Kristina Forest is the author of the forthcoming YA novel, I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE. Meet the author who thought she’d be a dancer, but loved writing more. Kristina Forest loves music, Beyoncé, and love stories. We discuss why she chose to write YA, the story behind her book title, and the best advice she received about writing. She also shares more about her novel, with a sprinkling of writing advice for anyone with a 9-5.
Hi Kristina! I’m pleased to be interviewing you. Please tell us about yourself.
Hi! My name is Kristina Forest. Aside from being an author, I work in Subsidiary Rights at Random House Children’s Books. My upcoming debut novel, I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE will publish on June 4, 2019!
Fun facts: my favorite color is turquoise, my favorite singer is Beyoncé, and my favorite stories are love stories.
Congratulations on your forthcoming debut! I’m excited to read I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE. What is about, and why did you decide to write about the subject matter?
Thank you! Here is the official synopsis for I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE:
When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coast—two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.
I wanted to write a fun love story starring a Black girl because it’s the kind of book that I always wanted to read as a teen. I also did ballet for many years, which is why I decided to make Chloe a ballerina.
How long did it take to write I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE? What’s the story behind the book’s title? I have a feeling it’s from a song! Is it?
It took ten months to draft and revise I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE before I queried it with agents.
The title is based on a song! Music plays a major role in this story. Chloe makes playlists for everything, especially when she’s dancing. She and Eli also decide to make special playlists for their road trip. So naming the book after a song felt like the best choice. I chose I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE because I love the Jackson 5, of course, and also because I feel like that title speaks to the story in many ways. Chloe is on a journey to achieve a goal and also discover more about herself. At the same time, she’s falling in love along the way. When I suggested this title to my team and everyone loved it, I was really happy!
Did you always want to be a writer, and why? Why YA, and at what point did you realize you were ready to write a book?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. In middle school and the beginning of high school, there was a time when I thought I might be a professional dancer, but writing was something I always loved and enjoyed, so I ended up enrolling in college as a writing major.
I read a ton of YA when I was a teen and when I was in college. It’s still my favorite genre now as an adult, of course! I hadn’t even considered writing in another genre besides YA, so when I applied to the New School’s MFA writing, I applied for the Writing for Children concentration. It was during my time in the MFA program that I realized I was ready to write this story.
What is your most challenging aspect of writing in general, and writing YA specifically? What does your writing desk look like? Do you have any writing rituals?
Overall, the most challenging aspect has been finding the time to write!
I like to write YA, specifically, because I think there’s something really special about stories featuring characters who are experiencing things for the first time. Be it love, grief, an adventure, etc. YA stories are always so fresh and full of possibility.
My writing desk is a large dark brown desk that was gifted to me by my mom’s church, so I’m very thankful for it! On my desk is my laptop, my notebook, sticky notes, a cup of pens, and usually whatever book I’m reading at the time. On weekends, I write at a local coffee shop. So when I’m there, I usually have mint iced tea and a pastry beside my laptop.
I don’t have any writing rituals, necessarily. The only constant is that I have to be wearing comfortable clothes.
How did you make time to write an entire book while working a 9-5 in publishing? Do you have any tips for writers trying to find more writing time?
Because I work full time, I have a pretty strict writing schedule. I write Tuesday – Thursday (sometimes Friday) from 7:30 pm until about 10-10:30 pm. And I write on Saturday and Sundays too.
My main tip is definitely to create a writing schedule and stick to it. Treat it like it’s another job, because it is!Wanna-be writer with a 9-5? @KristinaForest has a tip: Create a writing schedule and stick to it. Treat it like it’s another job, because it is! Click To Tweet
What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Always be reading.
Every writer is a reader — how often do you read? Who are some of your favorite authors to read?
I used to read about two to three books a week, but sadly, now I just don’t have the time! On average, I read about one book every two weeks for pleasure. I have to read a lot of books for work, so I still feel like I’m constantly reading.
Some of my favorite authors are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jacqueline Woodson, Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Zadie Smith.
Who do you hope will read I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE? What do you want readers to come away with?
I hope everyone and anyone who loves stories about love and adventure will read IWBWYA. I hope Black and POC teens who’ve wanted to see themselves as leads in a rom-com will read my book too.
Overall, I hope my book encourages readers to follow their dreams.I hope everyone ... who loves stories about love and adventure will read IWBWYA. I hope Black and POC teens who’ve wanted to see themselves as leads in a rom-com will read my book too. Click To Tweet
I know it’s soon to ask, but do you have anything lined up after I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE? Do you intend to stick to YA, or any chance middle-grade/adult lit is in your future?
I am contracted for a second book. I can’t talk much about it at this point, but I can say it will be YA and in line with I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE. I do intend to stick to YA, but I’d also really like to branch out into romance novels as well. Like I said earlier, my favorite stories are love stories!
Kristina Forest loves to dance and thought one day she’d go on tour with Michael Jackson. But then she decided she loved writing more. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Writing for Children at The New School and works in children’s books publishing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with two huge bookshelves. I Wanna Be Where You Are is her first novel.
You can order her book here. Just look at that stunning cover!
Thank you so much, Kristina!
Before You Go… A Bite-Sized Review
I read and enjoyed this young adult novel. I Wanna Be Where You Are is a heartwarming contemporary young adult novel about friendship, dance, the power of dreams, and redemption. I loved meeting Chloe and Eli, and while it took a while to warm up to Eli, he ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book. His character growth and determination (followed by action) to change certain parts of his life impressed me. I also enjoyed the entire road trip and all its associated hi-jinks. If you’re looking for a book about road trips, parental pressures, or just one full of heart, you’ll enjoy I Wanna Be Where You Are.If you're looking for a book about road trips, parental pressures, or just one full of heart, you'll enjoy I Wanna Be Where You Are. Click To Tweet
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- Tiffany Schmidt on writing retellings of famous classics.