Art of The Craft is an interview series featuring published authors and their lets-shake-it-up books. Yo.
You know, sometimes you read that little, quirky book that in spite of it's size shakes things up a bit? That happened to me with The Sky Always Hears Me And The Hills Don't Mind. Unlike most up and coming YAs, nothing earth-shattering happened in the book and yet it had a little something to shake it up for me.
And you know what? I loved it.
And I'm super-psyched I got the opportunity to probe into what writing the book was for Kirstin Cronn-Mills, who, as you can tell, is the superpsychnessinducing author.
Morgan is one of the spunkiest heroines I've read this year. When
did you first meet her?
I met her in 2002, but in some ways I've known her all along, because she's got some of my traits. Her word-nerd viewpoints? Those are all me, and I received the "you walking dictionary" note, just like Morgan
did (I still have it somewhere, because it was so hurtful at the time). As I said before, the incident that created this book was sparked by my classmate's confession, so I also had to put myself in my shoes/the real Tessa's shoes to write some of those scenes. However, Morgan's got a HECK of a lot more sass than I had as a
teenager. I love that about her! : )
Hell, yeah, Morgan's super-sassy and super-awesome. The voice is pitched perfect, which is not always that easy. Did Morgan's voice stay the same from your first draft till the finished draft..or did it change with the progression of the book?
Morgan's voice actually softened a great deal. When I first wrote her, she was spiteful, almost hateful. I mellowed her out when someone I respect read the book and said "Wow, I don't like her." That was the first time anyone had said it, so I paid attention. When I took another look at her, I thought, "wow, I don't like her either!" So she got toned down--less mouthy, more compassionate, less hostile and closed. Once SKY was published, I had another early-draft reader tell me, "You know, I didn't like that original Morgan. I like this
one much better." I was relieved to hear it.
Next to Morgan, I think the setting's one of the best things about the book. Beyond the hills and the sky, Morgan clearly hates Central Nebraska, while Rob who's been to places, returns to it..whose story do you share?
I am with Rob--I love the place. LOVE. IT. I've lived in Minnesota for 18 years now (with some living in Iowa on the side), and I miss Central (and Eastern) Nowhere almost every day. It's much more open and spacious there--more space between towns and people, more open space with nothing in it. Even though Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa are all Midwestern states, they're all *very* different from each other, and I am a Nebraskan at heart. Hands down. I'd live there again if I could, and may when I retire. My husband is a Minnesotan, our jobs are here, plus we're raising a son in this wonderful state,
so it's not in the cards. But someday . . .
Ha, I love how Morgan keeps calling it Central Nowhere throughout the book. Also, SKY is written in minimalistic style. Whose personal style is it - Morgan's or yours?
That style belongs to both of us. When I'm casual (talking with you, for instance), I'm rather wordy, but my formal writing tends to be tight. I think it comes (in part) from being a poet as well as a fiction writer. Poets are concerned with the economy of language, and that idea seems to follow into my prose. I also think it has to do with mood. When Morgan's more casual or weird, or even angry, she can be a little wordy. When she really wants to get her point across, she gets very minimal. Same with me.
The fact that you're a poet writing prose makes your style original. On the other hand, Morgan seems to write fortunes all the time, all over the place. I thought it was very unique. Where did the idea come from?
That one came straight from the ether, which is to say--I have no idea! I consider that particular character trait a gift from the Universe, because I didn't plan it. All of a sudden, she was just doing it, and it was perfect. I looked back at it and thought, "where the heck did that come from?" But you don't look a gift horse in the mouth (a very American Midwestern expression), and it worked, so I kept it. I think it fits her--in an alcoholic family, you keep a lot of secrets, and keep a lot of anger inside, so the "sideways" communication of leaving fortunes around allowed her to communicate some of her feelings.
You mentioned in your guest post that a particular high school mate's confession sparked off SKY. How much of your personal experiences do you take back to your fiction?
I think every writer takes parts of his/her life into their work. Because SKY is set in my home town, I had to be careful that it wasn't *my* story, but it wasn't because I had never had an encounter with the real Tessa (though, as it turns out, she wishes we would have). But there are definite things in the novel that came from my life. Elsie is much like my real-life grandmother, who decided against becoming a concert pianist so she could raise a family. My grandmother was also *my* grandmother--we are/were birthday twins, and I thought she belonged only to me. : ) She always claimed my first words were "read a book!" (said to her, of course), so somewhere in the Universe, I think she's cheering me on. Maybe she's the one who
sent me Morgan's fortune-writing idea!
'Read a book' - how cool is that! Is this the first novel you've written? What's coming next?
It's rather surprising, because SKY truly is my first novel--it doesn't always happen that a first book gets sold. I have another book on submission--an Elvis-loving guy who wants to be a radio DJ--and I just finished a draft of a book that's packed with ghosts. The next one after that is four boys, a laundromat, graffiti, and general random destruction. There are two other ideas floating around out there, but they're more nebulous. I've always got ideas!
You're keeping me on edge here. Those books sound oh-my-god-i-want-Elvis-guy-and-graffiti-destruction-and-ghosts, yeah. On that note, what are some of your favourite YA novels?
That's a hard question--like really hard. I loved BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham (an import from England), I loved STRUTS AND FRETS by Jon Skovron, I loved BEAUTIFUL, by Amy Reed, all for different reasons. At the moment, I'm listening to WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, by John Green and David Levithan--and an audio book is an *amazingly* different experience than reading a book. Since WILL GRAYSON is a dual-narrator novels, there are 2 readers, and each reader adds an incredible depth to the story. And that one is hilarious, so I look a little crazy when I'm out walking and laughing to myself. I recommend audio books to *everyone*--they create such a different experience of the book.
(I think you might also be my book-twin). How has being a published author changed you as a writer?
Hmm . . . great question. I've written lots of academic stuff in my life, and that was perfect prep for writing a novel, because I already knew how to write on deadline, edit, and follow editor directions. I suppose, more than anything, I enjoy writing more now. It was great fun in the beginning, but it's even better now, because I know folks are enjoying it (I am very honored by the compliments I've been paid about SKY). I am happy happy happy that there may be more published books after SKY. I am happy someone pays me to do a task I adore. I would do it for free (sssh! don't tell anyone!).
Rob's cute ass. Which actor/model do you think can carry that off?
Yeesh . . . hmm . . . the first person who comes to mind is Taylor Lautner, but just because he has a great bod. Alex Pettyfar is all right--maybe too bad boy--and Tom Welling and Chris Pine are too old, but they have the right vibe. This is a tough question!! I think I'd pick Tom Welling, even though he's 33. He's got the right look and the right "homegrown" feel about him. Who do *you* like? You tell me! Or did you have someone else in mind?
(OMG, I don't know. I think I'd have to look at their asses particularly to decide..hot men make it hard).
Great talking to you, Kirstin (and getting to know your story secrets). Thanks for being here :)
And in case you missed her book, take a good look here:
(Doncha just love the way it looks?)