Interview: Kristin Halbrook Discusses her Novel Every Last Promise

image017A couple of weeks ago I picked up a book called Every Last Promise and became completely engrossed in it. Usually I have control and am able to put down a book to go to bed, but I was up well into the morning because Every Last Promise has a killer hook. So I was excited to get the opportunity to speak with author Kristin Halbrook about the book that definitely made me an insomniac!

Read my book review here! And now, the interview:

Me: I’m very excited to speak with you! Every Last Promise is one of the most powerful books I’ve read this year; I have no doubt it’ll become a favorite.

KH: Thank you so much! I am humbled to hear this. And thank you for these questions! I am very lucky to get to chat books with awesome people.

It’s haunting, making me realize the depths to which humanity will sink when loaded with guilt or fear. The danger of threatening someone who has power. Not only that, though–I was fascinated by how you wrote it, so I’d often get mixed feelings for the characters. They were human, with likable qualities and imperfections.

I tend to favor books where fear is a driving force; they’re easy to relate to.

This means a lot, to me. I aimed to create very human characters who are reflections of so many of us. It’s hard to be a hero (however “hero” is defined)—which is why we idolize them—and completely human to make mistakes. Life journeys are rife with challenges and moments we might not be proud of, but also chances for change, for forgiveness, for self-development, for growth and moving forward. Fear is certainly an effective motivation, but I also think the person who emerges after conquering their fear is more splendid.

I have some questions about the writing process for Every Last Promise.

First, could you describe what it’s like writing a story that switches from Spring to Fall? Did it get confusing, do you have tips for outlining a book this way? I found it to be a unique touch and some insight would be great!

I already had some experience writing a little bit outside the linear, single POV box with my first book Nobody But Us and, honestly, even though that book didn’t jump time, learning how to write alternating POV chapters that changed, that adjusted the style of the story for the reader, was a big help when writing the non-linear chapters for Every Last Promise. I also found that there were character and plot development benefits from writing Spring and Fall. I got to dig into my characters at two important points in their lives. I was able to parallel events and personalities in a way that lets me and readers see stark changes, laid side-by-side. And I liked that each season had its own build-up to a climax and its own resolution. The second resolution is the opposite of the first, and we get to see why that is.

I tended to work backwards, when developing the story for this book. I knew what the conclusion for each season was, so I had to work out how Kayla reached each of those points. I did actually tend to write the chapters in order, because that’s how I work best, and I found it refreshing to be able to jump time spans every few days.

Also, reading the book I noticed small towns pictured in two ways: A warm, comforting birthplace…and the dark, stifling town where secrets are nearly impossible to keep, and a step out of line could ruin a reputation. There are certainly downsides to everyone knowing each other.

Which did you find easier to illustrate, especially in a story like this? Have you lived in a small town where you got to see this sort of environment in real life?

I have lived in big cities, in the suburbs, and in a small college town, so I’ve been able to get a good look at how those living situations vary. The small college town I lived in looked quite different, in some ways, from Kayla’s town, but some of the sentiment was the same. There’s an insular, proud quality in some small towns—not necessarily undeserved!—and there’s a beauty to small, tightknit communities that look after each other. Many small towns thrive on tradition, work ethic, and hope. Some small towns are truly beautiful places that foster slow living, the arts, living close to the earth, and other ways of life that can be difficult to achieve in the city or suburbs. However, while writing Every Last Promise, I was hearing a lot about cases of sexual assault in small towns, so it was easy to be very angry at the kinds of communities that foster secrets or too much of a “take care of our own” mentality. So, in that sense, it was harder to write the small town as a positive, affirming place. Originally, Kayla was this character who was only desperate to get out of her small town, but as I explored the reasons why more fully, I realized it wasn’t so much that she wanted to get out, but that she was being pushed out for shattering that perfect vision people had of their small town. It’s not easy to see the realities and truths of the things we innocently think of as being perfect.

Do you drink a specific coffee while writing? Is there a particular snack or playlist that helped you with this book? Describe a little what your desk looks like! :)

I promise I’m not a shill for the company, haha, but I’m an avid fan of Caffe Appassionato’s Fair Trade Espresso Blend. It’s smooth and flavorful and the beans are so fresh and oily. I probably drink an average of four shots of it a day. Good thing I have my own espresso machine or I’d be bankrupt on espresso drinks, ha. I don’t otherwise snack when writing. I do have a playlist for Every Last Promise, but I often prefer writing in silence. My desk, oh dear. It’s kind of mess, right now. I have watercolor and oil paints and paintbrushes everywhere. Stacks of art paper, letters, and field trip forms for my kids. My season tickets for the opera have just arrived, so they’re in the middle of everything. Beneath it all is a large desk calendar, scrawled all over with events and doodles. My desk chair is falling apart, as my youngest likes to peel off little bits of the fake leather from the seat. Behind the chair is my sewing machine and piles of fabric that I’ll eventually do something with. And yet…somehow I get work done here! It’s as much a place to live, to create, to explore as it is a place to work.

Every Last Promise is without a doubt one of the best books I’ll read this year. Buy it on Barnes and Noble, and follow Kristin on Facebook and Twitter!

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