Kristen Kindoll is a freelance writer and home-schooling parent. The love of education and learning has provided many topics for her work. She writes a weekly column for the Tennessean about home-schooling and local family events. She was a writing guide for The Lesson Planet website. Pockets magazine has published her fiction stories.
A Time to Live, A Time to Die placed third in the Kentucky Center for the Arts Young Playwrights Contest. It was produced at the Kentucky Center (Louisville, KY) on Stage One. The Couple In-Between placed 4th in the Tall Tale Tell Off. She told her story at the storytelling festival in Nashville, IN.
She has created several writing and journalism workshops in conjunction with her teaching. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL. She participated in the Washington Journalism Semester at American University, Washington, D.C.
Description: “Carolyn Ainsworth is drawn into a twisted game of English chess, which places her in a delicate situation. Does finding out the truth about her family merit destroying all that she has known? The Queen’s Gambit is a precise chess maneuver that calculates key positions upon the board. In order to play, Carolyn must accept the terms of the inheritance. The other beneficiary, Luca Caldwell is maneuvered to participate in this archaic game of alliances. Their forced partnership begins on opposite sides.
As they progress, they discover mounting secrets about both of their families. What starts out in conflict, they unite with one common purpose to discover who has been manipulating them. As the autumn leaves fall from the trees, Carolyn and Luca find themselves embroiled in the mounting lies. They begin to question, if they are the players or merely pieces in a greater scheme. Will the white side control the board, or will black rule the game?”
Why do you write the stories that you write?
I write, because I’m intrigued by the varied answers to a problem. What would happen if… And if that happened, how would a character respond? I like proposing situations and moving around the imaginary players within the little worlds of my creation.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
The earliest I can remember for desiring to write is at the age of two. I had scribbled a picture of a boat, captained by my father. I regaled a nautical tale about my papa, navigating the dangerous seas. My mother wrote one sentence above the picture. I was amazed that my long tale could be contained within one line. When I was older, I found my “story” in my baby book. At last, I could read the sentence my mother had transcribed. Needless to say, the story was not the Charles Dickens’ length I had dictated to her. I was mad and demanded to know why my mom lied. She said, “Honey, you just told me too many stories. I got tired of always writing everything down.”
What was your inspiration for writing?
I went on my first writer’s retreat. This was my first time being utterly alone with no distractions. After my initial panic attack subsided, I knew I needed to produce something to justify my expense of time and money for attending the retreat. I fell back upon the age-old writing advice: write what you like. So, I began a book that I would have wanted to read, a forced marriage with a twist. What started out as a lark, ended up being my first novel.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I home-school my older two children, 9 & 13. I also write a column for the Tennessean. Most of my life vacillates between mom and teacher mode.
Where do you hang out online?
My on-line habits are pure fluff: people.com, tvguide.com, ew.com, movieyahoo.com, yahoo scroll bar, and check my professional Facebook page. I go to the same sites. I’m a movie trailer addict. I would love for my day job to be making movie trailers. The trailer for Queen’s Autumn Gambit was a fantasy come true.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
I have a stack of magazines: Smithsonian, Southern Living, Cooking Light, Everyday Food, and miscellaneous picture books that my four year old brings to me to read out loud.
Do you remember the first novel you read?
Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan was the first book I ever truly read by myself. I was sucked into it and transformed. Reading had always been difficult for me. I had a lot of trouble in school with most subjects. I loved picture books and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to read a book with a lot of words. For library class, I had to choose a book for a book report. I was drawn to pick up Down a Dark Hall by the cover. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. When I met Lois Duncan, I was all googly-eyed and gushed all over her. I couldn’t help myself. She was very gracious and sweet, though.
What would you like readers to know about you the individual?
I love to laugh and always try to find the humor in life. I collect typewriters, because I like the sounds they make and the way they look.
Who are your favorite authors and why?
Some of my favorite authors: Lois Duncan for opening the windows and doors to reading, Barbara Kingsolver for multiple characters with well rounded development, Robin McKinley for detailed descriptions, Kurt Vonnegut for his unique settings and plots, and Winston Groom for his Southern humor.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I had my own radio show in college, called the Roomie Show. My roommate and I strictly played Beatles songs. I also wrote a radio drama for the show.
Where are you from originally? Family?
I’m originally from Louisville, Kentucky. I’m the oldest of three (sister and brother).
Is there anything unique about your upbringing that you’d like to share with readers?
Every summer, my family would travel up to Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota. My Grandparents had a lake house there on the water. Some of my happiest memories happened at the lake, it was a magical place.
Your Writing Process
Why do you write?
I write, because I have all of these stories which circle like tired buzzards in my head. I need to clear out some space up in the old brain.
What excites you about writing?
I get energized by finding the right combination of words, which expresses an idea. I’m very interested in painting with words. It is probably why I always liked poetry. The idea of beauty on the surface, but beneath the words lie more complex thoughts/stories.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Because of my life, I get up about 5 AM and write until my kids get up, around 7 AM. I might work in the evenings, but I usually mark that as family time.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
DEADLINES are my best advice. I’m a lazy writer. It is work to write. There is pleasure in creating and developing, but it can be laborious at times. I knew I needed something, an arbitrary due date to get my fingers typing. I have never been possessed by the need to write, what consumes me are characters, situations, and storylines. I don’t keep journals. I have tried, but it seemed boring to write about my day-to-day existence. It is why I like fiction and journalism. I prefer writing about other people’s lives.
What would you consider is your favorite part of a book to write?The beginning, the middle or the ending?
My favorite part of the book would be the middle. There is potential for change, and you have established the characters.
Is there any other genre you have considered writing in?
I’m honestly not genre specific. That was the hardest part for me to identify a genre for Queen’s Autumn Gambit. I’m attracted to good stories. I like developed characters and complex plots or a twist on a predictable outcome. Those are the kinds of things I like to read, too.
Do you listen to music or have another form of inspiration when you are writing?
I listen to Classical radio. It provides the right mood and blocks out external noises, so I can slip into my worlds. I have to say the most creative spaces for me are when I’m driving and at church. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven on automatic pilot and said to my kids, “Wait! Where are we going?” Sad but true.
Most people envision an author’s life as being really glamorous. What’s the most unglamorous thing that you’ve done in the past week?
I write in my PJ’s mostly. I would say my characters lead a more fascinating existence than me. I’m more mini van than jet set.
How long does it take you to finish a book from start to submission?
This is my first finished book. It took me a year to finish. I would have finished it sooner, but I had to plot out the other three books in the series to make sure the whole story would align.
Do you prefer writing series books over non series or does it matter?
This happens to be a series, but I prefer to write what the story dictates. My idea for Queen’s Autumn Gambit was so multi-layered the story couldn’t be written in just one book. As it was, I had trouble containing the length within the first season, autumn.
What is the best and worst writing advice you have ever received?
My English college professor had us write a short story. When I got my paper back, I had a D. I had never gotten anything less than A minus on any creative writing story I had ever written. I was shocked and went to her office, trying to figure out what I did wrong. She told me that my story made her cry and feel things that she didn’t want to think about (I wrote about the Vietnam War). She told me that since I hadn’t lived during that time period I had no business writing about it. I tried pointing out fantasy and other authors who wrote about things they hadn’t lived through. She was adamant with her stance. I went back and rewrote the short story with a different topic and received an A plus. It taught me, there are opinions to listen to, and there are opinions to ignore.
Do you have a system for writing?
I write and then go back and reread/edit. It helps trigger my idea and thought process. I like discovering along the way about the characters. I could probably write faster if I did an outline; but when I have done that, I’m bored writing the story. It’s like I solved the puzzle.
Do you track work count or write a certain number of hours per day?
No, I know writers who track word count, but I don’t. When I’ve attempted it, I felt defeated by not meeting the goal. I found that by writing everyday is enough of a triumph.
What was the most uplifting moment you’ve experienced during your writing career?
Every time I meet a reader, seriously every time someone comes up to me and says they read my column is a thrill for me. When you write, you are in a void. I have no idea who has bought or picked up anything that I have written. The only time I have verification is when I have written plays. Even then, I can’t make every performance. I like when readers question me and want to get into a discussion about the characters. The whole reason I write is understand the reason why things happen. It is what intrigues me about life.
Your book is about to be sent into the reader world, what is one word that describes how you feel?
My book feels like a child. I always heard that comparison, but this labor was way more intense than actually birthing my three kids. There are all those questions and fears you have. You are exposed and vulnerable. Usually when I have written anything in the past, I was so removed from it. Queen’s Autumn Gambit has intensely inhabited my every moment, especially during the final edits and production phase.
When a new book comes out, are you nervous about how readers will react to it?
I do feel like the girl by the punch bowl, desperately wanting a boy to ask her to dance. I hope my novel will do well, and people will enjoy the story.
What can we look forward to in the upcoming months?
I’m working on another book; it is a Southern Humor book. I needed a departure from the intensity of Queen’s Autumn Gambit. After I finish that, I will begin to write Winter Queen Vs. Pawns.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
This book required an intense amount of research. I had to learn military history, describe military uniforms. It is set in England. I had to verify that certain paintings were in the museums at the time I mentioned the artwork. I would say that was fascinating and very gratifying for me to know the amount of work behind the scenes.
If your book is available in print, how does it feel to hold a book that has your name on the cover?
Holding your book in print and reading it feels surreal, I still get excited by it.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
I don’t base characters on real people, because that can be tricky for many reasons. Some of my characters share attributes that I have within my own life. I’m a mother, sister, raised Catholic, married, etc. I traveled in England, but never lived there. I think you need to draw on your experiences, but not write your life. It is probably the journalist in me that holds that belief. The characters are very real to me. It helps that I based it in England, so I imagine them living their lives right now over there in merry-old England.
Is it hard coming up with names for your characters?
Coming up with characters’ names varies in difficulty. The first names usually pop into my mind, but I find my best tool is the baby name books. Last names are the hardest, that’s where I would do internet searches for “English surnames”. I try to balance out letters, too. I tend to gravitate toward certain constants. I don’t know why, but I do.
Have any of your characters ever haunted your dreams or woken you up during the night demanding attention?
My characters are very chatty. Often times, I wish, they would shut up. When I let them talk it out, they end up solving a particular plot problem. I find that by giving them their time, they will let you have yours.
What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?
For me, the flirting and the witty repartee are the key to building up chemistry. It’s what works in real life, too.
Is there a character from one of your books that resonates deeply with you? Stacey is the character that I adore. Her gaiety and love of life. She makes me laugh, too. There is something special about her.