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Adam Interviews...Kristina Kelly!

The logo for this blog, Adam Gaffen Interviews - a hand holding a pen superimposed over an old-fashioned typewriter

Happy June!

Today's my wife's birthday - so if you want to, drop into FB and wish her a happy birthday. Even better, if you're looking for a nutrition or parenting coach - she's certified ten ways to Sunday for both - then book a call with her! Anyway, birthday link HERE

But you're here for author interviews, aren't you? I knew it!

I have a SCIENCE FICTION POET with me first today, and I'm excited! Her name is Kristina Kelly, and she writes fantasy, sci-fi (often combining the two), and poetry and loves being a geek. Her short stories have received Semi-Finalist and Silver Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest. Kristina's undergraduate pursuits focused on Psychology, Music, and Computer Science. With trumpet as her main instrument and a connection to nature, Kristina often works music and visual landscapes into her writings. Kristina is a trumpet player but dabbles in other instruments, plays video games, and tends to her flower garden and two children. She is amazed by nature and enjoys painting vivid scenes for her readers. 

Kristina currently resides in Indiana with her husband and sons. In her spare time, she takes photography, makes various crafts, plays video games (RPGs are her favorite), dabbles in other instruments, and tends to her flower garden. She loves going on new adventures in the great wide somewhere (sometimes just by picking up a new book). 

Star Trek or Star Wars? Both? Both! I’ve watched every movie and most every episode of the available shows. I love them both, each for their own reasons, but I think they both capture my hope for space adventure and humanity. In Star Trek, they’ve reached this sort of hopepunk + utopia – they’ve moved beyond money as a motivator and instead seek out new experiences and try to improve the lives of those they encounter. Star Wars has this magic meets resistance – the force is arguably magic and the Jedi are sorcerer(ess)s meanwhile underdogs and rebels are trying to rise up against tyranny and make the universe better. Plus there’s lightspeed and hyperspace and teleporters. I really hate slow travel. I have, however, far more Star Wars books on my bookshelves.

The subject of the interview, Kristina Kelly, a blonde woman wearing a red blouse with pale skin

Firefly – gone too soon or overrated? I often wish there was a power in the ‘verse to bring it back. I have the comics! But that doesn’t fully fill the void. I loved this show, though sadly I discovered it way after it aired, and raged for a full hour after finishing it and realizing there were no more episodes. I loved every single character. It had its serious moments, and light-heartedness balanced with what felt like a well-thought-out universe-building. And so many one-liners. It’s shiny.

Coffee, tea, or cacao? Tea! I collect tea cups, call me Tress of the Emerald sea. And I apparently collect tea as well. I can’t pass up a unique flavor. Around Christmas, I bought one called Winter Solstice which quickly became my new favorite, but then there’s summer time where strawberry and hibiscus taste great and fall where cinnamon and pumpkin really fit…you can see maybe how easily my tea cabinet can begin to overflow.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Implying I have a schedule gives me far too much credit. I have a day job, and two kids, so free time to focus on writing can be a challenge. Here’s what works for me. I try to reserve my lunchtime each day for writing, which gets me about 30 minutes a day. And then on the weekends, my husband will take our kids somewhere for an hour or two so I can get a bigger chunk of protected time. Really, I’m just snagging 15 minutes here and there, including on car rides to the museum, so that I can get some writing in. Every little bit adds up. But I also remember to forgive myself. I’ve got a lot going on! So if I don’t write that day, but I spent a fun day at the park with my kids, those memories are special too.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I like to take nature photography, I’m a musician (trumpet mainly, though I’m dabbling in other things like ocarina), and I love RPG games like Dragon Age and Final Fantasy. I love spending time outdoors with my family and going to museums. I’m trying out watercolor painting. And of course I love reading.

Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid? Not tropes, exactly, but because I love nature and music I try to find a way to add both into what I’m writing. I might focus on describing the way the wind bends a flower on a meadow and then add in musical terms like the wind crescendoed (the wind got louder). Or it might be that I choose to make plant magic, like my character Vayriel in Trials of the Innermost, or the character plays an obscure instrument like the dulcimer that my bard Kilahym plays (also in TOTI).

Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they? Hire an editor at least once. I learned so much from the first editor I hired – she was great at not just telling me what was wrong but pointing out some of my habits and how to correct them including some great books. A great editor fixes and educates. Seeing the areas that could be improved really helped me level-up those skills and catch them myself. There are so many great books, videos, and even classes that can serve this purpose and many are free. Look up Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on YouTube, and I really love the Busy Writer’s Guides by Marcy Kennedy

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? It kind of fluctuated but I think I always wanted to be a writer. I have memories of setting up my stuffed animals so that I could tell them a story, and I wrote my first stories and poems on my mom’s typewriter. I don’t think I really knew being an author was a thing at that age. I was either destined to be a writer or a librarian because I organized my bookshelves and created genre labels like the library had. I also wanted to be a professional basketball player, an Olympic ice skater, and work for NASA.

Does writing energize or exhaust you? Not writing exhausts me. It’s like having something looming over your head and you can feel it getting closer and closer to crushing you until you can sit down and write something. Creating, whether it's art or poetry or stories, is such a complex experience with emotions ranging from euphoria to chaos, but it’s inherently human to want to tell stories and make art.

The cover of Imaginari by Kristina Kelly, showing a somewhat abtract and idealized image of flowers, but when you look more closely there are fairy figures and the central figure might be a person with aflower growing from their head

What are common traps for aspiring writers? Those posts that are absolutes for advice. Like “Writers, only use ‘said’ for your dialog tags.” My suggestion is to use all of the advice out there as a giant multitool. Try things out - there’s no one right way to write. Use those suggestions as tools in your toolbelt and when one piece of advice doesn’t work (ex. Write every day!) try another (ex. Do 15-minute writing sprints on Tuesdays and Thursdays). I was a victim of plotting too much. I have at least three stories where I filled up notebooks on worldbuilding and never finished writing the book. So my trap was plotting too much. If you focus on getting every chapter, every scene outlined you’ve spent months drawing the blueprints but you haven’t actually built any of the story yet. Just write! You can’t make the story better if there is no story written out yet. (Reminder, this advice should be a tool and try out plotting, pantsing, and plantsing and see what works.)

What is your writing Kryptonite? Naming things. I will spend hours trying to find the right name for lakes and cities, characters and that piece of technology the spaceship captain uses to communicate with her crew. I’ve learned, though, that putting placeholders like [ ] around things that I might need to research or find just the right word for will help me to continue writing and not lose the flow. I can come back later and do a deep dive into the rotation speed of a gas giant another day.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I try to write what I want. Yes, readers have a certain expectation when it comes to how stories flow and how they are organized, so I think following some standards will set you up for having a readership. But you can’t please everyone. Trying to write what others want I feel sets you up for failure. You run the risk of writing something you think people want and then when they don’t want it you can feel like you failed. Add to that the possibility that you don’t even like what you created after all because you wrote it not based on what you like. Yikes. I don’t want that. I’d much rather find a smaller, niche audience who loves the things I do with my writing because my writing pleases me.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I love this question because I can talk about one of my best friends and how we coauthored a book. Writing Trials of the Innermost together gave us this great space to create something that we feel is better than it could have ever been if just one of us wrote it. We combined the best of each of us. It was, and continues to be, such a great experience to have someone to text at 3am “I have this idea about x!” and collaborate on the world and story. It also helped to have the constant support. We took an approach of dividing the work and ended up where we each mainly wrote from about 3 characters’ perspectives. We’d write in the other perspectives at times but dividing it like this allowed us to write chapters simultaneously instead of having to wait until the other person finished. And if the muse left one of us, the other was likely to still be in the creative bubble and could jump in to help. We also learned from each other’s strengths. Jonathan says that I do well with describing all of the scenes and action scenes. I think Jonathan is great at dialog, particularly witty turns of phrase. I’m a believer that sharing our skills made us both level up faster than we could have by just reading craft books in our areas of lesser strengths.

Who shot first, Han or Greedo? Han. Obviously. It 100% fits his character. If an editor sent back a suggestion to make Greedo shoot first, I’d have to politely disagree.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Not to stop. I got discouraged in my late teens to early twenties thinking writing was a useless activity and didn’t create as much. I’d also tell myself to stop filling up notebooks with backstories and world-building facts and to just get some chapters written. If I had, I think I would have had more finished manuscripts by this time.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? It gave me confidence. Completing Trials of the Innermost with one of my best friends really helped me realize I could do this. I can actually write. After completing that manuscript, I’ve since completed multiple short stories, a novella, another novel, and so many poems. Prior to that first book, I had no completed manuscripts and just a few short stories. I now have a goal of completing a short story every quarter and making progress on any of my projects weekly. Always onward!

What’s the best way to market your books? I have no idea. I’m trying that throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks method. The best advice I can give is to not burn out. Don’t spend so much time marketing that you lose interest in marketing, or you don’t have the energy or time to write. Find something that you enjoy doing, whether that’s videos or blogs, etc. Marketing is hard work. Try to find ways not to hate it.

What do you have coming next?

October 23, 2024 I have a science fiction and fantasy poetry collection releasing with some of my photography. Imaginari.

Step into lyrics of science, science fiction, and fantasy where robots fight for their autonomy, fairies wage war against goblins, and humanity reaches for what awaits them in the stars. This collection of poetry holds a glimpse of the human experience disguised in fairytales and stardust. You will encounter themes that resonate with our reality, such as motherhood, growth, feminism, hope, and nature. Whether you are a fan of epic sagas, whimsical tales, or lyrical reflections, you will find something to spark the imagination in this anthology.


I also have my sapphic fantasy novella releasing January 2024. It’s inspired by RPGs like Skyrim and Dragon Age and is set in cozy autumn, so it has some of those Legend and Lattes vibes but with some higher stakes.  


Divine, a 25-year-old healer of the Goddess of Souls is chasing her talisman, the key to accessing her magic well. She's chased the thief who stole it across half of Trelvania; the betrayer a servant of the Goddess of Condemnation and an enemy. In the city of Iramont, Divine meets Saph. The flirty tavern owner and axe wielder with an eyepatch has a proposition: Saph will help Divine locate her talisman if Divine helps her complete a mysterious quest in a chest. Inspired by RPGs and set in scenic autumn, prepare for an adventure with gods and goddesses, deceitful exes, and talking trees. Can Divine overcome expectations set on her by others, learn to forgive herself and trust again, and find romance in the middle of finding her magic? 

Follow here for more release dates and preorders.


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