The main characters of No Alligators in Sight were in Kirsten's head for years. The tale actually began as a short story, "Squelch." That short story then became the majority of Chapter 1, and over the course of about two years, "a chapter here and a chapter there grew to become the first draft," Kirsten explained. "The story grew because Lettie had more to say, and so I happily gave her the opportunity."
In turn, I'm giving Kirsten the opportunity to tell us more about her writing process and her personal stories, as well as her fictional ones:
Did anything major change between the first draft and the final draft? Was that due to your own thought process, or were the changes suggested by an editor, your agent, or a beta reader?
I did have some terrific feedback from both an agent and several beta readers, including the suggestion to make it shorter, losing some minor characters, and get to Florida faster. Also, some early readers thought that Joel, her father, was too harsh, which was great for me to know, because I saw and heard him differently than he at first appeared on the page to readers. All of these changes made sense to me, and then other, smaller ones grew organically from there as I revised.
What were you like at Lettie's age?
When I was Lettie's age, I was consumed with the idea of going to high school and the changes that would bring to my life. I viewed high school as the bridge to where I wanted to go in life, which indeed it was, and as Lettie does. I saw the many open doors that high school offered, and I went through nearly all of them, at top speed and full volume. Lettie ultimately does the same.
The road to publication can be bumpy and tough, but you made it!
Why, thank you!
You're welcome! Insert virtual high-five here. (I love high-fives.) What was your favorite part of the publishing process?
My favorite part of the publishing process continues: engaging with readers about the book, Lettie, and life in general. The whole process also made me excited to do it all over again.
What can you tell us about your next book?
As I think you can tell from No Alligators in Sight, my website, and this interview, I adore the adolescent point of view. My yet-to-be-named next novel explores the world of Harry Kavanaugh, a girl named for Harry Potter who has lived her whole life on the grounds of her school, a prep school in Washington, DC, since her mother is the school's most revered teacher with on-campus housing privileges. For the nearly-six-foot Harry, a girl who loves black, alternative music, and large animals more than humans, this existence is stifling and unfulfilling, so she sets out to find what might better rock her world, especially now that Kurt Cobain has passed on. Helping her on her quest are her Great Dane Frances Bean, her older brother with issues of his own, and her oldest friend and neighbor who may want to be more. I hope to have it revised and ready for print this summer.
Best of luck with it! Which storytellers (authors, poets, musicians, artists, actors, anyone!) have influenced your writing?
Broadly defined as someone or something who shows me a compelling story, it is character that speaks to me more than plot or setting or any literary device. If I can feel deeply for any character, be it in a book, a song, a painting, a movie, or a poem, then that work will resonate and stay with me and thus with my writing. Some of my influences and inspirations include, in no particular order: Margaret Atwood, Sarah Dessen, Michael Dibdin, Julia Roberts, Kate Atkinson, Mary Oliver, Georgia O'Keeffe, Robert Frost, Billy Collins, Robert Downey, Jr., Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Matt Damon, Taylor Swift, Mark Rothko, John Dowd, Jim Forsberg, Dakota Fanning, Tom Petty, and, certainly not least, Jane Austen.
That's a pretty cool mix. Last question: What are your top ten favorite books?
So hard to pick, so many great books, but here are the first ten to pop into my head:
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
eleanor & park by Rainbow Rowell
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Say hello to Kirsten at her website!