Today I’m interviewing Anna Kittrell, an author friend from Prism Book Group, who shares interesting tidbits about her writing style. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance at a free book.
Tell us a bit about you and your background.
For the past thirteen years, I have enjoyed working as a middle school secretary in my beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where I reside with my high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-five years, Tim, and our seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is my favorite story.
I have written for as long as I can remember. I still have most of my tattered creations—leftover stories I was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—scrawled in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. My love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and I am thrilled my tales are now worth more than ten cents.
What’s the logline that describes your writing?
Drenched in a combustible mixture of love and hate, Anna strikes a match.
What are your hobbies away from the computer?
I love spending time with my little grandbaby, watching a good movie with my husband, and reading.
Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?
They arrive simultaneously. Characters approach me in the middle of their experiences.
Is your writing style planned or freestyle?
Planned. The more time I spend planning, the quicker and cleaner the manuscript. I create a binder for each story filled with tabs for my outline, character sketches, visuals, research information, and—perhaps most importantly—a CALENDAR! I write nothing without first planning my characters’ calendar. Early on, I learned of the tangled, inescapable web caused by neglecting to create a solid character calendar. Never again.
What is the starting point for research—story concept or when you get stuck while writing?
I do some research ahead of time, usually just by googling the topic on which I need information, such as the demographics and climate of the area in which the story is set, how big my character’s school or house is, or the specifics of any special skills or afflictions that my character might have. As the story progresses, I always find more research is needed, so I do more and add it to the research tab in my binder.
Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?
My first romantic suspense novel, Skinbound, is set at Lake Chickasha, Oklahoma, which is just fifteen miles from my house. I’ve trampled those red lakeshores many times.
Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?
My outlines are so detailed, that if I get stuck, it is usually in the planning stage. A brainstorming session with a plain old pad and pencil usually does the trick. I write down a lot of “maybe this” or “maybe that” and do some idea clustering. It helps to just look at my thoughts on paper. If that doesn’t work, I take a shower. lol. For some reason, a hot shower often fills me with ideas and compels me to jump out—naked and soaking wet—to write them all down.
Do you write in a genre other than the one of this release?
In addition to YA Christian suspense, I write romantic suspense and YA contemporary.
What’s your dream vacation destination?
Hawaii. More specifically, Fantasy Island. I’m a dreamer—and an 80’s chick.
Do you use visual aids (storyboards, Pintrest, collages) when plotting or writing?
I love searching for my characters’ hairstyles, attire, and jewelry online. This is especially fun when I am planning a high school prom or a wedding. I also pick out their automobiles and homes. I always print out pictures of people who resemble my characters to use as a reference guide.
In what genre do you read?
It sometimes surprises people to learn that I enjoy reading classic horror. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Frankenstein are two of my favorite books. Also, I am a teen at heart, so I love to read YA. So many important things can be said in the young adult voice that can’t be said in the adult voice. Whether reading or writing, YA allows me to be completely transparent—emotional, dramatic, explosive, silly—and best of all, honest, without fear.
Are you a pet person? If so, what do you have?
My little editing partner, Bruce the Chihuahua, passed away last summer at the age of 13. I really miss him. I may get another dog when my six-month-old grandson gets a bit older.
What do you hope readers gain from your stories?
When the book closes, I want readers to remember my characters as friends—the same way I do. I hope the tale will seem more like a memory experienced than a story read.
All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?
I stepped through the automatic door, the cold night air piercing my lungs. Snowflakes, too waterlogged to float, splattered on the pavement like wounded birds. I spied Dad’s sports coupe and watched the milky snow plop onto the shiny red paint. On second thought, the stuff falling from the sky looked more like what birds do.
Mom’s parking space was two over from Dad’s, next to an iron lamppost. I pulled my hood up, jogged to the champagne-colored car, and tugged the passenger door handle. Locked. Pressing my forehead against the cold window, I watched the tinted glass fog with my breath. I stooped and cleared the side mirror with my coat sleeve, checking my reflection. With a shiver, I drew in a frigid lungful of air then released it slowly through pursed lips, scissoring my fingers around an invisible cigarette. Impressed with how I looked, I shook back my hood and took another invisible drag.
“Seriously?” Misty’s cackle rang out through the hushed parking lot, causing me to throw down my imaginary cigarette and bury my head in my hood.
“What are you doing, you dork?” she asked, her voice closer. I turned toward her as she stepped into the light, her hair wet with snow, a wisp of real smoke curling, rising above her. “You’ll like this brand better—it has more flavor.” The red glow on the end of the cigarette grew brighter as she sucked on the filter.
“Won’t you get in trouble if your dad smells smoke on you?”
“What’s he going to do, send me to rehab? He already took my phone, thanks to you.”
“Cigarette rehab, is that a real thing?” I asked.
Misty glared and took another drag. “You know, I used to be a lot like you. A pampered little princess. My parents’ pride and joy. A good girl. Then one day, I woke up and realized I was only being good because I was afraid of being bad. I was a fake. Pretending to be perfect so I wouldn’t disappoint my parents. So I changed. Now I call the shots.”
“Glad you can call something,” I muttered.
“Was that a crack about my phone? Don’t worry, I’ll have it back by this time tomorrow. Wait and see.” She flicked ashes to the wet pavement. “I bet you’ve never done one bad thing in your entire pathetic life. Seriously, how do you stand yourself?”
“Maybe I like how I am,” I said, knowing she could see right through me.
“Yeah. Sure you do. That’s why you’re standing out here in the dark pretending to smoke. Here,” she said, offering her cigarette to me.
The burning tobacco caused my pulse to quicken. Something tingled inside, a maddening mixture of thrill and dread—like riding a rollercoaster up the track. I formed a V with my fingers and extended my hand, on the edge of the most exhilarating moment of my life.
Misty handed the cigarette off to me and I brought it to my lips with shaking fingers, knowing my next breath would leave me forever changed.
“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” my mother screeched, her boot heels clacking across the wet parking lot.
I froze, cigarette smoldering between my fingers, somehow unable to flick it to the ground.
Misty backed away from the glow of the lamppost into the shadows, her quick footsteps fading as she darted across the parking lot, leaving me to burn alone in my mother’s fiery glare.
“Kids will be kids.” I swung around at the sound of Dad’s chuckle as he strode up the hospital sidewalk with Mayor Lincoln. “I’m just glad the girls are all right. Happy holidays.” They shook hands before parting on the curb then Dad glanced over and paced toward us. “Hey, what’s up?” He frowned at the cigarette glued between my fingers.
“Apparently Lenni has taken up smoking,” Mom informed him, her voice wavering.
“Smoking? Lenni?” He shook his head and grinned. “Surely there’s a rational explanation.” My father looked at me expectantly. “Let’s hear it, Len. Did you pick it up off the pavement because it was a fire hazard?”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Neal, look around you. The parking lot is completely saturated. If she’d picked it up off the ground, it would be soaking wet and extinguished.” Mom rolled her eyes. “She was smoking.”
“Now hold on. Lenni’s already been through a lot tonight. I’m not convinced—”
They ignored me and argued about what I was or was not doing. My ears rang. A headache pounded behind my eyeballs. Trading digs and snide remarks, their rising voices ignited a fuse in the pit of my stomach that twisted through my entire being.
Smoke wafted into my face and I breathed it in. My parents narrowed their eyes at one another, lost on some angry planet of their own as I brought the cigarette to my lips and drew the smoke into my lungs. I probably could’ve stood there, invisible, and smoked the whole thing, had my sputtering, coughing, and wheezing not snapped their heads in my direction.
With a gasp, Mom lunged and slapped the cigarette from my fingers, grazing my lip. I clamped a hand over my stinging mouth.
“Keep your hands off her,” Dad yelled, grabbing Mom by the wrist. She twisted her arm and grunted, trying to get free.
I jammed myself between their rigid bodies, shoving them apart. Screams ripped through my cigarette-raw throat. Dad dropped Mom’s wrist and they stared at me. I jumped up and down screaming until I ran out of air, ending with a breathy screech.
A young woman holding a bundled child against her shoulder passed by, her eyes wide as she hurried through the wet parking lot to her car.
“She’s okay,” Dad called after her, and then reached his arms out to me.
I took a step back. “Mom, take me home.” My voice plunged to a watery sob that shook my shoulders and weakened my knees.
Prism Book Group
Snippets from 5-star reviews
I sat down today and read from cover to end. I could not put it down. This book made me feel, it made me ache and yes, in two scenes brought me to tears. I recommend this book to every parent who has a teenager. Read it. Then pass it on to your child.
*Ms Kittrell did an excellent job with this fast paced novel. She handled a very current and troubling situation involving children and teenagers. The intrigue and danger keeps the reader turning pages and the meaning of true friends and a relationship with God clearly shines through.
Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.
Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.
Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/AKittrell
Author will give away free e-copy of Witcha’be and a free e-copy of Dizzy Blonde to two random commenters.