February 2, 2013

Anna Kittrell—California Born, Oklahoma Raised—Beaches for Prairies for Scrimshaw dolls

Anna Kittrell has written stories for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftovers she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.
Growing up in small town Oklahoma, Anna spent many a summer day on the lakeshores she often writes about. Today, she works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim, and their two practically grown children, Evan and Brandilyn. She still loves visiting those muddy red lakeshores of her childhood, when she’s not too busy writing about them instead.  

Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?  

I was born in Riverside, California—a loooong way from my smallish hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma. My family moved to Anadarko in when I was four years old. With the exception of a three-year absence in the early nineties, I’ve lived here ever since. My husband, Tim, and I have been together since I was fifteen years old, and celebrated our twenty-third wedding anniversary in October. We have two children, Evan, age twenty-one, and Brandilyn, age fifteen. This is my twelfth year working as secretary of Anadarko Middle School—the greatest place on earth this side of Disney World. 

Please tell us a little about your new release without giving too much of a spoiler away. 

Skinbound is part of a series called ‘Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll,’ created by members of Oklahoma Romance Writers of America. Each stand-alone story in the series ties to the others by a common thread: a cursed, bone-carved doll that passes through various parts of Oklahoma.
My story is set at Chickasha Lake, Oklahoma, and surrounding areas. It is about identical twins, Darcy and Scarlett Vaughan. The good-twin/bad-twin dynamic has always fascinated me, how two people can look exactly alike, but be so deceptively different.
Since childhood, Darcy dreamed of having a sisterly bond with her twin, Scarlett. Scarlett, however, had no such dreams. In fact, her sinister behavior made a loving relationship impossible, and Darcy’s life miserable.
Even in infancy, Scarlett’s maliciousness toward Darcy was evident to their great-grandmother, Gigi. She purchased an ancient scrimshaw doll from an old gypsy woman to protect Darcy from her evil twin. Darcy loved Gigi, and grew to love the old scrimshaw doll as well. Watching it sell at her deceased grandmother’s estate sale was almost more than she could bear.
Years later, the doll reappeared on adult Darcy’s doorstep, as did evil Scarlett. Darcy still desperately wanted a relationship with her sister and was willing to do whatever it took to make amends with her wayward twin—a situation Scarlett was more than happy to take advantage of.
Again, Darcy found herself at the mercy of her sister, dangerously close losing everything, including the man she loves, and very possibly her own life.
In a bitter struggle of life and death, Darcy discovers a chilling revelation within those unwavering green eyes so similar to her own.
Scarlett has no soul. 

What was the hardest part of writing your book?  

I’d have to say, re-writing it. Skinbound required a lot of editing in order to get it where it needed to be. Because the book is part of a series, there were certain rules and character-established timelines I had to follow. Early on, I adjusted the story to keep it within the guidelines.
The common thread that ties all of the ‘Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll’ stories together is an ancient, cursed scrimshaw doll. Since my story is about a set of identical twins that sort-of confound the scrimshaw doll, it was tricky to write at times because I had to stay within the boundaries of the curse, and remain true to the doll’s nature in such an unusual circumstance.  
When the manuscript was completed, I decided to change the story from a romance to a romantic suspense, which required adding and cutting scenes. A brand new suspense thread was woven throughout the entire manuscript. The rewrites were hard work, but the experience proved to be invaluable. My editor at the Wild Rose Press, Ally Robertson, was an ever-present source of encouragement; I can’t thank her enough. I have to say, now that it’s all said and done, I’m thrilled with the story I created.  

What comes first: the plot or the characters? 

Plot and characters surface at the same time for me. A story idea usually pops into my head, or whispers into my spirit, with the characters already at their stations. 

Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write? 

I plan my characters before I write, but I don’t really get to know them until the words flow onto the paper. Their presence deepens as I write. They reveal things to me, and leave me nodding and talking to myself, “Oh…I see…that’s why my character did that crazy thing in chapter one. Now I get it…”
Writing, to me, is almost supernatural. It truly seems as if the characters show me what to write. I’m amazed by what they have to say, and how they choose to say it. I know… crazy, right? 

Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen, laptop and a comfy place. 

I need lots of tiny little notebooks. I put them in the car, in the bathroom—everywhere, really. I write notes down when the characters nudge me, then tear out the pages and skew them to the message-spike I keep on my desk. I like working with bite-sized chunks of information, quilting it together into scenes. 

Do your books have a common theme or are they all different? 

Presently, I am working on a not-yet-published (or as we like to say in the writing-world, “pre-published”) YA Christian thriller series with shared characters and locations. My other books are quite different. However, I have noticed Oklahoma lakes make a recurring appearance in all of my stories. I’ve spent many a summer on red Oklahoma lakeshores, and forged very fond and vivid memories there. Maybe that’s why my mind revisits them so often. Perhaps my subconscious is living vicariously through my characters? 

How long does it take you to write and then edit a story? 

Skinbound took approximately three months to write, and five months to edit. The last book I completed, Another Man’s Treasure, also a romantic suspense, but double the length, (will release in print and ebook format through The Wild Rose Press) took around four months total writing/editing time. Of course, that doesn’t count the intense editing and revisions it will go through prior to publication. 

How do you go about naming characters? 

I always have my ears open for interesting names. I love names that are different, sometimes even unheard of.  Dr. Creighton, the hero in Skinbound, has the first name of “Cabin.” I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from readers concerning the individuality of his name. Funny thing is, I borrowed that name after I heard it in a conversation with a friend—or at least Cabin is the name I thought I heard. Turns out the name she’d mentioned was Kavan, not Cabin. LOL.  

What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books? 

I must admit, I was a real foot-dragger when it came to e-readers. I just didn’t understand the need for such a device. After all, I love to read in the bathtub—couldn’t I get electrocuted or something? My husband shoved me onboard by gifting me with a Kindle Fire last Christmas. I love it. I can read and oh-so-much more on that little tablet. Ordering books is insanely simple, and I can do it virtually anywhere. And e-books are so affordable! So, I guess my answer is: I believe the future of e-publishing and e-books is very bright. Of course, the most exciting part for me is seeing my own e-book on that never-ending cyber shelf. Now, if they could just make e-readers submergible… 

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release? 

Skinbound, a romantic suspense novella published through The Wild Rose Press, is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and The Wild Rose Press. My full-length romantic suspense novel, Another Man’s Treasure, is soon to be published through The Wild Rose Press, and will be available in print as well as in ebook format—which is quite exciting for me. Its 2013 release date has not yet been announced. 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  

Usually, when I’m not writing, I’m feeling guilty or frustrated because I’m not writing. However, I do like to read, watch Netflix movies with my husband, and have been known to play a few ‘SongPop’ games on Facebook. 

Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers we have not touched on? 

The ‘Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll’ authors have a collective blog site we are very proud of. The blog updates each Wednesday, and is hosted by our own scrimshaw doll, Rosa, who candidly offers her point of view and welcomes questions and comments. We would LOVE to hear from readers and fans of the series.  

Where can the readers learn more about you and find your books on the web?  

Twitter user name: @KittrellAnna 

An ancient scrimshaw doll—does its gypsy magic protect or destroy?
As a child, Darcy Vaughan cowered beneath the malice of her twin sister, Scarlett. Now, Scarlett is back and Darcy hopes to establish the sisterly bond she’s always longed for. Instead, Scarlett tries to destroy Darcy’s life—and her new relationship with the town doctor.
Dr. Cabin Creighton returned to his hometown near Lake Chickasha, Oklahoma to take over his father’s practice. One look at Darcy, and Cabin wants nothing more than to love her forever. But a guilty heart and memories of his deceased wife are holding him back.
When someone from Scarlett’s past reappears, bad things start to happen. Darcy and Cabin struggle to keep their love alive, but as danger draws closer, Darcy finds herself once more at her sister’s mercy, with nothing but the yellowed bones of an ancient doll to protect her. 


Lynda Bailey said...

Great post!

I, too, am a pack rat when it comes to tiny notebooks. They're all over the house, much to my hubby's annoyance.

I also can relate to what you said about your characters revealing themselves. When they do that with me, it is so sweet.

Best of luck with your new release!

Anna Kittrell said...

Thank you so much, Lynda. I really do love it when someone relates to what I do. It lets me know I'm not alone, and makes me appreciate even more this unusual, creative family--known as writers--which I'm so proud to be part of :)

Anna Kittrell said...

Ugh! Just noticed I still have my Santa hat on in this picture! Kind of like leaving the Christmas tree up after New Years...LOL

Alicia Dean said...

Love the interview...and I love Anna! (I am her editor, Ally Robertson, incognito as Alicia Dean, LOL). You're a wonderful writer, and your story is a fantastic addition to the Scrimshaw series. I'm thrilled to be working on another story with you. It's nice to learn a little more about you.

Callie said...

Great interview, ladies. And Skinbound is an amazing book.

Anna Kittrell said...

Alicia! My wonderful editor, and one of my favorite people :) Thank you so much for stopping in! Those kind words mean so very much coming from you. I loved working on Skinbound with you, and am looking forward to working with you again on Another Man's Treasure.

Anna Kittrell said...

Thank you Callie! Another fab compliment from an amazing writer :)

Calisa Rhose said...

Congrats Anna! I didn't know you were born in Cali. Interesting. I had friends from Riverside years ago. I can't wait for Another Man's treasure to release! I love the premise of it. :)