I’m excited to post my interview with Kristina McMorris, author of The Pieces We Keep, a book I recently read and enjoyed very much. Kristina is hard at work on her next book and other writing projects and I thank her for taking the time for this interview!
BCM: I was very interested reading your biographical background because you have been involved in a great variety of projects and have many interests. Tell me which part of your life so far has had the greatest influence on you as a writer.
KM: Aside from my passion for the 1940s era, I would say my TV and film background have most influenced me as an author. Up until a handful of years ago, I’m ashamed to say, I wasn’t even a reader. (Believe me, I’ve done a lot of catching up since then!) But as a former actress and movie buff, I think I’ve always had a passion for storytelling—just in a different form.
BCM: You seem to have a lot of ideas and a natural ability to make a new project successful, and I believe part of that must stem from a personal enthusiasm for the things you do. Have you always been a multi-tasker?
KM: Always! Which is definitely why owning an event-planning company prior to my literary career was so appealing. To this day, whenever I simply sit and watch TV without doing anything else, my husband is pleasantly shocked.
BCM: As a professional wedding planner, you have no doubt witnessed many different love stories and their underlying relationships. Do you think this helped you with your first two books, which are love stories?
KM: Ha! I suppose it should have. But to be honest, when I think of weddings, what still comes to mind are cake deliveries and catering services and table settings. Oh, and let’s not forget those YMCA and Chicken Dances. Not the most romantic view, is it?
BCM: Letters from Home was inspired by letters written by your grandparents during World War II, a time period you have focused on in your other books, including The Pieces We Keep. Do you think you will continue to write about characters during this time?
KM: I’m sure I will. Every time I come across another incredible yet little known account from WWII, I find myself wanting to share it with others. Currently, however, I’m writing a book set during the ‘30s, so I’m straying a bit from the usual, but not all that far!
BCM: In a recent interview, you described how you learned about your grandmother’s letters. Upon seeing them, you were surprised that she had never shared them with anyone because she did not think of them as anything extraordinary. You commented that people sacrificed all kinds of things during World War II, but did not think of themselves as special. They were just doing what they had to do to. Did you grandmother enjoy and appreciate the recognition of her personal story?
KM: My grandmother has been wonderfully supportive and generous in sharing her stories and beautiful letters with me. I feel so blessed that she’s still alive today, allowing us to celebrate together. Like the majority of her generation, she lives very humbly, but I know she’s delighted that I now have so many chances to pass along tales of my late grandfather to others.
BCM: In a recent interview you briefly described how Letters from Home became a book, and the process you went through with rewrites and editing. Tell me about some of the challenges and roadblocks you met along the way as a first-time author.
KM: Not being a reader definitely posed a challenge when I first started out. (I know, it’s ridiculous that I thought I could write anyway!) As a result, there were so many aspects of writing fiction I needed to learn through crash coursing. Also, setting a story during WWII really wasn’t the easiest path right out of the gate. The amount of research it required was tremendous, but thankfully by the time I realized as much, it was too late to turn back.
BCM: Your second book, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is a love story about an American woman married to the son of Japanese immigrants, and is set in Los Angeles, just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Was writing this book an easier experience? As in Letters from Home, were you also able to draw from your family history? In what way was knowledge of your Japanese heritage helpful?
KM: I certainly drew from my own personal experiences while writing my second book. Having grown up in a house mixed with both American and Japanese cultures, at times not knowing exactly where I fit in, I was able to share this unique viewpoint through my characters’ journeys.
BCM: The Pieces We Keep is more of a mystery than a love story, as well as a story of your character, Audra’s adjustment to life-changing events. Did you use a different writing process for this book?
KM: This was, without a doubt, my most challenging novel to write. The mystery elements and parallel timelines, essentially interweaving two books into one, often made my head spin. I had originally hoped to write one entire storyline straight through, then go back and fill in the historical chapters. But I soon realized there was no way I could write the novel without alternating back and forth, just as the reader would experience the story.
BCM: As a relatively new writer, how did you educate yourself on the process of character and plot development? In The Pieces We Keep, which takes two stories and ties them together, could you see ahead of time where the plot was going?
KM: Again, I truly relied on my love and understanding of cinematic storytelling. For each of my books, I see a movie play out in my mind, and I do my best to translate it into a novel. When it came to Pieces, I had written a very detailed synopsis for my editor before I ever wrote a single word of the manuscript. And yet, once I was two-thirds through the book, it dawned on me that a much greater plot twist than I had ever envisioned belonged in the book.
BCM: Some people like books that end with all the details tied together and questions answered. Other people like there to be a little bit of the unknown left hanging. You do just that in The Pieces We Keep, not fully explaining the mystery behind young Jack’s dreams. I prefer this kind of ending because I think it makes for a greater discussion. Did you ever consider ending the book differently, giving some kind of logical or scientific reason behind his dreams?
KM: I had certainly considered it, but not for long. To me, the major point of the book was to encourage readers to decide for themselves what they believe—about the characters, the questions raised in the story, and even the readers’ own beliefs when it comes to life and death.
BCM: What do you think is the hardest part of being a writer? The process of writing, or the marketing aspect? As someone who has worked in public affairs and is comfortable in front of people and the camera, do you think this has helped you? Does having this confidence make it easier to concentrate on the writing?
KM: For the most part I actually love the marketing aspect. I was raised in an entrepreneurial family, so the writing process is definitely more challenging for me than the promotional side. And, as you guessed, my background in TV and public relations helps as well; but I would say it makes it harder at times to focus on the writing, since I prefer the excitement of marketing any day to writing a first draft. Fortunately, I love to revise and polish and play with sentences once they’re on the page—which is what keeps me going, book after book.
BCM: How do you spend your typical day? Do you write every day?
KM: During the school year, I treat writing like a normal job in that I aim to write Monday through Friday while the kids are at school. Summer poses more of a challenge because I’m still working on deadline, but also don’t want to miss spending quality time with our family. I’m already realizing how fast it’s all going!
BCM: Tell me about your latest book, what it’s about and where it takes place.
KM: I’m so excited about the upcoming release of an anthology I spearheaded, titled Grand Central. It releases on July 1st from Penguin Random House, and features original novellas by ten bestselling historical fiction authors. Set at Grand Central Terminal on the same day after WWII, our stories are all separate yet, much like the film Love Actually, interweave with each other in various ways.
BCM: Any other projects in the works?
KM: I’m currently working on a novel titled The Edge of Lost, which involves Alcatraz during the 1930’s and, like my other books, was inspired by a true story. I can’t wait to share more!
BCM: I want to thank you again, Kristina, for taking the time for this interview. I wish you great success in the future!
KM: Thanks so much for your support, Barbara, and for having me here today!
Here is a list of Kristina’s books. You can check out her website at: http://www.kristinamcmorris.com/index.php.
A frequent guest speaker and workshop presenter, McMorris holds a B.S. in International Marketing from Pepperdine University. For her diverse achievements, she has been named one of Portland’s “Forty Under 40” by The Business Journal. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently working on her next novel.
Thanks for visiting – come back soon!