As I've said before, we’ve had a lot of fun shining our spotlight on some very fine young adult authors so far. In fact, I will continue with this list until I feel it is utterly too long (maybe renew it every six months). We've brought Linda Dawda, Brian S. Pratt, Sara Zarr, Jaime Adoff and Susan Beth Pfeffers (but on a Monday), into our spotlight we affectionately call the moon and stars, and today is no different!
Today our starry-moon spotlight shines on author Christine Hart.
When you read her bio, you'll find that she is based in Victoria, British Columbia, that she writes ya and speculative fiction, that she "crafts jewelery, takes pictures, draws, and paints" when she's not in the woods or on the beach.
While you do see some interesting groups that she belongs to, as well as images of her beautiful and interesting crafts, you are left with a feeling of wanting to know more about the author, because it just doesn't feel like enough. So, my first round of questions are targeted to learn more about Christine Hart, the person.
Me: I looked on your website to get more info about you, but there wasn’t much there, so I’ll start with some questions about you:
Q. You graduated from the University of Victoria and are currently based in Victoria. Have you lived anywhere else other than Victoria? If so, where and for what time periods?
A. I’m originally from Edmonton, Alberta – and lived briefly in Calgary - but I grew up mostly in Vernon, BC, having moved there at age 7.
I lived in Vernon until age 17. Almost immediately after I graduated from Clarence Fulton Secondary, I moved to Victoria to pursue my degree at UVic.
Q. Have you always wanted to write creative fiction?
A. Despite the fact that my favourite subjects in school were consistently art and literature, I had always planned on becoming a lawyer. I chose UVic because their law school was very well esteemed. However, I had a first year English teacher who mercifully took an interest in me and urged me to pursue writing.
I loved to write, but I still felt I had to be sensible, so I took a minor in professional writing, primarily training me for journalism and communications. I also took courses in technical writing, web design, and creative non-fiction – the latter being my favourite by far.
[Now, that story sounds a little familiar, nudge, nudge, wink, wink... see my blogger profile...lol...]
Q. What made you choose young adults as your target audience?
A. Finding young adults as an audience was about as straight a path as finding fiction to begin with. I’d been working with youths as an employment counselor, writing freelance career articles for that age group when I decided to start dabbling in picture books. I was trying to embrace my abandoned love of visual art and create both the illustrations and story.
After I’d written two picture books, I realized two things. I’m a better writer than I am an illustrator. Sad, but there it was. And I also had a difficult time connecting to the age group. I decided to set picture books aside until I had children of my own and could better understand my audience. It was a small step from there to start writing for an audience I already worked with every day.
Me: Here come the harder questions
Q. Are you married? – How long and to whom? – If not, why not?
A. I’m married to my not-quite-high-school-sweetheart, Jeff. We started dating after my first year of university and were married last August. We’re almost at our first anniversary, but we’ve been together for over 12 years now.
[Congratulations on your first anniversary! BTW, now I don't feel so bad, my husband and I were together for 9.5 years before making it official. We just celebrated our 6th anniversary.]
Q. Do you have children? – How many, ages and boys and/or girls? – If none, why?
As above, no children yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time. I’ve always planned for it, but I seem to keep planning for more adventures in the meantime. Another trip. Another book. But I know life will slow down enough at some point.
[Life doesn't have to slow done. We haven't stopped, but we also don't feel that kids are in our future, what with 13 nieces and nephews... If you feel like us, that's okay. It doesn't make you selfish, no matter what some might say. There's nothing wrong with feeling complete with just two people after all.]
Q. Do you have any pets? – Number, type, etc.? – If none, why not have a pet?
A. We have two male cats:
Spike - our temperamental tuxedo cat was a 20th birthday present from Jeff
Sam - our very large long hair white & ginger cat was a spontaneous decision and ... well, he looked smaller in the window. [don't they always, small and cute...]
Me: Now on to book related questions:
I just finished reading Watching July, which I gave 5/5 stars to on Shelfari and Goodreads by the way, and I have a few questions:
Q. People usually take inspiration from what they know and love, so what from your life inspired you to write this suspense, mild paranormal, abusive teen relationship that you did in Watching July?
A. I did have a somewhat abusive relationship as a teenager myself. I’ve had other relationships that were also less than positive. So I drew on personal experience for the relationship aspect of the novel. For the supernatural, it’s more of a deep and dividing fascination.
Q. Were any of the characters in the novel based on people you’ve known, met or read about?
A. I don’t have any characters that reflect specific people; they’re more generally influenced by archetypes that stood out from my younger years.
Q. The dialogue for the book seemed pretty realistic, how much research did you have to do? Did you have to talk to a lot kids to figure out what they would have done or where they would have hung out?
A. I think the dialogue comes from my own memory and having worked with youth for several years prior to writing it. I was 26 when I started writing July and 29 when it was released, so hopefully I was still relatively in touch with the teen mindset. That and I have always resisted assimilating myself into the professional and corporate worlds my jobs exposed me to.
Q. The parental figures in your book are lesbians. Did you choose that just to add another dimension to the story or was it influenced from your own life (please elaborate on your answer, thanks!)?
A. I’ve had this question a few times and I’m still not sure I have a satisfactory answer. I don’t have any gay family members, but through friendships and personal beliefs in equality, I think it’s something we need to work towards normalizing. It seemed to me that weaving alternative lifestyles into our social fabric, bit by bit, is the best way to help cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance for youth to carry forward. But I didn’t intend it to be really that loaded – it’s much more of a side-plot.
Q. Can you give us a little bit more on the Miss Pine Valley Pageant? Is that based on fact or something you just made up?
A. In Vernon, we did have a pageant for local girls. The community had started referring to it as a “scholarship program” by the time my friends were old enough to enter – and several of them did. I remember watching Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants on television as a child and genuinely loving it. I don’t recall an exact turning point, but by my late teens, I’d become totally disillusioned by that world as I began to fully understand words like “objectification” and “self-esteem”. I felt it would help develop July’s character to see her react to being nudged into the pageant world.
Q. Any plans on writing a second novel to Watching July? In other words, could Ryan possibly return to July’s life?
A. My original ending wouldn’t have allowed for a sequel, so I hadn’t planned for it in the beginning. I’ve since thought about the opening for July’s story to go a bit farther, but I haven’t had the right inspiration just yet.
Me: I see that you have a new book called Best Laid Plans set to come out in October of this year.
Q. Why the new publisher?
A. That’s an interesting story. I had actually started Best Laid Plans before Watching July, but abandoned the project after sending out a few sample chapters.
Towards the end of completing the first draft of Watching July, an editor from my first round of queries followed up on Best Laid Plans and asked to see a completed manuscript. I rushed to complete the previously abandoned story, but sadly, the finished product wasn’t accepted for publication.
After Watching July came out, a new publisher contacted me and asked if I had any other young adult novels available - and it just so happened I did.
Q. What can you tell us about Robyn Earle that isn’t on your website? How old is she? What does she look like? Where does she go to school? What’s her personality like?
A. Let’s see … Robyn is 18, she has sandy-coloured hair, average height, a slender figure, but not athletic. She goes to Lakeside Secondary, which isn’t a real school, although her hometown of Coldstream is a municipality adjacent to Vernon, where I grew up.
She has a very strong work ethic and academic devotion, which is completely at odds with her parents’ lifestyle. Robyn’s driving force is her sense of urgency to cultivate a path that takes her away from the poverty she’s known all her life.
Q. Again, how much of this story is taken from real-life influences?
A. Robyn’s story is much closer to the people and places I grew up with myself. I come from a fairly normal middle class home, and although in my family we had our share of struggles, I saw a lot of hardship in my friends’ lives. We were all part of a rural community, dependent on tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing.
Q. Why choose to have an affluent aunt in the family rather than focus on a climb from poverty?
A. Like many extended families, Robyn has relatives both better and worse off than her own. In the case of her aunt’s home, I wanted to illustrate that complexity and give the reader more contrast between Robyn’s home and the lifestyles she sees her peers living.
Q. Where can we get an excerpt?
A. Go to www.chapters.indigo.ca
Me: Now let's get back to you:
Q. Any other books in the works yet? What can you tell us about it (or them)?
A. I’m currently working on a collection of short stories and a trilogy – all falling under the category of speculative fiction. I enjoyed the supernatural element of July’s story so much that I’ve taken every opportunity to explore that world further.
Q. Tell us about your jewelry. Tell us about your pieces, what drives you, why Steampunk, Cyberpunk and Trashion and Wire? Give us the stories behind your creations. For those of us not in the know, can you please offer an explanation of the different types? Thanks!
A. Ah, yes, the jewellery. That is a bit of a wild card in my life and I’m still not totally sure where I’m going with it. Like writing, I’d been doing it for longer than I’d even realized by the time it became something serious. But developing jewellery-crafting skills came more out of filling a practical personal need. I’m very petite and the only way to get a bracelet, ring (size 3 for my ring finger), or choker sized just right was to make it myself. (I also wear children’s size shoes, but I hope I don’t get started on footwear.)
A friend turned me on to the world of Steampunk (think Wild Wild West or The Time Machine) last fall and I haven’t looked back. The aesthetic seemed a natural fit for some of the imagery I saw in my writing in-progress. Online research quickly led to Cyberpunk (think Borg drones from the Star Trek world), which in turn led to Trashion (fashion from trash).
Most of those themes are generally defined by their aesthetic, but all have a philosophy behind them. Definitions vary, but I like Wikipedia’s version of all three. For my own interpretations, the common theme is re-using and recycling mostly old watches and computer parts. I try to use as little new material as possible, which does tend to give my designs a distinctive look alongside traditional accessories.
The necklace and earrings photo I’m enclosing represents a favourite commission from earlier this year. My first retail experience was with a wonderful lady who owned a funky boutique in downtown Victoria. One day she gave me a beloved silver bracelet that didn’t really work for her as it was. She asked if I could, “turn it into something else” and I decided to make it a necklace and earring set, adding a few other spare parts along the way.
Thanks Christine for joining us today and providing such fabulous answers! Please feel free to ask Christine questions or leave her some comments as she'll stop by from time to time throughout the day!
By the time Christine and I finished our interview, Spike and Sam - well, see for yourselves!