Today I’m fortunate to have author Krysten Lindsay Hager on The Den. Krysten writes books for teens, tweens and adults, and today she’s here to discuss her debut novel, “True Colors,” and the sequel that’s coming out soon.
Hi Krysten. Welcome to Dean’s Den. Tell us about yourself.
I’m a book addict who has worked as a journalist and humor writer. Now I write books for tweens, teens, and adults. I’m originally from Michigan and I’ve lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and currently reside in southwestern Ohio where you can find me reading and writing when I’m not catching up on my favorite shows: Hart of Dixie, The Goldbergs, and American Dad. I received my master’s in American Culture from the University of Michigan-Flint. “True Colors” was my debut novel and the first book in the Landry’s True Colors series.
Does True Colors take place in middle school or high school?
My character, Landry Albright, is in eighth grade, but she talks about getting ready for high school and has a crush on a guy in high school. In the second book (out March 24th) she goes to the high school for an orientation and feels like she’s stepped into another world. That was exactly how I felt when I went to my high school orientation. Even the first day of ninth grade felt overwhelming. I remember getting off the bus, walking into school with my friend, Dene’, and wanting to turn back around and run out the door. Funny thing is that I ended up loving high school. The whole idea of it terrified me, but in less than a week, I was having a great time. Middle school, on the other hand, was nothing but conforming and rules, and I did not enjoy that, which is probably why I started the series in a middle school setting —because I had a lot to say about it.
Times change – did you have to research the issues that this age group encounters, go by memory, or both? Explain the process.
A bit of both. The general issues and feelings stay the same, which is why there are so many great YA books that stand the test of time. I use some of my memories, but I also stay current by reading magazines for that age group, books, and talking with teens and tweens. It’s kind of funny how the themes do stand the test of time. One of my favorite YA novels, “My Mother Was Never a Kid,” was one I picked up in the library when I was in grade school. I had no idea how old the book was when I picked it up (written before I was born), but it dealt with a girl in the 1970s and it flashed back to WWII times when her mother was a teenager. Even though those time periods were nothing I could technically relate to—the story about Victoria feeling as if her mother was never a kid was a timeless one. And that book is still out today and still a great story.
What are these issues that teens encounter and is there advice and coping mechanisms for your teenagers cleverly built into the story?
Landry is a very realistic teen in that I didn’t create her to magically have all the answers. She gets pushed around by friends and you see her trying to deal with the situations and handle moving from one group of friends who turns their back on her, to another group where she might need to conform to fit in. We see Landry realize she feels most comfortable with friends she can be herself around and not have to pretend to like certain things to fit in. She doesn’t come to that realization overnight that you need to find those kinds of friends, but it’s by trial and error and in learning it’s okay to be yourself and that good friends will accept you for who you are—not who you pretend to be.
Why is a book like True Colors so important for teenage girls?
Landry is a very real character and shows her flaws and the things that make her anxious (talking to her crush—actually talking to boys, period; modeling competitions; being on live TV; and public speaking). Even though she makes it through a few rounds of the modeling contest, she still deals with self-doubt due to her own insecurities and mean comments made by “frenemies” as well as girls at school. I’ve had readers share with me that they identify with Landry and liked that we saw even her embarrassing moments where she gets so nervous she makes a bee-line for the bathroom. One reading specialist wrote me to say her students felt better seeing that even this teen model sometimes felt bad about how she looked. I wanted to write a book that made people feel less alone in their own insecurities and hearing that from readers means so much to me.
And now a little bit about the author life, from one writer to another – where do your ideas come from?
I get ideas from all over. I always carry a little notebook with me to jot down ideas. I’ve been inspired by everything from a photograph to a song. I keep a file of ideas, pictures, etc. so I can go back later when things start to get pieced together in my mind. The idea for the group of friends Landry wants to get in with came from a CD cover I saw when I was in sixth grade. You never know what might spark inspiration, but for me it’s often seeing a picture of a person whose expression interests me.
When do you like to write fiction and what are your optimum conditions? Are you a night-owl or a morning person?
Night owl for sure! I used to write with music in the background (specific stuff, not just any music), but now I need silence. Complete silence. I can hear a squirrel sniffle outside and get thrown off.
You seem to have built a solid author platform … on TV shows, a lot of ink, blogging, promoting, giving talks. What can you share with other authors about making this happen?
I was a journalist years before this book came out and also have been writing and publishing essays, short stories, and articles. So I have been putting my work out there and getting used to what it’s like to deal with all that comes with having your work out there in the big scary world and with that comes the connections you make over the years. I always say start getting your name out there before you ever get the book out there. People need to get a taste of your work before they’ll invest in it.
And what would you tell aspiring novelists?
To understand there are two sides to it: the artistic side and the business side. When I first signed my contract, I saw an author from our publishing company say she loved being a writer, but hated being an author because it was, “hard and scary.” So I would say to go in with realistic expectations and be prepared to work hard to make connections and learn the business side of it through conferences and classes.
Finally, I understand “True Colors” is part of a series. Tell us what you can about the next book and anything else you are working on.
“True Colors” is the first book in the Landry’s True Colors series. Book two will be out on March 24th and is titled, “Best Friends…Forever?” The sequel picks up right where the first book left off so we see Landry dealing with her parents living in separate states (they’re still married, but living apart due to her mother’s job taking them to Michigan) and dealing with her new friends and all the friend and frenemy drama that comes with middle school and high school. Also, in this book her crush, Vladi begins emailing her and that is a big deal for her. I go a little deeper into Landry finding out why some of these frenemies act the way they do and how to handle it as well. Landry tells one of her friends, Devon, the truth about their friend India going behind Devon’s back. India ends up spinning the story and making Landry look like the bad guy setting off a chain of events that leads to Landry being the outsider again. She has to figure out a way to get her friends back without compromising the truth. It’s filled with those moments of connecting with your first big crush, dealing with a breakup, losing your best friends, Landry getting her chance to meet her modeling idol, and a lot of funny stuff along the way, too.
I’d like to add that people often ask me if Landry is/was me as a teen and we do have some similarities, but we have our differences as well. At her age, I definitely internalized everything and was a big over-thinker (okay, that part hasn’t changed at all.) She’s more of an introvert than I ever was, but I think considering the school I was attending at the time (a small, private school much like Hillcrest Academy where Landry goes), I definitely conformed to fit in with the small groups there and I can admit now that I really didn’t show my entire personality. When I got to high school, I felt freer to be myself and met more people with common interests.
For more on Krysten and her work, please visit:
Book on Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/true-colors-krysten-lindsay-hager/1119742726?ean=2940149747658
Book on Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/true-colors-17
Amazon international sites: http://authl.it/B00L2G0YJS
Author page: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay