Today, we welcome to the blog my fellow Fire and Ice writer, Christina Hoag. Christina has been a reporter as well as a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction. Her latest book, Girl on the Brink, takes a look at an abusive relationship. I’m excited to read this book but I’ll let Christina speak for herself.
How long have you been writing and what sparked the interest for you?
I won a prize for “writing interesting stories” when I was six years old so I think writing was something I was born with. As a kid, I loved books – I devoured them. My mother would buy me a book on a shopping trip and I’d have finished it by the time we got home. Then I’d feel sad because I had nothing left to read! When I grew up, I wanted to write books. I discovered journalism in high school – a career that would pay me to write! I wrote short stories on and off until I really focused on my childhood goal of writing novels about a dozen years ago.
What genre do you prefer to read and write? Any favorite authors/books?
I write gritty, contemporary fiction: thriller, mystery suspense, but I like to develop character-driven stories in these genres. A lot of work in these genres is very formulaic, which gets boring after a while, so I’m about incorporating more character into these types of plots.
As far as reading, I have an eclectic stack next to my bed. Besides crime-oriented stuff, I love what is known as “upscale women’s fiction,” a cross between literary and commercial, books where things actually happen but have a literary writing style. I’m also drawn to books with foreign settings. I always learn something when books are set in other countries and cultures.
Where do you draw inspiration?
If I had to choose one source, it would be my journalism. What I’ve always loved about being a journalist is you get to delve into all sorts of places, people and events that a normal, middle-class person would never get to see. I like to say I’ve interviewed everyone from prostitutes to presidents, bums to billionaires. People in all walks of life. It’s just fascinating. Reportage was the direct source, for example, for my other novel “Skin of Tattoos,” which is set in the gangland underbelly of Los Angeles. I covered a lot of gang issues as a reporter for the AP, interviewing gang members and people who work in that milieu, and ended up writing a nonfiction book about gang intervention “Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence,” as well as the novel.
Tell us a bit about Girl on the Brink
Girl on the Brink is a YA novel about dating abuse and violence. The protagonist, 17-year-old Chloe, gets involved with the wrong guy at an especially vulnerable time in her life, as her parents are splitting up. At first, she thinks Kieran’s the one. He sweeps her off her feet, to use an old cliché, and she experiences an incredible connection with him. Slowly, however, he reveals a very dark side of his character – he’s manipulative, abusive, violent, possessive. Chloe wants to help him, but despite what he says, Kieran’s not that keen on being helped. He pulls a huge move to harm her, and Chloe must use all her smarts, strength and courage to defeat him.
I added this book to my TBR because I’m intrigued by a young adult unhealthy relationship. This is difficult territory and I’m interested to see how you handled it. What gave you the most difficulty in writing this novel?
From a technical standpoint, getting the voice right. It went through numerous rewrites. From an emotional standpoint, it was hard to write some of the tougher, violent scenes. Writing the happy, joyous time of Chloe and Kieran’s relationship was definitely more fun! But I did like writing Kieran’s backstory of a rough childhood because that’s what drives his behavior. I felt compassion and empathy for him, which is what Chloe feels.
What type of feedback have you gotten from readers for Girl on the Brink?
It’s been pretty incredible, actually. Both teens and adult women are saying “this happened to me” or “this was my home growing up,” or “this happened to a friend of mine.” It just shows that domestic violence is incredibly common, but it’s something people don’t want to talk about because they feel ashamed. This also leads to a sense of being alone in the struggle. My goal in writing this story was to show girls and women that they’re not alone, that they can move beyond this.
The cover is amazing. Were you able to inform any of the design decisions?
My only specification was that it not be a depressing downer sort of cover, which I’ve seen on other YA novels that deal with abuse. I wanted it to reflect hope and optimism, as well as that sense of aloneness. The cover designer at Melange Books, Caroline Andrus, totally got what I was looking for. When I saw this cover, I knew she’d nailed it. I’ve received a lot of compliments about it so it definitely works. A good cover is the most basic but probably the best marketing tool an author has.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on two novels, both nearing completion. One is a traditional detective mystery set in Los Angeles, and the other is what I’m calling a literary political thriller, set in Caracas, Venezuela, during the 2002 coup attempt. I was living there at the time and I covered the coup as a journalist. It was a very intense time. My goal is to finish both of these next year.
I see you write fiction and non-fiction, do you have a preference between the two?
Fiction, hands down! Although I’ve always loved journalism and it’s certainly informed my fiction, I always found it a bit constraining, as far as the type of language you can use (eg. no adjectives), style etc. I feel my true métier is fiction. There’s nothing like creating your own story as opposed to writing someone else’s.
If you could go on vacation right now and money was no object, where would you go?
I’m an inveterate world traveller. High on my list is Mongolia. I’d love to roam the steppes with yaks and sleep in a yurt. Kind of weird, I know, but I love remote, isolated places. This December I’m going to Hong Kong and Myanmar.
You can find me at:
Sometimes the one you love isn’t the one you’re meant to be with.
The summer before senior year, Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce. But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire, and Kieran turns violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up. Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.
Thank you Christina for dropping by! Best of luck with the book!