Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview With Kristi Cook

Today's Eleven Up interview is with Kristi Cook, whose debut YA novel HAVEN (Simon Pulse) is being released today!

In HAVEN you'll meet Violet McKenna, who struck me as a reluctant but strong heroine, as she begins her new life at a boarding school like no other. Here's the enticing description from Goodreads

One month into her junior year, sixteen-year-old Violet McKenna transfers to the Winterhaven School in New York’s Hudson Valley, inexplicably drawn to the boarding school with high hopes. Leaving Atlanta behind, she’s looking forward to a fresh start--a new school, and new classmates who will not know her deepest, darkest secret, the one she’s tried to hide all her life: strange, foreboding visions of the future.

But Winterhaven has secrets of its own, secrets that run far deeper than Violet’s. Everyone there--every student, every teacher--has psychic abilities, 'gifts and talents,' they like to call them. Once the initial shock of discovery wears off, Violet realizes that the school is a safe haven for people like her. Soon, Violet has a new circle of friends, a new life, and maybe even a boyfriend--Aidan Gray, perhaps the smartest, hottest guy at Winterhaven.

Only there’s more to Aidan than meets the eye--much, much more. And once she learns the horrible truth, there’s no turning back from her destiny. Their destiny. Together, Violet and Aidan must face a common enemy--if only they can do so without destroying each other first

Want to know more? Here's what Kristi had to say about her writing life and HAVEN:

LK: You've written books for adults before, but this is your first YA novel. How is writing for teens different from writing for adults?

KC: As crazy as it sounds, I feel like writing for teens is much more natural to me than writing for adults!  I can't explain it, really (I guess I'm just really in touch with my inner sixteen year old?!). Maybe it's because most of what I read is YA? But as far as the writing process goes, it's not really all that different. But I do feel that I have a lot more "freedom" as a writer, writing for the YA market rather than the adult romance market.

Does your agent represent adult and YA novels, or does someone else represent your YA work?

Yep, I'm very lucky in that my agent (the wonderful Marcy Posner at Folio Literary Management) represents both adult fiction and YA/middle grade fiction. Our tastes and interests just seem to naturally coincide!

How did you decide on the boarding school setting?

I think boarding school is a great setting for YA in general, because there's less adult/parental influence, plus it keeps your cast of characters in close proximity in a way you can't achieve when they're all going home to their individual houses every night.  For HAVEN, specifically, it was the perfect fit--all the students at the Winterhaven have psychic gifts and talents, and I wanted them to be “tucked away” somewhere they felt safe, in a private enclave away from prying eyes. Winterhaven is its own little world, and the story just wouldn't have worked in a more traditional school setting.

What kind of research did you do for HAVEN?

Most of my research centered around the various psychic gifts that I gave my characters--precognition, telekenesis, astral projection, clairsentience, clairvoyance. Talk about fun research! I also did a lot of research concerning a certain...er, mythos...in my book, trying to come up with what seemed like a plausible scientific explanation.

What's the next book we'll see from you?

Right now I'm working on the sequel to HAVEN, the second book in the Winterhaven series, though I don't have a publication date for it yet.

Last book you read?

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins, and I could rave about this book for hours!  I absolutely adored it. It was just pitch-perfect in every single way. Strong, likable protagonist, unbelievably hot love interest, humor, snappy dialogue, fabulous setting. Seriously, what's NOT to like?!  I really think it's the most fun I've had with a book in ages.

Who were some of your favorite writers growing up? Anyone in particular who inspired you to become a writer?

GONE WITH THE WIND is my all-time favorite book, but unfortunately it's the only book Margaret Mitchell ever wrote! My other favorite authors were Lois Duncan, Noel Streatfeild, and Judy Blume. Actually, my favorite Judy Blume book was the lesser-known STARRING SALLY J. FRIEDMAN AS HERSELF, a book that Blume always said was very much autobiographical. It totally resonated with me, because I was *so* much like Sally (who was based on Judy), in that I was always making up stories in my head to entertain myself, too. So in many ways, identifying with this character that I knew was based on Judy Blume really did inspire me to become a writer, too.

Is there any of you in Violet-- are there ways you're similar to her?

Not much, beyond the fact that we're both Georgia-born! She's a lot stronger than I am--I'm not sure I could go through the stuff she went through and come out of it okay. I'm also *way* more timid, and more of a scaredy-cat.

What's a typical writing day for you?

Ha! I wish I could answer that one! I have no routine, no consistency, nothing. I'm working hard on becoming more disciplined, but with two kids, a husband, a dog, a part-time job--well, let's just say I'm a little scattered. I have discovered, however, that I'm much more of a nighttime writer than a daytime writer.

What was your biggest challenge in writing the book?

I think the biggest challenge is always trying to write something fresh. There are SO many YA paranormals out there right now. It's almost inevitable at this point that your book is going to be compared-either favorably or unfavorably-to someone else's. I know I'm going to get TWILIGHT comparisons, and there's not much I can do about that except embrace it and hope I've managed to bring something fresh to some tried-and-true tropes.

Who reads your manuscripts before you submit them?

I work with critique partners! One read the book and gave feedback chapter-by-chapter as I wrote it, and another read the finished product. Each has different strengths-different from mine-and together we make a great team! My agent also read and gave some great feedback along the way.

The love interest, Aidan, is one of those characters who's hot yet a little scary at the same time. How do you think you'd respond if you'd met him in high school-- go up and talk to him, or run the other way?

I was definitely too timid in high school to talk to a guy like Aidan! Unless, of course, he talked to me first.

What paranormal gift would you most like to have, and what type of paranormal would you like to date?

I've always thought astral projection sounded cool-ever since I read Lois Duncan's STRANGER WITH MY FACE back when I was twelve or so. As to dating someone-definitely 
not a mind reader! I don't know…maybe someone with telekinesis. Yeah, that might be handy.

And we'll end with an apocalypse readiness question: Other than family members and pets, what's the first thing you'd grab from your house in an emergency evacuation?

Definitely my pen drive! It's got all my manuscripts, my kids' photos, videos, pretty much my entire LIFE on it!

Thanks so much for the interview, Kristi, and best wishes on HAVEN's release!


  1. Love this, Kristi! Congratulations on the big day!!! HAVEN lives now... forever and ever. :-)

    P.S. You don't need no astral projection. You're writing IS astral projection!

  2. I've never heard of that Judy Blume book. I need to check it out. I'm very psyched (pun almost unintended) to read your book, because I love all those elements: the psychic powers, the boarding school setting. Can't wait. :)

  3. My copy of Haven is on it's way now! I've been looking forward to reading it for some time now and even though I've seen some Twilight comparisons, I'm excited to read it for its own appeal. Thanks for sharing, Kristi!

  4. HAVEN is on my wishlist! Great interview!

  5. Hey, GhostFolk, you're right! I never thought about that way. :o) And thanks so much to the Apocalypsies for having me!!

  6. Oh, Kathy....you must read STARRING SALLY J. FRIEDMAN....so good! And so perfect for those of us who recognize our younger selves in Sally.