Kris Calvin Interview - Under a Broken Sky

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Award-winning author Kris Calvin served as a local elected official and CEO of a nonprofit, nonpartisan, children's advocacy organization before turning to writing thrillers and mysteries full-time. A single mom, Kris and her kids live with black cat Nigel, Bernese Mountain Dog puppy Fox, and two recently rescued orange tabby kittens, Eddy and Ellis, (brothers!) found on the streets of San Francisco.


What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Under A Broken Sky is the first book I’ve written start to finish on a contract with a publisher. I had a year in which to do it, a tight timeline since I don’t outline, which means I can go in a variety of directions before settling on a final version I’m happy with—it took me four years and 17 drafts to complete All That Fall, my book before this one!

On top of that, when I was only a few chapters into Under A Broken Sky, I lost my day job, and the bottom fell out of my routine and the financial security I’d come to rely upon.

As a result, I had serious difficulties focusing on my writing.

In the end, I found that what worked was giving myself permission to “fail”. I let go of the looming deadline in my head and accepted that this story would take whatever time it took to tell. I was lucky—it took only one month over the due date, and my publisher graciously gave me that 30-day extension. While it felt like a trial by fire (which might be why there is an arson central to the plot of Under A Broken Sky) the experience made me confident that I can write a book a year going forward, a goal I hadn’t been sure I could achieve.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
In high school English my freshman year we were assigned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. In it, the main character, Francie, is the victim of a sexual assault. Unfortunately, like too many children and teens, I’d had a similar experience. I’d pushed it far away, perhaps thinking I could make it as though it had never happened.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn offered a path, within its pages, for me to understand that these kinds of terrible things happen to others, andthat perhaps it wasn’t my fault or my shame to carry forward.

Betty Smith’s writing was clear and the overall story was hopeful. It was life-changing, as it showed me the power of fiction to help process hard realities.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?

When I was studying psychology in graduate school, I was given an in-depth look at various schools of thought in therapy. We learned about Freudian psychoanalysis, which at its core examines long-ago/childhood roots of problems. We were also trained in cognitive therapy, which has a goal of modifying the dysfunctional behaviors that result from hard psychological histories, without going back and investigating their cause. But the approach I found most interesting was the form of counseling known as “Narrative Therapy”. In it, the patient is encouraged to step away from whatever has been the dominant “story of their lives” and is instead asked to weave their strengths and desires into an equally true, but more positively-constructed narrative.

For example, my own “life story” could include that I was “unfocused” as an undergraduate since I attended five different colleges and switched majors four times—from theater, to French, to business, before finally landing on psychology. But the same history could be framed, instead, that I was unwilling to settle for checking the box of a degree, but rather wanted to experience different schools and cities and fields of study in a way that enriched my perspective on life.

Both narratives are arguably “true”. But if I embrace the more positive version, the optimism and greater self-esteem that can come with its repetition, when added up over all ”the stories of my life”, has potential tremendous psychological benefits.

I believe that for everyone, story-telling, beginning with our own stories, but also creating wholly new, fictional tales that engage and offer entertainment, has benefits, both personal and public, and is among the greatest capabilities we have as humans.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Being a published author gave me an unusual opportunity to thank two women, my lifelong friend Kathy and my cousin Lori, who have consistently been there for me, lifting me up and over barriers—any success I’ve had in my life is in part due to them. The ability to express my gratitude “To Kathy” (All That Fall) and “To Lori” (Under A Broken Sky) up front on an otherwise blank page where it will last as long as the book does, feels as important as anything that has happened to me through the process of being published.

Greatest thing you learned at school.
When I was in kindergarten we lined up to face the chalkboard at the front of the room, each five-year-old holding a piece of chalk in our right hand. We were told to extend our arms and draw an “x” directly in front of our right hand on the board. Then our teacher directed us to turn around, our backs to the board, and look over our right shoulders.

The “x” was no longer there!

It had “moved” so that it was over our left shoulders.

I assume the purpose of the exercise was to teach us our left from our right, but for me it demonstrated nothing less than the existence of magic, and that things I took for granted, everyday things, could surprise me!

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
The Wizard of Oz!

I was terrified by the Wicked Witch of the West when I was little. But now I think how amazing it would have been to create that range of marvelous characters, and to have crafted a story where against all odds, in the end Dorothy was home and safe. (And I loved Aunt Em.)

What is the first job you have had?
A preschool aide.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
3 things I want to accomplish that day.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
Hawaii with my eight-year old son, when the beaches were closed due to contamination so we couldn’t go in the water. We found ways to enjoy the island that were completely different from what we had planned.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Love. Still open to it (...and that’s saying something…)

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
That while I might not look great, I don’t look as bad as the image I carry of myself in my head. (I know I’m not alone in that.)

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
The best thing that happened to me that day. I force myself to come up with something “good” even on difficult days, and I never allow myself to review the bad things before I go to sleep.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I was 19 when I met my husband, and we had two kids in two years. I think it likely I didn’t give our marriage enough of a chance. If I could go back, I wouldn’t leave him, at least not as soon as I did.

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
Santa Claus—don’t get me started on whether he’s real! I’d love to be able to make every child’s wish come true across the world in one night. I’d also like to apologize to Rudolph for forcing him to wait for a foggy night to have a turn at leading the sleigh.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
I’m afraid of jigsaw puzzles. Even easy ones scare me.

Meet the Characters
The characters in my fictional work appear to me in my imagination visually as though I’m watching a TV show or movie. I don’t “construct them”. They just show up! That said, after our initial meeting, it’s not unusual for me to make changes in their histories or even their appearance as I move through a story and see how everyone fits together and what the plot demands.

In Under A Broken Sky, Emma Lawson, my main protagonist, at age 33 is California’s youngest ethics investigator, conducting investigations to uncover state-level corruption. Emma brings energy, integrity and courage to that high-profile position. Orphaned as a child, she’s made her work her life, with the exception of her best (her only?) friend Kate, a single parent who runs a local preschool, and Kate’s teenage son, Luke—Emma is the closest thing to a second parent that Luke has.

Emma is considered to be “on the right side of pretty”: tall, with glossy auburn hair and deep green eyes sprinkled with gold. She has a flair for mid-century style in her clothing and drives a 1967 black and white Mustang convertible.

Emma would like to get past her trust issues and find “the right man”, but work and the danger it brings seem to always get in the way. Though there is one intriguing man who crosses paths with Emma because of their respective employment: Homicide Detective Alibi Morning Sun, head of Major Crimes, is the other lead character in the story.

While Emma pursues corruption cases, Alibi follows the bodies to track down killers.

When they first met, Emma had asked Alibi about his unusual name. It turns out, at fifteen, he’d overheard his aunt telling his uncle that the timing of his birth had cleared his father of a murder rap. Upon holding his newborn son for the first time, his father had reportedly exclaimed, “Oh my beautiful alibi.” The rest, as they say, was history.

Emma soon learned that wasn’t the only unusual thing about the detective. He couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old when he’d first had the experience of physically sensing danger when no obvious external signs were there. Alibi’s mother had told him to heed the warnings: she’d said it didn’t matter whether it was the gift of the second sight from God, which she believed, or simply that he had a sensitivity to things in the here and now that others missed.

Both books featuring Emma and Alibi—All That Fall and Under A Broken Sky— can be read as “stand-alones”; the cases are distinct and do not carry over from one book to the next. They are each also ensemble pieces, in which other significant characters have opportunities to provide their points of view.

I enjoyed spending time with Emma and Alibi, and I hope you do too!

Emma Lawson uncovers greed and deception for a living, but this is different. If only she knew this killer can see her.

He can hear her.

One year into her prized role as the youngest ethics investigator in California's history, Emma suspects corruption in the state's billion dollar expansion to train travel. But that unwittingly puts her on a killer's trail—a killer who will do anything to reach his illicit million dollar payday, including personally eliminating Emma Lawson as a threat.

Detective Alibi Morning Sun sees connections where no one else does. A drowning at a lake, a fire in a storage facility and a murder by the river carry a thread soaked in blood.

As Emma follows the money and Alibi traces bullets and bodies, the killer counts down to his grand finale. With each mounting danger, it quickly becomes apparent that the corruption Emma has been digging for is real—and it’s deadly.

Three days. Two days. Now only one…

You can purchase Under a Broken Sky at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KRIS CALVIN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Under a Broken Sky by Kris Calvin.
1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

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