Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Interview with "Best Fiction for YA YALSA List" Nominee Kristin Wolden Nitz

Today I am happy to welcome, Kristin Wolden Nitz to SWAGGER. Her most recent book, a YA mystery novel titled SUSPECT, has been nominated for numerous awards including the BEST FICTION for YOUNG ADULTS YALSA list for 2011.


The Kirkus review stated :

Nitz intertwines and then untangles relationships among the teens and guests, weaving a credible mystery for a wide adolescent audience. With clues and red herrings neatly scattered throughout, the book scores as a darned good little mystery. Intriguing, suspenseful fun.

In SUSPECT, Jen's mother disappeared fourteen years ago but has been sending Jen letters and gifts during that time. Now, that has suddenly stopped, and Jen is facing a boring summer helping her Grandma Kay prepare a murder mystery weekend at the Shoenhaus -- Grandma Kaye’s bed-and-breakfast. As suspicions fly, Jen begins unraveling her own family mystery of her mother’s disappearance.

 GG: You've written an upper middle grade sports novel, lower middle grade contemporary fantasy, and several nonfiction sports books. What made you want to write a YA mystery?

KN: One of my favorite writers for adults is Barbara Mertz, who has written over 50 novels under the pseudonyms of Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. She’s probably best known for her Amelia Peabody series. Peter Theroux wrote the following about that character in a review: “If the reader is tempted to draw another obvious comparison between Amelia Peabody and Indiana Jones, it’s Amelia—in wit and daring—by a landslide.”

In many ways, I think that I studied writing at the Mertz Academy with an emphasis on lively dialogue and interesting locations. While no one would probably make the connection in my upper middle grade sports novel or my lower middle grade contemporary fantasy, I’m guessing any fans of Ms. Mertz who were familiar with her earlier stand-alones would see any number of echoes.

Interesting old house?  Check.

Gorgeous garden?  Check.

Eccentric older lady whom people have given up arguing with?  Check.

Two competing love interests? Check.

Snappy dialogue? Check.  Or at least I'd like to think so.

And I even managed to slip in a CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK recommendation on page 54. That’s the first Amelia novel.

The kernel for SUSPECT came to me when I was reading an article about an old wine cellar being reopened after being closed since Prohibition.  I remember wondering what would have happened if they found a body.  The story moved well away from those origins. But after reading all of those Elizabeth Peters novels—not to mention works by Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Charlotte MacLeod and Dorothy Sayers—I was ready.

GG: What did you find the most challenging about writing a mystery?

KN: Finding the right balance for the clues and the red herrings. I had already received some great advice on that from a writer named Constance Hiser: “Red herrings shout. Clues whisper.”  But it’s not always easy to apply.

GG: Jen is a strong female character that I found very well-balanced. Determined but not overbearing. Where does the inspiration come from for a great character like her?

KN: Writers are magpies. We collect little sparkly bits from all over the place. Naturally, my favorite authors provided wonderful examples of determined heroines. Since Jen’s family life was so different from mine, I knew that there wasn’t any real danger of her turning into me. That’s why I decided that she could be an extremely tall, girls’ basketball player who ran long distance. Because I have a long distance runner and a basketball player in the family, I was able to update things fairly easily.

GG: Do you have a writing routine? Is there a special place or time of day that works better for you?

KN: I’ve now gotten into the habit of writing first thing in the morning. When my kids were really young, I wrote during their naptimes. I will often write the first draft of a scene by hand. Then I type it into the computer and start the first round of revisions. I did try NaNoWriMo and wound up with an absolute mess before I gave up. I discovered that  I need to know exactly what happens to my characters before I move on.

GG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

KN: Don’t just write what you know. Write what you care about. If you’re passionate about something, that will come through to the reader. Moreover, you’ll actually enjoy whatever research that you need to do in order to bring a project to life.

GG: Kristin Wolden Nitz created a whodunit that kept me guessing until the very last pages. I could hardly put the book down until I finished it, which didn’t take very long. This is a perfect book to snuggle up with on a cold fall day. Thank you, Kristin!

Attention to those who SWAGGER: Enter our contest for a chance to win a 10-page MG or YA manuscript critique from Kristin Wolden Nitz.

All you have to do is share the following link: http://swaggerwriters.blogspot.com/

somewhere on the Internet - on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc., advertising our site AND follow us.

Then, leave a comment below with proof that you shared one of these links. If you tweeted it, attach your twitter url; if you posted it on FB, comment with your FB url ; if you blogged it, include your blog link, etc. To be entered in our drawing to receive a prize, you have to include the web address to the shared link in a comment.

For details on our other prizes for following and promoting us, go to the post for 10/12/11.

Gina Gort


  1. Awesome interview. Love hearing her tips on writing a mystery. I'm so excited about Kristen's book. I'm a follower and posted on Facebook.

  2. Yay! Fun to see familiar SCBWI-MI names here! I just discovered this blog. A couple years ago, I went to one of those special Highlight's Foundation workshops too - what a great idea to create a blog afterwards!

  3. Great interview. This is a fun blog. Waving to my Honesdale pals.

  4. Great interview, Gina & Kristin. I'll have to find the book. It sounds like a winner.

  5. Hey Ashish Here, Thank You for the lovely comment and support :)...
    Warm regards,
    Ashish Augustine.

  6. Great interview, and the book definitely sounds interesting! And hooray! I love Amelia Peabody. Crocodile on the Sandbank is one of my favorite books!