Author Kristiana Gregory







When and where were you born? What was your family like?
June 12, 1951, in Los Angeles, California. I grew up two blocks from the ocean, in Manhattan Beach. When my bedroom window was open at night I could hear the waves and often a foghorn. I lived with my younger brother and sister and our mom and dad.We didn’t have any pets but there always seemed to be a ragamuffin clipneighborhood cat that befriended us.

What school did you go to? College?
Believe it or not I went to three elementary schools, two junior highs, and three high schools (Manhattan Beach & Lancaster, California; Alamogordo, New Mexico). It was hard being the "new kid." I was extremely shy so I usually felt left out. As a result I spent a lot of time alone, reading and daydreaming. Now I realize how this solitude shaped me as a writer: Every one of my books has a central character that finds him/herself in a surprisingly new situation, usually with strangers, and needing to make a friend. After high school I moved around a lot, and attended several colleges.

How old were you when you started writing?
About ten years old. My stories were extremely short, a paragraph or so in length. If someone had told me I would grow up to write books, I wouldn’t have believed it. It seemed impossibly hard. Schools didn’t promote writing as they do now, so I never knew girls might grow up to be authors. I dreamed of being an airline stewardess or a ballerina!




How did you start writing professionally?
In college I took a journalism class. The teacher said if I wanted to become a reporter I should just go to a newspaper and talk to the editor. So I did! My hands were shaking when I walked into the newsroom. There were clacking typewriters and people shouting. When I found the editor I told him I had no experience but was willing to work hard. He said to go cover a certain news event (I think it was a parade) then write a story about it. If he approved, they’d print it, put my name on it [a "byline"] and pay me $10. A few days later I saw my first article in print! And there were more to come. Some months later this editor, Charlie Ferrell, took a job with the Southern California Area Chamber of Commerce, as editor of their weekly newspaper. He asked if I’d like to be his Associate Editor. Would I! Soon I was interviewing men like Vice-President Walter Mondale and seeing more by-lines. It was a great experience.

During this time I took another journalism class at Dominguez Hills. The instructor was Art Seidenbaum, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. I would show him clippings of my stories for the Chamber of Commerce and he’d coach me with suggestions. When he became Book Review Editor for the Times he asked if I’d like to be an editorial assistant in his department. Eventually I became a copy editor and a reviewer myself. This led to a bi-weekly column, reviewing soft-cover books, then children’s books. Charlie and Art were my mentors: generous, wonderful men. They gave me unique opportunities that changed my life for the better.I loved the bustle and noise of the newsroom and the challenge of writing under pressure.

What was your favorite book as a child?
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. I loved this story because from my bedroom window I could see the Pacific Ocean. When it wasn’t foggy we could also see the purple shape of Catalina Island on the horizon. I knew that St. Nicholas Island, where Karana lived alone for 18 years, was in the same direction, further west. It felt to me that this story took place in my own back yard. The dolphins and other sea creatures were familiar friends.

Another book I loved was Rascal, by Sterling North. My father gave this newly published story to me for my tenth birthday…I still have it. Of course my girlfriends and I all read Nancy Drew Mysteries, trading them back and forth. In fact two volumes on my shelf right now have my friend’s name written on the front page, in her pretty 6th grade penmanship. She probably has some of my copies on her shelf!

Who is your favorite author & do you have a favorite book?
I love Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. As far as children’s stories I often re-read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Also I read lots of magazines, newspapers, and research material. I usually have seven or eight books going at the same time in various stacks around the house. My all-time favorite book is the Bible; I read it every day.

Do you have any children? Where do you live?

My husband and I have two adult sons plus two golden retrievers, Daisy, age 13 and Poppy, 3. We live in Boise, Idaho, for now. Wanderlust beckons.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Swim, walk, read, spend time with my family, hang out with girlfriends, watch my husband photograph. I love crossword puzzles.


Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get out of it?
ALL THE TIME! Sometimes I’ll pretend I’m writing a letter to someone, with the ideas I’m trying to get down. The casualness of this "letter" helps take the pressure off so I don’t try to be "perfect." Sometimes I’ll set the manuscript aside for a couple days. Starting a book is the very hardest thing for me, staring at that blank page. So sometimes I’ll write an ending or middle part, to distract myself. When I’m really frustrated and can’t put a single sentence together I seclude myself in prayer and often ask friends to pray for me.

What are the favorite books you’ve written?
Bronte’s Book Club because the setting is from my happy childhood in California, in a town by the sea. The story is about a young girl who is new to Gray’s Beach and tries to make friends by starting her own book club. Like Bronte, I was often the new kid at school, shy and lonesome. I combined those experiences with those I had leading a girls’ book club as an adult, which was a lot of fun.

My Darlin’ Clementine because it’s set in my adopted state of Idaho, when it was still a wild and rough territory. I took elements from my favorite folk song by that name and wove them into a mystery of sorts: was Clementine really ‘lost and gone forever’ after falling in a river’s ‘foaming brine’? Why did her beau ‘kiss her sister’? Where was this ‘cavern in a canyon’ where her father, an old 49er, excavated for a mine?