Now it’s time for an interview with one of the January 2013 Anticipated YA Debut Authors! Today’s featured author is Kristin Halbrook—and her first novel, Nobody But Us, is out in stores today, January 29, from HarperTeen! Read on to see how Kristin answered my Q&A…
…And read on to see who won a signed copy of the book!
Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” Surely you don’t carry around a copy so you can recite the description off the flaps, so how do you answer this question when asked?
Kristin: I say: “Nobody But Us is about two teens on the run from their troubled pasts, hoping their trip from North Dakota to Las Vegas will give them the happy ever after they desperately want. But, no matter how fast they run, they can’t outrun trouble.”
Ha, I haven’t had the doctor run-in yet, but the worst was with my hairdresser. He’s a fabulous, chatty guy and I’m always content to listen while he talks. But when he asked what my book was about, I gave him my two-line blurb. It wasn’t enough for him. He kept asking questions until I’d laid out the entire story for him—and he still scolded me for being so secretive. It was exhausting.
NRS: In my experience, novels transform themselves, sometimes unrecognizably, during the course of being written. Were there any shocking transformations that occurred between rough draft and final bound book?
KH: In many ways, this story stayed true to form from the early versions to the final versions. As a sparse writer, I know I’ll always need to go back and add more story and depth to early versions, which was definitely the case here. One of the things I was encouraged to add was “good moments” in my characters’ pasts. It’s a rough road for both main characters, but what I discovered by allowing them a multitude of experiences is that their characters gain greater depth and complexity.
This was also the book that I consider my great dual POV learning experience. With each draft, I moved the characters’ voices further apart, wanting them to be identifiable without any marker. Ultimately, I would say there were fewer shocking transformations with the story itself and more with me as an author always learning and improving.
NRS: So you’re here with me gossiping about your main characters behind their backs. What’s something they wouldn’t want anyone to know that might make them blush?
KH: Honestly, I am the most boring gossip EVER. I’m such a “live and let live” type that if someone does something others find out of the ordinary I usually just think . . . cool.
However, as Will could tell you, Zoe is a great one for blushing. Most errant thoughts bring a flush to her cheeks. She would blush like crazy if you knew how often she daydreamed about Will . . . undressed. Especially after she saw him with his shirt off for the first time.
NRS: Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it.
KH: This is my office area. As you can see, I didn’t bother tidying it up for this photo.
In addition to lots of table space, I am surrounded by notes, cards, and art others have made for me or sent me, craft supplies if I need a creative break (of a different sort of writing), a sunlamp to help stave off SAD, and dumbells when I’m in the mood for a quick dance party boost. This is where I do a good bit of writing and revising. I also write in bed when I’m feeling particularly lazy. And when I want a different environment altogether, I write at a café one or two days a week.
As corny as it sounds, these are my fantasy writing spots! I could pretend that a beach in the south of France would be my fantasy spot, but let’s face it, I wouldn’t get any writing done there.
NRS: To go along with the theme of this blog (and my life), what is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
KH: The single most common distraction was family life, though the worst distraction was Google Search Black Hole Missions. You know, where you research one thing you actually need for your book but end up clicking an endless number of wiki/youtube/metafilter links until your original search for the habitat range of koalas leads you, somehow, to reading hours later about ergonomic shoe arch development. In moments like that, I promise myself to give a character in my project really supportive shoes. Just so I don’t feel like I totally wasted my time.
NRS: Imagine you’re on the subway, or bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe this person to us.
KH: I’m on the express bus into downtown Seattle, admiring the view of Lake Union and Queen Anne hill, when I notice two teens with their noses buried in the same book. OMG, it’s my book! It’s a boy and a girl, dressed in jeans and trainers. The guy’s wearing a hoodie and his dark hair is spiked and the other’s wearing a Hello Kitty tunic under a patchwork coat. Her hair’s pink. They’re both wearing headphones, but every once in a while one will nudge the other and point to a sentence on the page. Then they’ll share a look—a nod or a cringe or fake wiping away a tear—before going back to their own pages. When we get to the Westlake Station, they stuff the books in each other’s backpacks, probably bending a corner of the cover or smushing a few pages, and head off the bus holding hands. Later, they’ll eat pizza and talk about the book, not because someone told them to, but because they just want to. *dreams*
NRS: If you could go back in time to whisper a few words of advice into your own ear before you leaped into this writing career, what would you tell your young, impressionable self?
KH: I would tell myself that all the projects I started but didn’t finish, all the novels I set aside because they weren’t good enough, all the time I spent finding my voice . . . was worth it. Not just worth it, but needed. Required. There were moments of frustration, there were times I didn’t have direction, but it was all part of an essential apprenticeship to writing. So be patient, former self, and value the tough times, the learning moments, the failures. These will help you grow.
NRS: Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?
KH: Oh, that is a dream question. I’m trying to decide between going somewhere I’ve been before that I know I love, or choosing somewhere new. I think this dreary winter weather is going to help me choose Australia, which would be new to me. Great cities, great beaches, meeting readers, and seeing friends who live down there would make the trip spectacular. There’s no way I could pick just two living author pals to come along, so I’m going to pick two dead authors: Emily Dickinson and Anaïs Nin. Only in my wildest dreams can I imagine how a conversation between the two of them would go. Since they’re portable, delicious, and uniquely American, I’d serve three or four flavors of brownies. Sometimes simple is best.
NRS: How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday today?
KH: Sleeping in!
Haha, that rarely happens in this house. The weekend before will be busy with a couple of my BFFs flying in for ALA Midwinter, and the weekend after is my launch party, so I probably will just take it easy. Sign some bookmarks. Hit up a local bookstore to see my book in the wild. That sort of thing.
Nobody But Us is on sale today, January 29, from HarperTeen. Read on for a chance to win a signed book!
Kristin Halbrook is a Seattleite who loves good coffee, good food, good music, good sports, good causes, good reads, and the word good. She travels a lot, but loves coming home just as much as exploring. She’s both intense and a goofball, introverted and gregarious. Nobody But Us is Kristin’s debut novel, about a boy and girl desperate to leave their pasts behind and the systems that make happiness just so hard for them to find.
For more from Kristin, read her powerful Turning Point earlier this month called “Becoming the Person I Want My Daughters to Be.”
Visit her at www.kristinhalbrook.com to find out more.
ANNOUNCING THE GIVEAWAY WINNER…
Who won a *signed* finished copy of Nobody But Us?
Congrats, Kierra! And thank you to everyone who entered—and to the author for providing the prize!