I’m happy to be able to talk with Kristi Helvig about her writing, writing process, and her new YA sci-fi suspense Burn Out.
In Burn Out: Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth’s final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns “red giant,” but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.
How did you get your book contract for Burn Out? Did a publisher find you in the slush pile, or did you have an agent who submitted for you?
My fabulous agent, Jess Regel, submitted BURN OUT for me and I feel so incredibly grateful that I ended up with my publisher, Egmont USA. It’s been such a collaborative and wonderful learning process.
That was smart to get an agent first, to help you navigate the publishing world.
In Burn Out, Tora lives in a world where the sun is dying and the struggle to survive is hard. What made you want to write in that setting?
It wasn’t so much a want as a compulsion. I dreamt the plot of the book after watching a science documentary about our sun burning out, and I’d say the setting chose me rather than vice versa.
Wow, that sounds like an intense dream and inspiration.
Tora seems like a strong-girl character. Was that important to you?
Well, Tora was the girl in the dream I had that night so I watched her living in extreme conditions (it was one of those dreams that felt like it lasted the whole night), and woke up in complete awe of how she survived in a world like that. She kept talking to me that entire next day and refused to leave me alone until I started telling her story.
What character or part of the book has the most of you in it?
Probably the beginning of the book where Tora has been alone for months with only her thoughts, and books, for company. While I’ve never experienced that, I love being alone, and the idea of reading all the books I want without interruption is beyond exciting. I’m also sarcastic by nature, so Tora’s sarcasm came very easily to me.
I love being alone, too, and reading as much as I can. (smiling)
What was hardest scene for you to write in Burn Out? What was the most rewarding?
Without giving away spoilers, the hardest scene to write was when Tora realized what really happened to her sister. I felt her pain and grief in my gut as I wrote that scene. The most rewarding was the scene where she and James loaded guns out of the hidden weapons room. An unexpected intimacy occurred between them in that moment that I didn’t see coming and made me root for them.
I think that makes powerful writing, when we feel the emotion we’re writing about.
One last question–why do you write?
This sounds simplistic, but I write because it makes me happy. It allows the characters in my head the space to come out into the world and tell their story. As soon as I finish one story, new people visit my brain and insist it’s their turn for their story to be told. I feel less like a novelist and more like a conduit for these voices from other realms, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
I hear you, Kristi! Writing helps me, too, and I wouldn’t feel right if I couldn’t write.
Kristi’s interview was part of a Spring Fling Tour organized by Nikki Wang at Fiction Freak. I asked all the authors one extra question: What did you do to celebrate when you found out you’d gotten your book contract?
Kristi Helvig: When I found out that BURN OUT and the sequel sold, it was a Friday morning, so we lined up a sitter for that night and went out to our fave restaurant, The White Chocolate Grill, to celebrate.
Amy Rolland: When I found out I’d gotten a contract, I didn’t quite believe it was real. I called the few people who knew I’d been secretly writing for the past few years, but I didn’t do any crazy celebrating because I’m such a cynic. If the contract fell through or if the book flopped, I’d feel silly for celebrating. (I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out.)
Anne Blankman: This will probably sound terrible, but I can’t remember what I did to celebrate–my family and I probably went out to dinner. What I remember best is the moment my agent called to tell me about the book offer. After I hung up, I told the good news to my then-three-year-old daughter. She had no idea what was going, but she could tell it was good, so she started jumping around the room, cheering, “Party for Mommy!” It was so cute.
Bethany Crandell: As soon as I regained consciousness, I took my family to Disneyland for the weekend. Nothing says celebration like standing in never-ending lines with irritable children.
Spring Fling Tour Schedule:
May 12–Bethany Crandell at Adventures of a Book Junkie
May 13–Anne Blankman at Read My Breath Away
May 14–Kristi Helvig at my blog right here 🙂
May 15–Amy Rolland at Read. Sleep.Repeat
Spring Fling Twitter Party Info:
The twitter party will be held on May 15 with the hashtag #YASpringFling. 8:30 PM EST to 9:30 PM EST. There will be prizes donated by the spotlighted YA Valentines and the four Spring Formal authors will also be attending! We’ll also be handing out virtual cookies, of course!
Kristi Helvig will be at the Denver Comic Con June 13-15th along with William Shatner, Adam West, LaVar Burton, Johnathan Frakes, and Michael Dorn! It will be held at the Denver Convention Center.
Kristi Helvig is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist turned sci-fi/fantasy author. She muses about Star Trek, space monkeys, and other assorted topics on her blog and Twitter. Kristi resides in sunny Colorado with her hubby, two kiddos, and behaviorally-challenged dogs. Grab a copy of BURN OUT on Amazon, Indiebound, or Barnes & Noble.