Jen: Today we welcome Kristina Mathews to Romancing the Book. Kristina, will you share a short bio with us?
Kristina: Kristina Mathews doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn’t until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing.
While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she’s remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member, or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books. She proudly tells her students she writes romance novels that they can read when they’re older.
Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. As a veteran road tripper, amateur renovator, and sports fanatic, she hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors, and someday throw out the first pitch for the San Francisco Giants.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Kristina: Making A Comeback was inspired partially by a photo of former San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito. In the photo, he was leaning against the backstop with his guitar at his feet. I knew I wanted to write a baseball player who was also an amateur musician. I also had a secondary character in Worth The Trade who I wanted to get to know better. Annabelle Jones was a former supermodel who is trying to restart her career after a divorce but an accident alters her plans and forces her to rely on yet another man, the man who ruined her ex-husband’s business. I wanted to show how two people can make mistakes and move past them, knowing that life isn’t going to be a fairy tale, despite the wishes of Annabelle’s young daughters. I play on the theme of prince charming and beauty being more than skin deep.
Jen: What age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
Kristina: I’ve always written and I couldn’t have made it through high school without my journals. One of my proudest moments was when my English teacher read one of my papers aloud to the whole class and no one could guess who wrote it. She encouraged me and left a lasting impression on me, but it wasn’t until I turned forty that I actually did anything about it. I’d attempted my first book as a newlywed of twenty-three, but job hunting, house hunting, and starting a family got in the way. I tried teaching, bookkeeping, and various temp jobs before admitting that what I really wanted to do was write.
I started several different books, a historical romance, women’s fiction examining the working vs. stay-at-home mom debate and a few others. The first book I actually finished was an inspirational secret baby spy thriller told mostly through wine-induced flashbacks. But the two most important words came out of that disaster. I wrote “The End.” I proved to myself that I could finish a book. I then started another book, knowing that this first attempt was extremely flawed. I wrote the next book, one that I thought might have potential, so I started researching books with a similar theme. I found agents who accepted romance submissions. Got my first rejection, and instead of giving up, I realized I really wanted to pursue this writing thing.
I discovered Romance Writers of America. They had a chapter in nearby Sacramento. I couldn’t attend the next meeting, since it was Opening Day of Little League for my kids. The following month was my anniversary. So in June of 2010 I attended my first meeting. I met some super supportive writers. They didn’t laugh at me when I couldn’t quite answer the “what do you write” question. I went back and I even participated in a three page read. I went to retreats, took workshops both in person and online. I entered contests, submitted to agents and editors. I got Hershey’s kisses for manuscript requests and Hershey’s Hugs for rejections. I even got jumbo chocolate bars for writing “The End” on a new project.
I entered an online pitch contest and was contacted by an editor from Lyrical Press. Even though I’d just received a harsh critique and another rejection that week, I knew that if I didn’t send it in I would always wonder. I hit send, thinking that maybe the world wasn’t ready for my sports romance, but I had to give it one last shot.
The editor sent a quick response telling me she had a few other projects in her inbox but she was looking forward to my book. A week later she sent an email telling me she loved the characters, enjoyed the conflict… I kept reading looking for the “but.” There was no “but.” She wanted to buy my book. I was reading this email on my phone and wasn’t sure I was reading it correctly, so I ran out to catch my husband as he was backing out of the driveway. I made him read it to be sure I had read it correctly. Better Than Perfect was released on April 7, 2014.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Kristina: I’m more of a pantser, in that I don’t do a written outline. I do generally start with a story idea, the main characters’ goals, motivations, and conflict. I write the opening scene and go forward from there. But I do spend a lot of time working out the story in my mind. I’m plotting while I’m in the shower, driving, at Jazzercise, trying to fall asleep. I’ve tried to outline my books ahead of time, follow plotting worksheets, etc, but I find I have to let my stories develop more organically. They do tend to fit the storytelling structure when I go back and break it all down, but that is something I have to do after the fact. Like when I was in high school, I would write the outline of my papers after I’d finished the papers, usually on the bus on my way to school the day it was due.
Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
Kristina: Love Always Wins
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Kristina: I read up on the Biogenesis scandal, and although MLB increased the suspension time for first offenders, the first book was already out when I gave Cooper the fifty game suspension. I also researched some of the Japanese teams, including Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong’s experience in Japan. I made my husband watch the 50th Anniversary Special of the Swimsuit Edition and I bought the issue for research purposes. The baseball stuff? I’ve been researching that for the past twenty-five years, 162 games a year, and more during even years when the my team makes the post season.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Kristina: The most challenging part is definitely promotion. I am not a salesperson. I hate asking for things like “buy my book” or “leave a review”. It’s getting easier, but never knowing what will work or even what will work for this book at this time is frustrating. But then I’ll get an email from a reader or a comment on my Facebook page telling me how much they enjoy my books and that genuinely makes my day. And I’m really grateful for the reviews that readers take the time to write. Especially the ones that really get what the book was about.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Kristina: Earning A Ring, Book Four in the More Than A Game series will be out in January of 2016. It features Bryce Baxter and Rachel Parker and a player to be named later. I’ve also started working on a fifth book in the series that features a rookie infielder trying to earn a spot on the roster and a female groundskeeper who wants to make a name for herself in a mainly male-dominated field.
I also have submitted a series featuring whitewater raft guides that I hope will be approved. I have three books planned, but other characters often pop up demanding to have their stories told.