There are 14 authors who wrote the stories of the Fairy Tale Confessions collection. This post will focus on Kristen Strassel, author of Awakened.
Kristen Strassel writes books about rock stars and vampires. After all, they tell you to write what you know. She is a passionate music fan who also loves football games and diner food. Kristen works as a makeup artist on film and TV shows when she’s not writing, and loves being behind the scenes. A former resident of Las Vegas, Kristen now lives in the Boston area.
Kristen, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us…
Q: It is obvious that you love to write paranormal fiction? What do you think drew you to that genre from the beginning?
The first books I ever got my hands on were off of my parents’ book shelf. They both loved Stephen King, and I read every one of his books we had. I’ve always been intrigued by the otherworld. I think all of us believe in the possibility of something more spectacular than our everyday lives. For some people, that means fame and fortune, for others, it means vampires and shapeshifters.
Q: Did you find it difficult to ‘twist’ a well-known fairy tale for the Fairy Tale Confessions anthology?
No, this story came to me pretty quickly. Those are the best stories for me, because then I can just listen to the characters and type what they tell me. I knew I wanted to write a vampire, and the scenario fell into place.
Q: You have also written contemporary fiction, at times erotic fiction, that tell tales about second chances at love. Do you find yourself drawn to that genre now, or do you prefer to write paranormal books?
I don’t have a favorite, they all have components that I love. I think it’s important to be diverse. It keeps me fresh, and I can look at stories in different ways no matter what genre it is. It also gives readers a choice. If someone who has enjoyed my shifter books wants to read a contemporary romance, they already know they like my voice, so they might give one of those books a try.
Q: Is there a character from one of your stories that has surprised you in some way?
Callie from The Night Songs Collection never does what I want her to do. I always trust my characters. They have better ideas than I do, and I go with their twists. In the series I’m working on now, all of the heroines are in some sort of recovery, so getting them to their happily ever after isn’t always smooth sailing.
Q: Where (or when) do you get the most story inspirations?
Anywhere. The Night Songs Collection came from stories I used to tell myself to get my mind to calm down enough from the day job to go to sleep. No Strings Attached came from a conversation with a friend about a male model. Colorado Shifters was born when I read the line “lions toy with their prey before they kill it.” I made Leo fall in love with his prey. Whole new meaning to the term dinner date, haha. Sometimes, my mind starts to wander in a daydream, and I start asking myself questions about what’s going on. If the idea sticks with me, I start free writing scenarios, character sketches, bits of info. I can’t always work on it right away, but that way I don’t lose anything until I can give that project some love.
Q: How does music help your creative process? Do you have a preferred musical artist?
I don’t make a soundtrack to write. Sometimes something will strike me when I hear it, like Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” wound up being pivotal in No Strings Attached. Because the Night used to be called Immortal Dilemma, until I realized that song really summed up what was going on in the plot, and because the series was about rock star vampires, The Night Songs Collection was born. I probably come up with the best ideas when I put the Bon Jovi catalog on my iPod and go on a long drive.
Q: What are you working on currently?
I’m working on book five in my Sawtooth Shifters collection. It’s a Christmas story called Celebrate Me. After that I’ll be working on the follow up to No Strings Attached.
Q: Do you see yourself participating in more anthologies?
Yes. Writing is a solitary process, and it’s a great way to work with other authors. It’s also a great way to reach more readers who may have never found me otherwise, and for people who like my stuff to discover new to them authors.
Q: What does your writing process look like?
I’m a modified pantser. I have a list of things I want to accomplish, bits of dialog, character sketches, etc when I start, but I like to let the characters lead. Much more interesting that way. And I usually know where I’m going, what the HEA looks like. I write better at night, when I’ve completed everything I need to do for the day. I think my creative centers are less inhibited when I’m a little tired. I don’t have to listen to music, in fact I usually just have the TV on for background noise. I can write about 3000 words a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. And I can do it anywhere. On the couch, in Starbucks, in the car, in the doctor’s office. I’m not shy about pulling out the notebook and writing.
Q: How important are the character names you choose? How do you choose them?
I’m glad you asked this! I love names. Sometimes the characters tell me their names. In Conquer Me (November 11), the heroine told me her name was Cass. Perfect. I probably wouldn’t have chose it for her, but is she ever a Cass. Strong and sassy. I look up popular names for the years they were born, names I like, for my shifter guys, I looked up names that meant Lion and Wolf. Guys’ names are hard. I like to pick names that aren’t too unusual, but not too popular that someone won’t want to read about my character because they already have a strong association with that name. I usually know the names right away, I know when it sounds right and then I can really learn more about who each character is.
Q: What are your 10 favorite books and why?
Hmmm…I’ve read so many this changes all the time. Some of these will be Kristen Classics, some of them will be things that I’ve read recently and rave about. The qualifier for this list is that I’ve tried to make other people read these books. Books are love, and sharing is caring.
- Dirt Rich by Clark Howard. My all-time favorite book. Epic story of a quick marriage, a huge inheritance, and the fall out. I haven’t read it in about 10 years, since my paperback got lost in a move, so I wonder how it would stand up now.
- Anything by Pat Conroy. He is such a gorgeous writer, and I think he’s the person who made me fall in love with the written word. His books are like a song. I still haven’t made it to South Carolina, but I already know I love the area.
- The Signs of the Zodiac Series by Vicki Pettersson. I loved these books! The premise was fresh and different (a dark and light zodiac? Yes please.), it was set in Vegas, and the guys were hot hot hot. But real.
- Love, in English by Karina Halle. Every time I think of this book, I’m on the verge of packing a bag and going to Spain for a month. So. Flipping. Hot. I think I had an anxiety attack at the low point because these fictional characters needed to be together.
- Just Kids by Patti Smith. I LOVE rock and roll biographies, and if I could time travel, I’d go back to the late 60s/early 70s and be the muse of a rock star. I didn’t know anything about Patti before I read the book, but I have a super girl crush on her now. She defied convention and defined punk rock. And it’s written in a way that you feel like you’re there.
- The Arcana Chronicles, 1 and 2 by Kresley Cole. These next two entries get the same mention. If you can get me to love a genre that I’m tired of, YA dystopian, you’ve rocked this book. Jackson Deveaux might be my favorite book boyfriend of all time. Book 3 lost me a bit, too much love triangle, when hello, Jack is right there, how is this even a question.
- Beyond Shame by Kit Rocha. Dystopian erotica? It works. And damn, this book is so hot.
- Ashes and Embers series by Carian Cole. Carian wins the hot cover award, and that’s what made me pick up the first book. Each time, I’m completely captivated in her world, bad boys mixed with the right amount of sweetness. I can’t stand a straight jerk hero. No thank you. If these guys actually exist in New Hampshire, I’m living in the WRONG New England state.
- The Original Sinners Series, books 1-3 by Tiffany Riesz. Well written, accurate, and the characters are so well developed they might be real. For me, Tiffany’s books are the standard of the modern erotica movement. I haven’t read the rest of the series, so I can’t comment on those.
- The Hard Rock Harlots Series, Kendall Grey. YESSSSSS to these books. OMG. I loved them. Funny, raunchy, and so well written. And real. I’m reluctant to read rock star books, but when they’re spot on, they’re amazing. These books are amazing.