The author spotlighted in this Ink Splat is Kim Culbertson.
The Challenge: Party Time
Our featured author, Kim Culbertson, talks to us about setting.
Pick one of your favorite places. Grab a pencil and paper or a new page in your word processor and describe it in detail (what does it look like, sound like, smell like?). Now, make that place the location of a party and describe it again. How did the party change your setting?
Submit your responses by emailing email@example.com and you might be published on our website!
“The Wonder of Us ” and Kim Culbertson
An Interview with author Kim Culberston
1. When did you claim the title of being called writer? What about author?
What an interesting question — I love it. This is ultimately an identity question: how we define and label ourselves. It is one of the subjects I most love exploring in my work. I think that deep down I always knew I was a writer. I used to think, falsely, that you had to be published to call yourself a writer or an author and that is definitely not true. Being a writer or an author is a mindset, a lens — our own specific voice and interpretation of the world. And it is also doing the work. You are a writer if you are actively writing. Not necessarily every day, but in a way that you find meaningful and motivating. My daughter gave me a postcard with a quote from Picasso that says, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” Being a writer, for me, is doing the work.
2. This month we are talking about setting and descriptive language. How did you select the many different settings for your newest book “The Wonder of Us” released in April?
How would you describe your favorite setting/place in 3 juicy words?
I love to travel — everywhere I go in the world changes me in some way. I also love a good road trip novel, so for The Wonder of Us, I wanted that road trip feel but set in Europe, a place where I love to travel. In the novel, Abby, one of my main characters, is obsessed with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, so I knew I needed seven cities to parallel that. I wanted to set part of the novel in Florence as it’s one of my favorite cities, so that came to me first. My editor, Jody Corbett, and senior editor, David Levithan, suggested Berlin, which ended up being such a significant setting for this story. The other settings — London, Zurich, Edinburgh, Reykjavik, and the girls’ fictitious Northern California town of Yuba Ridge came from places that are special to me.
I don’t have a favorite setting or place — but I love any place that includes a vast, surprising, color-drenched sky.
3. If Riya and Abby of “The Wonder of Us” had to live in different time periods when would they live? How would it change them?
Abby is obsessed with Ancient History so I feel like she would choose to live somewhere with a significant culture of change, like Ancient Egypt or Greece. But she knows that life would be difficult in those times and as a girl she would not have the rights she has now, so that would be a big impact on her. Riya would undoubtedly live in the future, perhaps somewhere in space. And she would wear killer space shoes.
4. Would You Rather: Would you rather have to write stories ALWAYS in the same place? Or ALWAYS with the same characters?
That is such a difficult question because I love both so much. It’s also a question that seems to hint at asking if I’d rather write a series or stand alone novels. So, for the sake of this question, I’ll choose new characters. For now, I’ve always wanted to start over with new characters, which is why I’ve written stand alone novels so far. I write very much to understand people, so changing characters continues to allow me to live in new perspectives.
5. It has been about a year since the release of your last book “The Possibility of Now“. What have you learned about your characters or the story now that so much time has passed?
I wrote this novel very much from my teacher heart, from seeing so many of my students stressed about their futures. I’ve been surprised and touched by the many emails readers have sent me to tell me how much they related to Mara. But I’ve also had emails from readers saying, “Wow, these sorts of kids always annoy me, but now I understand them more.” And this makes me so happy because I don’t think we should just read books because we relate to a character. It’s equally important to read about people we don’t relate to — it builds our empathy and compassion to see into the viewpoints of people who are unlike us.
6. Is Amazon the best place to purchase or do you have another preferred retailer?
I’m a huge indie bookstore girl. My local bookstore The Book Seller in Grass Valley, CA has been so wonderful to me, so I alway encourage people to get the books from their local independent store. Also, if they’d like a signed copy, they can order through the Book Seller and I will happily go sign their book. Check out my bio and photo at www.kimculbertson.com.
A special thanks to Kim Culbertson!
Locate your local independent book store to purchase The Wonder of Us, it is also available at most other nationwide bookstores or online.