Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Kirsten Hubbard

Today I'm interviewing the lovely Kirsten Hubbard, debut author of Like Mandarin--which is no longer a forthcoming novel...because it released TODAY! It is beautifully written and I kept thinking about it for days after reading...a sign of a story with impact. Read this interview and then rush out and buy it!

It’s hard to find beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming. Fourteen-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it’s not her mother’s pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances and pickup trucks adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild girl Mandarin Ramey: seventeen, shameless and utterly carefree.

Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.

When the misfits are united for a project, they embark on an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town’s animal-head trophies, and constantly searching for someplace magic. Grace even plays along when Mandarin suggests they make a pact to run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds that plague their badlands town.

But all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin’s unique beauty hides a girl who’s troubled, broken and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, even the best friendships can’t withstand betrayal.

RM: The story is set in Washokey, Wyoming. What’s your connection with that location and why did you choose to set the story there?

KH: I'm a Southern California girl, but small-town Wyoming is in my blood. My mother grew up in Big Horn County, and we visited my grandparents in their town many times. Like Grace, I took many long walks out in the badlands. There's a brutal silence in those hills there that never leaves you.

RM: I’m fascinated with the interactions between Mandarin and Grace. Their relationship is edgy, but you let it unfold with beautiful restraint. Did you put a lot of thought into how to show their intensity, or did this unusual duo just pop straight from your mind?

KH: Thank you! I think the key to writing genuine characters is knowing them so well they begin to walk and talk and act on their own. When you can't cram words in their mouths they'd never say, you know you're doing something right. And when you place two of them in a scene, it should be like that Jung quote: "The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”Every time Grace and Mandarin came together in various situations, keeping them true resulted in a tension I found totally intriguing, even as I wrote it!

RM: I love stories that tackle mother/daughter relationships. Do you feel there is a universal issue that teen girls must face when it comes to their relationship with their mother?

KH: The hardest truth of all, I think, is to truly recognize our mothers are people too -- flawed people, who fumble and fall and make mistakes, and have hopes and dreams, and entire personal lives and pasts outside their relationships with us. In most cases, it starts with rebellion; but hopefully, ends with compassion and understanding on both sides. Which is tough -- but so worth it.

Tell us about your writing process. Scheduled? Daily word count? Outliner? Pantser? Or do you write for days at a time in enormous chunks fueled by yummy snacks and then gloriously crash?

KH: Oh gosh, I am a mess of all of the above at various times. When I'm drafting or actively revising, it's The Book above all else, until my eyes burn or I feel awkward ordering a third drink at Starbucks. As far as outlining, I sort of do, but not at first. I like to start at a compelling place and see where the first few chapters take me before I figure out the rest, usually in something that resembles a screenplay treatment. I think it's crucial to know the climax and how the story ends before I get very far, otherwise there'll be a whole lot of wasted wordage. But if I deviate from my outline, that's cool. Also, I try to write chronologically, but if I'm excited about a scene, I let myself jump ahead.

RM: Any details you can give us about your next novel, Wanderlove? (Just the title alone makes me want to read this!)

KH: WANDERLOVE is the story of a girl named Bria Sandoval who heads to Central America to get over a crappy relationship. She joins a brother-and-sister backpacking pair off the beaten path and confronts her past, the art she thought she'd lost, and a frightening array of jungle beasties -- all while trying to deny her feelings for the one guy who's off-limits (and extremely
hot). (RM: Yes!!!)

RM: Since we here at the Apocalypsies fancy all things end-of-the-world-ish, name three things you MUST HAVE in your survival bunker. (Other than actual survival items, as we will assume those have been provided by our publishers.)

KH: A laptop with a self-powered neverending nuclear charger. A case of Tazo chai tea, because that stuff is my writing adrenaline. And assuming my husband's already in the bunker with me... my sheltie mutt, Sky, because he is very good for morale.

Thanks, Kirsten. Wishing you the best!


For more information about Kirsten and Like Mandarin, visit her website!


  1. Yay! I've been looking forward to this book for so long!!

  2. I'm already a big fan of my fellow Southern Californian (and fellow Tazo Chai lover!), and have been WAITING for this book to come out, so yea! And also eager for her next book, which sounds equally great. Alas, I will have to wait some more for that one...

  3. Great interview, Robin! And happy release day to Kristin. Wanderlove sounds like a fabulous book too!

  4. Great interview and congrats to Kristin! Like Mandarin sounds great, especially since I think we've all wanted to be someone else at some point in our lives.