Today’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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
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?
About 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.
About 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?
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.