If you believe my mother, I wrote my first book at the age of 5. She actually saved a bunch of my “early work” which consisted of construction paper covers with about five looseleaf pages stapled between them. My artistic ability hasn’t improved at all since then, so it’s good my publisher has an amazing cover artist. I then moved on to a cursive typewriter (seriously) about age 9, and wrote my first chapter book, a Nancy Drew knock-off I cranked out after I’d devoured the entire series. Despite some angsty teenage poetry, I didn’t write again until a few years ago after my second child was born (unless you count the bazillion clinical evaluations I’ve written as a psychologist, but that’s a whole different kind of writing).
2) Are you a pantser or a planner?
Hmmm. A bit of both I think. I completely pantsed my first novel and it took forever to revise. For BURN OUT, I’d just read the awesome screenwriting book Save the Cat and decided I should do an outline. However, I use the term loosely because instead of the multitude of scenes recommended by the book, I took ten minutes and wrote down 5 short sentences that ended up being the key scenes in the book. The rest of the book I made up, or pantsted, as I went along. However, I’d had a fairly complex dream that had inspired the book, so there was a good amount of material already lurking in my subconscious.
3) Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
This is one of those areas I’m trying to improve upon—I need a little more method to my madness. As I’m working on the sequel now to BURN OUT, I can tell you what has stayed consistent. Aside from writing a few sentences of an outline (see #2 above), I’ll either write out entire scenes longhand and type them in later or I’ll write directly on the laptop, depending on my mood. I usually write either on the couch or at my daughter’s ballet classes. I’m a pretty fast drafter but would still love to have a more structured writing schedule.
4) Which authors have influenced your work?
Early influences (after the Nancy Drew series) were Louisa May Alcott (Little Women was my fave childhood book), Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie series), and L. Frank Baum (The Wizard of Oz books). Since I was considered an advanced reader, I was allowed into the “older” books section of the library and came across Bram Stoker’s Dracula at a young age. That was pretty much it for me and after that I feasted on everything Stephen King for much of my teen years.
My debut novel, BURN OUT, a YA sci-fi about the last girl on Earth when our sun burns out early, releases April 8, 2014 from Egmont USA. I’m working on the second BURN OUT book now for my publisher which will release in 2015. I’m also finishing up a YA fantasy about an assasin ballerina, and then will complete two other standalone YA novels that I’ve started. Finally, I have an idea for an adult paranormal that is taking up way too much space in my head so I have to get it out soon. I have a notebook full of book ideas but need more time to write them all!
6) Any tips for new writers?
As far as tips for new writers, the main thing is to keep writing (and reading, which is just as important IMHO). Read everything you can, not just in your genre but others as well. Read books on the craft of writing—On Writing by Stephen King is my fave. If you’re trying to get traditionally published, patience and a thick skin are a must. I’m impatient by nature, so waiting was the hardest part for me. Be willing to take in constructive feedback. When someone complains and gets defensive when given feedback, or says that people just don’t “get” what they’re doing, I think “they’ll never be published.” If you self-publish, make sure to hire editors/proofreaders/designers/etc. to make your product as professional as possible. Other than that, the only other things I highly recommend are lots of chocolate, wine, and good friends who make you laugh.
7) Any tips for old writers?
Do I have any tips for old writers? If by that you mean age-challenged ones, then yes, I’m an expert. As a writer of teen novels, I feel ancient compared to most other authors in my genre. 😉 Seriously though, as my first pubbed novel is coming out next year, I don’t feel qualified to impart advice for established writers. For myself, I hope to never stop growing as a writer, to never get complacent, and to always follow my gut as it has yet to steer me wrong.
Connect with Kristi:
Kristi Helvig is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist turned sci-fi/fantasy author. She often muses about Star Trek, space monkeys, and other assorted topics on her blog. Kristi resides in sunny Colorado with her hubby, two kiddos, and behaviorally-challenged dogs.
Author of Sci-Fi novel BURN OUT coming Spring 2014 (EgmontUSA)
“The last girl on Earth…just got company.”
Available now for preorder on Amazon