Please welcome Kristina Riggle to Women’s Fiction Writers! I first met Kristina on Backspace and then I met Kristina for real at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago when she was part of the Women of the Write panel. It’s always fascinating to hear an author you admire actually SPEAK and find that they are as eloquent aloud as they are in writing. I’m not sure that’s true of all authors, but it’s true of Kristina. She has just launched her third novel, Things We Didn’t Say — which is always an accomplishment but seems even more so in this publishing climate.
Many thanks to Kris for taking time from her “launch season” to be with us today!
Interview with Women’s Fiction Author, Kristina Riggle
KR: When someone says to me, “Oh, you’re an author? What do you write?” my smart alecky answer is, “I write novels about people with problems.” They usually laugh, and then I explain more carefully that I write character-driven novels with large casts of characters, and then I mention Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler. Not to compare myself in quality (though I try! I strive!) but to provide a touchstone. As for introducing myself, I’m a mom and a recovering journalist who still occasionally freelances for the book page of my local newspaper.
ASN: Congratulations on the release of your third novel, The Things We Didn’t Say. How is or was it different than launching the first and second books?
KR: I’m answering this on my launch day! I’m a little less giddy, but only about one percent less. It doesn’t ever get old. I’m so excited about my first event in two days. Also, this time around I’m the most plugged in via social media, which has made the launch have much more of a community feel. Today’s very glamorous launch day activities include laundry and staining the deck. Though there is cheap bubbly chilling in the fridge.
ASN: Aspiring novelists (like me!) are always fascinated in how published authors’ ideas evolve and get from the idea stage to the printed page. Can you describe your process?
KR: Since I had a book deal and a published novel behind me by the time I was generating ideas for this one, I had to keep readers in mind as I thought of ideas. Not because I’m trying to write something formulaic, for the sake of the market, but I had to try to give my readers more of what they have come to think of as “my” type of book, without being repetitive. Not to mention I had to enjoy writing it myself! Luckily my readers don’t expect snakes on a plane or zombies in Regency England, and since I believe in that old Biography show slogan, “Every life has a story,” my idea mill is always churning.
ASN: I was fortunate enough to hear you speak at the Printers Row Lit Fest — can you share with the readers your thoughts on the whole “feminine tosh” comment — and how we might combat that — or better yet — rise above it?
KR: I think joking about it takes some of the steam out of it. I mean really, how seriously can we take such nonsense? (Dare I say, “tosh”?) I have been kidding around that I was going to change my Twitter bio to “writer of feminine tosh” but everyone will have forgotten about all this soon enough and the joke won’t make sense anymore.
On a more serious note, though Naipaul’s comments were shocking in their audacity, he gives voice to something all of us women authors are aware of anyway, that we are starting at a distinct disadvantage in terms of being taken seriously by Certain People and Institutions.
Luckily, my readers, publisher, agent and editor take me plenty seriously, and that’s good enough for me. The rest will come with time, and more smart writing by smart women, of which there is plenty.
ASN: How do you define women’s fiction?
KR: I almost never use the term to people outside the industry because it doesn’t mean very much in the outside world. Women write all kinds of fiction, after all. Literary, detective stories, fantasy, sci-fi. And women read all kinds of fiction, too (I know I do) so it doesn’t make sense interpreted that way, either. That said, I know that in the business we need some kind of shorthand because it makes it easier to talk about books if we can pinpoint the type of book. Hmm. I didn’t answer your question. I’m not sure there is an answer! Like that judge’s definition of obscenity: I know it when I see it.
ASN: What are some of your favorite women’s fiction reads — past, present or even…future?
KR: My literary idols are Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg. I also very much enjoy Allison Winn Scotch, Laura Dave, Julie Buxbaum, Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin, Therese Fowler, Therese Walsh, Katrina Kittle. Becoming a writer — and connecting with writers — has done wonders for introducing me to a lot of terrific books! I literally just started The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown and I already love it.
ASN: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
KR: A good friend of mine gave me a picture frame shaped like a typewriter, and you were meant to put the photo in the spot where the paper would go into the carriage. She suggested I put an inspirational writing quote in it. At the time I wasn’t published yet. The quote I settled on was this: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” (Richard Bach.) Great advice for women’s fiction, any fiction, or any writing, period.
Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. Her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, was a Target “Breakout”pick and a “Great Lakes, Great Reads” selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. The Life You’ve Imagined was honored by independent booksellers as an IndieNext “Notable” book.
Kristina has published short stories in the Cimarron Review, Literary Mama, Espresso Fiction, and elsewhere, and she works as co-editor for fiction at Literary Mama. Kristina was a full-time newspaper reporter before turning her attention to creative writing. As well as writing, she enjoys reading, yoga, dabbling in (very) amateur musical theatre, and spending lots of time with her husband, two kids and dog.