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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Interview with author Kristy Kiernan & Giveaway

UPDATE: This contest is closed as of June 27. The winner is Alessandra from Out of the Blue. I'll be pre-ordering a copy of Matters of Faith for you!

Author Kristy Kiernan was kind enough to send me the very last ARC of her new book, Matters of Faith - thanks Kristy! I posted my review yesterday (click here to read it) and today I'm
thrilled to share her answers to my many questions. And don't worry, there are no spoilers here (or in my review)! [Scroll to the very end of this post for info on how to win a free copy of this book!]

Heather: At first I felt like what happened with Marshall/Ada/Meghan was really far-fetched; it just came out of the blue and I found it hard to believe. But as the book progressed and I learned more about Ada's background and Marshall's desperate search for "truth" everything started to make sense. Was it your goal for readers to be completely surprised at the beginning of the book, or did you think they would “see it coming”?

Kristy: In real life I rarely know the background of the people around me, and frankly, they constantly surprise me, and not always in good ways. But I've found that as I get to know them better, get to know about their childhood, their parents, how they were raised, I find myself making connections to how they've behaved as an adult, or, in the case of Marshall and Ada, young adult. I tend to write the same way I experience life, and the way I believe most other people, women especially, experience life. I definitely wanted the writer to wonder what was going on with them, perhaps to even dislike them, but to, hopefully, once they found out about their backgrounds, begin to empathize with them.

Heather: What led you to create a main character with food allergies? Do you have any personal experiences with this?

Kristy: I've known that I would write about a child with food allergies for several years after I, and millions of other people, read and was horrified over the case of Christina Desforges of Quebec. It had originally been reported that Christina, who had a peanut allergy, died after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten peanut butter on toast earlier in the day. Months later it was announced that she had died of asthma related causes, but I had already internalized the story and done research about exactly how sensitive these allergies are. After learning more about it, I couldn't get over how any parent could even let their child out of the house, much less out of their sight. But of course you have to, you have to let them live their lives, don't you? [Heather's note: click here to read more about Christina Desforges]

Heather: Chloe both embraces the growth she sees in her children and dreads it at the same time. I could so relate to that! Have you experienced this in your own life, or are you just that good at intuiting what moms are feeling? Or maybe a little of both?

Kristy: I'm just that good! No, really, a lot of people are surprised to learn that I don't have children, but I remind them that I was a very perceptive child, and I had a mother. I've also watched most of my friends raise their children, and I think in many ways that objectivity is helpful. I'm still a woman, I still have great empathy for children, for their pain in trying to become their own people, and for their parents, who have to let go at some point.

Heather: You describe the crumbling relationship between Chloe and Cal with amazing detail. I didn’t sense any real animosity or blame between them, but rather a lack of trying. Do you think this is how many marriages fall apart? Or is this an exception to the rule?

Kristy: My husband and I have reached an age where we're seeing a lot of the people who got together around the same time we did breaking up, or simply no longer invested in the relationship. It breaks my heart, because I've often noticed the decline in a thousand small ways throughout the relationship. The little things add up, the small slights, the opportunities to be kind that are ignored, the daily loss of respect. Gosh, it sounds like all I do is watch my friends and then write about it, doesn't it? I promise you can be my friend and I won't write about you! It's more that these small examples are part of a larger picture going on in marriages all over. I'm fascinated by how long-term relationships work, or don't, and I try to be very conscious of not letting things slide in my own relationship. I'm sure there are things I'm missing!

Heather: The points of view you use in this book were somewhat unique. Parts of the story are told by Chloe in a 1st person narrative; other parts are told by a 3rd person narrator who relates what’s going on with Marshall. What was your reason for telling the story this way?

Kristy: It all had to do with how they were experiencing life. For Chloe, it was all right there, personal, immediate, and so 1st person seemed the natural choice. Plus I felt that I had a natural connection with her, being a woman and near in age. With Marshall, for me, he was still half-formed in his own mind, there was more distance, and therefore there was less of a personal connection with me, and the reader, thus the distance of 3rd person.

Heather: Some authors “write what they know” while others thoroughly research a topic/location/etc. before writing. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

Kristy: I'm both! I write books set in Florida, mostly on the west coast. I came here when I was an infant, I grew up on the beaches all up and down the southwest coast, and as an adult I've explored northwest Florida, so this I know, I know it back and forth and inside out. What's more, and what I hope comes across in my books, is that despite Florida's many flaws, the overcrowding, the overbuilding, I still love it with a real passion. So that's writing what I know. I know relationships, I know weakness and strength, I know estranged families and bitter siblings and anger, and I also know deep, abiding, and joyful love, and I know humor. I guess you could say I know the emotional pieces of my books, and the settings. What I rarely know are the interesting things my characters know: music, math, genius, art, food allergies, fishing, boats, medicine. And those things I am desperate to get right, and so I research heavily. Ninety percent of my research never winds up in the book, but I hope it comes across in some sort of knowledgeable undertone.

Heather: Were there any particular challenges for you in writing Matters of Faith? How long did it take to complete?

Kristy: Matters of Faith was very similar in actual writing time to the rest of my books. It took about five months of fingers to keyboard, but I tend to THINK forever, usually years. About a year before I'm really ready to write I'm making notes. Once I have an opening scene, or an opening line, I start, get about a quarter of the way through, then stop, do a synopsis, tweak it, and then revise the first quarter, and then for heaven's sake don't even try to talk to me because my head's down and I'm going for the next several months. In fact, I'm at that point on my next book!

My main challenge in writing Matters of Faith was to be authentic enough to be respectful of the families who are dealing with food allergies. I read everything I could get my hands on, talked to people with food allergies, and did a tremendous amount of online research. FAAN, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network ( was very helpful. These are families who have to let their children out in the world every single day, knowing full well that someone who's either ignorant or simply doesn't believe that the issue is as serious as it is, could kill their child.

Heather: Not having read your first book, Catching Genius (sorry!), can you tell me how it differs or is similar to Matters of Faith?

Kristy: I'm a bad judge of this! They're sort of all life, to me. They're both set in Florida, both deal with a family in crisis, with missed connections and opportunities. Catching Genius was an exploration of a sibling relationship, and Matters of Faith is more about the parent/son relationship.

Heather: Are you a part of a book club, or have you ever been?

Kristy: I am! And I love it, and, in fact, I just recently blogged for Reading Group Guides, thanks to the divine Carol Fitzgerald, about this very thing. Heather, could you link to that post, please?
[Heather's note: just click here to go to Kristy's post. FYI, I "met" Kristy when I commented on that post.]

Heather: Do you have any plans for book signings for Matters of Faith? Where can my readers meet you?

Kristy: Since I'm in that major head-down-ignoring-everything-else-in-my-life phase of the new book, I've been woefully neglectful of setting up appearances. However, I do have some booked, and in the next weeks I expect to start getting pretty filled up. The book is out August 5th, so between now and then I'll be adding dates every week. My schedule appears on the right side of the News & Appearances page of my website (, so check often, and though I don't post every day, my blog at Red Room ( will have information on it also.

Heather, thank you so much for such great questions and for your thoughtful review of Matters of Faith. It's been a pleasure. I'll check in over the next day or two to see if there are any questions for me in the comments section, so readers, do feel free to post some!


And a big THANK YOU to Kristy for the ARC and for this interview. I love the fact that I get to bring new books and authors to the attention of my readers, especially when the book is as good as this one!

Readers, please post your comments or questions for Kristy, and remember that Matters of Faith is available for preorder through right now.

And because I enjoyed this book so much, I'm going to preorder a copy for one lucky reader! Everyone who posts a comment is eligible to win, and if you mention this giveaway on your blog I'll double your chances.


Ti said...

What a great interview!! I love it when authors take the time to blog about their books. Thanks for the great post.

Jaime said...

I love to read! What a great giveaway!

~Jaime (ChaseNKids)

Lenore said...

I just read "The Patron Saint of Butterflies" and reviewed it on my blog which is also about fundamentalist faith (well, more a very strict religious commune) and Matters of Faith sounds really interesting. Thanks for the heads up!

kamewh said...

Sounds like a wonderful book!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me. I'm just dropping in to say hi -- nice to see another PBSer. The interview is fantastic!

I'm mentioning this contest at my Win a Book Blog, so hopefully you'll get some new readers.

zhian said...

Id love to be entered, thanks for the giveaway and interview!!!

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna said...

This sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the review and interview!

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

Alessandra said...

Great interview! And thank you for the chance to take part in this giveaway!

Julie P. said...

I really, really want to win this book! Please pick me!


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