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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 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.