Monday, October 19, 2009

Interview with Heidi R. Kling

I posted my review of Sea a few days ago so you all know how much of a fan I am for the book and I was lucky enough to interview Heidi and get to know more about her and how she came to write such a wonderful book.
And here's the interview:

1. Tell us a little about Sea
SEA is the story of a California teenager who spends a life-changing two weeks in post-tsunami Indonesia. Ultimately, it’s a love story that explores hope after tragedy.

2. Tell us about your inspiration to write Sea?
My husband volunteered at an Indonesian orphanage after the tsunami and came back a changed man. I know that sounds cliché’ but in this case it was positively true. He now works entirely in non-profit sector with trauma survivors. I thought if my husband were this moved by the experience, how would it affect a 15-year-old girl. I created Sienna and her background story and the story grew from there. The longer version is on my website:

3. You tackle a difficult subject like post traumatic stress disorder so sensitively. How did you research this?
Thank you. I’m lucky that I have a PTSD expert living under the same roof. I also put myself in their shoes—how would I be if I lost my parents? What if my entire city was washed away? When I write I empathize with my characters, which helps me get into their heads—I feel what they feel, cry when they cry.

4. Did you visit Indonesia?

I haven’t. I’d love to one day. When my husband went, our son was a toddler and wasn’t old enough for the vaccines, so I couldn’t go along. He wrote incredibly detailed journals, however, and I have several friends — two of the surviving orphans and one volunteer who spent 6 months there — who helped me with the details.

5. What made you write this story from the standpoint of a young girl?
That is such a great question. Originally, my husband suggested writing it from the point of view of one of the survivors, but that didn’t feel natural to me. I felt like a fish-out-of-water character would be my best shot in creating an authentic experience into the story. Sienna’s voice felt right from the beginning.

6. Is there one of your characters you identify most with?
Sienna, absolutely. Authors often say that they are nothing like their characters, but I’m a lot like Sienna—or rather, she is a lot like me. I can also relate to Deni. I’m the eldest of three girls and I’ve always felt responsible for them. I used to direct children’s theatre and saw older kids take on the ‘parent’ roll of the younger ones. I love that type of person in real life and exploring leader traits in characters. For the record, I don’t think I’m anything like Vera. ;)

7. What would your high school self think of Sienna?

High school Heidi would be jealous of that scene in the rain. And she would love her.

8. Did you always want to be a writer?
I did. I started writing songs. I wanted to be like Olivia Newton-John and Maria Von Trapp. Then I wanted to be like Madonna. When I was 10 or so I started writing neighborhood plays and short stories that I’d sell for 10 cents (usually to my sisters.) I wrote my first novel in high school, which I also adapted it into a screenplay. I majored in creative writing in college and then earned my MFA in Writing for Children from the New School. So yes, the answer is yes. =)

9. Which writers do you admire most and did they influence your own writing?
Judy Blume was my favorite writer growing up. Her books taught me so much. She related to kids on such a real level. As an adult writer, I read LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green. I was just finishing my first draft of SEA. It blew me away. I felt like that novel raised the bar for contemporary YA. I’ve heard him speak several times and the carry-home message (among others) is that all of writing is revising, which made me explore further and dig deeper with SEA.

10. What was your favorite book growing up?
The Little House on the Prairie books, everything by Judy Blume and Beverly Clearly. I snuck the VC Andrews books as a teen. They were deliciously bad.

11. What are you currently reading?
STRUTS & FRETS by Jon Skovron. It’s an absolute gem. Jon, like John Green, captures that teenaged boy voice so well. Plus, the main character is a singer-songwriter—and I’m a major sucker for that type of soulful boy. I just finished 20 BOY SUMMER, by Sarah Ockler—which was another heartfelt delight.

12. What next?
A YA contemporary fantasy, which is a proposed trilogy. It’s like Romeo & Juliet with magic. I’m also writing a contemporary humorous YA about drama geeks and censorship and a young MG that may-or-may-not involve zombies.

13. What book would you like to read again for the first time?

Your questions are wonderful! Oh gosh. For now I’ll say my book. I’d like to rewind three years, read the ARC, cut and paste and save myself 10 rounds of revision. ;)

14. Is there something about you that would surprise people who don’t know you?

I once went spelunking in New Zealand. The roof of the cave was covered in glowworms. I was lowered down on a harness, forced to zip across a line, dive into freezing black water and then tube down an underground river. And the whole thing was my idea.

15. Do you have any advice for young aspiring writers?
Write the story you want to read. If you don’t love your book it will be hard to convince others to. Fall in love with your characters and your story. Don’t give up if you trip over bumps along the way. We’re all covered in Band-aids. It’s worth it.

Thank you Heidi for your time and insight. It's been a pleasure getting to know you and Sienna and I can't wait for Sea to be published. And, ooooh, zombies!


Kimberly R. Hodge said...

Great interview! As a high school classmate of Heidi's, I can attest to her imagination and creative drive! I was not at all surprised to learn that she is a published author. I can't wait to read her book!

Chick Lit Teens said...

Wonderful interview! I can't wait to read SEA!

Anonymous said...

What an interesting, and professional, interview! My wife and I are among the lucky few to have had the opportunity to read SEA. It is truly a wonderful story. It is not limited to the interests of the YA consuming readers. The story has more than enough substance, and mature writing, to attract and hold the attention of most adults too.

John Kling (aka Heidi's proud Dad)

Sarah Ockler said...

Dear Proud Dad,

You've earned the right to be proud! I loved SEA and I can't wait for Heidi to share it with the world! Great interview. I love hearing about the inspiration for the story. And ya know what, high school Heidi? I'm jealous of that scene in the rain, too! :-)

Windowpane Memoirs said...

I’m so intrigue and exited about Sea. I think the storyline is great and the cover is so beautiful.


Heidi R. Kling said...

You all are too sweet.
I'm going to go melt now.