Fridays with Oscar is my favorite photo shoot of the week. But I have to admit my favorite post of the month is Over | Under where I introduce a new style maven to all of my dear readers – you. So far, we’ve had the chance to meet a musician, and an artist. Next in line is a talented writer that just happens to be publishing her debut novel today, June 1st. And guess what? Kerstin has graciously offered to giveaway two autographed copies of her new book FAMILY TREES. More about that opportunity later in the post. Right now, I’m excited to introduce June’s style maven, Kerstin March. Kerstin is a debut author with her first book launch scheduled to be released today! I couldn’t be happier with such a coincidence (if you believe there is such a thing) as the first of every month is when Over | Under is published. For those of you living in the Minneapolis area Kerstin will be hosting a book signing soiree June 6th from 1:00 – 3:00pm at the Woodbury Barnes & Noble.
Kerstin and I met several years ago after her cousin, Anne Brown, introduced us as potential writing critique partners. Anne and I had crossed paths at a writer’s workshop in Minneapolis shortly before her YA novel LIES BENEATH was picked up by Random House in a three book deal. Talented family? That would be a YES. I’m happy to report my name appears on the Acknowledgment page of both books. There’s nothing more gratifying than to watch your friends pursue their dreams, then achieve them. Women supporting women – now that’s something I’m on board with. But back to how Kerstin and I first met. It was the dead of winter 2012 when I first opened my Inbox and read the introduction email Kerstin sent, wondering if I would be interested in meeting for coffee. We agreed on the location, a halfway point from Minneapolis where I was residing at the time, and Woodbury, Kerstin’s home for many years- she’s a native of that wonderful, albeit cold, state. Having bounced around the world, meeting and greeting countless people, I’m always up for the chance to turn an acquaintance into a friendship. So I schlepped on my fur-lined parka, got behind the wheel of my trusty Suburban, and braved the cold, blustery February roads of Minnesota. When I arrived at our rendezvous, a thankfully warm coffee shop, Kerstin was already seated at one of the booths. After a quick kiss hello, I stopped at the counter to order a cafe mocha before we two gals settled in for a long morning of back-and-forth conversation which mostly centered on our backgrounds, mutual love for writing, and our desire to see our work published. At the time, my first book had just made the rounds at several publishing houses only to face rejection. But hope always glimmers for writers, and my second book was just beginning to take shape in my head. Kerstin had been kicking around the plot for FAMILY TREES for a number of years, and was determined to not only start, but finish her first draft. You might be surprised to discover that a key ingredient to any successful writer is simply to finish the book. So, Kerstin and I began to exchange chapters of our respective WIP’s (work in progress), meet for coffee on a fairly regular basis, and encourage each other to reach new heights with our writing. For those of you who work in creative environments you understand it isn’t always easy to put your work out for the world to see, and perhaps reject, what you have to offer. Criticism is part of the game. But putting yourself out there is what artists do in spite of their fear of failure. Thank God! And, it just so happens that because Kerstin was one of those brave souls she is now celebrating the publication of her debut novel, FAMILY TREES, all these months later. Congratulations, sweetie! Here’s to many years of successful writing.
Remember ladies, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. I was fifty when I woke up one day and decided to write my first book. Fifty-five when I started my blog. Kerstin is, well, let’s dig in and find out just how old this style maven is.
Kerstin, first question. Are you over or under the age of forty?
I’m slightly over. :-}
Can you give us a brief synopsis of your debut novel FAMILY TREES.
FAMILY TREES is a contemporary debut novel set in Bayfield, a small Wisconsin
town on Lake Superior. It is the story of Shelby Meyers and Ryan Chambers, two
young adults who come from entirely different backgrounds but who share a sense
of responsibility to their family roots. They discover what happens when life
branches out in unexpected ways. In its sequel, BRANCHING OUT, we realize that
after boy meets girl, life doesn’t always end like a fairy tale. The second novel is
about love and heartbreak, broken branches on a family tree, and ultimately, the
power of hope and returning to one’s roots.
Tell me more about one of your main characters. What does he/she do that is so
One of my favorite characters to write was Shelby’s best friend, Nic. In life, I have
often regretted not doing or saying something in the moment because it wasn’t the
“polite thing to do.” Nic doesn’t have that filter, so she speaks her mind freely and
isn’t afraid to stand up to people – even if they’re twice her size. She’s fearless on the
outside and soft on the inside. She was a joy to write.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you.
What made you decide to sit down and actually write a book?
When I was in college I dreamed of being one of the youngest writers on the New
York Times Bestseller list. I even jotted it down on a five-year plan. After graduation,
however, I only had one immediate goal—get a job. I became a journalist for a
community newspaper, moved on to begin a career in public relations, married a
wonderful man and started a family. Long story short, creative writing took a
backseat for nearly 20 years. It wasn’t until I turned 40 and my youngest of three
children entered Kindergarten that I realized, “It’s now or never.” I knew exactly
what story I wanted to tell—it was a story that I had first envisioned back when I
was in college.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
My first novel took nearly three years to write (with many starts and stops.) I did
not have the luxury of time with my second novel, however, as I was under contract
with a publishing deadline that made it possible for the two novels to be released six
months apart. (BRANCHING OUT will be released on Nov. 24, 2015)
Who designed your book cover?
Kristine Mills and the cover art is @Shutterstock
Do you work from an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea
I begin with a general outline to work out the goal of each chapter, the pacing, and
the story arc, but once I’m writing, I rarely refer to it. During the writing process, I
can visualize the entire story in my head. It’s similar to how you can recall scenes
from a favorite movie. On a good day, the writing process feels a bit like transcribing
those movie scenes onto paper.
Ocean, lake, or pool?
If I had to choose, it would have to be a lake (after all, I live in the “Land of 10,000
Lakes”!) There is something about Lake Superior, in particular, that has an incredibly
calming effect on me. There is a feel and scent to that cool lake air that fills me to the
core—it’s had that effect on me since childhood.
How do you know when a book is finished?
If I didn’t have publishing deadlines, I’m not sure it would ever feel completely finished.
Even though my first book has been published, I can still think of endless ways to
rephrase a description or improve a page of dialogue.
What was the hardest thing about writing your first book?
There were many of aspects of writing that were difficult, but I would say the
hardest has been to learn how to become patient. The entire process is slow and
thoughtful, which has been a challenge for someone who prefers to finish one
project quickly and then jump into another.
What do you think of first impressions?
We make first impressions every day, don’t we? Particularly now, when we are
bombarded with countless images on the internet and our mobile devices—we are
continually making immediate judgments about people, situations, and stories. I think
first impressions capture one’s attention, but it’s only until you spend time with that
person, situation, story, that you develop an opinion.
What is your favorite book? And Why?
Once again, it’s difficult to narrow down my answer to just one thing, so I’ll mention the
first book that comes to mind. Night by Elie Wiesel. I vividly remember reading it while I
was in junior high school. I can remember where I sat in my childhood home while
reading it and how moved I was by his words. It had a profound impact on me because,
up until that time, all of the books I had read outside of school were for pleasure—Island
of the Blue Dolphins, Charlotte’s Web, The Outsiders, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty,
and anything ever written by Judy Blume. This was the first book that showed me how
powerfully moving literature can be.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I love you to the moon and back.
How do you relax?
It doesn’t get much better than sitting on the dock with a glass of red wine, with the
people I love and the sun on my face.
What 3 words describe your current life?
Uncharted, Rewarding, Happy.
Kerstin, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by today. It was wonderful of you to share a slice of life – your life – with us. Ladies, please check out Kerstin at her blog. And, don’t forget to stop by Amazon and order your very own copy of FAMILY TREES you won’t be disappointed!
I’m also happy to announce that Kerstin has graciously agreed to give away two autographed copies of FAMILY TREES. Want to enter to win this fun summer read? Just click on subscribe to Style at a Certain Age to be eligible. The deadline is June 15th, so enter your subscription by 6/15/2015 for a chance to win a copy of FAMILY TREES. Winners will be announced on June 16th so please check back.