Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Interview and Giveaway: Finding Keepers by Kristi Strong

Published: July 30th, 2014


Starting a new life is never easy, but Alyssa Doe has turned it into an art form. Abandoned by her parents at age ten, six years in foster care has taught Alyssa how to get through life the hard way.

Now sixteen and growing desperate for a stable life, Alyssa finds herself puzzled by her newest keeper, twenty-five year old Jessica Sona. A feisty woman who does not accept no for an answer, Jessica’s insistence and passion for safety, family, and unconditional love begin to break down Alyssa’s walls and bring her hope, a dangerous emotion.

Can such a thing as family and love exist for a girl whose birth name is Doe, or will Alyssa be forever left finding keepers?

Thank you, Mrs. Kristi Strong 
I don’t know if Kristi Strong is a pen name, but I like the double sense of your blog name: Strong Novels. So, what make a novel strong and what is the most important feature of Kristi Strong’s stories? 
No pen name :) I was fortunate enough to marry into the Strong family, and the last name has certainly proven to be useful! Most of my novels show the scarier, darker sides of life, all while weaving in hope and light. They are stories of people who have been through extremely hard experiences, or who have had to really push through all obstacles to get where they are, and yet have the indomitable courage and strength to help those around them. 

Though many authors say that their works are only for entertainment, I believe that a good book, regardless of its genre, must send a message to the readers. What is your opinion about this “aspect”? 
I like to think that books make for cheap therapy, both for the author and the reader. I still remember reading Anne Bishop's Dreams Made Flesh shortly after I had a miscarriage, and I reached the scene where a character went through one, and just sobbed. But it was also healing, because I felt so connected to the characters that part of me said, "she got through this, and I will too." I hope that my novels are more than pure entertainment (although they are entertaining!) but also leave the readers looking at our world, or themselves, through slightly different eyes. 

Did your B.S. in Anthropology and your work as an archaeologist influence the stories you write/your writing style? 
Absolutely! I have always loved studying different cultures, and working as an archaeologist taught me how to create stories around the facts that were presented. They also helped me really love researching cultures and people, which was important both for my fantasy series (The Land of Kaldalangra) and for my YA novel, Finding Keepers. 

You said you love the fantasy. What made you to write Finding Keepers, a contemporary story and how different is for you to write contemporary? 
I had an idea for an adult contemporary story and needed to come up with the main character's past so I could get an idea of how she became the person she grew to be. That backstory led me into the world of foster care, and I quickly realized that "teenage Alyssa" needed her story told. It then grew larger with every blog, article, or story I read/heard from foster children. The idea of trying something new (contemp) then became a calling to tell their story and let people see another side of life. 

It was very different to write contemporary! Easier in some ways since I didn't have to make up every aspect of a different world, but also harder because I had to keep myself within the confines of an established society. It was especially tricky because my character is a foster child, and so I wanted/needed to make sure that I portrayed their story accurately, and didn't present any situations that were contrary to what would happen. For that, I am so extremely grateful to all of my contacts, even though it broke my heart that, for every situation I presented that I thought would be too extreme, they had seen far worse. 

What is your goal as a writer? 
I love to think that I touch people with my books, whether they are the fantasy series or Finding Keepers. A lot of my heart and my soul goes into their creation, and many of the challenges that my characters face are ones that I have gone through myself. If just one person says, "Wow, that's an inspiration," then I'm a happy camper. 


The rubber swing creaked as she swung, cold twilight air rushing against Alyssa’s face as she gave Brianna time to find the words to describe her feelings. A creak sounded from the swing beside her, and she heard Brianna take a deep breath.

“I don’t know what to do, Alli.”

“About what?” Alyssa glanced at her, noticing that her friend had dug a small hole in the dirt under the swing, and now sat with her cheek pressed against the chilled metal.

She shrugged, the herringbone pattern of her thick wool coat rising and falling with the motion. “Everything. School. Friends. Life. It’s just so damn hard, and I don’t know why. Sometimes just breathing is such a struggle.”

Alyssa remained silent a moment, pushing her swing back and forth with her feet, trying to find the right words to help.

Brianna wiped away a tear and leaned back in the swing. “You know what, it’s stupid. Just pretend I didn’t say anything. Everything is fine.”

“Hey,” Alyssa gently pulled on the chain of Brianna’s swing to bring her closer. “If it has you this upset, then it’s not stupid. Definitely not nothing, which means it’s something. And you are totally not fine right now.”

“I have no right, none at all, to talk to you about life being difficult.” She gave a bitter laugh that turned into a sob and swatted at another tear that dropped from her eye. “That’s what makes it harder though. I have absolutely nothing to complain about, and yet ...”

“Bri,” Alyssa began.

“No!” she interrupted. “I know it’s true. I have two loving parents in a committed marriage, and a big house, and pets, and a room filled with clothes, and pretty much anything I ever wanted, within reason. I’ve never had to worry about having food to eat, or clothes to wear, or boys touching me without permission. It’s not like I’m rich, and going to be driving a Benz or anything, but I know that when I get my license I’ll have a car to drive and parents who will let me drive it and be able to call it my own.”

Brianna paused, and Alyssa could see the metal chain shaking from the trembling of her friend’s body. She reached out and held out her hand, palm up, in the air next to her. Brianna reached out and took it, linking her fingers with Alyssa and holding tight, as if it were a rope ready to pull her to shore.

About the author:

Fixing broken computers, wrangling a very spirited little toddler, and creating new fantasy worlds are all parts of the average day for Kristi Strong. While she has called Virginia her home for two decades, her head has rested in two countries, three states, and far too many houses to count. She was more than happy to give up her nomadic lifestyle and settle down with her husband, daughter, cat and chinchilla.


Shane @ItchingforBooks said...

Thanks for participating!

Kristi said...

Thank you so much for the great interview and for the post!

ShainaJo said...

Looks great! Sorry if I wasn't supposed to enter. I JUST noticed that it's international.. :(

CCAM said...

@ShainaJo - Of course you can enter :D

Spg Chlomo said...

sounds great! :)

Unknown said...

Awesome giveaway!!! Thank you :)

CCAM said...

@Kristi - you're welcome! Nice answers too :)

@all - thank you for your comments and Good Luck!

Bella Martinez said...

The excerpt is great! Can't wait to read your work.

nurmawati djuhawan said...

thx u for hosting ^^

Unknown said...

The cover is really nice, I loved the excerpt and the giveaway is so nice of you thank you

Unknown said...

This so awsesome! I would love to have this :D Great cover too.

Suus said...

Great giveaway and the story sounds really good!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the giveaway! :)

Unknown said...

OMG, fab. & splendid interview. 2 fingers snap. . Thanks for the awesomeness, the contest, & generosity. Dear Santa: I have been nice. My X-Mas wish this year is to win this contest.

Unknown said...

This sounds great, she sounds like a strong person, I also like that your goal as a writer is to touch your readers that is great. thank you for the giveaway

Judy Thomas said...

This cover is really stunning and stands out! Love it, can't wait to read it.

Maidenveil said...

added to my tbr list!

Betul E. said...

Cant wait to read this book!

CCAM said...

A delicate subject, but your answers are a good clue that the book deserve readears attention