Wouldn’t You Like to Know . . . Kiersten White
Born in Utah, but happy to become a fully immersed “California Girl,” Kiersten White, her husband of ten years and their two young children are happily taking advantage of the beach, the nearby San Diego Zoo, and their local library. An avid reader of classics in her teens, White found herself energized and inspired by current teen fiction choices. At first writing only while her children napped, Kiersten now heads off for a quality, quiet spot–the library!–to pen her novels. Using fiction to channel real teen angst into unreal, supernatural characters and adding a helpful dollop of humor to it all has helped make this author and her books leap out from the crowd. It only took seven days for Kiersten’s first book Paranormalcy to hit the New York Times bestseller list and soon followed up with Supernaturally, also a NYT bestseller! To ease the pain of waiting for her next full-on novel, you might want to check out White’s blog. With frequent updates and plenty of her signature sense of humor, it’s a joy to read. Or if you need more continuous contact, her Twitter feed could be your answer.
SH: When I was a teenager, people would describe me as a: (jock, band geek, popular, goth, other, none?)
KW: That really short girl who answers a lot of questions.
SH: The best thing that happened to you in high school was?
KW: Graduating. A lot of people were sad to leave it behind, but I saw only potential in the future. I’m glad I had that attitude. I do wish I had been more involved in extracurriculars, though. I had a lot of interests that I ignored, and I think I would have been happier if I had just jumped in and pursued them.
SH: Favorite childhood book? Favorite food? Favorite band or album? Favorite television show?
KW: Anne of Green Gables, pizza, Snow Patrol, and Arrested Development.
SH: Is there a story from your childhood that is told most often, either by you *or* about you?
KW: My sisters quite like recounting the time I accidentally brushed my teeth with Desitin (yes, bum-numbing cream) and ran out of the bathroom screaming, convinced my tongue was going to swell up and suffocate me. Not my proudest moment. I was seventeen.
SH: If you had an important secret or story to share, who would be the first person you’d turn to?
KW: My husband, of course. He has a double role as my best friend. He’s versatile that way!
SH: Is there one moment in your life you’d love to live again? To either change it or to enjoy?
KW: I can’t say I’d change anything (though this contradicts what I said earlier about wishing I had been more involved in high school) because I am so happy with where I am now. However, I do wish that, going back a few years, I’d known that a) the book stuff would work out (so I could calm down and stop stressing about it) and b) the having-more-than-two-kids wouldn’t, so I could have prepared myself and enjoyed the baby stages more. But, like anything, it doesn’t do any good to look back other than to learn and move on!
SH: If you could handpick the ideal reader for your book, how would you describe that reader?
KW: You. (You being anyone who sees this sentence.) I have no ideal reader other than a person who picks up books and enjoys them! Those persons are the very best type of persons.
SH: Is there a book, besides your own of course, that you think everyone should be reading?
KW: My standard recommendation is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. A phenomenal book. More recently, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness blew me away. I also want every teen girl (and every adult girl, for that matter) to read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.
SH: Who was the first person to tell you that you should be a writer? Did you believe them? If you weren’t an awesome writer, what would your ultimate dream job be?
KW: My father is the first I remember specifically, though I know teachers always encouraged me as well. I believed all of them, fortunately, because I don’t think I would have stuck with it otherwise. My two main goals were to be a stay-at-home mom and a writer. Done and done!
SH: What do you think would catch a person’s attention if they walked into your workspace, your kitchen, or your family room?
KW: Me, jumping out of the corner to tackle them and dig my knee into their back until they told me just what they were doing wandering into my home.
Oh, uh, if they were invited? Probably the BOOKS. I have lots of them. And lots. Also lots.
SH: When you’re done writing for the day, or taking a little “me” time, do you have a hobby or special treat you indulge in?
KW: Yes! It is called: lay on the couch like a slug.
Additionally my husband and I enjoy playing German board games together.
SH: Your favorite channel has a one-day movie series or television show marathon. What’s on?
KW: Depends on my mood. Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, Arrested Development, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
SH: Congratulations, an Official Holiday has just been created in your honor! What would you like to call your special day? What kinds of decorations, events, or celebrations would we expect to see?
KW: It’s called FREE NAP DAY. Rather self-explanatory. Low-key, family-friendly, and best of all, you can celebrate whenever you want!
SH: What three words do you think other people would use to describe you?
KW: Talks too fast.
SH: You are sitting down to dinner with five people, living or dead, who you find fascinating. Who is at the table and what are you eating?
KW: Well, if five of them are dead, that means they’re either zombies or vampires, so unfortunately I’d probably be the meal and I’d be too busy screaming in agony to notice who was devouring my brains/sucking my blood.
SH: You get three wishes, what are they?(Yes, you can wish for more wishes but are you *that* person?)
KW: 1) Instant transportation power. I’d love to be able to pop in to visit loved ones for a few hours without having to actually travel across the country. 2) After that wish, I’d be overcome with guilt over being granted unlimited potential in a wish and using it for a selfish thing. So I’d wish for world peace. 3) After world peace magically descended on the world all of the politicians and war-mongerers would be furious with me so I’d probably have to wish for an unlisted phone number and then I’d be really angry because I could have just disconnected my phone line, but nooooo, I had to waste a whole wish on it.
SH: Do you have a phrase or motto that inspires you?
KW: Nope. I know a lot of people really love mottos, but they always ring kind of false to me. I’d much rather DO something than read a pretty saying about doing something. (Which is . . . why I’m a writer? Hmm.)
SH: What one thing makes you feel happiest? What makes you sad? What scares you?
KW: Happiest: My family.
Sad: Friends and loved ones going through hard things.
Scared: Mold. Also the zombies and vampires that killed me in question 15.
SH: What is one (or more!) of your favorite features about yourself? It can be anything from an impeccable sense of style to your sense of humor to crazy long toes that can pick up a variety of objects.
KW: Now I just want crazy long toes. My toes feel so inadequate. I quite like my green eyes, though.
SH: A series of choices: Coke or Pepsi? Snickers or Hershey Bar with Almonds? Scrabble or Clue? Cats or dogs? Morning or night? Spend or save? Camping or Spa Day? Dessert or appetizers?
KW: Dr Pepper. Dove chocolate. Mah Jong. Hermit crabs. Both as long as I am sleeping. Save. Camping is dirty and spas creep me out, so, bookstore day? And always, forever, desserts!
SH: Any advice for teens, something you wish you had known? Or wish you had done? Or wish you had not done? And why. (Or maybe: Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten, at any age?)
KW: Surround yourself with people who remind you of who you want to be and help you get there.
SH: How hard was it to create this other complex, supernatural world and still make it fit so neatly into our average, human world?
KW: Not hard at all, actually. That was the fun of it—layering a magical world onto the very normal one. I think that magic is always there, simmering under the surface, and the juxtaposition of reality and fantasy is what makes our world so rich.
SH: When you created Evie’s back story, did you realize how sad it has the potential to feel? What made you go with pink, sparkly, and bouncy to make-up Evie’s signature style instead of dark and brooding?
KW: I always laugh when reviews remark that it took them a while to realize just how dark Evie’s story really is because her narration is so BOUNCY. But her voice just came out that way. I think everyone deals with trauma, disappointment, and loneliness in different ways. A friend of mine once said that the funniest people she knows are also the saddest. Humor and darkness are best friends, as far as I’m concerned. Evie’s love of sparkle does soften it a bit, though, which makes it more fun to read.
SH: Reading about the complicated, mostly scary!, world of the faerie can be nerve-wracking. Was it hard to create such a dangerous place? Where did you get your inspiration for the rules that govern their world?
KW: I loved creating faerie mythology. I went back to traditional tales of the fey, mostly from the British Isles. A lot of what I took was directly from those (admittedly very loose and not incredibly uniform) accounts. What was most important to me was creating a sense of alien, emphasizing that immortal creatures cannot and would not function or think or view the world the same way that we do.
SH: Is Evie’s dedication to Easton Heights similar to one of your own? Are you a big fan of a particular soap opera? Have you ever thought about writing a book from the perspective of one of the actors on Easton Heights?
KW: What’s funny is I don’t actually watch any soap operas. The closest I get is The Vampire Diaries. A lot of people have asked if Easton Heights is based on [insert soapy teen show here], and I can always say yes, because it is based on all of them, because they are all exactly the same. It’s both funny and delightful, I think.
I’ve never seen any story potential in Easton Heights, though. Because, as I said, it’s been done and is being done and will be done as long as we love dramatic romantic entanglements and ridiculously contrived plots, which, let’s hope that never ends.
SH: Lish is a such a great character, and one of the few beings Evie can count on, what made you do it?
KW: I didn’t do it. Vivian did. Blame her.
Seriously though, I felt like it was necessary to the story, necessary to pushing Evie toward some hard realizations about the way she viewed the world. Lish was her ultimate safety net, and a story can’t go where it needs to with a safety net. If it makes you feel any better, though, I hate hate hate that chapter.
SH: When Jack popped up, it felt like a complete surprise. His shady background and his half-truth answers are can be maddening. How hard was it to keep his secrets and still reveal enough to engage the reader? Does his unpredictability make him more or less fun to write about?
KW: It was definitely a hard balance (as it always is) to decide how much to reveal and how much to leave for a punch at the end. It’s a fine line to walk.
However, Jack is one of my favorite characters to write. Actually, Jack, Vivian, and Reth are my three favorites. Every time they show up on page I know it’s going to be a wild ride.
SH: Sure they all have their flaws, but they all have their attractive aspects as well. So who would you pick for yourself: Reth, Jack, or Lend? And, of course, why?
KW: Lend, of course. Mostly because I married him. (Yes, I stole heavily from my husband to create Lend. What can I say? My husband is perfect. Also a half-water elemental shape shifter, but please don’t tell the government. It’s our little secret.)
SH: Vivian is such a strong force for having so few moments on center stage. Do you get much reader feedback on Vivian and her role in Evie’s life? Are you surprised by it?
KW: I generally avoid reviews, so I haven’t gotten much feedback on Vivian specifically. It was important to me that Vivian continue to have a role in the series because she’s an important link between Evie and the supernatural world. They are two sides of the same coin, and provide a nice balance/contrast. Plus, I like writing her.
SH: As the last in the trilogy, was this book the hardest or easiest to write? Did you start the series knowing how you wanted it to end?
KW: I always knew exactly where I wanted the series to end, but the way I got there ended up being completely different than what I had originally envisioned for books two and three. There was no Jack, Vivian was totally gone, and for some reason I thought Evie needed to be traveling to volcanoes a lot.
It…did not make much sense in retrospect.
Paranormalcy was by far the easiest of the three to write. Endlessly was a struggle in that I am a rather contrary person, and knowing that I HAD to write it made me want to write anything else. However, once I got back into the groove of Evie’s voice I had a blast and it just might maybe be my favorite of the three. I am very proud of how it ended and have no regrets.
SH: Do you have a favorite swoony moment in story? A favorite dangerous moment? A favorite family moment?
KW: My favorite moment is probably the very end of the very last scene, though I really loved spending more time in the faerie realms.
SH: Is there anything you wish you could change, add, or delete in any of the three books?
KW: There was one scene in Paranormalcy I cut for pacing reasons that introduced several characters I wish I had kept, only because it would have been the foundation for characters I had to use in book three. They felt superfluous in book one, but it would have been nice to have already introduced them.
Alas, the perils of writing a series.
SH: And the last burning question. The covers on all three books are fabulous. How much input did you have? Is the image of “Evie” a photograph or drawing of a real girl, just based on a real girl, or purely imaginary?
KW: I had almost no input, and I’m ever so glad! I have no design skills whatsoever, and the covers HarperTeen gave me are amazing. The girl is a New York runway model that they picked and brought in for a photo shoot, where they took hundreds of pictures of her in different dresses so they’d have plenty of material for all three covers. Weren’t they clever to think ahead like that?
SH: What are you working on now?
KW: Interview questions, of course. But aside from that I have a new deal for four books coming out in 2013 and 2014 (two a year!), so that’s keeping me plenty busy. MIND GAMES, a dark thriller, will be out early 2013 and is the first in a new series.
SH: Have you hidden friends or family in your stories? Has anyone ever asked to be included?
KW: I have dropped random name references in, but other than that no. Though there is a longtime online friend that I turned into a vampire and then killed, only because I knew he’d appreciate it.
SH: What did you buy with your first paycheck as An Author? Was it a planned or an impulse purchase?
KW: I bought a car. Seeing as how I had spent the previous six years without one, walking everywhere pushing my kids in a stroller, it wasn’t exactly impulsive! I’m very, very grateful that I can help support my family with my writing. It’s a huge blessing.
SH: How does it feel to see “New York Times bestselling author” by your name? Of course it’s not the only honor you’ve received and it won’t be your last. Which other honors and awards would you like to add next?
KW: It still feels a bit surreal, and, in the end, it’s just a title that doesn’t impact me on a daily basis. That’s what I’ve learned about these things—they’re amazing and huge and wonderful and somehow I still have to get up before I want to every day, pack lunches, clean up messes, sooth sick children, and force myself to write when I don’t feel like it. Awards and distinctions are lovely, but they don’t make putting words on pages any easier.
Though I wouldn’t mind winning an Academy Award; I need a new book-end.
SH: Would you want your books to become a movie, a television show, or a graphic novel series? If you were casting the movie or t.v. show, who would you want to for some of your main characters?
KW: Paranormalcy is currently in development with a director and a screenwriter attached, so we’ll see where that goes! While I don’t have my heart set on Hollywood (other than the obvious book-end aspirations), it would be fun to see something of mine interpreted in a different medium.
SH: What’s the best, or most surprising, question you’ve ever been asked?
KW: Actually, it’s a question I asked someone else, and that’d be, “Hey, want to go to a movie with me?” Got me an incredible husband and two amazing kids. Pretty good question, right?
Parnormalcy. Harperteen, 2010. 335p. $16.99. 978-0061985843. VOYA October 2010. 3Q 3P M J S
Supernaturally. Harperteen, 2011. 342p. $17.99. 978-0061985867. VOYA June/August 2011. 4Q 4P J S
Endlessy. Harperteen, 2012. 400p. $17.99. 978-0061985881. VOYA April 2012. 5Q 5Q J S
Kiersten White’s website: http://www.kierstenwhite.com/
Kiersten Writes (her blog): http://kierstenwrites.blogspot.com/