Interview with Kristen Kittscher

Interview with Kristen Kittscher

What genre do you write and why?
I write mysteries for readers aged 8 to 12. There’s something so exciting about writing for kids right as they’re discovering the joy of escaping into novels. When they love something, they really love it. They’ll read it over and over and be inspired to write their own fan fiction. I love that pre-teens are old enough to understand larger truths about the world, but still have great enthusiasm and a sense of wonder. It’s also fun to be a little silly! And let’s face it: my own development might have arrested at age twelveJ

Interview with Kristen Kittscher
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is another funny mystery for kids – a sequel to my debut, The Wig in the Window, which features seventh grade best friends and wanna be spies, Sophie Young and Grace Yang. In this adventure, Young & Yang must go undercover in their town parade catch a murderer before he—or she—strikes again. It’s a bit like Miss Congeniality set in middle school – with plenty of fast-paced action and a good dose of silliness! (The alleged victim in the case was killed by a giant fake marshmallow in the S’More animatronic feature of the Girls Scouts of America campfire-themed float, if that gives you any sense of things…)

When and where do you write?
I constantly change writing locations. Am I confirming stereotypes about neurotic writers? If the going was tough one day, the next I’ll pick a different chair or view or entirely new location. There is one constant, though. I always bring my “writing knight” with me. A dear friend’s father -- a writer and scholar I looked up to --used to keep it on his desk when he was still alive.  My friend passed it along to me when I sold The Wig in the Window. I like to think it brings me luck.

What are you currently reading? 
I’m currently deep into Ruth Franklin’s new biography of Shirley Jackson (Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life). It’s a stunning reclamation of her legacy – and of writing that was sidelined as mere “women’s” literature at the time. It’s chock full of great inspiration for writers, too.  I highly recommend it, even if you’re not as big of a Shirley Jackson fan as I am.

What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
“Writing is a friendship with your own mind” – Natalie Goldberg. I highly recommend her books on writing, especially Writing Down the Bones.

What's the best thing about being a writer?
Besides getting to stay in your pyjamas a good bit of the day? Getting to surprise yourself over and over again. There’s something purely magic about creating something where there wasn’t before, and I’m addicted to it.

Interview with Kristen Kittscher
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A little bit of both. I didn’t outline my first book, The Wig in the Window up front but instead charged ahead blindly. I made a mess of things, took ages, then wrote an outline after the fact that helped me shape the story. I took the opposite approach with the sequel because I do think that outlining saves a great deal of headache (and heartache?). I wasn’t entirely right about that: having such a detailed outline might have helped with the plotting of the mystery, but I lost some of the joy in the actual writing and would sometimes be forcing illogical decisions upon my characters. I had to toss that outline and “pants” much more to get it right!

Do you believe in writers block?
I do, in the sense that if you are having difficulty writing, there’s a reason for it – there’s something you need to attend to. I had a great deal of difficulty writing after the sudden death of my father. I pushed myself, which only made matters worse: that’s when I realized that my mind was protecting myself and letting me know I had to deal give myself space to deal with my grief.

I also think perfectionism and an overactive inner critic can throw up a great deal of unnecessary, imaginary obstacles. They need to be kept at bay!

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
While I always wanted to be a writer, my seventh grade English students were my inspiration. It wasn’t until I imagined writing a story that they would enjoy that I followed through on my vague notions and actually wrote regularly.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Stop worrying about whether anything will come of your writing. Just let go and enjoy doing it!


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