2020 Debut Author Interview: Kristin Lambert

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun this year as well! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2020 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
At the end of 2019, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Kristin Lambert and her novel THE BOY IN THE RED DRESS, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Kristin on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Kristin Lambert

Kristin Lambert lives in a house littered with the remains of the many craft hobbies she learned just to procrastinate writing. Her husband, two daughters, two cats and a dog live there, too, somewhere. She has a BA in journalism and creative writing, and her most prized possessions are her childhood teddy bear Bubbles and a pair of red cowboy boots. 

Keep up with Kristin: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Kristin: Thank you! It’s like eating birthday cake every day, but you’re eating it while riding on a wobbly fairground coaster, and you’re not sure if you might fly off the track and smash against a railing, but you’re also grinning? And your face is full of buttercream? It’s a very confusing time is what I’m saying. Full of emotions -- elation, anxiety, pride, terror, satisfaction, frustration. Did I say anxiety? I’m an anxious wreck at the best of times, so it’s been A LOT. But being an author is also my biggest dream, that I’ve had since I was a little girl and wrote a letter to Ann M. Martin (of The Baby-sitters Club fame) asking her how to become an author. (Yes, she wrote back a lovely letter, which I still have. I don’t even care if it was probably a form letter; Ann M. Martin made 10-year-old me feel AWESOME, and I’ll never forget it.) Anyway, there are so many moments when 10-year-old me pops through the anxiety cloud and says “YO LOOK YOU ARE DOING IT!! YOU ARE AN ACTUAL AUTHOR!!! THIS IS THE MOST TOTALLY RAD THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED!!!!” (Full disclosure: 10-year-old me was alive in the 80s and owned a holographic sticker that said “radicool.”)
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?
Kristin: I love editing, have always loved it since I worked as a copy editor for my college newspaper. I am obsessive about putting commas and quotation marks in the right places; it’s a sickness, and everyone who’s ever CPed with me is probably groaning right now and shaking their fists at me because I am a curse upon all their houses. But really, the punctuation is just a teeny part of it and doesn’t matter that much to good writing. My favorite part is figuring out the puzzle of exactly how to make a scene or a story flow better and have the most impact, and looking for that just-right word or phrase. I feel all swoony just thinking about it. BUT to get to all that editing I love, I first have to write a first draft, which I kind of hate. I think a large percentage of writers struggle with the first draft, so I’m not alone, but it’s still LONELY out there with that cursor blinking at you on that big white page. Mostly these days, I do a ginormous outline, then speed through the first draft so I can get it over with as quickly as humanly possible.

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the inspiration for THE BOY IN THE RED DRESS?
Kristin: I got the inspiration for TBITRD when I randomly looked up actress Mae West, which led me to learning about her connection to the so-called “Pansy Craze” of the early 30s, when drag performers went from being part of the queer subculture to becoming all the rage in the mainstream speakeasies in cities from New York to Detroit to Los Angeles. I’d never heard of this “craze” before, so I had to know more and more and more! Then I read about Karyl Norman, who was one of the most famous drag queens, or “female impersonators,” as they were more often called at the time. He was AMAZING and had all these elaborate costumes that his mom made, while traveling around with him to his performances around the country. He was my first glimmer of inspiration for Marion, and the reason I gave him the name Marion Leslie -- like Karyl, the name Marion was used at the time just as often for men as women, so it had an adrogynous quality that I knew my character would appreciate. I immediately pictured him having a female best friend, who was the niece of the club owner, and it was her voice I heard right away. New Orleans is my favorite city, so it was an obvious place to set the story, and in my research, I found there actually was at least one secret queer speakeasy in New Orleans, in the back of a fur coat factory. I choose to believe there were more that never got written about! They were secret after all!

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?
Kristin: Honestly, I adore them all. My main character Millie is the opposite of me in many ways, so that’s fun to write. She has like zero anxiety, and she’s such a smartass, especially when it makes things worse for her. The one thing about her that is like me is that she’s fiercely loyal to the people she loves. She’s also bisexual, like me, though unlike me, it didn’t take her an eternity to figure it out. I also always have fun writing Marion, her best friend, who is the most adorable angel face but also always calls Millie on her shit. And even Gladys, Millie’s mom, who is kind of horrible -- she’s like I channeled all the worst parts of myself into a character and turned them up to eleven, so that’s fun, too, like I get to UNLEASH THE KRAKEN.
The Book Bratz: As a writer, how do you plan when plotting a mystery with so many twists and turns and secrets? How do you keep track of it all?
Kristin: I make a gigantic Scrivener file full of folders about all the characters, the clues, potential suspects and what they’re hiding, lists of everything. I LOVE LISTS. I have a file that’s literally just a list of all the characters and what their secrets are. When I’m writing each scene, I keep a note open at the side of the screen in Scrivener that says what my goals are for this scene, and where I’m trying to take the story, or else I’ll just have my characters bantering for 2,000 words and then realize nothing has happened to move the story forward. 

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from THE BOY IN THE RED DRESS?
Kristin: I hope readers will fall in love with the sense of found family and community in TBITRD, especially if they don’t have it in their current lives. I want them to know it exists out there, and always has; throughout history, queer folks have found ways to be together as a community and share our experiences.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of THE BOY IN THE RED DRESS in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Kristin: I don’t have immediate plans to return to the world of TBITRD, but I would honestly LOVE to in the future. I love these characters so much, and even after spending UMPTEEN ZILLION YEARS working on this book, I’d spend a zillion more with them! I have a few ideas for how that could work, so we’ll see in the future! As for the present, I’m working on a middle grade project about cousins solving a mystery at a secretive world-famous theme park.

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Title: The Boy in the Red Dress
Author: Kristin Lambert
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 12th, 2020

Summary: New Year's Eve, 1929. Millie is running the show at the Cloak & Dagger, a swinging speakeasy in the French Quarter, while her aunt is out of town. The new year is just around the corner, and all of New Orleans is out to celebrate, but even wealthy partiers' diamond earrings can't outshine the real star of the night: the boy in the red dress. Marion is the club's star performer and his fans are legion--if mostly underground. When a young socialite wielding a photograph of Marion starts asking questions, Millie wonders if she's just another fan. But then her body is found crumpled in the courtyard, dead from an apparent fall off the club's balcony, and all signs point to Marion as the murderer. Millie knows he's innocent, but local detectives aren't so easily convinced. As she chases clues that lead to cemeteries and dead ends, Millie's attention is divided between the wry and beautiful Olive, a waitress at the Cloak & Dagger, and Bennie, the charming bootlegger who's offered to help her solve the case. The clock is ticking for the fugitive Marion, but the truth of who the killer is might be closer than Millie thinks..

Thank you so much to Kristin for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about THE BOY IN THE RED DRESS and can't wait for it to be out in the world on May 12th

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

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