Thursday, February 16, 2012

Undertow by Callie Kingston #Interview #YA Contemporary

Marissa can't wait to leave behind her mom and the traumatic life they shared. With Drake, she has it all figured out--until she discovers his betrayal. She flees to a desolate beach on the wild Oregon coast hoping to escape her pain where, overcome with exhaustion, she dozes off beside a log. When the first icy waves strike her, it is too late: a rogue wave drags her out to sea.

Somehow, she survives. Perhaps that gorgeous merman she dreams of each night rescued her? Determined to discover the truth, her obsession deepens until she again risks her life in the unyielding sea. Will the creature Marissa seeks save her? Will she be lost forever in the eddies of her mind, or will Jim, her new boyfriend, keep her from falling into the abyss?


Time passed in slow-mo, as if some twisted deity wanted to prolong Marissa’s torment as long as possible. She was numb, like a soldier in the war, right after rolling his Humvee over a roadside bomb. Shell shock, her history teacher had called it. Unlike the soldier’s, her limbs were intact, but they seem gripped by some other girl, one whose brain still functioned. She walked to the car and put her suitcase in the back. Her possessed arms calmly shut the Honda’s hatch.
Marissa’s body was passively transported to the driver’s side. Her mind acquired a peculiar clarity as her hands clutched the steering wheel. With new resolve, she turned the key in the ignition. Slowly backed out of the carport. Kept her eyes glued to the rear view mirror. Don’t look to the side, a stern voice in her mind ordered. He’ll be standing there, and you won’t have the strength to leave. Just get out of here. Go!


What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
I am blown away by how organic the whole process is, once I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard – I draft both longhand and by computer, and each yields different results. In my novels, the characters and story come alive as I write, taking whatever direction they wish. I’d always imagined a writer was like God, creating characters and orchestrating both the situations they encounter and how they react. Not so.
How do you describe your writing style?
Unlike many writers who carefully outline their plots, flesh out their characters, and plan the whole project before they begin, I spend a few days (or weeks) musing over a kernel of inspiration. Topics present themselves for investigation. I’ll burn up Google researching these, while the idea germinates, sprouts, and snippets of narrative start to speak to me. I’ll see a character, or see myself walking around as the character; then I know it’s time to write. At that point, I’m itching to sketch out a brief outline – nothing detailed, just a “what happens next” sort of guide – and I start writing.
What are you passionate about these days?
Wow. So much matters. That’s probably one of the reasons I’m a writer – I am deeply passionate about so many things, and these appear in my stories. When writing Undertow, my passion for mental health advocacy and healing propelled me forward. Environmental protection and sustainability are two of my other great passions that are woven throughout the novel. The next novel I’ll be releasing touches on my passions for equality and civil rights, as well as recovery. One passion I haven’t written about yet is my great love for animals and belief in compassion toward all living creatures.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important?  How and why?
Yes, absolutely! Marissa’s name came to me after I’d been walking around with her thoughts in my head, seeing the world as she did. Curiously, it turns out Marissa means “from the sea.” Now, I didn’t know that, at least not consciously, but I knew that was who she was. Some of the other character’s names are less important, and I’ll pick those from the current page of the magazine article, website, or whatever I happen to be reading, and see if they fit. Often I’ll pick a name as a placeholder so I can move on with the draft, and the true name will spontaneously appear to me later. I do research last names, however, in an attempt to get some authenticity in my characters’ heritage.

Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in a book or movie?
That’s the fun of reading, right? You get to “try on” different people, experience unique lives, and develop new perspectives. But certain characters I especially relate to. Harriet the Spy, for example – at eleven, I could be that character without changing much! Morgaine in the magical Mists of Avalon was a character I also easily inhabited; I longed to have her self-assured power.

What is the next big thing?
Unicorns. No, seriously. I have no idea what the next big thing will be. Tell me, please, if any of you know  :-)
Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?
New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Belize – anywhere! I’ve travelled to lots of countries, mostly as a child. But my novels are all set in the Pacific Northwest, the home of my heart. I like the authenticity of setting that shines through when an author has walked on the land about which she writes. Plus, the Northwest is so mystical. But New Zealand – hmm, I have an idea –

My home is in the Pacific Northwest, where I live with an assortment of furry creatures (husband included). I have a masters degree in Psychology. When not writing or working, I like to explore the outdoors, especially the forests and beaches along the Oregon coast. I also enjoy a great cup of cappuccino, which happily is easily found in this part of the world.

Comment on this post for a chance to win the Grand Prize Giveaway that will take place at the end of the tour.  Undertow Blog Tour
Also, Enter for a chance to win a digital copy of Undertow.
This giveaway ends March 3rd 11:59PM Central Time.

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Callie Kingston said...

Thank you for hosting me!


Kali S said...

I just won this and I'm super excited to read it. I don't normally read contemporary, but it sounds so good!

I love how the Marissa's name had meaning that the author wasn't even aware of consciously, so cool.

Thanks for this interview!

callie Kingston said...

Congratulations Kali! I hope you enjoy the story.