about analyzing everything.
From what I’ve read of the novel so far, the thing that really hooked me was the amazing characters. Each one has distinct nuances and a depth that is a pleasure to read. What inspired you to create such realistic, human characters?
Kristen Kooistra: Funny you ask in that way, because the answer is in the question. People inspire me. They’re so diverse, unique, and with such a large “cast” of people to observe, it was easy to take pieces of real people and mix them up to form my characters.
For one of my antagonists, I wanted to touch on what a person might do if they were in a place where they were noticeably different than everyone around them. Then I wanted to heap on more. What if the character didn’t have good, supportive people in their life? Or maybe they lost those people. What might that person feel, what might they do? I tried to think of what I’d do to the person who took everything from me, and in a lot of ways she is the villain I can see myself being if I was to “go to the dark side”.
A large part of the cast were inspired by real people and some of them retained more of their “doppelgangers” qualities than others. Later in the book, readers will meet Kaya and Rose. They were created when I took various traits from my sister-in-law and a friend of mine (who has the same name as my SIL) and gave a little to each character. My friend’s one request is that her character found a chance to dance on a table, and you’ll see, I did manage to meet that.
Krisna Starr: That’s an amazing way to come up with characters. Of course your characters are multi-dimensional because they’re inspired by real-life people with all the things that make them awesome and all the quirks and defects that they struggle with.
If you could describe the essence of Heart of the Winterland in one sentence, what would it be?
Kristen Kooistra: Oh this is hard! I’ve never been good with one sentence things. The essence of HotW is that it is a journey that touches on so many important things.
- Sometimes what we wish for isn’t always what we want.
- Don’t miss out on the good in your life because you’re striving for something that doesn’t matter.
- People change.
- Sometimes we don’t know the ending to everyone’s story.
- Don’t try to be someone else. Rather, strive to be the best you.
Maybe one sentence would be, “HotW is about a princess on a journey who discovers the flaws and merits of humans.”
Princess Cali has grown up without human interaction. People are intriguing to her. She doesn’t know what to do with anger, frustration, deception, wickedness, humor, etc. So she’s struggling to fit and learn about people, but she’s also very interested in everyone and I think that shows in the story, because a lot of characters do share pieces of their lives and each one is special.
See, that so didn’t end up as just one line. 😀
Krisna : LOL! Princess Cali is a really intriguing character. I can’t imagine how she must have felt feeling all those emotions for the first time. What was the most surprising thing that you learned when you wrote this novel?
Kristen Kooistra: That I actually had a story! To explain, I started this with no real seriousness. As I mentioned, I’m not that great with fiction and a finished novel was a first for me. But as I wrote, I was so inspired by other writers and what was unfolding in the story that I started getting serious about it and when I realized I was actually “doing it” that was my wow moment.
Krisna: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Kristen Kooistra: Oh gosh. I’ve never really given much writer advice. It seems like there’s so many people more qualified to do that.
First, find what works for you. Sometimes another person’s method will be a match for you, but overall everyone’s unique and that means you need to do what inspires you and gets you writing. Don’t try to fit yourself into someone else’s box.
Second, don’t worry about all the do’s and don’ts that exist. Write a compelling story that you love. If you create a story that grips your readers and intrigues them, who cares if one person gets fussy over an adverb or some such thing. Whenever you start getting paranoid about if you’re not doing it right, pick up an old favorite. You know, the book you’ve had for years that’s got creases everywhere and tape on the binding. See how many “rules” it breaks. And yet, you still love it.
And last, write what you love, because at the end of the day you can’t guarantee that anyone else will ever read, or like, what you created. Instead of trying to please everyone, writing what you love guarantees that at the end there’ll be at least one person who is happy with the product. And really, you’re the writer, the person who slaved over that story for countless hours, days, months (or like me, years). You should be happy with what you wrote.
Thank you so much for the interview, Krisna. I’m so excited for “Heart of the Winterland” to come out and I’m looking forward to your thoughts on it.
Krisna: Thank you, Kristen, for taking the time to share your experience and insightful tips. Publishing your novel must be really exciting. We wish you all the very best in your endeavors.
Kristen Kooistra fell in love with reading at a young age and never resurfaced.
“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”.