Today's interview is with Kristina Springer, debut author of The Espressologist.
What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?
Hey Kristina! Tell us a little about yourself as a writer. Do you outline, or wing it? Do you write daily, or in snatches?
Hey Mandy! Thanks for having me! :-) I write when I can,which is usually a couple of times a week for 2-3 hours. As for outlining or winging it, I do both! With the first few books that I wrote I just winged it. Take The Espressologist. I never sat down and formed a plan of where I was going. A couple of times a week I'd go to Starbucks with my laptop and write whatever came to me at that time. I really liked this method. But as I've kept writing professionally I've started doing proposals first (synopsis, full chapter by chapter outline, and first three chapters). It's easier to send a proposal to my editor first for approval than to write out the entire book and send. And it turns out, I like this method too.
When – and why - did you begin writing?
I got my Bachelors in English Education with the plan of teaching high school English. But then I changed my mind got my Masters in Writing and started to do technical writing for a software company. I also dabbled in freelance writing and wrote articles for magazines and online magazines. I didn't actually get into fiction writing until about 4 years ago. I never thought that I was a good fiction writer but I got an idea for a book and just gave it a shot. Then I was hooked on young adult fiction and I've written six books now and I'm halfway through my seventh.
What was it liked getting published? What was your publishing journey?
It was amazing! I wrote my first book and queried agents like crazy. I got a lot of requests but I didn't get any offers, for I think, about 8 months. While I was querying I wrote The Espressologist and pretty quickly I had two offer of representation (though one of the offers came for that first book). I signed with my agent and she started submitting my book to publishers that same day. A week later we had an offer and around two weeks after that I had an auction with four publishers. It was super exciting! I sold two books to my publisher in May of 2007 and here I am.
What’s the story behind The Espressologist? Where’d you come up with such a cool premise?
I've always spent a lot of time in coffeeshops. My husband and I loooooove coffee. Like my character Jane, it just sort of hit me one day. I was sitting in the coffeeshop with my husband and I was people watching. And I remember thinking that this woman coming in so looks like a Venti Caramel Frappucino. And I was right. So then I started guessing more drinks and I thought, I should totally write a book and call it Espressology. I was thinking it would be a nonfiction book and people could learn about themselves and maybe match themselves up via their favorite drinks. I kept notes on various drinks and people with this in mind. Then another time, sitting in the same coffeeshop, it hit me that no, this shouldn't be nonfiction-- it should be fiction and I should have a matchmaking barista practicing Espressology. I was so excited by this idea and this was obviously now my lucky coffeeshop so I wrote the entire book from that same table in about four months time.
Tell us about your process writing The Espressologist. What inspired you, and what did you struggle with?
This book sort of flew out of me. Seriously, I don't remember having any struggles. And the coffeeshop where I was writing and the people there (the baristas and customers) totally inspired me. Some of them actually ended up in the book. :-)
What’s one thing I wouldn’t know just by reading the blurb?
Jane is, at times, a little loose with the truth. And it tends to get her in trouble.
Here on Headdesk, I have a minor obsession with the rules of writing. Is there any particular rule you write by?
When I'm first writing a draft I try not to think of any rules. I just want to get everything in my head out onto the screen. I think if I thought of rules it would seriously slow me down. And there is always a TON of revision so I know whatever mistakes there are me or my critique partners or my editor will catch them eventually. One thing I always check for at the end though is word choice. It seems that with different books I get stuck using a word over and over and all that repetition is terrible. I think with Espressologist it was the word smile. Like, I used it a hundred times. So I figure out what words I'm overusing and then go back through and changed a bunch of them.
If knew you a teenager who aspired to be a novelist, what would you say to them?
That you can do it. Persistance is totally the key. And really thick skin. It's easy to get discouraged and think that you can't do something but you just have to keep at it. When I was querying agents with my first book I got loads of rejections. It would have been easy to give up and decide that I must just suck since agents weren't banging down my door, begging me to sign. But I decided that I wouldn't stop querying that book until I had reached 100 agents and I think it was #86 (or around there) that I ended up totally clicking with. We never submitted that first book for publication because by that time I was so excited about The Espressologist and wanted to start there. And, well, I already told you how that went.
What’s next for Kristina Springer?
I have a middle grade book called, MY FAKE BOYFRIEND IS BETTER THAN YOURS, also from FSG, coming out in fall of 2010. And I'm working away on more books of course!
How do you hope to see yourself growing as a writer?
I've tried out a lot of things, trying to figure out what I wanted to be. I've taught high school and college, I've done technical writing and nonfiction writing, and it turned out I completely adore writing young adult/middle grade fiction books. This genre is a perfect fit for me and I hope to keep writing more and more books.
Thanks for coming Kristina!
Thank you so much for having me!
Kristina Springer is a young adult author who's first book, The Espressologist, is due out October 27, 2009, from the fabulous Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Her second book, My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours, is due out from FSG in the Fall of 2010. For more information on Kristina and her books you can check out her website and her blog.