Interview with Kristin Kaldahl
What inspires you to write?
Let’s see. I’ve written since I was very young, maybe ten, and I dreamed of being an author since then. As I aged, I came to believe I had a little writing talent, just not enough to write fiction. I chose journalism as a career and worked as a hard-news newspaper reporter and later a columnist. I also started a blog. But my belief that fiction was beyond my capabilities kept me from attempting anything but short non-fiction.
In early April, 2017, my mom suffered a brain hemorrhage. She contracted pneumonia and wasn’t expected to make it. My Uncle and I were at her bedside in ICU talking quietly about my cousins. Mom, who was not quite all there having suffered a brain injury, interrupted us and asked, “What are you two talking about? Kristin, did you say you’re writing a book?”
I laughed at her out-of-the-blue statement and said, “No, Mom. I could never write a book.”
She stared at me and said with the intensity only a mom could deliver, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
About thirty minutes later, she went into respiatory failure and had to go on a ventilator. I thought those would be some of the last words she’d ever say to me. The good news is she survived and has returned to her normal life. You’d never know she’d had such a devastating stroke.
Her words stayed with me though, and, four months later, I started to write my first novel about a disabled girl, a sheltie runt, and the incredible sport of dog agility.
A mother’s faith is powerful stuff.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
Sure. My biggest challenge is visual. I’m legally blind, and it can be difficult to write. I write with fonts boosted to humongous sizes and with white text on a black background. But you can only increase the font size of Word’s icons and program text so far. For those, I use a hand-held magnifying glass to navigate the program. That gets old fast. I also have the occasional day where my eyes physically hurt, and I can’t write. But other people with worse vision than I write and write well. It’s an obstacle but a very over-comeable one.
Tell me about your protagonist. What’s your favorite strength or weakness?
The protagonist in my book is a character quite close to me. Okay, she pretty much is me. The book is an #ownvoices book, meaning an author has deep and personal ties to a diverse character in her book. Krissy, the main character in my book, is a fourteen-year-old girl disabled by dialysis who, with her sheltie runt by her side, seeks to reclaim her life through the fast-paced sport of dog agility. In real life, I was a teen dialysis survivor and received a kidney transplant at thirteen just like Krissy in the book. As a disabled adult, I really did get Aslan and sought to reclaim my life through agility. And like Krissy in the book, we did.
While not everything about Krissy is me, she’s very similar. I gave her more of a backbone than I had as a teenager though. I was super shy until college. In fact, I quit competition dog obedience (there was no agility back then) when I was a teenager because I couldn’t handle the public humiliation of failing in the ring. I gave Krissy the strength to handle and learn from that kind of failure. I think it’s my favorite trait I gave fictional Krissy—the ability to rise from the ashes, even if the burning happens in front of an audience.
What are your current/future projects?
Oh, I’m so excited to talk about these! Right now, I’m writing a fantasy/suspense young adult novel based on an award-winning short story I wrote last summer. I’m about a third of the way through the book. I haven’t worked out my one sentence pitch yet, but it has a cool magic system, dogs (of course), kids struggling to survive, secrets, a unique fantasy world on a prairie, tornados, and killing viruses. I love the characters in this book.
And I’m mapping out the second novel in the agility series. That one will also be heavily based in reality. I can’t wait to write it.
Between the novels, I hope to write a few more short stories. They’re super fun to create, and they give you a feeling of accomplishment quickly verses novels which take months and months to write.
Do you have a routine you follow when you write?
I guess I do. I write in my kitchen. There’s a phone nook there that works great as a tiny office. I get a glass of iced tea, open the laptop, and start. I first go back and re-read the last section I wrote, doing a slight edit as I go. This reacquaints me with where I’ve been and where I was headed when I quit writing last. Then I dive in and get going. I also open up any supporting documents like a spreadsheet wiki of characters and any documents on world-building, history, etc.
I know some authors play music as they write, but I like silence. I write to the hum of the fridge and the tick of the clock.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
In relation to writing, it would be: you can write a novel so go learn how to do it. Take a class, read books, get involved in a writing group, but learn. Constructing the bones of a novel—the structure—isn’t hard, but it does take knowledge. Learn structure, learn the different writing techniques used in fiction, learn how to develop character arcs, study it all, and start writing. You learn by doing. You can do it. Just believe.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
There’s a lot of good advice out there. I’d say write what you want to write. Let your artist do her thing. Don’t write what you’ve heard is trendy. Write the story you want to tell. If at the end you find it’s marketable, great. If not, then that’s okay, too. You’ve created art.
Also, revise, revise, revise. Once you’ve created this piece of art, be ready to take it apart and put it back together again. Be willing to give it a hard, critical glare. And when you’re done, you’ll probably need to repeat. And repeat again. I think a lot of authors have great stories but don’t do the hard work revisions require.
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?
I have a website: kristinkaldahl.com. There is a contact form there, and readers can reach me through that. It also provides updates on my projects, links to my blogs, and even news about my dogs and dog agility. I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/agilitymach/. I post there, but my website is the best way to get in touch with me. And please do! I love to hear from readers. And for the Twitter crowd, I’m also at https://twitter.com/Sheltiebeast