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Author Interview: Kristen Zimmer Chats about When Sparks Fly

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Get ready to learn more about the book When Sparks Fly in this discussion with sapphic author Kristen Zimmer.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Kristen Zimmer about When Sparks Fly, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Found Family category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write When Sparks Fly?

I wrote When Sparks Fly during the Covid quarantine. I’m very close with my family, so it was exceptionally hard for me to be separated from them by 300 miles for so long. They were constantly on my mind, and I got to thinking about what my life would be like and who I would be as a person if I hadn’t had the family I do. So, I wanted to write a story about a girl who wasn’t as lucky as I’ve been, who never had a family, and how loving and being loved is so integral to us all.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

Britton is my favorite character. And she is, in many ways, a younger version of me: she’s nonchalant about having people in her life because she’s hesitant to trust that any of them will stay. In spite of that, she’s a fixer: she has a soft heart and when she cares, she cares deeply.

What was the biggest challenge writing this book?

Trying to maintain sensitivity to Britton’s circumstances while balancing her “it is what it is” mentality. I didn’t want her to come across as indifferent, but I also didn’t want to get bogged down in the hardest experiences she’d lived through. She’s a survivor and she has hope.

What part of When Sparks Fly was the most fun to write?

The “coming out” scene. It was mortifying but also so endearing.

How much research did you need to do for When Sparks Fly?

I did a substantial amount of research. As an educator, I’ve seen the foster care system from an adult professional’s perspective, and I’ve been blessed to have some incredible students who lived the experience. I had a lot of conversations with those kids and with social workers to try to form a more complete picture of what life for a foster kid might look like. It was eye opening: there are horror stories, but there are also happy endings.

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

The moment I close the manuscript, I pour a mimosa. And I do mean I beeline to the fridge for the moscato and orange juice.

Do you have a pet who helps/hinders your typing?

Trouble, my 9-year-old tabby cat, absolutely hates when my laptop is open. He’s very independent, not usually an attention-seeker, EXCEPT when I’m writing. Then he needs to be the center of the universe— in my lap, lounging across the keyboard, rubbing his face against the screen. He refuses to let me write in peace. But it’s kinda sweet and he’s very cute, so I put up with it.

When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?

Music. I find a song or playlist that captures the tone I’m going for in a given scene and then listen to it obsessively until I’m done writing.

What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?

I love speculative fiction, anything high concept, dark and weird: sci-fi, horror, and dystopian in particular. I think I like it so much because whenever I feel like the real world is bleak, I can pick up a book set in a downright hellacious world and remind myself that ‘hey, at least we’re not making kids hunt each other for sport on live tv.’

What books did you grow up reading?

Animorphs and Goosebumps were my entire childhood. I’d forgo the company of my peers to get lost in one of those. I maintain that Goosebumps was my ‘gateway drug’ to Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Sylvia Plath, who were all incredibly lyrical with their writing. I try to write prose with a bit of that poetic flair; it just hits different.

Describe your favorite reading spot.

Dead Horse Beach in Salem, MA on a warm, sunny day with my back pressed against a boulder and my toes in the water. Perfection.

Meet Kristen Zimmer

Kristen Zimmer is the international best-selling author of new adult sapphic fiction titles The Gravity Between Us and When Sparks Fly. When not writing, she can be found yelling about the Boston Red Sox and stressing out her two cats at her home in Salem, MA.


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Author Interview