Interview With Author Kristin A. Oakley

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m award-winning author Kristin A. Oakley and I have two novels: Carpe Diem, Illinois and God on Mayhem Street. I’m currently working on a young adult dystopian trilogy called The Devil Particle Trilogy and am collaborating on a creative nonfiction project. I’m also a Chicago Writers Association board member, the managing editor of The Write City Magazine and The Write City Review,and a UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies adjunct writing instructor. I have a B.A. in psychology and a J.D. both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)? Here are the official blurbs:

Carpe Diem, Illinois – For decades, the small town of Carpe Diem, Illinois has quietly unschooled its children, eschewing tests and classrooms for real-life experiences. Now, long-smoldering political feuds and deep personal secrets threaten to explode. When her mother is hospitalized in Carpe Diem after an auto accident, teenager Tali Shaw, the daughter of a powerful state senator, finds herself at the heart of a vicious conspiracy to bring Carpe Diem down. Can prize-winning Chicago Examiner reporter Leo Townsend overcome his own demons and expose those behind the scheme before it’s too late? And when the truth is finally revealed, can Carpe Diem ever be the same? Carpe Diem, Illinois is the winner of the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction.

God on Mayhem Street – Chicago Examiner reporter Leo Townsend has landed the interview of a lifetime with openly gay, front-running US presidential candidate Griffin Carlisle. But when Leo is forced to abandon the interview to rush to the side of his estranged father who has suffered a near-fatal heart attack, Leo’s personal and professional worlds collide. When Griffin offers to visit the Townsend farm for an interview, secrets are exposed that jeopardize not just Leo’s family, but an entire nation.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

So many things — other authors and books, music, people, situations. My young adult dystopian trilogy started as a flash fiction story inspired by a photograph of the atom bomb mushroom cloud.

How do you deal with creative block?

I write through it. I’ve recently discovered that it helps to have several projects going at the same time. If I’m stuck on one, I can switch to something else. Giving the stuck piece a day or two will loosen up the story.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Not going through the editing process — developmental and copyediting both. Authors have to be humble and realize they can’t write their books without a good editor who can also be a great teacher. I highly recommend my editor, Tim Storm ( — I don’t know what I’d do without him.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

Title – make sure it’s unique and draws the reader in. Check on Amazon and to see if the title you want has been used. If it has, pick something else, you don’t need the competition. Cover – Covers are very genre specific so study bestselling book covers in your genre. Select an image that adds a bit of intrigue. Beautiful and intriguing book covers sell books! My publisher, Kristin Mitchell of Little Creek Press, creates incredible book covers (

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

So far, I haven’t had any bad reviews, but I have had some critical feedback and I welcome that. Writing for me isn’t about writing one book, but about my journey and growth as an author. I want every book to be better than the last, so I’m always open to constructive criticism and am interested in understanding ways to continually improve.

How has your creation process improved over time?

My confidence in my writing ability has improved, though there will always be times when I think my writing sucks. I’ve learned to trust my instincts when it comes to implementing comments made by my editor, critique partners, and beta readers. I’ve also learned how to work on several projects at the same time which has boosted my creativity. And I’ve learned that if I want to complete a project, external deadlines work best so I establish those. For instance, I let my editor know I’m giving him the next draft of my current-work-in-progress in August, so I have to get it done.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

Best – finishing the final edits and pushing the “send” button. Though, this was pretty scary, too. What did I forget? How many typos/grammatical errors are there? Etc. It’s daunting and exciting at the same time. Worst – Being patient. Once the books were done, I wanted them in my hands that instant. Unfortunately, the publishing world doesn’t work that way. Surprising – when I wrote the last word in my first manuscript, I realized that my protagonist, Leo Townsend, had more adventures in him and at that moment I knew that I was writing a series.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

Personal satisfaction. If I love the story, I know my readers will, too. However, I’m not satisfied unless the story is developed in the best possible way, so I take courses, submit my work to critique partners and beta readers, and work closely with my editor. If the characters and stories are fully developed, then the readers will be satisfied (and so will I).

What role do emotions play in creativity?

Positive emotions like happiness, contentment, and excitement naturally stimulate creativity whereas anxiety and grief block it. However, writers can draw on all their emotions when writing about characters in similar situations.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

I love to watch movies and then re-write them, particularly their endings. Besides being fun, this sparks ideas for other stories. I also like to look at everyday situations and turn them on their heads. And I’m always interested in rethinking big picture ideas. For instance, when considering what the essence of evil is, I came up with the main premise for The Devil Particle.

What are your plans for future books?

  • For my young adult trilogy, The Devil Particle Trilogy, I currently have a sixth draft for the first book, a second draft for the second book, and an idea in my head for the third. I’d like to have a second or third draft for the third book completed before I pitch the trilogy to an agent and/or publish the first book. I’m hoping to be in a position to do that by the end of 2020.
  • I’m finishing final edits on the book proposal for my creative nonfiction project and will send it to the three agents that requested it in the next week or so and will query other agents.
  • And in my Leo Townsend series, I have a third of a rough draft completed for the next book and ideas for two at least two more books. I hope to get back to Leo soon, he’s feeling neglected.

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I was a lawyer for about a second and a half (18 months really), a law librarian, and a homeschooling activist before becoming a full-time writer and writing instructor. I enjoy oil painting, which is a wonderful break for when my characters are giving me a hard time. And when I lived in Belgium, I dreamed in French.


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