Characters and their worlds have inundated Kristen’s mind since she was a kid. Traveling to far off places and having words on a piece of paper transform into entire scenes pulling at her emotions is an obsession.
Her goal as a fantasy author isn’t solely to relish in her imagination, but to bring representation to this genre. She wants stories with characters who are diverse inside and out. Their differences are not the focal point of the story, but rather a natural part of their being. Due to this, you will often not only find characters of varying ethnicities, but of the LGBTQ+ community, who battle diseases, are neuroatypical, and plenty of other areas that make us all so different from each other. These are not their defining qualities. It’s simply a part of who they are. To further support these communities, Kristen donates 10% of her profits to various organizations.
When Kristen isn’t cooped up on her computer or curled up with a book, she is often outdoors– hiking, snorkeling, diving, camping, etc.
Currently, she resides in California with her husband and fur babies (two dogs and a cat).
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author? I have written since I was six years old, which I feel many authors find their initial interest at a young age. My two passions in life have always been writing stories and the ocean. I became a SCUBA instructor and work as a Marine Science teacher, so I figured it was time to pursue my other passion in life. Last year, I finished a novel I started in college, and after falling down an indie author rabbit hole during 2020, I committed to becoming an author. I don’t want to live my life with a “what if” hanging over my head. I have always made choices based on what I will regret the least, and I knew if I never pursued publishing a book it would be something I’d regret. So, voila! An author I became! I don’t have expectations to make millions as an author, but I know when all is said and done I will have given it my all. Talking with my readers about moments they love, characters they enjoy, or fan theories is so unbelievably exciting and something I truly relish.
What is something unique/quirky about you? After college, I sold everything I owned, paid off my student loans, and left the United States to live abroad for two years, including England, Indonesia, and Belize. The last is where I met my partner, and he loved me enough to move back to states while I attended graduate school. Also, if you were to add all my scuba dives together, I will have spent roughly 3.5-4 months of my life underwater.
Tell us something really interesting that’s happened to you! Any of my “interesting” things will probably be ocean based. How about one of the many times I got to dive with wild dolphins? Or one of the times an octopus reached out its tentacle to touch my finger like a perfect rendition of E.T.? I’ve had to kick a shark in the nose before because it got a little too aggressive, but I don’t like telling this story because I already hate how fearful of sharks people are, which has led us to slaughtering 90% of them. So, perhaps the times I’ve pet sharks while they swam by me or were asleep in the sand? Sea turtles have startled me more than anything because they will swim right into you without a care in the world. Honestly, I can talk about the ocean and my experiences for hours. Feel free to find me on any social media (facebook, instagram, tiktok) and I will happily tell you all the fun stories!
Where were you born/grew up at? I was born in California, but moved to the East coast near my 2ns birthday. I spent my childhood in a rural town in Maryland with five and a half acres, horses, and running through the woods playing with the fairies that lived there. I moved back to Southern California one week before high school started, and have been on the West Coast ever since (more less, if we disclude my travel years and when I lived on Kauai), so I consider myself “bi-coastal.”
If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day? SCUBA diving, spending time with loved ones, and binging on all my favorite foods.
Who is your hero and why? Sylvia Earle because she is one of the first female marine scientists who helped change the game with deep sea diving. Also, she’s a huge proponent for ocean conservation and is a general bad a**. (Am I allowed to say that?) In terms of writing, Annette Marie is an absolutely amazing indie fantasy author who creates such intricate and realistic worlds that I’m blown away by her books every time. OR Audrey Grey, another amazing indie fantasy author, and I’m obsessed with her morally grey characters, and character development is **chefs kiss**.
What kind of world ruler would you be? A terrible one, I’m sure. I have no interest in being a world ruler. I am NOT the chosen one and I’m perfectly fine with that.
What are you passionate about these days? Writing, teaching, the ocean, traveling. Not much has changed since I was a kid it seems. When it comes to pure passion, to where I feel it deep in my gut of something I want to do…
For writing, it’s bringing diversity to the fantasy genre. I’m not only talking about racial diversity, but neurodiveristy, gender diversity, physical diversity, sexual orientation diversity. We live in a complex world where humans greatly differ from one another in so many ways, so why should a fantasy world be any different? On top of that, I want to give back to these communities I aim to represent in my novels, so not only do I hire sensitivity readers for narratives I am not familiar with, but I donate 10% of my profits to various non-profits. For Banshee’s Curse, since one of the main side characters has autism, I am donating to Foundations of Divergent Minds. It’s run by autistic people, not parents of autistic people, and has a staff highly composed of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people too.
In teaching, my other profession when I’m not writing books, I’m passionate about getting teachers training beyond the subjects they teach or classroom management. I truly believe teachers are not only there to teach a topic, but often wind up as mentors and are on the forefront if a student is having a rough time. I want to know teachers have the right tools to handle those difficult situations in order to best support students, and I want to be sure students are getting the correct initial support too.
What do you do to unwind and relax? Read. Watch movies/tv shows/anime. Anything that is story telling I love. Otherwise I’m fairly outdoorsy. Hiking with my pups, camping, fishing, diving are all activities I love too.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less! Empathetic. Driven. Oddball. Loyal. Mermaid.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? Probably in college. I was initially a Creative Writing major before I changed to a Biology major. Sometimes it can be hard to consider yourself a writer, but I made a distinction between “writer” and “author”, and it helped me embrace the former.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie? Any of them! Although, my YA mermaid novel may be difficult without the entire thing being CGI. But you never know with today’s technology!
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? First, I wouldn’t use the word ‘spirit animal’ due to cultural appropriation and I’m not Native. However, my mascot/avatar would most likely be a dolphin. It sounds cliche with my love for the ocean, but I’m generally energetic, I would fight for my family/loved ones, and my brain is always running on full power. These are all characteristics I associate with dolphins. Fun fact! Dolphins sleep with only half of their brain at a time. In Hawaii, if you find spinner dolphins close to shore, with only a couple of dolphins spinning on the outskirts of the pod, they are actually sleeping and the ones jumping out of the water are trying to herd the others. Also, they’ll twist to the side to watch underneath them with the side that’s “on” in order to look for predators, and being over sandy bottoms it’s easier to do this because the predators will stick out more. I worked as a SCUBA instructor in Kauai before moving back to California to teach high school science, thus the random knowledge.
What inspired you to write this book? I love fantasy, all subgenres, and there’s common mythical beings who get written about (vampires, shifters, fae, witches to name a few), and I was trying to think of a “darker” fantasy character to write about, and a banshee popped into my mind. Researching it more, I found out banshees stem from Irish/Celtic folklore, and it was a slippery slope from there, leading me to all the other characters like druids, pucas, and other Celtilc fae.
What can we expect from you in the future? **Chants** More books! More books! More books! I wish I could write as fast as my novel ideas sprout in my brain. I plan for Banshee’s Curse to be a 4 or 5 book series. Plus, I have the first book of my YA mermaid series written, and I hope for that to be a 4 book series. That one is really fun because I essentially thought, “I have a lot of knowledge about the ocean, so how can I take real ocean phenomena and create a mer-community?” I still take creative license plenty of times, but most of what I write is grounded in something factual, so in a way it hinges on sci-fi too. Also, I already have a witch-familiar trilogy loosely plotted, dragon shifters, and incubi/demon ideas. Different representations I will have across these will be more LGBTQ+ characters, cancer survivor, and epilepsy to name a few. Also, in my mermaid series I have a main character who lost an arm. I am so excited with how all these diversities wind into these fantasy worlds I’m creating. Again, I wish I could write faster. I want to get books out to readers as soon as I can, which is one of the many reasons I decided to go an indie instead of the traditional publishing route.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters? I do have a prequel novella out called Losing The Light. It’s short and sweet, about five chapters, and written from the perspective of the main love interest about six years prior to when the main series takes place. What happens in this novella is so pivotal to why certain characters are certain ways in the main series, I couldn’t help but dive into the day that changed everything a little bit more.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Whisper of Darkness? Cara is the main character who has spent her life thinking she is cursed due to a ringing that occurs in her head before someone around her dies. Surprise! She’s not cursed, she’s a banshee! Other fun facts, she loves animals and makes inappropriate sounds when eating something delicious or has coffee. Also, she struggles with her mental health, which is to be expected when you have lived life with death haunt you.
Shay is a druid, and kind of a prick. He’s also the reason Cara ends up being taken away to another realm.
Killian can make a person’s worst nightmares come to life, but broody and hot despite the scars maring the left side of his body. Oh, and he loves crumble. Shay and Killian have a complex history, but I can’t tell you too much more because that’s part of the story!
I’d say these are the main three, at least for Book 1.
Where did you come up with the names in the story? Googling Irish/Celtic names until I found ones I liked. Sorry, it’s not more interesting than that.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? I really love complex characters. Creating their backstories was so wonderful, and really letting my mind fly when it comes to magic.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel? Darkness is a theme for both Cara and Killian, something they bond over, both with their powers and the darkness they fight mentally. Whisper of Darkness makes me think of those evil voices in the back of your mind. You know the ones. The ones who say you’re fat, not worthy of love, that you’ll never accomplish anything, and whatever other terrible things that make you question yourself and your life. Cara is haunted in many ways, and I feel it’s a darkness always whispering in her mind, in her soul, dragging her to a darker place.
Who designed your book covers? A very talented friend and coworker designed Book 1, and I am using Miblart to design the others. My talented friend has 3 kids and is moving soon, so I didn’t want to make him commit to a 5 book series and figured it was better to find someone to finish out the series covers sooner rather than later.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? Don’t ask a writer that! We are our own worst critics! We will never be fully happy with our books, and we will always question things, even down to the “should I use the word ‘excited’ or ‘ecstatic’. So, needless to say I’ll say ‘no’ because if I think about it, I’ll question myself too much and start to stress out. See! Those little evil voices! Totally a thing. (Note: The end of this answer will only work if coupled with the ‘Title of your first novel’ question).
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book? So much! I learned so much about Irish and Celtic folklore. It was all wildly fascinating and so much fun to find ways to incorporate it. However, what I was most excited to learn about was more about autism for my character, Cadan. I did tons and tons of research as it is not a personal identity. However, I ended up hiring this absolutely amazing sensitivity reader who is not only autistic, but has a BA in creative writing and is currently working on a Master’s in Critical Theory with an emphasis on environmentalism, postcolonialism, race, gender and disability. They, also, identify as Black, an immigrant, trans, and indigenous. So, their scope both personally and academically/professionally was astounding. This made it so not only did they provide me feedback on Cadan, but often would explain more on the “why” behind including a specific characteristic. I wasn’t only being told what I did well or needed to work on, but learned why that is too. I am so immensely appreciative of them, and finding them was a complete blessing.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead? Lily Collins would be perfect.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers? Find me on social media and say ‘Hi’! I love creating worlds, my mind creates worlds even if I don’t write them down, but it’s the readers that keep the steam in my engine. Hearing what you love, fan theories, seeing fan art, or just connecting about our mutual love for fantasy is such a huge driving force and will make my entire day.
What is your favorite part of this book and why? I love the Korrigan! A small water sprite who can see the past, present, and future. I make her a little devilish and wildly beautiful. It’s one chapter encompassing one of the trials in the competition that Cara is a part of, but I love it so much!
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? 100% from my imagination. Well, I guess certain qualities of my main character was inspired by my alpha reader, like her love for animals.
Have you written any other books that are not published? My YA mermaid series, but I plan to publish Book 1 soon!
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be? “First Rain.” The smell of a first rain is so distinct, and that would 100% be my book. You’ll completely understand why if you decide to read it.
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why? Any fantasy writer! I want all the author friends! Annette Marie, Sara J Maas, Laura Thalassa, Audrey Grey, Annette Marie, Leia Stone, Jaymin Eve, Jennifer L Armentrout, Holly Black, this list could go on forever! They are so amazing with their world building, character development, story flow. They are all icons in their own way, and it would be hard not to fangirl around any of them. I would do my best to play it cool though because I want more author friends. I adore the best friendship between Leia Stone and Jaymin Eve, and totally hope to find my author BFF one day.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write? They definitely come to me as I write. That’s part of the fun! Although, I usually start out with a solid main 3, but my favorite characters always end up being the ones I discover later. Cadan is my favorite character in Banshee’s Curse and Aadya is my favorite in Changing Tides, my YA mermaid book which will be released soon.
Do you see writing as a career? 1000%, yes. Honestly, I don’t think I fully comprehended how much I’d have to do as a writer. The idea of “I’m here to write and that’s all” feels completely absurd to me now. Definitely how I used to think, how the author wrote and others did everything else, but that’s not the case for 90% of authors, especially in today’s publishing world.
What do you think about the current publishing market? It’s evolving and oversaturated. With social media and the transformation of indie publishing over the past ten years, it’s wild… and exciting, stressful, overwhelming, inspiring. I am able to accomplish things I would’ve never thought possible fifteen years ago. However, this does make it very difficult for authors to gain recognition in the current market. The best marketing will and always has been the readers. Authoring is the equivalent to running a small business, so all your readers out there, please know that reviews really help us out. So whatever author you love, definitely give them a shout out on Amazon, Goodreads, Social Media, or wherever you feel most comfortable. I promise you, they will be immensely grateful for it.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why? It depends, I’d prefer silence because music can distract me. However, if I’m at home, and my husband is watching TV in the other room, it can be more distracting for me. So, I made a Spotify writing playlist with various film scores from movies such as Narnia, Hunger Games, LOTR, Maleficent, Star Wars, etc. Recently, I found a Dark Academia Instrumental playlist I enjoy too. I’d be happy to share these playlists with any readers who are interested!
A day in the life of the author? My day is a little nuts since I’m a teacher as well. Usually, I wake up and will get to school about 1.5 hours before school starts, so I can spend the first 45-60 minutes in a structured environment writing. Once school begins, I focus on teaching, grading, and the other parts of my job. If there’s spare moments to write, such as my prep period, I will, but that’s not my priority when the kiddos are around. When the school day is done, I’ll go home, spend time with my pups, start prepping/cooking dinner. My husband will come home, and we’ll have a meal together, maybe watch a show, and then I’ll spend another 1-2 hours writing at the end of my day. My aim is always a minimum of half a chapter per day when I’m in the midst of the writing process. With editing, my goal is to complete one chapter per day at minimum. Also, in between these stretches, I am managing all my author social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok) and marketing. I am conversing with authors, attending meetings, running my New Adult and College Fantasy facebook group, critiquing other writer’s novels, conversing with my cover designer or beta readers, and plenty of other pieces of my small business (aka being an indie author). I am a one woman show right now, but I’m passionate and driven to give it my all.
Advice they would give new authors? I have plenty of advice, I could write a whole book on it. However, what I’ve been doing instead is making informational Tiktoks. So, that’s a great place to learn some advice or ask me questions if I don’t cover something you’re curious about.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I don’t try to do either. I try to envision what I enjoy in a novel or what I want to read, and I write it. Don’t get me wrong, I totally want my readers to enjoy the book.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Just write. And when they say the best way to become a better writer is to read and write, it’s true. But reading doesn’t need to be “the classics”, it can be books you love within the genre you want to write, and getting better with writing over time is a given because ‘practice makes perfect.’
How long on average does it take you to write a book? Changing Tides, my YA mermaid book, I wrote on and off for nine years. Whisper of Darkness took me about six months, and Beyond The Mist (Banshee’s Curse Book 2) took me about five months. I’m getting better all the time. It’s difficult since I’m a full time teacher too and cannot commit to writing at the same level other indie authors can. I truly feel I work two jobs, one of them being the equivalent to a small business.
Do you believe in writer’s block? I had no idea it was a ‘belief’, definitely thought it was a given. Absolutely, I believe in creative/writer’s block. However, what you decide to do when it occurs is what really matters. If I waited for inspiration every single time to write, it would take me years to finish a novel. Nanowrimo helps keep me on track, and forcing words out even if it’s only a page or two. My mantra when this occurs is “You can’t edit a blank page.” I don’t expect my first draft to be perfect, and believe the first draft’s purpose is to help the story exist outside of your head. I will often force out a chapter when I’m not feeling it, and then leave a comment of “expand” for when I go to edit it later. Oftentimes, I will have the inspiration at some point and I can go back and make the chapter better, and I never worry I’m not making any headway at all.
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