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Interview: Anna Marie Kittrell: Author of Storm Season

Anna K Author Pic 15Today’s special guest on Inner Source is Anna Marie Kittrell. Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories 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. You can catch up with Anna on her Amazon Author Page, on Facebook, or by e-mail at kittrellbooks@gmail.com.

Anna, welcome back to Inner Source. I believe this is our third visit together, as I have been allowed to watch Molly, Lenni, and Bianca mature throughout their four years at Redbend High School.

Thank you so much for having me back on Inner Source, Fay. I love being here. It’s fun sharing new Redbend High experiences with you.

As I read, Storm Season, I found myself reliving some of my high school frustrations where friendships took awkward turns as my friends and I tried to grasp what the future would become for us. Without giving too much of the delightful plot away, I would love to know how you arrived at the plot for this story.

Actually, I credit one of the girls at the middle school where I work for suggesting the plotline. During a Witcha’be (since retitled Second Bestie) book club meeting in our school library, I mentioned that I had yet to come up with a plot for the fourth and final book in my Redbend High series. A beautiful 6th grade girl named Lily said, “Ms. Anna, you should make them fight over a boy!” I just stared at her for a second and said, “I totally should!” or something similar to that. I immediately knew she was right. But I still didn’t know how to deliver the storyline. Each Redbend book is set in a different season, so I knew the final book would take place in the spring. The stories are set in Oklahoma, and in springtime that can only mean one thing—tornados. So that is where the title, Storm Season, came from. Once I got my head in the storm clouds, the plot lined out fairly easily. Although, I did run into complications while trying to keep my scenes straight. I’d never written a story with three main characters before! Not only did I have to keep each girl’s comings and goings, timeline, and interactions in logical order, I had to make sure their voices, as well as their thoughts, stayed distinct and true to character. It really had my head spinning (oops, couldn’t resist). But I wanted to give each girl a chance to shine in the same story. In the end, I enjoyed the challenge and was happy with how the book turned out.

I know from previous interviews that you are a secretary at a middle school in the town where you live. In that capacity have you ever watched friendships blossom like that Molly, Lenni, and Bianca?

Honestly, I recognize the blend of personalities and friendships more with the staff members than with the students, especially within the office. One of our counselors is extra-sweet and grandmothers the children with kind words and chocolate, while the other counselor is more geared toward student responsibility and consequences. Our principal is very easy going and sometimes looks the other way, while our assistant principal is very straightforward and black and white. The other secretary in the office is very quiet and serious, while I am never, ever quiet and am the complete opposite of serious. The variety of personalities makes for a fun and interesting workplace. We always talk about how we balance each other out.

I love the elements you wind into the story (no pun intended) and the way that real life mirrors a storm that could have dire consequences for each of the girls. Your tag line for this novel says it all, “The deadliest winds blow in the heart …”There is another well-known story where a girl had to go through the storms and the aftermath, to learn that same lesson. You integrated that story very well. Is there a reason that you used the storm and the well-known story to present your message? (Oh, and as an aside, Bianca’s line near the end of the book regarding Raley goes in my category of “wish I’d written that one.”)

A lifetime in Oklahoma has somewhat desensitized me to tornados. This is a bad thing, considering tornados are hungry, killer monsters that consume everything in their path. But for me, being dragged to the cellar time after time as a child made the danger seem blasé. I’d rather lie on the couch and watch a scary movie until the electricity goes out, and then sit by the window and watch the lightening. I think maybe that’s how Molly, Lenni, and Bianca were so easily snared by Raley. They’d lived through so many emotional storms together, they assumed nothing could tear them apart. When danger showed up in the least likely place, they weren’t prepared. Instead of sheltering their hearts, they invited the storm right into their midst.

I guess, if I had written symbolism into it, High school could be the Yellow Brick Road, and the Emerald City could represent what lies ahead following graduation—but I wish I could say I put that much thought into it. It was really just one of those rare, happy accidents. The Wizard of Oz theme has popped up several times throughout the Redbend series. It all started with the humiliating “porch witch” that belonged to Molly’s mother, standing outside the front door in all her green glory for the entire school bus to see. Molly’s little brother, Max, even had a flying monkey mobile above his crib. This time, in Storm Season, the Wizard of Oz theme happened to fit in perfectly with the tornadic storyline. And like Dorothy; Molly, Lenni, and Bianca kind of woke up at the end, blinked, looked around, and appreciated the people in their lives that they had taken for granted. And personally, I think The Wizard of Oz would be a terrific prom theme.

Hmm…Fay, I wonder if you might mean the scene where Bianca says something like, “Well Molly. Turns out Rails fit right in with your must-have Wizard of Oz prom theme. No heart, no brain, and no courage.”

That was the line. I love it. I believe this story has a number of messages for the reader, and I believe that readers will interrupt the messages with regard to where they are in their lives. What do you feel is the overall message of Storm Season?

Emotions are so powerful. It’s easy to let them lead us around—and astray. Especially in matters of the heart. I was one of those girls who thrived on affirmation and took what everyone said to heart—the positive and the negative. I’m still more like that than I care to admit. Therefore, I can fully understand the need to be validated by others. But sometimes receiving attention (especially from the opposite sex) is blinding, and causes us to mistreat friends and family members who love us all the time. The desire to be loved can cause us to be selfish, jealous, and if we’re not extremely careful, turn us from the morals, values, and interests that we hold dear. Storm Season is the story of how a complete stranger used cheap compliments, empty promises, and lies to infiltrate and nearly destroy a true, godly friendship.

Hmm…Satan probably loves this guy.

And I’m very interested to learn what is next on your writing horizon. Will you follow the girls to their different colleges or will we see a new series from Anna Marie Kittrell?

I’ve decided not to spy on the Redbend girls while they’re away at college…unless they reach out to me, ready to share their experiences. I am working on a new story that I am especially excited about, called The Commandment. It is a New Adult suspense with romantic elements, and even a futuristic element that is an entirely new aspect for me as a writer. If you don’t mind, I’d love to share a little bit about The Commandment with you today:

Ten years ago, Briar Lee’s body rejected a government-mandated vaccine known as SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism), formulated to erase God from the mind. Briar was seven years old—she has been on house arrest ever since. Now, just weeks from becoming a legal adult, Briar remains nonresponsive to her mandatory bi-yearly SAP injections. Along with her rapidly approaching eighteenth birthday looms a grim reality: by order of the Commandment, adulthood means institutionalization for those resistant to SAP. In a matter of days, Briar will become a permanent resident of the DEN (Diagnosis Evaluation Network: an institution shrouded in dark rumors of torture, experimentation, and death) unless she accepts a last-minute ultimatum. To avoid forcible commitment, Briar must become a scientific test subject in a laboratory over a thousand miles away.

Lukas Stone, a twenty-three year-old medical laboratory scientist, has made an extraordinary breakthrough that will render SAP obsolete. From the nectar of a rare cactus, he’s developed an abstergent that will not merely inhibit the brain’s “God Zone,” but dissolve the area away completely. To finalize his research and complete the chemical trial, Lukas lacks only one analytical component—a human test subject.

Briar, sick of being alone and terrified of spending the rest of her life in the DEN, agrees to the arrangement. Immediately, she is flown 1,500 miles from her hometown of Greenfield, Oklahoma to a laboratory in Sickle Ridge, Nevada, to become a human research subject for Lucas Stone’s groundbreaking God-dissolving serum. When the stint is over, she will enjoy a lifetime of freedom. With a decade of solitude behind her and a lifetime of confinement before her—what does she have to lose?

Except maybe her soul.

Wow! The Commandment sounds awesome. I hope you’ll come back with Briar or Lukas and share the story with us when it is released. Right now, I want to share with our readers some information about your four Redbend High School young adult series:

STORM SEASONAbout Storm Season:

Sometimes the shelter is more dangerous than the storm.

A courageous stranger risks his life to save Molly, Lenni, and Bianca from a deadly tornado, leaving the girls thunderstruck. As his injuries heal, the hero claims the girls’ hearts while reclaiming his strength. In their friendship strong enough to withstand the brutal winds of jealously, heartache, and betrayal? Or will graduation from Redbend High really mean good-bye forever?

SECOND BESTIEAbout Second Bestie:

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed “witch” in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

DIZZYAbout Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

LINEAGEAbout Lineage:

Bianca can’t walk away from her family—she’ll have to run.

Following the death of her mother, Bianca and her dad are on their own. But when a redheaded stranger at the funeral claims to be her biological father, Bianca’s reality crumbles. She soon finds herself trapped between the alcoholism of one father, and the wicked schemes of another—with no way to escape.

Character Interviews: Molly, Lenni, and Bianca from Anna Marie Kittrell’s Storm Season

STORM SEASONToday, I’m attempting to do something I would normally find impossible: interview three teenage girls at one time, but I feel as if I know each of them, and I believe I can get them to speak one at a time so that I can be assured of accurately recording their responses.

So, please meet Molly Sanders, Lenni Flemming, and Bianca Ravenwood of Anna Marie Kittrell’s young adult series, Redbend High School (and I believe a series for all ages). Today, we’re talking about the novel, Storm Season, in which they share center stage.

Okay, girls, it’s the last year of high school for you, and each of you have been through a lot. I’d like to know how you feel about this final year when you will all be together.

Lenni: Do you have a tissue? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to burst in to tears so quickly. It’s just that the thought of not seeing my two best friends every day just kind of rips my heart out, you know? Did you see the way Bianca just rolled her eyes at me? It’s things like that I’ll miss so much. I don’t think I can talk about it anymore right now—do you happen to have another tissue? Thanks.

Molly: I’m excited and terrified at the exact same time. Excited, because even after everything we’ve been through, we’ve managed to remain friends. At the beginning of my freshman year, I would have NEVER envisioned Bianca and me forging a friendship—not in a million years! But I truly believe God kept the three of us together for a reason, and that we will remain close even after graduation. Why would He bring us this far just to sever us at such a crucial time in our lives? Knowing that God is rooting for us is a pretty good feeling. Maybe terrified was too strong of a word. Insecure is a better adjective. Even though I know God has special plans for each of our lives, I’m not sure exactly what the future holds. Although I believe Lenni, Bianca, and I share an emotional bond, we will be in different physical locations—which will be very tough to get used to. Could I borrow one of those tissues?

Bianca: You don’t happen have an extra barf-bag do you? I’m having a hard time digesting all of this melodrama. I’m just joking—don’t get uptight, Molly. Okay, I’m being serious now. I consider Molly and Lenni my sisters. We’ve been through some very tough situations together. For me, the end of this year will bring the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced—real life. An apartment over a thousand miles away in California. Enrollment in a huge performing arts school. Driving on the interstate. And even though I’ve been through the fire many times before…I’ve never been through it alone. Without these guys. I’m really going to miss them. I’ll be creeping their pages so much, they’ll block me from FriendFlitter. Hey, let go! That was not an invitation for a group hug—you’re messing up my hair!

During the Spring Break of your senior year, you faced some peril and met someone. I’d like to hear from each of you (one at a time, please), how you feel this event changed your thinking or may have even changed your life personally.

Molly: It’s hard for me to think about that—how close we came to letting Raley Hale tear our friendship apart. It actually causes my cheeks to burn. I guess, for me, that event caused me to put more thought into the situations I involve myself in. If I’m placing myself before others, I seem to recognize my selfishness more easily. I also try to line up my relationships with God’s word. If I don’t want to read in the Bible what God has to say about what I’m doing or what a friend is doing—that’s always a bad sign.

Lenni: Molly, are you okay? Your face is really, really red. What was the question, again? Oh, never mind. I remember. My way of thinking has changed so much since Raley Hale blew into, and, thankfully, out of our lives. I depend on the Holy Spirit a lot more now. If I’m really paying attention, I get this little tingle all through my body when something isn’t quite right. It’s kind of like a super power. I call it my “Spirit-Sense.” Yeah, I knew Bianca would laugh at that, but I don’t care. It’s real, and it works. When I think back about the Raley days—a timeframe I refer to as the Great Depression—I can remember feeling that tingle most all the time. But I ignored it, and tried swatting it away like a housefly. Now I know that doesn’t turn out so well.

Bianca: Growing up in Oklahoma, I used to believe tornadoes were the ultimate danger. Raley Hale—I can hardly say that name without gagging—taught me that subtle dangers are sometimes deadlier. He prayed on each of our vulnerabilities, and although I hate to admit it, he was really good at it. For me, his being alienated from his family was what drew me in. I had similar feelings of abandonment. We both had sentimental objects that we treasured: Raley had a pocket watch given to him by a mentor. I had a locket that belonged to my deceased mother. He made specific associations with each of us, and then used his connection as a tool to get inside our hearts—and rip them to shreds. I used to pray for God to erase the memory of Raley Hale from my head. But in time, I’ve learned to use his memory to make myself a better person. It keeps me from taking advantage of others, because I know how much it hurts to be taken advantage of. And it keeps me from falling into the same trap. I almost lost my two best friends over nothing but a pack of lies. No way I’m ever letting that happen again.

Each of you had an eventful high school career where you faced difficulties, dangers, new revelations. Do you believe that what happened to you before might have affected the way you handled the events that happened in the park during Spring Break? If so, how?

Molly: I believe past occurrences had a lot to do with how I responded to Raley Hale, but I’m not proud of that. Raley somehow dragged up the insecurities I used to have about Bianca back before she and I were friends. Even though I had forgiven Bianca for mistreating me when we were freshmen, all of that hurt and anger bubbled too quickly back to the surface when Raley scratched at it. In hindsight, I learned that sometimes I have to check myself—better yet, have God check me—to make sure I’m still “clean.” What I’m trying to say is that for me, harboring bad feelings is like an addiction. Let’s say I’m thinking about something good—like how far God has brought me in life, and everything he’s carried me through—but in the process, maybe I started to think about how badly I was initially treated and how unfair that was. Before I realize it, I’m having a pity party and God isn’t being glorified at all. Suddenly, I’m mad at the person who mistreated me all over again—the person I’ve supposedly forgiven. Today, I try not to bury bad feelings, but to completely excavate them, and then give them over to God.

Lenni: At first meeting Raley Hale reminded me a lot of when I first met Molly—no offense, Molly. I thought it would go the same way; we would all have a new friend to hang out with. We all seemed to get along so great. Raley was funny and interesting. But he was also cute, and before I knew it, I was falling for him—falling for the fake him, I should say. Not only did I almost lose my best friends, I almost lost my boyfriend, Saul, the nicest, sweetest boy on the whole planet. You’d think I would have learned my lesson back in my sophomore year when I befriended a dangerous girl that nearly destroyed my reputation and my friendship with Molly and Bianca. Apparently I didn’t. I just really love people, and I think that’s a good thing. God made me that way, so it has to be, right? At least this time, I can say I rode out the storm in my own skin, instead of pretending to be someone that I’m not. And I’m glad. Because I really didn’t want to chop off my hair again. It’s finally grown all the way out.

Bianca: I’m trying to think of how my past experiences impacted the situation with Raley in a positive way, but like Molly and Lenni, I also fell for the same old tricks. Jealousy, I’ve learned, is the emotion I struggle the most with. Man, do I hate to admit that. For my own sake, I have to believe that I was quicker to apologize this time, and quicker to forgive. If I don’t forgive others, God doesn’t forgive me. I try to always keep that in mind. Sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the difference between life and death. Besides, as we’ve all heard before, refusing to forgive someone doesn’t hurt them—it hurts you. I haven’t just heard it, I’ve experienced it. And I’ve never felt more alive than when I’ve forgiven someone. Oftentimes that “someone” is me.

Okay, one more question for the three of you. Where do you expect yourselves to be in life when you walk through the doors of Redbend High School’s ten year reunion?

Lenni: Following graduation, I’m attending medical school. I was planning to be a nurse because I enjoy helping people, but then I decided to become a doctor instead. Maybe a pediatrician, since I love to be around children and they seem to like me. When I walk through those Redbend High doors, I’ll have a shiny stethoscope around my neck. And one of those little penlights in my front pocket.

Molly: I’m enrolling in Redbend College to pursue a degree in education. My dream is to co-teach with Mrs. Piper in the same creative writing classroom where I found myself—and Christ. It will be amazing to be on the other side of the big desk next time around. So, God willing, in ten years walking through those doors will be commonplace to me. Redbend High holds so many great memories. There’s no place on earth I’d rather be.

Bianca: Well, first of all, ten years from now I plan on walking across a red carpet to get to the doors of Redbend High. Molly—you’re in charge of rolling it out for me, since you’ll still be here. You’ll more than likely be on the reunion committee. Then, after my bodyguard opens the door for me and my famous celebrity escort, I plan to turn my nose up at the décor, look down on everyone else’s clothing while flaunting my designer labels, begrudgingly sign autographs for an hour, and then be whisked away in the back of a stretch limousine. No, I’m just kidding. I would never flaunt a designer label—unless my name is on it. I also plan to have my own clothing line.

This last question is for Bianca, as I’ve noted that you’ve allowed Molly and Lenni to answer each question first, and I sense that you have something more to say. Bianca, I’d like to know—with your fashion sense and know-how, why acting takes center stage over fashion design?

Well, as I just mentioned, I’ve been putting some thought into fashion design lately. I’m just not sure anyone will get what I’m trying to express through my creations. Unlike many designers, I’m not really out to make a lot of money, and I don’t really care what’s in style. I started out designing my own clothes because I couldn’t afford to buy new ones. The thrift store was my oasis. I could buy a variety of different styles and piece them together to create my own look. It allowed me to be unique and stretched my creativity. To create a clothing line that is affordable, yet still considered “designer” would be pretty awesome. And I would definitely keep that vintage, thrift store feel to every piece.

As for my acting taking center stage over fashion design…acting is my first love. I suspect it has something to do with my little brother’s death and my mother’s suicide attempt when I was young. When my mother was sent to the mental institution following her drug overdose, I felt I had to invent a different life in order to cover up what was really happening in my own. I learned to be something I wasn’t, and it was really easy for me—so much so, I began to confuse reality with imagination. Through the years, I learned to accept my life experiences as tools from God, even the really terrible occurrences. When I decided to see every trial as a lesson and began asking myself what I had learned from each experience, my life changed for the better. Now I can separate what is real from what is imaginary. But I still love the freedom that exists solely in the imagination. That is where I flourish. And for that reason, I will win an Oscar one day. Make that Oscars, plural.

Now, Molly and Lenni, I can see that you have something to say. So, with regard to Bianca’s career choice, what would be your advice to her?

Lenni: I would say she should follow her acting dream. She’s definitely on the right path. And with regards to her fashion designing, she should design a really cute line of clothing for doctors. I’ve been looking online, and there just really isn’t much to choose from. Talk about bland. And shoes—there should definitely be more fashionable doctors’ shoes. Oh, and when she comes to the reunion and walks across the red carpet, she should maybe think twice before wearing puce, being a redhead and all. I read that in a fashion magazine last week.

Molly: I can’t picture Bianca being anything but successful, no matter what career she chooses. But I’ve seen her acting first hand, and she nails every role. The best advice I can give to her is to remember to honor God, who bestowed her with talents, gifts, and abilities. I’ve heard the stories, and I know how crazy and confusing it can get out there—especially in Hollywood. Just be true to who God created you to be, Bianca. And when you’re up for that first Oscar, Lenni and I had better receive front-row tickets in our mailboxes. And backstage passes, too.

More About Storm Season:

Sometimes the shelter is more dangerous than the storm.

A courageous stranger risks his life to save Molly, Lenni, and Bianca from a deadly tornado, leaving the girls thunderstruck. As his injuries heal, the hero claims the girls’ hearts while reclaiming his strength. In their friendship strong enough to withstand the brutal winds of jealously, heartache, and betrayal? Or will graduation from Redbend High really mean good-bye forever?

These three wonderful characters have their own stories to tell as well:

SECOND BESTIEAbout Second Bestie:

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed “witch” in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

DIZZYAbout Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

LINEAGEAbout Lineage:

Bianca can’t walk away from her family—she’ll have to run.

Following the death of her mother, Bianca and her dad are on their own. But when a redheaded stranger at the funeral claims to be her biological father, Bianca’s reality crumbles. She soon finds herself trapped between the alcoholism of one father, and the wicked schemes of another—with no way to escape.

Anna K Author Pic 15About the Author, Anna Marie Kittrell:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, Tim. She has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories 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.

You can catch up with Anna on her Amazon Author Page, on Facebook, or by e-mail at kittrellbooks@gmail.com.