New York Times bestselling author Kristina McMorris is our guest! Join us to discuss her new novel, The Ways We Hide, a sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.
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The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris
In this episode, Jane hosts author Kristina McMorris, discussing her novel “The Ways We Hide.” The conversation explores Kristina’s inspiration for the story, the intensive research process, and intriguing historical facts incorporated into the narrative. They delve into the protagonist’s Dutch heritage, the impact of the Italian Hall disaster on her life, and her involvement with MI9 during World War II. The discussion also touches on writing challenges, balancing historical accuracy with fiction, and Kristina’s future projects. The session includes insights into Kristina’s writing process, advice for aspiring authors, and audience interaction.
Here’s what we covered:
- 00:00:00] Introduction and Kristina McMorris’s background.
- [00:01:43] Premise of “The Ways We Hide” and research process.
- [00:06:46] Exploration of the Dutch resistance in WWII.
- [00:09:03] Fenna’s character development and backstory.
- [00:13:23] Discussion of the Italian Hall disaster’s role in the novel.
- [00:16:39] Challenges in writing historical fiction.
- [00:20:56] Kristina’s writing process, future projects, and advice for authors.
- [00:27:06] Reader engagement and Kristina’s upcoming projects.
- [00:33:42] Kristina’s next novel project and staying connected with readers.
[00:00:00] Jane: Hello, everyone. This is Chris. I’m here with Kristina McMorris to talk about her brand new book, The Ways We Hide. Thank you for coming on, Kristina. I, you know, I, I have, I’ll give you a brief introduction, and then I’m going to dive right in with questions. But Kristina and I were just saying, like, we’re social media friends, and I feel like we’ve Should know each other by now, but we, this is the first time we’re talking, which is amazing.
[00:00:23] Kristina: That feels so weird because I, I do feel like we’ve known each other for years and we, we run in the exact same circles. We have so many mutual friends and, and we’ve messaged back and forth in the past.
[00:00:32] Jane: And yeah, so this is so nice. And I think we have kids around the same age, like going through the same things in life.
So, so yeah, this is great to finally chat. I’m excited because I love this book and I have many things to ask you. So quick intro. Kristina McMorris is a New York Times bestselling author of two novellas and six novels. including the Runaway bestseller sold on a Monday. Initially inspired by her grandparents World War II courtship letters, her works of fiction have garnered more than 20 national literary awards.
Prior to her writing career, she owned a wedding and event planning company until she had far surpassed her limit of YMCA and chicken dances. God love you. She also worked as a weekly TV show host for Warner Brothers and an ABC affiliate beginning at age nine with an Emmy award winning program, which is amazing.
A graduate of Pepperdine University she lives near Portland, Oregon, where, ironically, she’s entirely deficient of a green thumb, as am I, and doesn’t own a single umbrella. Welcome! Thank you for coming on! for having me! So, The Ways We Hide I have many questions, but why don’t you just start with what the premise for the story, your inspiration, and why you decided to write it, just kind of overall.
[00:01:43] Kristina: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s called sending kids to college so much in common. It’s called deadlines. That’s the biggest ever. Yeah. So a little bit about the book and yeah, I’d love to talk about where the idea came from. So the ways we hide, as you well know from reading it in short is about a female American illusionist and she is the mastermind behind an escape show in 1942.
The reason she is so good at escape traces back to a childhood trauma. She survived in Michigan’s copper country known as the Italian hall disaster. And I don’t know about you, but I was stunned. I had never heard about that before. Never heard of it.
[00:02:20] Jane: Yeah. Unbelievable.
[00:02:21] Kristina: One of those things, many of the reasons why you and I write our books that we do, right.
Is how did, how did I not hear about this before? Everybody needs to know about this. So in the story, because of this trauma, she survived. She becomes. Cessed with escape and Houdini becomes her idol. And because of the skillset that she, that she formed, she is recruited by MI9. It’s a British military intelligence group that we all are familiar with in my five and six, right?
We’ve all heard, we’ve all seen mission impossible. Well, MI9 is what I call the go go gadget team of world war two. And that they created escape and evade devices. That they smuggled into almost anything you can think of, including monopoly boards, and they smuggled those into care packages for POWs for the allies to help them escape, and also to help downed airmen in occupied territory that they’d Nazi capture.
And because of her work with this group, she gets pulled much deeper in the war than she ever expects. So, amazing. No, the nutshell of the story. Yeah.
[00:03:18] Jane: No, that’s a great, that’s a great summary. I, and I love the premise. It was so unique. And I you know, for book clubs, you have this great back, back stuff.
You have book club questions. You’ve got amazing authors, research notes, you’ve got recipes. You can also get it on, on Kristina’s website, but it’s in the back of the book as well. You did an astonishing amount of research for this book. Like I was. I was reading the research notes as I do, ’cause I’m such a nerd about this stuff and I, I, I just could not believe you pulled so many disparate parts of history together in this thread of, of a story.
And tell me about your research and your process for this. Like, I, because it’s so, it was so much, and I’m sure it took you a while and just even the organizing of it. How, how do you, how do you do that .
[00:04:06] Kristina: Well, my goodness, I, if, okay, so I don’t know about you, but if I had known what I was getting myself into, I think I would have written a different story.
So I’m really glad I didn’t know that blissful ignorance was definitely a benefit as it usually is for the most things that you and I’m sure do. And so when I got into it, I realized, Oh my gosh, there really is so much research. As you know, I had at least from the author’s note, from my acknowledgements, I talk about the people who helped me, who were amazing.
Help me not look like an idiot. So there were 15 experts, at least, that helped me go through the book or chapters or whole sections or the entire novel. Professional magicians, there were an MI9 expert that she actually wrote a book called MI9. So when you find those people, you’re like, hi, you’re my new best friend.
Right. Like, oh, there are so many questions coming your way. You have no idea what you’re in for. So it goes on and on. And you know, there’s Dutch resistance. The Netherlands during World War II. And that was something that I felt in fiction, I don’t see much. I I’ve not yet except just recently I’ve just seen a book or two come out, which is great.
Because we all know about Anne Frank, of course, but past that I, there’s so many novels, rightly so, that are written about the French resistance and in Poland and Hungary, and I was so unfamiliar with the Dutch. And I thought, how come we don’t hear about them. And so it really made a lot more sense as you know from reading the story why we don’t hear much about what they went through during World War Two, but there are just people who are unbelievably heroic and brave, the ones that were resistance fighters that actually made their way out of the Netherlands during World War Two and there were so many.
So many Germans and bases that were stationed there. So that is why it was so hard. Yeah. All the way through the English channel, crazy, like 40 foot swells and, you know, and aircraft flying over that may mistake you for being German. And they had, you know, patrollers on the, on the shores, et cetera, on and on and on.
And at least I believe, if I remember right, it’s been a little while since I researched it, but I want to say at least half, which just disappeared, never showed up on the other side. Oh, wow. Yeah. And then they did make it on the other side. I believe the number, if I remember right, was about 80 percent of them after they all debriefed in London and let everybody know what was going on and what they could report back.
They flew back and were dropped in knowing what they were going back into in order to help the Dutch. Wow. And of course, by then the German intelligence already knew they were all coming. They had captured a radio operator at that point from the allies. So they had all the codes they knew when they were landing.
So they would capture them all and either they would execute them or send them into camps, which of course you can imagine most of them were never heard from again.
[00:06:46] Jane: Unbelievable. Yeah, that, that’s true. That that was really enlightening. The, the Dutch resistance. I haven’t read a lot about it as well, and I found that, that’s so interesting.
You, you talked in the, in your research notes and, and even just reading the book, there were so many stranger and then fiction, historical details, you know, especially ’cause it, you know, MI nine was a gadget group and so was what was the most. surprising thing you just, you unearthed in this research?
I mean, there were so many, but like, what was one of your favorites?
[00:07:16] Kristina: Well, aside from the obvious one being that they actually that that intelligent work with illusionists, and it made so much sense and I do have a couple props that aside here for you that I will describe it in case people are listening for a podcast.
But aside from that obvious note, the one that stunned me the most, I think, was Houdini, I did not know. Much about who they need all except for his incredible escapes before I started researching him. I read at least six books about him and the things that you come across where there was a a biography about him that came out just about six years ago.
It was incredible. And what they showed was strong evidence to support the theory that he served as a spy leading up to world war one. Amazing. And it makes perfect sense. He was Jewish. His father was a rabbi. He had very good reason to spy against the Germans. He could travel all over Europe at will, and nobody would question the fact that he had these trunks along with him with escape devices, and he would escape out of their maximum security prisons.
the night before he would perform. So he would invite all of the journalists and do a big promotion that he would escape out of their top security prison. Well, of course, when he was done, then the word is that he would then go to Scotland yard and report back everything that he had found.
[00:08:32] Jane: Incredible.
That’s incredible. I had no idea. Same with you. Like Houdini. Yes. You see the old films. Like you mentioned some of the movies in the book and but that’s as, as much as I knew about him. So when I read that, I was like, Oh, how brilliant for a story. Like, it’s just like, you have to write about that. You have to include him, you know?
[00:08:52] Kristina: so good when history, we come across something that you just think, Oh, this is so convenient to my story.
[00:09:03] Jane: Yeah, absolutely. So the premise of the story. So it’s pronounced Venna. Yes. She’s a brilliant illusionist, which leads her working for MI9. And so, you know, you said you had some props, you know, cause she, she works for MI9 making these gadgets. Inventions based on her work as an illusionist. I remember my husband’s grandfather had one of the silk maps that he brought back from the war which I think one of the brothers still has it.
But talked, you know, you, in the book, some of the things that are mentioned, compasses sewn into buttons. Shoes with hidden apart compartments. And I, you know, I think people, you just love all that stuff. It’s so spy y, you know, like, that’s not even a word, but you know what I’m saying. It’s so
[00:09:49] Kristina: spy ish.
[00:09:51] Jane: James Bond, yeah.
[00:09:53] Kristina: And of course, that’s just where all of that came from, the character of Q. One of my characters in the book who was based on a true person who was the head of the gadget department for MI9 was Christopher Clayton Hutton. They called him Clutty. And he was one of the two people that they believe inspired the character of Q from the James Bond film series.
So all of that then makes you go,
[00:10:15] Jane: Oh, of course that makes perfect sense. So fun. Yeah. Yeah. All right,
[00:10:21] Kristina: since you mentioned, yes, the people who actually can see this and I’ll just describe it anyway is look at this. I have one of the silk maps then from World War II. And for those who can, who are just listening, I will just explain what’s incredible about this is that the reason why that you see It’s because you could print color and on both sides.
It’s very thin. You can sew it into even uniforms. So the downed airmen, of course, in occupied territory would have these sewn into their tunics. It would withstand the weather. So you could rain on, you could drop it in a puddle and it would, it would hold up obviously better than, than paper. And the most important thing if you’re trying to escape is if you, you know, crinkle it like this or, you know, fold it, it doesn’t rustle and give you away like paper would.
So I just thought this is one of those things that they actually put into the Monopoly board. They put a silk map, two files and a compass all into that very thin board. And sometimes they believe also some actual currency that they would hide within the paper money.
[00:11:20] Jane: Incredible. Just incredible. Yeah, I love that weird.
Now, where did you get that one? Did you find that on online, like online somewhere? Or was it a gift? Or you find it on eBay, eBay, eBay all day long.
[00:11:34] Kristina: You can find and from estate sales and and World War II vets that you know, collectors that have collected things and now selling them. And and I will show you one other thing.
And for the people that even if you are seeing this, and even if you’re just listening, if you go on my website on the Ways Behind page, I do have a couple of videos that show the demonstrations of like four gadgets that I do own. So one of the things that I’m, this is the last one I’ll show you here today is, you know, this is one of the cards I talk about in the book, Jasper Mescaline, of course, who was an illusionist.
that worked for MI5 and six and nine. He created a map deck. And so what it was, is these cards from bicycle, but completely normal. You soak them in water for about two minutes. And what happens as you know, from the story is they split apart. And now when you look at the backs of both sides, there’s a map that’s hidden inside.
Now, if you take a whole deck, right, and have two cards, you now have a whole region of the area, and who would suspect playing cards and all of this?
[00:12:28] Jane: It’s great. Love it. Totally love it. Now, Fenna, and is her last name pronounced Voss?
[00:12:36] Kristina: It’s FOS. Yeah, in Dutch it’s FOS. Most Americans would say BOSS. Yeah, but either way, I think the challenge of Dutch names, you know, what can somebody in America actually pronounce?
Because I like to say that the Dutch love their consonants like the Hawaiians love their vowels.
[00:12:55] Jane: So she’s, you know, she’s a Dutch immigrant who was living in the Midwest with her family and her childhood. is scarred by a number of tragedies, but one in particular. And so, and it impacts the rest of her life.
It impacts her career, her, her need for escapism. And, and why did you, you know, talk about her, her building her, that backstory for her and like, why her and why, why that tragedy? What made you think, like, what made you come up with that for, for Fenna?
[00:13:23] Kristina: I’m so sorry, Jane. Usually it’s so quiet in here. I don’t know if you can hear that at all, but I’m going to quiet down for just one second.
Hold on. This is the joy of a teenager coming home with his friends on a snow day.
[00:13:35] Jane: No worries.
Hello, Sandy and Susan. The chat webinar chat is working now, so feel free to ask questions in the chat. I’ll, I have a few more questions for Kristina, but we’re gonna take questions from the audience at the end. So so, oh, someone’s, Christy says, hi, we’ve all been there with kids. Oh, totally been there.
Please. I’m just afraid my dog is going to come running in here and jumping on the desk. So I’m just like, I’m hiding in the basement. So I, I feel you. All good. We’re all good now. We’re all good. Awesome. So yeah, so tell me about Fena’s origin story.
[00:14:12] Kristina: Yeah, absolutely. So where it all came from was at first I think I went through a couple of different ethnicities and nationalities that she had in the beginning.
And it was really when I landed on her being Dutch that I thought was so, Would make it very interesting because in the upper peninsula, the Dutch, they were for some reason. It’s so interesting. Upper peninsula of Michigan is those people that live near there or in up there. They know this for sure.
There are very few Dutch people that are up there. However, there’s so many Dutch communities that are just in the lower part of the state. Yeah. And that really interesting. And so I almost, when I realized that with the, the copper mining people and all the immigrants there, that they were one of the few that were not really there much, I thought maybe I should change her.
And then I realized how nice it was actually that she was one of the outsiders. So that her family didn’t feel like they belonged and the Dutch could be so different in different provinces all over the Netherlands, speaking different dialects, just because you were Dutch, you know, just like just because you’re Chinese or Asian doesn’t mean that you speak really the same language or have the same customs and all that.
So I thought that was really interesting. Yes, definitely. Yes, that was and the reason why she was in the Midwest, of course, was because of the Italian Hall disaster and that with the Monopoly board smuggling, those two things together are what inspired the whole book.
[00:15:27] Jane: Amazing. So tell people a little bit about the Italian Hall disaster, which you fictionalized in the story, but it’s one of those.
Stories in American history that I had never heard of before and it’s, it’s pretty horrific and but it’s you can see why it’s a jumping off point for a character and someone’s trauma as a child.
[00:15:45] Kristina: Yeah. I, again, just like you was really surprised I hadn’t heard about it before there is a novel that came out.
I had already written all of this. I was, you know, it took me two years to write the book, and including all that crazy research that went into it. So I did not know that there was actually another novel that came out before my book came out, which, but I was thrilled, because it’s called The Women of the Copper Country, and it’s all about The upper peninsula about the up about the comb of the copper mining strikes and disaster, but it really focused on all of that, where that of course, as you know, is really more of my backstory than anything else.
So that really goes into a nice, a lot of detail. So for me when I delved into it and researched and read many many books about it and different accounts. What. What came, you know, there’s different versions, of course, of, you know, trying to figure out what the facts were, but in essence, they had a Christmas Eve party for the kids of these copper miners.
They were all on strike. They’ve been on strike for many months at that point. So you can imagine they barely had enough money for food, let alone Christmas gifts for their kids. So the ladies auxiliary group decided to throw a Christmas Eve party for all of them in the community hall in town, the second floor of the Italian hall building.
Now there was only that they knew of one major way to get in and out of the building for the upstairs. And you would, there was an entrance on the outside and you go straight up the stairs to the second floor. Well, what happened was there were 700 children that showed up at this party and got little gifts and Santa and they sing songs, et cetera, toward the end of the night.
There was a man that came up the stairs, and they believe, many people believe he was anti union, had an anti union pin that he was wearing, and yelled a cry of fire. So this was before that really good law that we have, that you can’t do that, and for good reason. It triggered a stampede that went down the stairwell, and within minutes, they, it created what we call vertical stacking.
So there were over a hundred people that piled up, because the doors closed at the bottom, and they can’t figure out if they opened. Like the outside and they were blocked or that people had blocked them or that they opened inward and then once they closed they blocked everybody in. So within minutes there were so many deaths and the vast majority of them were children.
And so on weekend of Christmas they had a funeral procession that lasted over two miles and it was just heart wrenching. Heart wrenching.
[00:18:13] Jane: Unbelievable. Yeah and I, And it’s you don’t think about stampedes like that, but then you see some of these concerts more recently. And that’s all I could think of is like how terrifying, like something like that.
And it wasn’t a fire. It just happened. Someone asked what town in Michigan was it again? That where this took place. Sure,
[00:18:32] Kristina: it was in Calumet, Michigan, was the, was the real place in my story because I tried and tried and I could not reconcile it with World War II with the age of the character and all this.
So I really debated and ultimately what I did then is because I really still wanted to tell that story. I just moved it by a handful of years, and I called it Eden Springs. So I did fictionalize the town, but everything else is, is based on
[00:18:56] Jane: true story. Yeah, yeah, you could tell just chilling. And so to move on to a lighter topic, Fena is saved.
In essence, as a child by her friendship with a boy named Ari and his family, and I don’t want to give anything away because it’s a big part of the story. I don’t want to do any, you know, talk about any spoilers, but I don’t, I’m, I’m sure you probably do this too. Like, do you have two people you would envision to play Ari and Fena in a movie?
Because I have a couple of ideas.
[00:19:26] Kristina: I have no idea about Ari and I joke that Ari is such a perfect guy that that nobody could possibly play him right because, because it’s too far fetched that anyone would
[00:19:40] Jane: be that perfect.
[00:19:44] Kristina: So yes, I want to hear your ideas for both of them, actually. And and I do have a film agent with the CAA is representing it.
They have a screenwriter that’s already interested in adapting. They’ve been meeting with production companies, as you well know, it, you know, it’s a very long road for something to come to fruition, but it’s always fun to imagine that something could happen. And so they did ask me who I would want to play Fena and.
It is, I don’t know about you, but it is so hard for me to really visualize my characters. I don’t really see their features. Yeah, I know what you’re saying. Okay. So I see them kind of like, you know, your best friends that you, you see their personality and they walk in the door. You don’t really notice, you know, their eye color or their eyebrow color, whatever.
It’s that, you know so same thing with this. And so I thought, Oh gosh, I really have to think about this. So I did think of. One person right away when I had to, and it was Anya Taylor Joy who plays the, you know, who starred in The Queen’s Gambit, for example, and especially I think because a good friend of mine had been reading my draft as I was writing it, and The Queen’s Gambit came out, of course, during that time, and she said, Oh my gosh, I’m watching these orphanage scenes, and I feel like I’m watching your book on the screen.
[00:20:56] Jane: Yes. It doesn’t matter. And she’s a brilliant actress. Yeah. And she was in that movie, the miniaturist as well. Yeah. Yeah. She would be great. My thought for Fennah was Dakota Fanning, I thought would also be a good choice because she could, she could pass as Dutch. And yeah, yeah. And my other one for, do you, now, do you have anyone for Ari that you’ve thought of?
[00:21:18] Kristina: I’m relying on you. You better come up with a good one. Well,
[00:21:21] Jane: I might be too old. I’m like, I feel like I don’t know many young actors these days, but he was in Glenn Powell. He was in Top Gun. And then he was also as he was John Glenn and Hidden Figures. Yeah, that’s probably more, you might remember that one more.
Yeah. I love
[00:21:38] Kristina: that movie so much. So yes, I will have to go back now with that mindset and think about that.
[00:21:43] Jane: That’s great. Klen Powell. He’d be perfect. Get on that.
[00:21:46] Kristina: I will. We’ll jump right on that. Spielberg, Spielberg, when you’re listening.
[00:21:53] Jane: Yeah. So in your author’s note there’s a fact you, this quote about fact versus fiction really resonated, resonated with me and I want to talk about it a little bit.
I attempted whenever possible to remain true to history, and only with reluctance did I at least knowingly take creative liberties, having to remind myself that the beauty of fiction invites, even requires, such leeway for an imaginative adventure not meant to be a documentary. And I It totally resonates with me because with historical fiction, you want to state the true details and facts whenever possible, but at the same time, you want to entertain and it’s a story.
It has to have a beginning, a middle and an end. And so what, how do you balance that as a writer? Because I feel like I’m still figuring that out and you’ve been at this longer than I have. So I’d love to hear how you try to strike that balance.
[00:22:43] Kristina: Of course, I think that’s a constant like goal that we have, isn’t it?
And struggle because there is, I think more and more it’s interesting given, I feel like, gosh, how long has it been since I wrote my first novel? And I do feel like things have changed a bit since I. Put out my first one and, and I feel like the pressure has, I don’t know about you, but I feel like the pressure has gotten more and more that they need to almost read like a documentary as if, you know, when one thing is one word is wrong in a novel and, and I definitely see it, you know, called out on all kinds of books in reviews of people saying, you know, like, well, that one sentence pulled me out and then I couldn’t enjoy the whole book.
And I think, you know, and while I understand that feeling that if there’s a lot of anachronisms that, that you feel like. You know, you don’t want to be pulled out of the story, of course. I mean, yeah, you get to skate into it and you hope that you do enough research that someone can relax into the story.
But the story is in fiction is supposed to be that the story takes precedence. And, and so it’s. It’s interesting how much pressure I think is being put on especially I think historical authors to make sure that everything is accurate. When we’re trying our best you know there’s no doubt that we’re putting effort in.
And, you know, I do feel like there’s been enough pressure that I, I don’t know. That I think I’m speaking for a lot of us in that there’s a little more fear these days that one thing wrong is going to just ruin the whole book experience for somebody. And yeah, you know, we’re doing our best.
[00:24:10] Jane: We’re trying our best.
The hustle is real. Yeah. So I completely agree. And I think that, but I think also you know, I, I was, I forget, I think maybe it was Stephanie Dratch on a panel one time said, You know, your author’s note is your best friend in that way, because then you can just kind of explain to people, look, this isn’t a novel, it’s fiction, but here’s where I took leaps.
And that’s why I loved your historical notes at the end, because it really makes, makes you understand, like, the choices you made and, and why, you know so that was great. And so I want to talk a little bit, because we have a lot of Authors, writers, aspiring authors on that usually come on, what is your writing process like?
I always ask, are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between? I think most people know what a plotter versus pantser, but just to explain again, do you plot out your books in an outline or do you write by the seat of your pants? That’s going to stop for a second. Okay, no, we’re good. We’re safe.
And and has it changed through the course of your writing career?
[00:25:08] Kristina: So I am a recovering event planner, as you pointed out in the beginning of the bio so I don’t know how to do it any other way. And especially with historicals, I, I’m sure there’s panthers out there but I don’t know of any. I don’t know how I would write a historical whole novel, without knowing, having Having an outline and knowing what happened during that time period, knowing what I need to research.
Otherwise, I think I’d be going down so many rabbit holes. And then you’d write and write and write yourself into a corner. I think very often going, Oh, wait, that can’t happen. That would never be plausible. So I think the outline and helps tremendously there with the ways we hide. For example, I see them all very cinematically in my head.
Each one of my books. And that is no different with Ways We Hide, so when I opened my file folder of ideas and I had the, a photo that was a documentation of the Italian Hall disaster, and right next to an article about how Monopoly helped the Allies win World War II. In that moment, the two of them together, that I both saved at different times, I looked at them and thought, oh my gosh, wait a minute, this is her backstory.
And. About Houdini and how she’d be traumatized and, and why she’d be recruited into my nine. So in that moment, when I saw them together, I saw it like a movie in my head and it played out in about 15 minutes. I had two thirds of the novel in my head. I immediately sat down and wrote my outline and then the story got bigger than I expected and, you know, more chapters and a little bit longer than I anticipated, but I thought there’s no other way to tell the story.
And and so yeah, and the more research I did, the more I wanted to include as well as long as it served the
[00:26:42] Jane: story. Amazing.
Oh that’s so interesting. I think, I think you’re right. I think most historical fiction writers I talked to have at least a rough outline just for the purposes of organizing research because, yeah, it’s too overwhelming.
If not, you know, you have to in order to keep everything straight. Now, what is your favorite part of the writing process? And what is the part you dread? I’m not going to say hate, but what is the part you dread?
[00:27:06] Kristina: Writing at all. I read a blank page so much. It is ridiculous. I mean, I see they’re going, why am I a writer?
My goodness gracious. Then every time you think, can I really do this again? Can I really write 400 pages on a deadline? I have no idea, but I’ve realized that panicking doesn’t help. So I. Well, you know, either it’ll get done or it won’t. And somehow it all comes together at the end. So, but what I do love and the reason why I keep coming back to it is I do love sharing these stories from history that people, you know, tell me, especially in book clubs get to share with me on zoom and what have you, that I never knew about this and I never knew about this.
And Read more about it. And now we all know about this. And I think that that is the biggest compliment that I can get is that bringing a spotlight to those stories that otherwise might be forgotten. Even just in my own small way. And the other thing I really love is editing. So I love editing, you know, okay.
I like this job. Okay. Yeah, this is fun.
[00:28:08] Jane: Exactly. Like I was just someone. I mentioned, there’s a question I’ll, I’ll bring up, but someone mentioned Linda lugman’s the matchmaker’s gift in the, in the chat. And I was just like talking to her on Twitter. Cause she’s just finishing up the first, very first draft of a new project.
And I’m, and I’m like, that is the hardest part, that very first draft. I it’s like blood from a stone every time. And I, every time I’m like, I can’t do this. And then like, and then I want, it is definitely not smooth sailing after that, but it’s. I enjoy the editorial process, you know, the whole revision process.
Yeah. So I completely agree with you there. So hard. I’m glad I’m not alone. You’re not alone. No, no, no. So what in terms of writing and getting published and the whole thing, what is the best advice you can give to people out there who are working on their first novel or trying to get their first novel published?
[00:29:00] Kristina: Oh, goodness. Keep at it. And I will say this a couple things. One is I would, I remember sending out my queries and oh my goodness, that is a tough process, right? Sitting out and waiting for, I would get back then when I did it with my debut letters from home, it was all snail mail. So we would get our self address stamp envelope back in the mail.
You know, it was our own, our own envelope, our own stamp that would come back with rejection. So at least, and take months. To hear the good news is it is on email these days, which is a little bit better that you’re not waiting so long. And what I would do is if I get a rejection, I would be of course, disappointed for, you know, good five, 10 minutes, what have you, because it hurts and stings.
And then I would immediately send out two queries on the exact same day. Twice as much hope than disappointment. I knew in my head, I thought this is just a numbers game. If I, I believed in my story, I knew that my writing could just keep getting better if I just kept working at it. And so I thought I only needed one yes.
And so that’s what I did. And I kept all the rejection letters in a file folder and that I’m really, really proud of. And the irony of that too, which is so funny is so many of the letters as my writing got better, because I’d send them out and I keep working on the book, making sure it was the best draft possible so that when it was, when I was asked for a full manuscript, then I could send them something I was really proud of.
And that the best ability, you know, that I had at the moment. Those letters, though, you will laugh at, especially you will laugh at this because of what you write. Toward the end, when my crafting got better and the story got better, then I’d get a lot of compliments, which is really nice, about the characters and the writing.
And it sounded all good until they passed at the end. They were going to step aside, we say.
[00:30:43] Jane: Step aside!
[00:30:46] Kristina: Step aside for an agent who feels differently. Because, largely because, they II will never sell. And I got over and over again, and it was World War II and letters. Those two things would never sell it.
It was all thrillers, you know, espionage. It was nonfiction, it was memoirs, but they were like, yeah, no World War II love stories just won’t ever sell. And then, so what that taught me, of course, is that nothing sells until it sells. And I’m really glad that I have never yet written to chase a trend. I’ve always written a story that I believed in and I was excited about and I felt was a little different than something I had seen.
[00:31:25] Jane: Yeah, excellent. That is excellent advice. And yeah, and I think that’s true about ideas too. Like you have to write something you’re passionate and excited about because you live with it for so long, you know, and I think that’s really important too. You can’t write to trends. You can’t say, Oh, well, what’s hot now?
Because next year will be something completely different, you know? So yeah, excellent, excellent advice. I have a couple more questions. And then if you have questions for Kristina, you can put them in the Q and A or in the chat. I see a couple already in the chat. Are you working on anything right now?
Are you, are you still on the road? You’re on the road a lot with this one. I was
[00:32:01] Kristina: on the road a lot. It was nuts. You see, when I posted, I think I was, I hit 18 flights in 14 days. Like record, except for maybe George Clooney and up in the air. It was a little nuts. Yeah. So for the most part now, I’m just sort of sprinkling some events here and there, which is nice to be home for the most part.
And because yeah, I need to be writing the next book. That deadline is not moving. So it just kind of goes tick, tick, tick, and it’s getting closer. And again, choosing not to panic. What is coming out before that, which I’m excited to share, especially since you’ve read The Ways We Hide Now I was, asked by Amazon Original Short Stories to write a short story for their Mother’s Day collection.
And so that’s how
[00:32:42] Jane: I saw that announcement. That’s really cool. Yeah,
[00:32:45] Kristina: very fun. I hadn’t written a short story in a long time. And so that was really fun. And they just said to have it to do with motherhood. And, and so I dove into a story that I was, I’m very excited about, because if you’ve read The Ways We Hide, and even if you haven’t read it yet, people, it’s completely separate, but just linked, and that is there is a character in The Ways We Hide, as you know, that’s a little girl named Poppy, and she is in a, She makes a big impact in the story, even though she’s in there for a very short period of time.
And so that was one of the characters that I thought, you know, that’s one that I would have loved to explore more that I didn’t get to write about as much of what happened to her. And, and so at the end of the epilogue in the Ways We Hide, of course, Fanna wonders, I wonder what, what became of her and her life?
And well, this is the answer to that. So it’s called Poppy’s Story and it’s set in Virginia in 1962 in the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
[00:33:37] Jane: Oh, wow. I’m sorry. It’s called poppies. Poppy’s what? Poppy story. Poppy story. Okay.
[00:33:42] Kristina: Got it. Oh, got a double meaning. So some people understand why it’s that by the end of the story but she is a mother to be, and she is a teacher as you probably remember from the story.
She has dyslexia, which at the time would be known as word blindness. And she was so impacted by teachers helping her that she became a teacher herself. And so there is a whole past that she’s going to confront and some twists and turns in the story. And I’m pretty proud that there is a twist that actually my agent and Ed are both gassed over.
Oh, nice. Best for best. Because you think they read so many stories that, that’s actually, that’s a huge compliment. So I really hope readers enjoy that. That’s coming out. Is that
[00:34:22] Jane: coming out? Oh, go ahead. You were going to say.
[00:34:24] Kristina: Yeah, that’s coming out in May, right before Mother’s Day. Yeah. And then I’m working on the next novel this starting this week.
So I’ve been researching a bunch and this one, I don’t have a title for it yet. It is, it has a lot to do with Oregon’s history is the only thing I can tell you. And there is so much interesting stuff here. I, you know, I live just outside of Portland. So there’s a lot that even though I grew up here, there’s.
So much that I had never even heard about until just a few weeks ago. Other friends and they hadn’t either. So I think that’s a good sign.
[00:34:54] Jane: That’s always a good sign. Yes. What is the best way for readers to stay in touch with you and do use, this is a two part question. And do you do zooms with book clubs?
[00:35:05] Kristina: Yes, I definitely do. Yeah, all the time. I did just a couple of ’em yesterday and, and and that’s one upside of the pandemic, right? ? Yes. Yeah.
[00:35:13] Jane: We all know Zoom ,
[00:35:15] Kristina: we got, we got Tiger King and Zoom out of it. Okay. So Right.
I, I do, I zoom with book clubs all the time and they can just go on my, my website and all the information is there. They can email me through there and, and I’m, if I’m available, I’m happy to do it. It’s so much fun.
[00:35:31] Jane: Awesome. Awesome. And then, so are you mostly on, in terms of social media, are you mostly on Instagram, are you mostly on Facebook, are you on both, or?
[00:35:40] Kristina: I’m on both, but largely on Facebook. So even, even my personal Facebook page is one that a lot of readers are on there with me, so they can definitely feel free to find me on there too. But I’ve got my author page there, and then I’m on Instagram some, but not as much. Got it.
[00:35:56] Jane: Excellent. Last question.
Then I see there’s lots of nice comments and a few questions in the in the chat. Is there a book or books that really like impacted you as a child that really likes still to this day is one of your favorites?
[00:36:11] Kristina: Gosh, I would say, you know, as far as being a reader, I want to say that. Are you there? God, it’s me.
Margaret was probably one of the ones that I just Loved. I remember getting that from the school library and then they got me hooked on all the, the Sweet Valley High. Sweet
[00:36:26] Jane: Valley Highs! Oh my god! It was so short
[00:36:31] Kristina: and sweet and, you know, I just, oh gosh, that was such a, you know, that was, that was very fun to read those.
I think in junior high.
[00:36:37] Jane: Yeah, yeah, totally.
[00:36:41] Kristina: The Margaret book, of course, is coming out as a movie, I think, very soon. So that was fun to see that interpretation. And other than that, I want to say that the Shel Silverstein books, I remember just loving where the sidewalk ends and and the giving tree.
And the giving tree was. Oh, interesting, because I didn’t realize it was so controversial.
In so many posts, I went, I had no idea there was so much, you know, love and just extreme love and extreme hate for this book for different reasons. And and it’s interesting to read it as a parent. I think it takes on a completely, New fresh meaning. And I found the book really beautiful.
[00:37:15] Jane: Yeah, completely.
And those shells Silverstein the, those poetry books where the sidewalk ends at my girls love those. I love reading those to my girls. Oh, so good. Yeah. Okay. So we have a few questions in the chat and you can also put them in the Q and a I, I usually actually ask about covers. So Debbie McBride asked ever since.
I’ve been paying more attention to book covers. How many phases did your cover go through and how did you end up with this one?
[00:37:42] Kristina: Oh my goodness. That is such a good question. And Linda who wrote the matchmaker’s gift is a dear friend of mine. So that is fantastic. I heard cover is just gorgeous. So yes.
Oh, I love talking about the cover of this one because it was, it’s, It’s such an interesting journey that I hadn’t been through before there, we had a woman on the cover that was supposed to be Fennah. And it, that typical female World War II spy sort of look, right, down either walking away or walking forward with head down.
But what was different was it looked like a playing card. The whole book looked like a playing card. And on another cover, they gave me as an option, they had a page curl in the corner where it was peeled back and there was a map right behind it. And I thought no matter what cover we get, that needs to go on it.
So we said, it was so different. And it applied of course, in so many ways. And as you know, from reading the book, when you look at it after you’re done, you realize what map that you’re actually looking at, which is, which is not obvious when you first start. Right. So. So we were going forward with that. We all loved one cover.
And then what happened was my publisher had taken it to the major buyers and taken it to the book buyer of Walmart, which of course, as we all know, is, is a very good account to have. And they had done really well with sold on a Monday, which was amazing. And she definitely wanted to carry the waste behind as well and loved the story and premise and all this and said, but the problem was, she said, That I needed a kid on the cover because apparently my brand has become sad, historical orphans.
I didn’t mean for it, but you look at my cover, you’re like, Oh, yes. So of course, when a major account says we’d like you to change, you go, okay, we can,
[00:39:22] Jane: Walmart is big. Yeah.
[00:39:25] Kristina: Happened. And, and so they gave me lots of other covers and, and for those who haven’t read it yet, or I see some people read it, I haven’t finished it.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers here. So you will just, I think that it’s safe to say that the way you see the cover when the book starts and the way you see it when it is over are two different ways.
[00:39:41] Jane: I agree. I completely agree with that. Yeah. And I like the color choice too, actually. I really love the color choice.
[00:39:48] Kristina: I do. That was, it jumped out at me when they gave me other options and I said, Oh, I had not seen that before. The teal and the yellow were gorgeous.
[00:39:55] Jane: Yeah, really, really cool. I’m going to read a couple of these lovely comments. Susie Baldwin says extraordinary research, extraordinary book. Debbie McBride said, loving this book about halfway through and I just realized that there are pictures at the end.
Yes, I didn’t mention there’s photos at the end as well as the recipes and everything else. And had I been more organized, I would have made mulled wine because this is historical happy hour, but it didn’t happen. There’s even drink recipes. Yeah.
[00:40:22] Kristina: And and you mentioned to the, on my website, there is a book club guide for this book, but it actually has completely different recipes.
So it has about 10 other recipes that are Dutch that are really fun to make.
[00:40:32] Jane: Oh, very cool. Awesome. And oh, someone asked that this is it possible to view a replay? Yes, this will be available on YouTube and as a podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. So absolutely available later if you, if you have a bad, a bad connection.
Susie Baldwin, love all your books. Nancy Osgood is looking forward to your short story. Sandra Sweezy said, I always get so much from these author sessions and find more historical fiction to enjoy and learn from. Thank you, Sandra. Well, and that is a really nice note to end on, I think. That’s lovely.
Thank you very much. How can you top that? That’s delightful. So hopefully we will see each other in person sometime this year. It’s lovely to finally kind of meet you. That’s one good thing about Zoom. Like you said, it’s so lovely to chat with you and finally meet you. So thank you for coming on.
Thank you for
[00:41:21] Kristina: having me. This was so fun. I mean, anytime that you want to get to talk about books, you know, count me in.
[00:41:26] Jane: Absolutely. All right. Have a great week. Take care. Thanks.
HISTORICAL HAPPY HOUR
Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.