Interview with Christi J. Whitney

Today on the blog, I’m interviewing Christi J. Whitney a YA author with a successful series on the market. I’ll post links so you can all go follow her after the interview. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have. 

Justine: Hello, and welcome back to my blog! The last time you appeared on my site, it was in the form of an author spotlight, two years ago, and your last book release had been Book 2 of your Romany Outcasts series. Since then, Book 3 was released. Tell us more about that book. 

Christi: Yes, it has been a couple of years! Well, the third book in the trilogy is titled MIDNIGHT. It finishes out the story arc of Sebastian Grey and Josephine Romany, and it continues immediately after SHADOW.  Although I had originally envisioned The Romany Outcasts Series to be four books, my publisher wanted a trilogy, so I did a lot of editing and rethinking the storyline to bring everything to a satisfactory close in MIDNIGHT. I had the least amount of time to write this book, as I was under a deadline, so it was certainly a challenge, but I am pleased with how it turned out. MIDNIGHT differs from the other two books, in that a good majority of the novel is told from Josephine’s point of view, so we are able to get a more in-depth look into her life and emotions than I was able to present in GREY and SHADOW.

Justine: How did it feel to bring that era to a close?

Christi: Although my plan for four books had to change when I sold my book series to HarperCollins, I still have the outline for book four, and I do have plans to write it in the future. I don’t know what that will look like as of yet. It might be something I self-publish; but I love these characters so much, and I really want the chance to do a little more with them.

Justine: On my blog, we’ve been talking a lot about writing what you know. You don’t have to get super personal with this, but are there any aspects of your story which came from personal experience?  

Christi: Oh, there were definitely several aspects of my story that came from personal experience. At the time I began writing GREY (the first book in the series) I was teaching and directing theatre full time at a local high school. I modeled many of my characters directly from students that were in my program. In fact, my students were the ones who encouraged me to turn this story idea I had into a full novel, and a few of them even volunteered to read my chapters and give feedback as I wrote them. The Gypsy Ink Tattoo Parlor and the guys that worked there were also modeled after things and people I knew in real life. And finally, I gleamed the idea of the Romani characters from some of my own family history.

Justine: What are you currently working on? 

Christi: I have a completed novel called BLEEDER that I am currently shopping around. BLEEDER is also YA, but with a bit more urban fantasy and science fiction bent to it. The story takes place in a small coastal town in Georgia and deals with different dimensions, strange creatures, and a girl with unusual gifts. As to what I’m writing at the moment…I’m about half-way through a first draft of an untitled novel that I would categorize as light science fiction. The characters are fun, and I’m have a blast writing the dialogue in this novel.

Justine: Oh, BLEEDER sounds interesting. And I can’t wait until you’re ready to share more about that light sci-fi. On a different note, I see you like to Cosplay! A fellow geek like me. 🙂 Please, please, PLEASE share your favorite cosplay with us. Pictures or it didn’t happen. 😉 

Christi and friend as Sven and Kristoff from Frozen

Christi: I’m so pleased you asked me this! Yes, I definitely like to cosplay, and I am a huge geek. If it’s fantasy or science-fiction related, I probably love it (unless I am simply not familiar with it). And I do enjoy cosplaying characters that I really adore. I think my very first cosplay (years ago) was Jack Sparrow. Since then, I’ve done everything from dwarves from the Hobbit, Frozen, Alice in Wonderland, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, X-Men, and How to Train Your Dragon.

Christi as Nightcrawler from X-Men

My most recent favorite cosplay, however, has to be Professor Snape from the Harry Potter series. The Professor has been an unexpected, but wonderful experience for me.

Christi as Professor Snape from Harry Potter

About a year ago, I made a profile on  the Musical.ly app as a way to try and connect with readers. But I decided to sort of give it variety by posting a mixture of book/writing things with some cosplay. Not long after, Musical.ly became TikTok, and I began getting a lot of traffic for my Professor Snape cosplay. Fast forward a few months later, and it’s become a crazy thing! I’ve connected with so many readers and have been able to talk so much about writing and books…but it’s really all because of my cosplay. So I owe the professor quite a bit of love. I have a few cosplay pictures here, but if you’d like to see more of Snape, you are welcome to check out my TikTok page (christij.whitney)

Justine: Those are SO COOL. You just made the geek in me very happy. So, you clearly have a flare for the dramatic, between teaching theatre and cosplaying. What led you on the path to becoming a writer? 

Christi: My path to becoming a writer began, as many paths do, when I was a child. The first true fantasy book I ever remember reading was The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. It opened up a door to me that I didn’t know existed. I would write little short stories and create characters in fantasy worlds similar to Narnia. By the time I was in middle school. I was writing quite a lot, but I had no confidence, and I refused to show anything I’d written to anyone. It all stayed carefully hidden in journals and folders. In high school, I was bitten by the theatre bug, and I went to college to become a theatre teacher. I spent many years doing that, but the stage became my way of creating stories, so my writing took a back seat. Then, one Christmas break, several years into teaching, I began having these ideas for a story pop into my head. I shared them with some of my students, and they convinced me to write it down. So I put on my dusty writing cap and began. It was a big learning process, especially because I was learning towards young adult fiction. I had to learn how to pace my writing and how to balance description and dialogue. Despite having an English degree, I felt like a complete writing novice. But I attended classes, joined SCBWI, found a critique group…and I got better at my craft.

Justine: I love it. What inspires you?

Christi: Gosh, everything! I get a lot of inspiration from film and television shows, and also from books. Theatre is inspiring because I love the process of creating characters and fleshing them out. Teaching novels to students does the same thing. I could discuss plot, characters, and motivation all day. As I said, I’m a huge geek, so I look to all kinds of fantasy lore to spark something fresh in my brain.

Justine: If you could pick the brain of any writer, which would you choose?

Christi: I have so many writers I adore, and they come from different places and times. I’d certainly love to pick the brains of some of the giants — Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. But I also wouldn’t mind sitting down with some of the great YA authors currently out there, like Cassandra Clare and definitely J.K. Rowling…I’d also love picking the brain of Jack Thorne and John Tiffany (who helped Rowling writing the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).

Justine: If your geeky self could choose any imaginary world to live in, where would you go and why? 

Christi:  It is so difficult for me to chose the fantasy world I’d best like to live in. I suppose it depends on what type of character I was able to be in those worlds. I will always adore Narnia, but I would want to be some magical creature there. I would love to travel with the Doctor in the universe of Doctor Who (even if that’s more science fiction), but if I had to only choose one…maybe the Wizarding World…I’d love to be a Hogwarts professor like Snape or McGonagall. 

Justine: And now it’s time for our rapid fire Q&A segment!

Q: Favorite writing instrument? 
A: Computer

Q: Plotter or Pantser? 
A: Both

Q: Chocolate, Vanilla, or other?
A: Toffee

Q: Sweet or savory? 
A: Savory

Q: Favorite book? 
A: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

Q: Dream vacation?
A: The U.K.

Q: Dogs or Cats?
A: Dog

Thank you so much for joining us, Christi! If you want to follow Christi on the web, you can check her out at the following links:

Website: http://christijwhitney.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christijwhitney/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristiWhitney
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christijwhitney/


Advertisements

Inspiration

Light bulb

Inspiration is such a strange and essential force for an author, and we need to pull it from wherever we can find it. For me, inspiration can be like a patchwork quilt, a line from a song, a character from a book, a writing style, and a plot idea can come together and be woven into an original idea.

For The Order of the Key, the first seed came from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series was the first time I’d ever seen a television show that crossed genres, styles, and attitudes. Buffy could be funny in one episode and tragic in the next. Sometimes it was horror, sometimes it was paranormal. Sometimes it was episodic, sometimes it was arc-based. I loved the way the series mixed it up, and I saw that as a powerful way to tell a story. Life can be all of those things, and it’s fun to shine a light on that. So when I dealt with the new characters I was forming in my head, I tried not to conform them to one specific style, and let them just be people – which led to my Contemporary Fantasy, which has elements of horror, elements of comedy, elements of romance.

Now, I had never read a book that behaved the way Buffy did as a television series. And I also had fears of giving my characters flaws. I was concerned about making them far too unlikeable. And then I read The Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong. Reading Kelley’s books gave me both the courage to build unique systems of supernatural characters and to build complex characters with gray areas. I thought I always needed the good guys to be stalwart and true or I’d risk their likeability. Ms. Armstrong soundly corrected me.

The members of the Order are all trained at an Estate that doubles as a school and a living space. If I said anything but X-Men inspired me, I’d be lying.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins inspired me to explore the harsh realities of war. The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime inspired me to take chances with the voice of the narration. My lead character, Jacklyn, has a very unique point of view, and we get the story from her. It never had the same magic when I tried to tell it third person.

I’m sure there are other things that linked together to create the idea for The Order of the Key. I can think of many times where I’d hear a turn of phrase, the lyrics of a song, or met a person that made me want to write something down. As artists, we spend our entire life fed ideas and inspiration, we internalize that, and when we’re ready to create something ourselves, these ideas mix together to create something truly unique. I hope you enjoy my unique creation.

Where do you find inspiration?