Image of a heart with rainbows

Author Interview: Krystina Rivers Chats about An Atlas to Forever

Author Chat IHS Logo
Get ready to learn more about the book An Atlas to Forever in this discussion with sapphic author Krystina Rivers.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Krystina Rivers about An Atlas to Forever, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Cute Animals category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write An Atlas to Forever?

My dog, Clark, has always been an anxious dog, and my wife and I talked pretty extensively about taking him to a veterinary behaviorist. Instead, we did a lot of research on dog behavior, counter conditioning, desensitization, etc. and got him into a better place. This experience gave me the idea of a woman who wasn’t a dog person getting forced into adopting a dog with a lot of anxiety issues. Not that we weren’t dog people, but we were relatively dog novices and had no idea what we were getting into with Clark, and that sparked a lot of ideas for a story. However, shortly after starting Atlas, my wife deployed with the National Guard, which was hard on all of us—Clark maybe most of all because he didn’t understand what was happening. I travel a fair amount for work, and between my wife being gone for ten months and me traveling regularly, Clark started to regress, and I ended up taking him to a veterinary behaviorist. Although I certainly didn’t have the same personal experiences as Ellie does throughout her journey with Atlas and Hayden, most of the animal training, interactions, medications, etc. were all based in part on what we went through with Clark.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

This is an impossible question in this book! Atlas’s personality is based on my own dog Clark, so I want to say Atlas, but I also love Ellie and Hayden. Ellie and I have similar jobs (when I’m not writing books), which was fun to write, but Hayden is still my favorite human character in the book. She’s had past traumas that gave her a fear of commitment—so much so that she lives on a houseboat so she can pull up anchor and move away at a moment’s notice. Watching her slowly soften and lower her walls bit by bit was a lot fun. Her character is very unlike me, and maybe that is what I enjoyed—writing someone who was so completely different from me and my experiences in life. A study of how opposites attract I suppose.

What part of An Atlas to Forever was the most fun to write?

I loved writing all the push and pull and tension in this book. Hayden and Ellie are so attracted to each other, but Hayden doesn’t want anything permanent, and Ellie is looking for her true love, so it clearly isn’t going to work. I love reading sexual tension between two MCs trying to repress it for half of a book—brushes of hands, heated gazes with uncomfortable and quick looks away, frustration at themselves that they can’t get this little attraction under control—and I suspect that is why I really enjoyed writing it in An Atlas to Forever in particular. And then the moment when they give in… It’s electric.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

The title came to me when I was naming Atlas as a character. I had looked up names for beefy dogs and Atlas was one of them. As I started playing with it in my mind I spun around the idea of maps and where love could go, and I eventually came up with An Atlas to Forever. However, it was almost An Atlas to Love, which I occasionally forget and accidentally use. In readings. For my book. To my massive embarrassment.

Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Because I travel a lot for work, I need to be flexible with what I need in my writing space. When I am home, I normally lounge on my couch or sit on my back deck (if the weather is nice anyway) and write. I am easily distracted by the TV, but I also don’t like it to be completely silent, so I typically listen to instrumental music or put on Earth Moods, a National Geographic show that has beautiful cinematography of natural wonders around the world but is set to music with no narrator.

That being said, I probably spend as much time writing on the road as I do at home. I love to write at airport bars, which may seem a little unbelievable, but there is something about the chaos of the airport terminal surrounding me that helps me focus. It’s like white noise to me. I also write a lot in hotel rooms, coffee shops, hotel bars, on the L, etc. Anywhere that I have time and my laptop—or my iPad in the case of the train—and maybe a glass of wine. And/or a mug of tea.

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

I have a hard time eating while I write because a hand that isn’t on the keyboard isn’t writing, and food becomes something else to distract me. I will occasionally have cheese and crackers, but I still tend to do more eating than writing, so it’s a bad idea.

However, I do always write with a drink at hand. I normally have hot tea or sparkling water. My favorite teas are white vanilla grapefruit tea and butterfly pea flower tea—also known by the Latin name of clitoria ternatea, or as I call it, sapphic tea. Even though I am now writing my fifth book, I still also always have either wine or bourbon when I write sex scenes. A little alcohol helps me tap into my creativity—and dampen my inhibitions – which has also been useful when I have encountered a case of writer’s block.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?

I have received two great pieces of advice that I follow. The first was from the amazing Georgia Beers. On one of the first panels I ever attended, she said something along the lines of, don’t stop writing at the end of a chapter. Always try to stop mid-scene so it is easier to pick back up where you left off, and I find it to be such a useful trick. Starting with a blank page at the beginning of a book is an exciting moment for me because the book can go anywhere I want it to, but staring at a blank page at the start of a chapter somewhere mid-book when I don’t have any momentum in that writing session is terrifying—it has given me writer’s block before, so that nugget of advice has been wonderful.

The second piece of advice is that you don’t have to write every scene in order. At first, I thought that wouldn’t work for my process, as I really like to tell a story chronologically from start to finish because so much unfolds about the story to me as I write it. However, I soon realized that if I was having trouble with a particular scene, I could skip over it and come back later. That was game changing for me because I used to beat myself up to try to push through a scene even if it wasn’t working, which certainly never helped my writing process. Regardless of the reason I struggle with a scene, it always seems to flow better when I go back later—be it a few days or when I finish the book or somewhere in between. Unfortunately I can’t remember where I heard this and who deserves the credit, but thank you if it was you!

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

This is so hard. I do have to be in the right emotional state if I am going to write something difficult or emotionally charged. I’ll try to work my way into the emotion as I write and use the momentum to carry me through, but if it isn’t working, sometimes I will skip the scene for the time being and go back to it when I am feeling the emotions more.

Have you ever cried when writing an emotional scene?

Yes, I have. I don’t want to give the specifics of the scene for those who haven’t read An Atlas to Forever, but there is one scene in the book that I cried when I wrote, I cried when I edited it, I cried when I did page proofs, and I still cry when I think about it too hard. I hated including that scene, but it felt important for Hayden’s character development, and even though I know it was a risky move, I feel certain it was the right choice. But I still hated it.

What books did you grow up reading?

I have always loved romance first and foremost. I grew up reading Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips—they were my favorites when I was a teen. As I got older I also moved into romantic suspense but as time went by I got a little disillusioned by always reading heterosexual romance. It was frustrating that there weren’t any lesbian couples that I could relate to in the stories. I found Curious Wine in a used bookstore back around 2000 and shortly thereafter I found Heart on Fire by Diana Simmonds, but after that I had a drought. I read and reread those books so many times I can’t even count. They got me through the dark days of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell when my (now) wife and I were separated by thousands of miles, and I had to pretend that I wasn’t gay. I would always look in bookstores for queer books, but they were so few and far between back then.

When I got my first kindle, it opened my world to so many sapphic books and I’ve moved almost exclusively to reading sapphic now. I’ll still read an occasional Nora Roberts book or if I want to shake things up I’ll read Harlan Coben or Stephen King, but I am always drawn back to sapphic romance like a magnet. It is what makes me the happiest, and it is why it’s what I always want to write. I love the charge you get from a happily ever after. I don’t have a lot of free time, but when I read, I want to read a book that makes me feel good. There is so much ugliness in the world but an hour reading a light love story… for me, it helps to lighten whatever negativity might be dragging me down on any given day.

What books have you read more than once in your life?

I read most of my favorite books over and over again. Even though I know the ending, it’s still fun to go back and relive the story with the characters. It’s like going home for the holidays—it’s always the same, but it’s always a little different too; it nourishes my soul. I also find familiar books wonderful when life is stressful, and I just need a little certainty. Knowing what happens next and that everything is going to be happy in the end provides a lot of comfort in uncertain times.

I also use audiobooks to lull me to sleep. It’s hard to sleep in a quiet and unfamiliar hotel room alone, so I started using my favorite books that I nearly know by heart to help me get comfortable enough to sleep. I’ve even taken to doing it at home rather than having the TV or music on for a little background sound.

The list of books that I reread over and over is quite long, but a few of my favorites are: Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest (of course), Heart on Fire by Diana Simmonds, Who’d Have Thought by G. Benson, the entire Soho Series by Melissa Brayden, Temptation by Kris Bryant, Blend by Georgia Beers, Turbulence by EJ Noyes, The Crush by Susan X. Meagher…I really could go on and on and on here.

Meet Krystina Rivers

Krystina has been a lover of romance novels since she was probably too young to read them and developed an affinity for sapphic romance after she found her first one on a shelf in a used bookstore in 2001. Despite a lifelong desire, she never made the time to write her own until the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and she had extra time with no daily commute or work travel.

Krystina grew up in Florida but, after spending six years in the military, finds herself now calling Chicago home – though she frequently travels so often for work that she forgets what city she’s in. She works in real estate and lives with her wife and their two rescue pit bulls. When not working, traveling, or writing, Krystina can be found reading with a glass of wine in hand, doing yoga (occasionally with a glass of wine in hand), snuggling with her fur-babies, or trying to convince herself that it’s not too cold to go for a jog outside.

Visit Krystina’s Website

share on:

Author Interview