June 28, 2015

Interview: Khristina Chess, Author of STRAIGHT A's, HOLLOW BEAUTY & DRIVE TO JUNE

Khristina Chess lives with her husband and numerous pets in Huntsville, Alabama.  By day, she is a harried, Diet Mountain Dew-jazzed manager at an international software company, but in the wee hours of the morning, she writes young adult novels. She was recently named a finalist for the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

*What would you be doing right now if you were not an author?
In addition to being an author, I am a full-time manager at an international software company. But, if I weren't doing that or being an author, I think it would be really neat to be a CSI lab geek or an FBI agent. At least, I like those shows a lot.

*5 years ago: what were you doing?
The same thing I'm doing right now, except my department at work was a lot smaller, and I hadn't considered self-publishing yet with my novels.

*Do you have a certain writing ritual?
Alarm buzzes at 3:00 a.m. Cat wakes up and licks my hand. I snooze for 9 minutes. Alarm rings again. Cat licks again. I get up, visit bathroom, and then walk to the kitchen. Cat and I look in the refrigerator together, and I grab 2 cans of Diet Mountain Dew. We walk back to my home office and turn on the lights and radio. I feed her. I sit down at the computer. I begin to write. It's the same every day. 

*What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
I'd been working with this editor on several rounds of a novel. It was a literary fiction novel that I'd invested a lot of time into. She wrote a three-page critique that ended with a very blunt paragraph about how the book "lacks the narrative drama, the push and pull and tension--especially in the second two thirds of the book" and suggested that I put the book aside for a few months. Of course she was right, but at the time I had a really hard time receiving this feedback. I didn't write at all for a month or so. That never happens to me.

*Ever fangirled over another author? Who was it?
I have to confess that I had to Google what "fangirling" means. After reading the definition, no. I can't say I've had that kind of reaction over another author.

*Is there an author you'd like to meet?
My long-time favorite author is Steven King. It would be him. 

*Biggest writing pet peeve?
When an author keeps shifting tenses within the same chapter, on the same page, and even within the same paragraph. Are you writing in past tense or present tense? Pick one and stick to it. As a reader, I find this very jarring.

* Do you read other's reviews of your books?

Fav Color
Green. I also like orange.

Fictional Character you'd like to spend the day with?
Daenerys Targaryen from the Game of Thrones. She has pet dragons.

Fav food
Ice cream.

Fav song and/or singer
"I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe

Guilty pleasure

My Mustang. My love of speed, power, and muscle cars sometimes feel impractical and out-of-place, but I'm a huge fan. I have owned Mustangs almost since I've been driving.

Each of her books are free under KU or 99cents to buy...

Suicide should be the last thing on Kim’s mind. She’s on track for being valedictorian of her senior class and getting into the perfect college.

Then her parents’ separation ruins everything. Suddenly, she finds herself in a downward spiral of depression and academic confusion. Despite her study efforts, she’s in danger of getting a B in Calculus. That can’t happen. Kim believes the only way she can afford to attend the university she wants is through academic scholarships, by being at the top of her class, a perfect GPA, first place, valedictorian. Her whole future is riding on her grades.

With the clock ticking on the grading period, the last thing she needs is to fall in love with the cute new guy in Writer’s Club. High school romance isn’t part of her plan.

As the day for report cards draws near, depression threatens to overwhelm Kim, and she makes secret preparations for committing suicide. What will it take for her to realize that getting a B isn’t the end of the world?

When tall, gorgeous Brody asks Olivia to the prom, she’s ecstatic—until he suggests that she use the two months before the dance to lose some weight. Does he think she’s fat? His comment sends Olivia on a spiral of insecurity and dangerously rapid weight loss that borders on anorexia.

As her pounds vanish, her friendship deepens with Ross, the new prep cook at the diner where she works. Despite his mysterious limp, he doesn’t suffer crippling low self-esteem like Olivia does; usually, she can’t even look at herself in the mirror anymore. But when she’s riding dirt bikes and searching for caves with Ross, she doesn’t feel ugly or fat, just herself again—hanging out and having fun.

With Brody, instead of finding the romance and true love she had hoped for, she feels like a terrified rabbit that he’s going to devour. She refuses to think about that. She’s almost thin enough to be beautiful for the prom.

And then the unthinkable happens.

Adrianna is drowning her grief. 

Sixteen months ago, her mother died. With her father traveling so much, and her older sister away at college, no one notices that she’s been slowly draining her mother’s extensive wine collection. She drinks to forget an awful secret. She drinks until she goes numb. 

Now, she can’t seem to quit. Since moving to a new school, she has no really close friends or teachers who know her, which means that eighteen-year-old Adrianna has nothing to stop her free-fall. There is no one to help her deal with her pain. 

Then she meets Ian.

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