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In 30 words or less…

Kristen Simmons has a master’s degree in social work and is an advocate for mental health. She lives with her family and their precious greyhound Rudy in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 30 words or more…

I was raised in Reno, Nevada—just below Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains—with horses and dogs and Red Angus cattle. When I was little I had a colorful imagination (read: I was a cheerful liar), and loved to write stories. I rocked spandex shorts and slouch socks, put too many scrunchies in my side ponytail, and watched The Goonies approximately one kajillion times. For a brief time, I dedicated myself to a future in professional hockey after careful study of The Mighty Ducks.

Fast forward to high school, where I became a triple threat of awesomeness: Girl Scouts, jazz choir and marching band. When I wasn’t playing the vibraphone or winning Nevada State Drum Major (thank you very much), I sold shoes at a department store.

During this time I met The Boy, who was forced to sit beside me in freshman Biology because our last names began with the same letter. After the inevitable geek vs. jock standoff (just to clarify, I was not the jock), we became inseparable friends, and had many adventures—the kind that involved sneaking out, or driving a car into a lake, or getting separated in class. The kind that typically meant we couldn’t hang out for a while afterwards.

Later, when I was moving away, The Boy stood in front of my car and declared his undying love, thus beginning the greatest adventure of all. One that now includes a sweet baby boy.

I attended several colleges in several states before finally graduating with a B.A. in psychology and a master’s in social work from the University of Nevada. A passion for helping survivors of trauma and abuse led me to become a mental health therapist. An addiction to all things chocolate led me to become a Jazzercise instructor. And a love for the written word led me to where I am today.

Thank you so very much for stopping by. Happy reading!

FAQ:

Have you always been a writer?
Yes! I have always loved stories. I love the way they can transport you to a different reality, make you see the world through different eyes, challenge your beliefs and make you dream. As a child, hearing stories made me want to tell stories (which sometimes got me in trouble). I wanted my life to be as exciting as the adventures I read, and so I made it that way.

In elementary school, I was taken out of class every Friday and sent to a creative writing program. There, I learned a new kind of writing—a kind where no one cared about grammar or spelling—but rather how you saw the world. It was liberating, especially considering I sucked (and still suck) at grammar.

I completed my first novel in college. It was bad (really bad), but I learned a lot during that process—the value of character development and the importance of a plot. Pesky things, really. More importantly, I learned that I could do it. And maybe most importantly, I learned that I couldn’t stop. So, I scrapped it, and started again.

For more on my journey to publication, visit my blog under the category: Getting Published.

Why do you write young adult books?
I write them because they are my favorite to read. I grew up reading Madeline L’Engle and Susan Cooper—authors who focused on the process of growing up, who strived to answer the questions of why we are the way we are, why we do the things we do and where our beliefs actually came from. Our experiences shape us, and young adult books outline those experiences, whether they are traumatic or funny or profoundly embarrassing. They document some of the most formative years of our life: the time when we try on new hats and experiment with who we want to be.

Will there be more books?
Yes. ARTICLE 5 is the first of a trilogy. The second book (BREAKING POINT) will be published by Tor Teen in February 2013.

Where do you get your ideas?
They come from all different places. People watching. Baking cookies. Watching the news. Dreams. Anywhere, really.

Are your characters based on real people?
Their actions are based on actions any person might have given their circumstances. If anything, they might be a little biased toward my perspective, as I’m their conduit to the real world, but any other similarities with another person are entirely coincidental.

What are your favorite books?
That’s a tough one—there are quite a few. One of my all time favorites is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I read that every couple years.

Some of my favorite authors include: Patrick Ness, John Green, Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling, David Levithan, Cassandra Clare, Kristin Cashore, C.S. Lewis, Stephanie Perkins, Katie McGarry, and of course anything by the Apocalypsies!

Some other non-YA books that I think are particularly fantastic are The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

Do you really teach Jazzercise?
Yes. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Do you have any advice for writers wanting to get published?
Read a lot and write a lot about anything and everything. I won’t say don’t get discouraged because getting published is hard and sometimes heart-breaking, but I will say don’t give up. If it’s your dream, keep working at it. Keep taking risks and putting yourself out there. Learn as much about the publishing industry as you can. It took me seven years to find an agent. If I can do this, you can.

What is a “mental health advocate”?
Someone who helps to eradicate the stigma associated with mental health symptoms by spreading the message that all people deserve to be treated with respect and can reach their goals and thrive. No one should be ashamed of their struggles, and no one should feel afraid to seek help. I hope to one day see a world where someone feels just as comfortable going to the doctor for a cold as they do going to a therapist to talk about their parents’ divorce. Resources for help can be found on my blog under the category: Mental Health.