Please welcome Kris Bock, author of novels for adults and children alike.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I’d wake up early, but not to an alarm, and make breakfast with my husband. (We have an excellent French toast recipe.) Then some kind of outdoor activity, like hiking or rock climbing, maybe with a couple of good friends. That builds up an excellent appetite, so we can stop for lunch on the way home. I’ll be pretty worn out then, so a quiet evening of reading or watching a movie with my husband would make a good end to the day. Maybe we’d wander outside to look at the stars. We live in a small town, so there aren’t many lights, and the high altitude means thin air so you can often see the band of the Milky Way. If there are shooting stars, even better!
Of course, a day where I don’t have to do anything but work on a novel is also perfect in its own way. Usually I have too many other jobs to only focus on fiction.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I almost always wear jeans in public (or shorts in hot weather), even someplace “dressier,” like a writing conference. I figure people think of me as the outdoorsy New Mexican, so it works. My favorite color is blue. I have several dragonfly or butterfly pendants, gifts from my husband. When I go to conferences, I wear blue tops and one of those pendants most days. I figure that you meet so many people, it can be hard to remember anyone, so maybe the color and jewelry will help as a memory trigger. Plus, if I get shy or nervous, having a gift from my sweetie helps.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
I can’t answer that question exactly, but I can tell you about experiences that inspired or influenced me. My family lived in Saudi Arabia when I was in grade school, and we visited a lot of other countries. I learned that not everyone lives, works, plays, and thinks like my family did. I think that gave me empathy, along with curiosity about other people and cultures.
I originally went to college to study photography. I learned that I didn’t want to be a visual artist, but I also learned a lot about creativity. Plus, I learned how to critique and how to take a critique, which are valuable skills for a writer. And finally, I wrote for the school paper, which got me interested in journalism.
I went back to school to study writing and publishing, but I was still focused on nonfiction. I took several creative writing classes, which I enjoyed, but I can’t say that one of them inspired me more than the others. After graduation, I started writing a novel mainly as something fun to do between temp jobs and looking for full-time work. Who knows, if I’d gotten a full-time job with a magazine earlier, I might never have written a novel!
Do you listen to music when you write?
I’ll put on music when I’m tidying my office, or cleaning house or exercising, but not while writing. It’s too distracting.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Mayan cocoa, spicy and exotic but still tasty and comforting. Counterfeits, like all my romantic suspense novels, is set in the Southwest, and we do like our chile (not to be confused with chili). Specifically, Counterfeits is set in the small town of Jemez Springs and the surrounding wilderness, and I hope it captures some of what makes New Mexico special. My books have tense action scenes, but you can count on a happy ending, too. I try to make my novels “comfort reads” with a little extra kick.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I’ve been at many writing retreats at a music camp near Jemez Springs, and that inspired the children’s art camp which the heroine inherits in my book. I hiked in the surrounding area and took photos and notes to capture the setting. The remote location provides for excellent action scenes and complications like limited cell phone service. I made it an art camp because I felt I could capture an artist’s persona after my time at Rhode Island School of Design.
I also wanted to write a linked trilogy, so the heroine’s two friends will feature in the next two books. So far my romantic suspense novels have been standalones, so it was fun and challenging developing a larger world for Counterfeits.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I think all writers write about characters who never give up – otherwise, you wouldn’t have a very long book. I also tend to write about the need to make your own choices and act on them. For example, my first published novel was a historical drama for children, The Well of Sacrifice (written as Chris Eboch). The heroine, a 12-year-old Mayan girl, fights the high priest who is trying to sacrifice anyone who stands in his way. She learns that she can’t count on the government, the gods, or her family to fix things – she must make her own choices and act on her beliefs.
In Counterfeits, Jenny’s dilemma is more personal. She’s been struggling to “make it” in the New York art world for a decade. When she inherits her grandmother’s art camp for children, she’s given the option of moving back to New Mexico to run the business with her two best friends and her love interest. But can she give up her dreams of fame and fortune? Which dreams fit her now?
I don’t consciously put those themes into every book, but when I look back, they’re often there. In What We Found, the heroine stumbles on a dead body in the woods. The man she’s with doesn’t want to tell anyone, to avoid police attention. Audra must decide where her loyalties lie, and when she chooses to tell the police, a lot of people aren’t happy. But she feels an obligation to the dead woman, and that choice leads her on a personal journey.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her to be the person she is today?
Jenny tends to make a decision and stick to it. While this determination can be a good thing, it also means she has trouble changing direction, even when she should. Her parents divorced when she was young, and her father then dropped in and out of her life, full of big dreams and plans that somehow never came to fruition. By dreaming big and working hard toward her dreams, Jenny may be both trying to please her father and trying to be different from him. She won’t be truly happy until she can separate his influence from her own desires.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
First, Georgia O’Keeffe, a painter who searched for inspiration and peace in New Mexico. Next, Milton Hershey – that may sound a bit odd, but I wrote a children’s book about him, so I know a lot about his life. He was very determined and kept trying despite repeated failures. Plus, like Jenny, his father was a dreamer who tended to screw up everything. And finally, Jo from Little Women. Kind of a loner, kind of a caretaker, she did what had to be done but it took her a while to find the right path for herself.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
The first of these write romantic suspense more than mystery, but I’d like to meet Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels, and Nora Roberts. Dorothy Gilman, because the Mrs. Pollifax mysteries were among my first favorite “grown-up” books. Tony Hillerman, who I met several times through an author’s lunch group in Albuquerque – lovely man. And my friend Robert Kresge, author of historical mysteries, because he’s a nice guy and easy to talk to. There are plenty of writers whose books I admire, but I don’t know if I’d enjoy their company, and I wouldn’t want meeting them to interfere with my appreciation for their work.
What’s next for you?
I need to plot out the next book in the art theft series that started with Counterfeits. (The books will be linked, but Counterfeits can stand alone.) I’m also planning to publish a middle grade novel about a boy who meets mysterious strangers camping in the woods. These projects must fit in around the work that pays the bills – nonfiction educational books, articles, paid critiques, and workshops.
Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Counterfeits starts a new series about art theft. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. Rattled follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. Read excerpts at http://www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page. Chris Eboch novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure. Learn more at http://www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page.