Q&A: Kristi Holl
Since she published her first book in 1983, Kristi Holl has been winning awards and wowing readers with her children's, middle grade, YA, and adult fiction. In her latest installment of her Boarding School Mysteries, Betrayed, she tells the story of Jeri McKane who learns the hard way just how much damage lies and gossip can cause to friendships and families.
WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WRITING BETRAYED?
My goals were two-fold: (1) to write a gripping, suspenseful mystery for the Boarding School Mystery series, and (2) to explore various trust issues for the main character, Jeri McKane (her best friend not trusting her, and Jeri trying to trust an absentee father who has come back into her life).
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF WRITING THE STORY?
For me, the biggest challenge in mystery writing is always in keeping the book short enough for a series, while including plenty of suspects, lots of real and false clues, playing fair with the reader but not giving so much away that they guess the villain before the end—and all the while weaving in a subplot with a deeper theme that helps the main character grow in her relationship with God.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES FROM THE STORY WHERE YOU DREW ELEMENTS FROM REAL LIFE?
There were two main areas. (1) Before writing that book, I had helped in a community theater play (prompting and other behind-the-scenes stuff) and it gave me the idea for part of the blackmail scheme to take place during a play, and (2) helping my own daughters do what Jeri was struggling to do—re-establish and re-define a relationship with a dad after a divorce. For me, it’s always easier to write authentically when you can base at least part of a book on personal experience.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS GET OUT OF YOUR WORK?
In the whole Boarding School Mystery series, I hope readers enjoy getting to know the main character and her friends as they solve suspenseful mysteries. I also hope that the reader picks up some practical godly ways to deal with hurtful events with friends and situations with parents. The characters don’t always do what is smart or right, but readers can learn a lot from the consequences of those actions too.
WHY DO YOU THINK STORY IS SUCH A POWERFUL WAY TO COMMUNICATE TRUTH?
One of my favorite quotes is a child’s definition of Jesus: “He’s God who told stories.” Very insightful! Jesus used many parables—stories—to communicate truth in a way His listeners would understand and take to heart. Stories can stick with you far longer than nonfiction “fact” books. When growing up, I learned so much about life and how to treat people and what’s important from books like Little Women. However paradoxical it sounds, fiction books—at least good ones—are full of truth! And readers get pulled into good fiction—they live it along with the characters—so it can have a powerful impact on their lives.