Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Interview with Kim Culbertson

Hi Kim, Welcome back to Anna's Book Blog! It's great having you here. To start off can you tell the readers a little about yourself?
Thanks for having me back, Anna.  As you know, my daughter’s name is Ana (just with one ‘n’ – so I love your name!)  A little about me:  I’ve been a high school teacher for 14 years and I love it.  I currently teach high school English and Creative Writing at a very cool Charter school in Northern California.  I am married and I have a six year old daughter.  I obviously love to write and read but I also love to drink coffee, go to Jazzercise, and hang out with my friends and family.  Also, a little fun fact is that I just learned to downhill ski – I’m terrible but hoping to get better!

Instructions for a Broken Heart is your latest release, can you tell us a little about it?

Instructions for a Broken Heart follows Jessa as she heads to Italy with her drama academy three days after finding her boyfriend in the costume barn with another girl – not trying on costumes (yikes).  And now she has to navigate the trip in the wake of this huge betrayal.  And he’s on the trip with his new girl (double yikes).  Her friend sends a care package of “instructions” to help Jessa “get over” her ex-boyfriend but it also takes Italy and some new friends to light her way.

How did you come up with the idea for Instructions for a Broken Heart? Were there any particular inspirations?
When I was a young teacher, I took 16 students to Italy with another teacher and it was just such an amazing trip.  I had always tucked away that experience knowing I would love to use it someday as a back-drop for a novel.  The “instructions” part of the novel came to me when I overheard a conversation between two of my students a few years ago.  One of them had just had a horrible break up and the other girl was trying to help.  She kept giving her ideas like “eat ice cream” and “leave a horrible note on his locker.”  I thought it would be an interesting premise if a friend created a whole care package of these sorts of ideas and then really play out whether that idea could even work or not to give someone else “break up instructions.”

Why did you chose Italy as your setting?
It’s such a beautiful country with its own color palette.  I love Italy and had been really wishing I could go back there.  I think writing the book kind of let me revisit my trip.  Also, I’m getting really into writing about travel – I just love being outside my normal pattern so much and I think travel really puts a person in a new head space.

Since becoming published, what has been your most memorable moment?
Honestly, it was that realization that people I didn’t even know were reading my book Songs for a Teenage Nomad and responding to it.  It wasn’t my mom or my husband or my writing group or best friend. Total strangers.  Lovely strangers who decided, for some amazing reason, to pick up my book.  I got a letter from a girl back East telling me that she really loved Songs because Calle made her realize she could be a stronger person.  Wow.  I was so floored.  One of the reasons I wanted to be a high school teacher was to connect with teens and try to be a meaningful person in their lives because I had so many great teachers in my life as a girl.  The thought that my writing could be an extension of that…well, I just feel really grateful and happy.

Are there any real life people that have inspired the characters in your series?
My former students write me all the time and ask, “Am I Eli?  Am I Calle?”  And while no one character is ever based on any one real person, they are all mixes of the students I’ve had, the people I’ve known.  For example, in Instructions for a Broken Heart, the character of Cruella isn’t based on any one awful person, but a whole bunch of unhappy people I’ve run into over the years who just can’t seem to be happy and so they try to make other people unhappy too.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Deb Caletti, Alyson Noel, Jennifer Echols, John Green, Eireann Corrigan for teens but also Richard Russo, Jennifer Egan, Nick Hornby, and Jonathan Tropper.

What is your favorite thing about writing YA books?
The hopefulness, the energy of these characters.  It’s the same reason I love teaching high school.  Despite their often bleak reputation, teenagers are this really funny, hopeful, energetic group of people and being around them makes me a constant dreamer.  They are still so excited about things, about the future, about being on their own.  Everything is happening to them so quickly but it feels like it takes forever.  They are just riddled with contradictions – I want to be independent, but I’m afraid.  I love you, but you make me mad.  And contradictions, tension, make for good fiction.  It’s all built in to being a teenager.  Never a dull moment.

If you could give your lead characters one piece of advice, what would it be?
Breathe, then open your eyes:  you’re the only one who sees the world this way and that is a beautiful, special thing.

If you can, tell us what is up next for you?

I just started working on a new book and I’m so excited about it.  I can’t really talk about it yet because it’s still in that formative phase but it will be a love story.  I just can’t seem to stop writing love stories.
By Kim Culbertson
Out Now!
To help you get over your train wreck of an EX, I’ve enclosed 20 envelopes. Each one has a reason why Sean is a jerk and not worth the dirt on your shoes. And each one has an instruction for you to do one un-Jessa-like thing a day.  NO CHEATING!
Ciao! -- C

When Jessa catches her boyfriend, Sean, making out with Natalie "The Boob Job" Stone three days before her drama club’s departure to Italy, she completely freaks.

Stuck with a front-row view of Sean and Natalie making out against the backdrop of a country that oozes romance, Jessa promises to follow all of the outrageous instructions in her best friend's care package and open her heart to new experiences.

Enter cute Italian boy stage left.

Jessa had prepared to play the role of humiliated ex-girlfriend, but with Carissa directing her life from afar, it’s finally time to take a shot at being a star.
Where to Buy:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders | The Book Despository

Don't forget starting today (May 3rd) you can download Kim's first book Songs for a Teenage Nomad for FREE. Find more information at this link. This offer ends on May 9th.

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