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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.

The Bully Inside by Anna Marie Kittrell

Anna Marie KittrellThe jolt brought me back to what was left of my senses. What was I doing? No way I would become a puddle on the sidewalk. One thing life taught me was never be led by emotions. Emotions were bullies. They frighten, betray, and ultimately destroy. I’d never backed down from a bully in my life. I wasn’t about to start now. —Bianca Ravenwood, Lineage

Bianca, the strong, cynical, sixteen-year-old main character of my Redbend High series doesn’t show emotion. A survivor of severe childhood trauma, she would sooner face Goliath himself than express what she’s feeling inside.

Over the course of two years, Bianca slowly learns to trust the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and accept encouragement from her two best friends. In amazement, she watches as God renovates her entire life, starting with her alcoholic father, who trades his usual stool at the local bar for the church piano bench.

But things are about to change. When an endearing stranger walks into Bianca’s life, she’s suddenly aware of the one thing she’s missing. A real connection. Someone with common interests, a shared sense of humor, and an independent spirit so like her own. A person who truly understands her. A soul mate. She soon learns she and this stranger share not only have the exact same hair color, but also the same passion for old movies and Broadway theater, and are prone to say the exact same words at the exact same time. It’s as if they’re connected at the brain. Just the way Satan likes it.

Deep down, everyone craves relationship. The emotional need for acceptance can make us overly concerned with what other people think. And if we’re not careful, soon we’re not only tiptoeing over every word we say, we’re compromising what we believe in an effort to belong. We feel backed into a corner, afraid to stand up for ourselves because we might be looked down upon, laughed at or—worst of all—excluded. We fear rejection like a small, pale, fourth-grade boy fears the school bully. But it’s our own insecurity that turns us upside down and shakes our senses loose.

Insecurity is a hard thing for Bianca to own up to. In order to keep up her tough persona, she’s always been more intimidator than intimidatee. In the following Lineage excerpt, she doesn’t even recognize intimidation when she’s faced with it:

I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what I was feeling. The new sensation was confusing. Not quite anger, not quite embarrassment. Somehow a mixture of both, with a dose of fear thrown in. I lifted my eyes to Chase’s hard glare, and it came to me.

Intimidation.

So this was what it felt like to be on the receiving end. I didn’t like it one bit.

Satan uses the need to belong as a cruel intimidation tactic— to twist us into the position of man pleaser instead of God pleaser. In Bianca’s case, the stranger used Bianca’s desire to belong as a tool to gain her trust, soften her up, and get what he really wanted. Even a person as streetwise and shrewd as Bianca can be blinded by the longing for connection.

Fortunately for Bianca, she has a discerning father and concerned friends who love her too much to lose her. Their words of wisdom and godly counsel continuously ring through her heart and mind—even when she doesn’t want them to. It is only when Bianca stops leaning to her own understanding and acknowledges God’s will that she can face—and defeat—her long-hidden fear of rejection.

Intimidation is just a big, stupid giant waiting for a rock to hit it in the forehead. I plan to keep these well-expressed words of Bianca Ravenwood in mind. No earthly relationship is worth jeopardizing the lineage we have in Christ Jesus.

ebook_lineage copy (427x640)About Lineage:

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–no way to escape.

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

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.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)More 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?

About the Author:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna 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.

Connect with Anna at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and at Prism Book Group.

Author Interview: Anna Marie Kittrell

Anna Marie KittrellToday’s guest 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 of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna 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.

Connect with Anna at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and at Prism Book Group.

Anna, welcome back to Inner Source. We are now at book three in the Redbend High series. I’ve followed Molly, Lenni, and Bianca through some rather exciting adventures, and I’ve truly enjoyed the novels. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Hi, Fay. Thank you so much for having me back. I love it here!

Like Molly, Lenni, and Bianca, I also live in a small Oklahoma town. Redbend is loosely based on my hometown of Anadarko, where my husband of twenty-five years and I attended school, started dating, married, and established our home. Our son graduated from Anadarko High School in 2010, and he and his wife live close to where I work. Nine months ago, they gave us a beautiful little grandson who straightaway captured our hearts—and I get to see him almost every day! Our daughter will graduate from Anadarko High School in May.

I have worked as secretary for Anadarko Middle School for going on fourteen years, and the time has absolutely flown by. With over four hundred pre-teens and teenagers forever needing Band-Aids, icepacks, and telephone usage, there is never a dull moment. Drama is prevalent, to say the least. When I’m not working, I’m writing—or, more honestly, trying to find the time to write. Although I love my job, my dream is to one day write full time.

So, I happen to know the inside scoop. Bianca is played by none other than your own daughter—at least on the cover. Would she mind if you tell us how that came about?

Yes, my daughter is the cover model for Lineage—making her a bit of a small-town celebrity. Miz (her nickname) and Bianca share many similarities, both in physical appearance and personality. They each have a style that sets them apart from the crowd, though neither of them have a clothing allowance to speak of. Miz loves costumes and wigs, and saves up money from birthdays, Christmas, and her part-time job in the school cafeteria to buy them. She wears her manifestations to school regularly, without a second thought to what her classmates might think. (Before the first day of school her freshman year, she shaved a widow’s peak into her hairline!)

I once asked Miz if she would dress like Bianca so that I could post her picture to Facebook, as an advertisement for Witcha’be. She put on her long red wig and corset-style top and snapped a photo. I later showed Prism’s editor-in-chief (and cover artist) Joan Alley, who agreed Miz looked a lot like my description of Bianca. When the time came to design a cover for Lineage, Joan surprised me by asking if Miz would be interested in posing for the cover, and if so, could we e-mail her a few shots. I think I was more excited than Miz! She got into her Bianca costume, set up a tripod in the spare bedroom, took six photos of herself, and I e-mailed them to Joan. Joan narrowed it down to two poses, and Miz and I picked the one that appears on Lineage. I couldn’t be more pleased. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous—and the perfect depiction of Bianca.

I have the book cover as my screen saver in the school office. A teacher I work with made the comment that Lineage was the perfect book for my daughter to appear on—because she is my lineage. I hadn’t even thought of that! Of course, I dedicated the book to my daughter, Miz.

The one thing that I have to admit to when reading the story is that times have changed since I’ve been a teenager, but certain things remain the same. Girls still giggle. They still flirt and have fun. You were very careful to detail some of the girls’ clothing in the story, and I was surprised that certain styles have returned. I can remember my mother forbidding me to wear some of the clothes that Bianca wore. In your experience as a school employee, what would you say to someone like my mother when it comes to what kids might wear?

Well, my daughter and her outlandish style pretty much changed my opinion on “appropriate” attire. I don’t allow her to wear clothing I feel is provocative or too short in length, but I do let her express herself through her outfits, hairstyles, and makeup—on the condition that she keeps her grades up (she’s a straight A student) and treats other people with respect. She isn’t allowed to have body piercings, except in her earlobes (although, she does have a fake lip ring), and is not permitted to get tattoos. I’m confident she will cross both of these boundaries once she’s out of our house and on her own. I don’t think she’ll ever move too far away, though, because her dad is her colorist—under those wigs her short hair is bright blue on one side, pink on the other.

The middle school where I work has a very strict dress code your mother would definitely approve of. The school administrators do not allow students’ hair to be dyed unnatural colors, piercings anywhere except the earlobes, or the wearing of tank tops or sagging pants. Shorts are measured with index cards to check for the appropriate five inch inseam length, and skirts cannot be more than three inches above the knee. Leggings must be worn with long tunics. No bellybuttons or cleavage can be visible. Students who violate the dress code must call home for appropriate clothing or, in some cases, visit the counselor’s office for a big, roomy t-shirt. Needless to say, Bianca would never make it at Anadarko Middle School. And my daughter could not wait to get out of my building and into the high school, where the dress code is much more relaxed.

Working at the school has made me realize there are many, many more disturbing behaviors to worry about than unconventional wardrobe choices. I suppose I would share with your mother that bizarre clothing and hairstyles used to make me wonder where in the world the parents were when the child left the house. But then I went and had one of those children. Now I enjoy watching my daughter walk downstairs in the mornings. It’s fun to see who she’s decided to be each day.

I love your answer. It is perfect. I have learned that what’s on the inside (heart, soul, and mind) is so much more important than the outside—and I have one of those wonderful kids, too. He’s older, but he definitely doesn’t think like his mother.

Your experience as a school secretary shows in these novels. You take me back to a time when I used to act and cut up in the same way with my friends. And music—I was very particular about my favorite bands and musicians. I have to laugh at the girls’ obsession with their favorite singer. Besides your background in the public school system, did you pull on anything from your teen years to create these teenagers?

I love the sense of humor of our middle school kids. I truly believe if you work around kids long enough, you start to behave like them, at least a little bit. My coworkers and I are living proof of that, and it makes going to work each day a total blast.

People often say things to me like, “I bet you find a lot of book-writing material at the school.” But I really don’t gather as many story ideas at school as one might think. While all of my years spent in the school office have made it easy for me to remain in a “young” state of mind, the emotions and experiences I draw on when writing are almost always from my own adolescence.

Pretty much everything is a huge deal to teenagers—which, from the standpoint of a YA author, is terrific! When writing young adult stories, I don’t have to dial down the emotion as I do for my adult novels. Teens are dramatic—oftentimes melodramatic—by nature, which makes them very fun to write. I remember the euphoria and agony of those adolescent years well—sometimes too well. I recall everything as if it happened yesterday, which is both a blessing and a curse. When I look in the mirror, I find the jarring reality that my teen years are forever behind me. Writing about young people lets me recapture a part of my youth that is gone. Long, long, gone.

I have always felt that the best YA novels transcend the age group. They bring back memories for the older reader, and they let us know that not much has really changed. You do that well, and I want to know what’s up next for you? Any other books in the Redbend series, or are you delving into something new?

Storm Season, the final book in the Redbend series, is scheduled for release in the spring. Although I’m very excited about this story, letting my Redbend girls graduate from high school and go out into the world on their own is very bittersweet. I’m going to miss them.

I’ll share the blurb with you:

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. Is their friendship strong enough to withstand the brutal winds of jealousy, heartache, and betrayal? Or will graduation from Redbend High really mean good-bye forever?

Anna, that sounds like a wonderful story, and of course, I need to have you back so I can interview all the girls together. Maybe a little therapy session for their emotions. *Smiling*

Thank you, Fay, for once again asking me to visit Inner Source. As always, the experience is my extreme pleasure.

ebook_lineage copy (427x640)About Lineage:

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–no way to escape.

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

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.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)More 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?

Character Interview: Bianca Ravenwood

ebook_lineage copy (427x640)Today’s special guest is Bianca Ravenwood, the heroine of Lineage, the third novel in the Redbend High series by talented author, Anna Marie Kittrell.

Bianca, it is so nice to meet you. I’ve met your friends, Molly and Lenni. Would you mind telling Inner Source readers a little bit about yourself: where you go to school, where you live, what your aspirations are for the future?

Hi. After meeting Lenni, I’m surprised you don’t know everything about me, including what I had for breakfast! She tends to get excited and talk too much. Molly’s a little more stable—I mean calm. They are both phenomenal friends, and I wouldn’t trade either of them for the world.

I am a senior at a small-town Oklahoma school called Redbend High. I’ve lived in Redbend my entire life. My dad and I have a house in an area the locals refer to as Old Town—the not so nice part of Redbend. Our place is pretty run down, but my dad has recently started doing repairs, beginning with our rickety old porch. It looks so much better now, but it was really sad when he tore down the wheelchair ramp he’d built for my mom ten years ago. He’d hoped she’d return home someday. She never did.

As far as aspirations go, I love the theater, and just recently found out it’s in my blood—literally. My biological father studied theater in college and was quite renown in his role as Papa Brasswell in the musical, Amie. But that’s another story…Anyway, I plan to enroll in a dramatic arts college following graduation, I’m just not sure exactly where. I attended Wild Rose Mountain’s summer arts camp a few weeks ago, and it was incredible. Without a doubt, I know acting is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Your story brings in quite a surprise for you. I’m not going to spoil it for the reader, but I’d really like to know where you gained your strength to deal with these two back-to-back changes in your life?

God. And the support of my father and two best friends. But since God is the one who put those incredible people in my life in the first place, I’ll give Him all the credit. My strength comes from God. Period.

You have quite a sarcastic wit. You remind me of a character who appears in three of my books, and like you, she’s going to get a book of her own. Tell me how you came by your sense of humor.

Me, sarcastic? What gave you that idea? My cynicism—at least that’s what the teachers call it—started out as a coping mechanism. When I was six, I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my two-year-old brother, Sam, unaware he was allergic to peanuts. The sandwich killed him. My mother was so distraught over Sam’s death she tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pain meds, but failed. Instead, she ended up in Sugar Creek Manor asylum with severe brain damage. My father used alcohol to ease his pain over the situation, leaving me to survive the tragedy on my own. I had no choice but to be tough. Sarcasm, cynicism, and humor were my mask, my sword, and my shield. I wanted to protect my vulnerability. Having a sharp tongue kept others from getting too close. Except for Lenni. She’s always been stuck right to my side. I couldn’t peel her off if I tried—and believe me, I’ve tried.

Part of your story involves a betrayal by someone who should have loved and protected you. If you got the chance to talk to him today, what would you say to him?

Oddly enough, I’d thank him. Without him, I would have never met my sister, Cassie. I would have also missed the opportunity to witness my dad’s unbelievable strength. The ordeal taught me that family has nothing to do with blood relation, and that things are not always as they seem. I’d heard that old saying all my life, and even experienced it first hand in my witcha’be days, but never fully realized how true it could be. Oh, and I’d tell him that, fortunately for him, God loves and forgives jerks all the time. And I’d remind him how lucky he is that I no longer hold grudges.

I’m smiling. I love the way you “cope” with things. You’ve mentioned the tragedies in your young life, and your readers, and even readers of this blog, know that you lived in a fantasy world because you couldn’t live with the self-blame. Bianca, what would you tell another teen if you knew they held some guilt in their heart over events that were truly beyond their knowledge to control?

I would tell her never to be intimidated by anyone—including herself. God forgives all, but to be truly free, I believe we must forgive ourselves, too. If we don’t honestly forgive ourselves, Satan uses our feelings of guilt to intimidate and torment us. That goes for sins we knowingly committed, as well as events we had no control over. Trust me, it is so much easier to forgive yourself and ask God to forgive you than it is to run and hide from yourself and God. Satan would have you believe otherwise, but he’s a liar (John 8: 44). Liars gonna lie and haters gonna hate. So what? That doesn’t change God’s power. Or his ability to forgive.

Let it all go.

Excellent advice. I’m doubly glad I met you today, Bianca, and I look forward to talking with your author, Anna Marie Kittrell, again on Wednesday.

More about Lineage:

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–no way to escape.

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

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.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)More 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?

Anna Marie KittrellAbout the Author:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna 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.

Connect with Anna at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and at Prism Book Group.