Kristi Helvig is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist turned sci-fi/fantasy author. Her first novel, BURN OUT (Egmont USA), which Kirkus Reviews called “a scorching series opener not to be missed,” follows 17-year-old Tora Reynolds, one of Earth’s last survivors, when our sun burns out early.
In the sequel, STRANGE SKIES, out 4/28/2015, Tora makes it to a new planet only to discover a whole new host of problems—and the same people who still want her dead.
Order Kristi’s books through , , or your favorite local retailer. Kristi muses about Star Trek, space monkeys, and other assorted topics on her at and Twitter (@KristiHelvig). You can also find her on . Kristi resides in sunny Colorado with her hubby, two kiddos, and behaviorally-challenged dogs.
1) How much research did you have to do when writing both Burn Out and Strange Skies?
Quite a bit for both books. I’d written a YA fantasy before the BURN OUT series which required very little research so it was a very different experience. I’d initially gotten the idea for BURN OUT by watching a science documentary (I’m a nerd and watch stuff like that all the time), so the research started with watching other documentaries, followed by online research. However, the premise for the series is that our sun burns out way ahead of schedule and no amount of research I did online could find me a way that could happen. So, I contacted a well-respected astrophysics department at a large university, and they referred me to an astrophysicist there who helped a lot with those aspects of the story. Once I had a possible way the sun could burn out, I was ecstatic (though luckily for us, it isn’t likely). For STRANGE SKIES, I was dealing with a whole new planet and had to contact an astrophysicist again to determine things like how a planet’s distance from the moon impacts rotation speed. Research like that is so fun for me though—have I mentioned I’m a huge nerd? ;)
2) What is your favorite and least favorite scene to write in Strange Skies?
My favorite scene to write was probably the beach scene between Tora and James. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll stop there. I can say I wasn’t sure my editor would let me keep the scene as is, but she loved it and said it was “hot.” My least favorite scene to write was any scene involving the new character Sonya—much like Tora, I really didn’t like that girl.
3) You are a clinical psychologist, what made you want to write? Did you always want to be an author?
Ha, no. I just wrote an article for PubCrawl about this, but basically I wanted to either be a nun or an NFL quarterback—vastly different I know, and neither was in the cards for me. I’ve written since I was really young, but always thought it was a fun hobby and never took it seriously. I have always been intrigued by what makes people tick and why they make the choices they make, so a psychologist was a great fit and I’ve loved it (in fact, I still do private practice a few hours per week so I don’t get rusty). I wrote hundreds of psychological evaluations on some very interesting people but didn’t write my first novel until after my kiddos were born. I wrote a YA fantasy, and then got the idea for the BURN OUT series and dove in—it’s been a blast.
4) After this trilogy is over, do you see yourself writing other books?
Oh heck yes. I just finished another YA fantasy novel, and started a YA thriller that I’m super excited about. I also have several other novels started, but just need more hours in the day to get to them.
5) What is your writing process like? How long did it take you to write each of your books?
I don’t have a set process, which sounds terribly undisciplined of me but I think every writer has to do what works for them—and I’ve turned in my books earlier than my publisher deadline so I’m doing okay. I tend to write in crazy bursts. The first drafts of both BURN OUT and STRANGE SKIES were written in less than two months. Then I set it aside for a bit, before I dive back into revisions. Since BURN OUT was my first published book, I had the luxury of just focusing on that book. With STRANGE SKIES, I was under a tighter deadline and also had to worry about marketing and writing the other YA book I was working on at the time.
6) What was the most difficult thing about writing a book for you?
Finding the hours to get it done. Then because I write in spurts, I’m obsessed during my first draft phase and tend to ignore things like laundry and housework. My hubby claims I ignore him then too but I don’t believe it. ;)
7) Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
No. However, when you’ve seen thousands of clients in various work setting as a psychologist—from juvenile detention centers to psychiatric hospitals to an office setting, basic patterns of human behavior emerge and influence the psychological aspects of my characters. Also, I’ve worked with many teenage girls who were committed through youth corrections, and I have a soft spot for so many of those tough-on-the-outside, hurting-on-the-inside kids. I’m sure that influenced my character of Tora, and is also an influence on my current YA thriller.
8) Is there a specific place you pictured when writing Caelia or was it purely from your imagination?
I’d say the concept of Caelia came from my imagination based on the various planetariums I’ve visited and the amount of space documentaries I’ve watched. I always thought it would be cool for oceans to be freshwater rather than saltwater, and the idea for the glowing pink sand and various creatures came from visualizing the planet while I wrote.
9) What’s your favorite book and why?
That’s a hard question. If you’re asking about YA books, I’d say that The Giver by Lois Lowry is probably my all-time fave YA book because it’s the original dystopian in my opinion—and it hasn’t been done better than that since then.
10) When can we expect to see the last book in your amazing trilogy? Also, is there anything you can tell us to look forward to in regards to the third book?
The timing of the 3rd book isn’t something I know yet, but I can give a few hints as to what happens. They do go to the planet Dais where all of the available water is underground, so getting a drink when you’re thirsty is a bit of a challenge. There are new characters on this planet, one of whom is a child that Tora sort of takes in as a surrogate younger sister. Other than that, I can say there is a big showdown with the Consulate and the fate of the bio-weapons is finally resolved—oh yeah, and some people live and others die. ;)
Thank you Kristi for stopping by my blog and doing this interview with me. For all of you who haven't checked out her books yet (which you should go do now) I have provided you with information about the books plus links to my reviews for both of them.
Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone--her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun--one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in.
When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora's fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must quickly figure out who she can trust, as she must choose between saving herself by giving up the guns or honoring her father's request to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.
My full review here.
Synopsis: Action, adventure, and romance are heating up in this sequel to the futuristic science fiction thriller Burn Out. Perfect for fans of Across the Universe and The Memory of After.
Caelia is the new Earth. That's what the Consulate told everyone and, against all odds, Tora finally has made it there. She can't see the ocean from her cell in the Consulate's containment center, and she doesn't know what happened to the weapons her father died for and she's risked her life to save.
But as she plans her escape, she runs into the last person she ever expected to see-her dad. The Consulate has kept held him prisoner in a complicated plot designed to lure Tora out of hiding. Now Tora has a new purpose: break free, get the guns, and save her father.
But first she'll have to navigate a strange new planet, track down James (whose loyalties still remain questionable), and find Kale…before he finds her first.
My full review here.