Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Author Interview: Kim Flores
To welcome you back from your holiday weekend, I bring you Biblio Files first ever author interview!
Kim Flores wrote the wonderful Gamma Glamma, which I reviewed for the last issue of The Edge of the Forest.
But here's the interview!
Were you a total science geek in school?
In school, I wouldn’t say I was a geek but I was a hybrid of sorts because I was in band, I twirled knives, worked on the annual staff and student council. I hung out with smart geeks and the “beautiful people”. I was a challenge to label.
What I did like about school was that it was the ultimate science experiment. Every day something was changing (your clothes, haircuts, your friends and your dramas) You had to constantly adapt and try new things and face fears in order to not only thrive but survive. I call it “the most wonderful horrible time of my life”.
I ate all the jelly beans you sent and while my tongue turned cool colors, my skin is still so white it glows in the dark. What did I do wrong?
Oh, you probably didn’t eat enough so I’m sending you a ten-pound box next time. But do you really want to lose that glorious white glow in the dark skin? Who doesn’t like things that glow in the dark?
And with mad skills like that, your crush would love you even more because you would have the ability to find seats at the movie theaters when the lights were dim.
You totally named Luz's crush, Swen after your guy. Confess.
Yes it’s true. Swen is named after my crush Mike. Mike is like Swen in a tons of ways. He does wear white shirts, wear old skool Addidas and he is a very gifted writer. And not to mention, he’s so cute and manly that I tell him that I think he’s “man-some”!
They say write what you know and so, I did. It was funny because as I was writing, I totally began crushing on the make-believe Swen. And then when I would see my real one, I would actually feel guilty like I was two timing. Strange, I know.
Also another behind the book look is that Luz’s dog Shortie is named after one of my three dogs. Both Shorties are infamous for their silent, deadly farts. I love my dog and he’s amazing but his “silent killers” not so much.
Luz is Latina, but it's not a major issue in the book. In a lot of YA lit, being non-white is a major plot point. Why is that?
Being another ethnicity like Latino, African American, Native American, Asian or even from Mars can give a unique perspective because sometimes you do get treated different (for better or for worse) due to the color of you skin.
It’s not a major issue in this book because this is how I grew up. Yes, I dealt with some discrimination issues but in the high school I grew up in, we had a nice mix of black, white and brown and we weren’t segregated as friends. In fact, we were more concerned about what we were going to wear to the dance or what we were going to do on the weekend than anything else.
I attribute this because I grew up in a big city and the fact that everyone’s parents were extremely active in PTA.
All stories ethnic or not have their place, but for me I would love to continue writing stories where the color of the characters’ skin doesn’t matter because the audience is more interested about the characters’ life experiences.
To me, that would show that as a human race we have truly begun to evolve beyond color. And wouldn’t that rocking?
Texas gets a bad rap outside of Texas. Tell us why Texas is actually awesome. (I married a Texan, so I know this is true.)
Texas is a character in itself. Some love it. Some hate it. But Texas can never be overlooked because, well.... we’re crazy. And not in the gun-toting kind of way, I must say.
We’re crazy because we say, “Hi, hello, or howdy” to everyone we meet. We thrive on being the best (that said that goes for our football teams, pageants, shopping, cars, hamburgers and everything else.)
Texas is also crazy for it’s kindness.
I was born and raised here and even though I’ve worked other places, I will always have a place here because I’ve never met anyone as generous as folks here.
The outpouring of kindness that I have witnessed over the years in Texas is jaw-dropping amazing - like helping to care for families when they’ve lost their house to fire or unemployment to the little things like giving directions, opening a doors or finding homes for stray pets.
It’s really easy to take all this kindness for granted when you travel to another state or country and you DON’T experience it. That’s when you are the most grateful.
If I had to make a state motto it would be “We’re crazy but we’re kind.“
What's your new book, American Twirl, about?
American Twirl is very different from Gamma Glamma in that it deals with more challenging issues. But like Gamma Glamma it’s all about the decisions you make and the outcomes of those decisions - especially long term.
It takes place in Mt. Pleasant Texas which is an hour and half outside Dallas. There is a fifteen year old girl named Blaze and she’s about to start her freshman year. She used to be a twirler along with her older sister but quit right before her mom died.
Her mom was a twirling teacher. Their dad drives a truck and has left the daughters to fend for themselves with a few hundred dollars. This is the first time Blaze is going to be with her sister Belinda in school since elementary. The sisters don’t get along because Belinda still twirls and Blaze hangs out with a group of misfits from a school called Metro. She was sent there after setting a football field on fire. Thus the name “Blaze.” Her real name is Francine. And she is a cutter.
This book comes from many of my own experiences of being a twirler, having an older sister who was a twirler (And my mom was too). And being a cutter.
I wanted to write about a cutting because it’s still a really foreign thing to many people. Most people can understand eating disorders and substance abuse but cutting is still considered pretty unusual and can be a bi-product of other traumatic events or conditions.
I wanted to put cutting in a new context since it’s often portrayed very over the top in movies and books. So, I just brought my own “normal” experience of it.
But it’s ultimately for anyone’s who been on the outside and burning on the inside. American Twirl is a humorous story of pain, passion and having the courage to face fire in order to ignite your life.
You were a twirler in school. Every time I try to twirl a baton, I end up hitting myself in the head. Any tips?
How about wearing a helmet? Just kidding. Twirling or like anything else you feel passionate about takes patience and lots of practice and staying in the moment.
If you are worried about what happened to you in the past, or what might happen to you in the future, you totally miss the present moment. And when you take your attention away from that, that’s when you get knocked in the head by a baton or another one of life’s unpleasant surprises to remind you to stay present in the present.
What else are you working on?
I love this question because I really want to say things like I’m working on a nap, fitting into a smaller size of pants, begging “Swen” that we really need one more dog and these are all true but here’s what else is shaking.
My other half Mike Swenson and I are about to pitch three shows to Nickelodeon. One is an animated show and the other two are girl buddy comedies that are live action shows. This takes a lot of time because it’s not just coming up with cool show ideas but it’s also doing research of what types of shows are being produced and created AROUND THE WORLD so that you are not pitching a show that is already being done or is currently on the air.
It’s a lot of work but it’s an amazing opportunity to get to present to these folks.
After that I already have plans for my next three novels.
Back in film world, Mike and I are also helping my father finish a documentary called Hispanics in the 1950’s. It’s an interesting look at growing up in the 1950’s in South Texas.
We are also working on our websites. In addition to kimflores.com, we will have a separate site to showcase our commercial work.
And then, finally, I hope to be able to work on my Needy Babies toy line. Whew!
Where’s that nap?
Your film, Vocessitas/Little Voices won an American Latino Media Arts Award. Tell us about it!
Vocessitas/Little Voices was a film that Mike and I wrote, produced, co-directed, and edited ourselves. It was an intense labor of love. It was one of the hardest things we had to do.
The story was about a woman who was raped but unsuccessfully tries to deal with it by herself and it’s only when she becomes involved with a pen pal girl from Guatemala she sponsors through a church program that she actually begins to find help.
We were honored to be nominated for the ALMA award and we were really excited when we won. We were in the audience with Jennifer Lopez when she was just starting out and winning awards for the movie Selena. Tyra Banks was also sitting in front of us and she looked amazing (and still does).
I was also really excited to see Rita Moreno who is a Latina that I looked up to all my life, especially when she was on the Electric Company.
It was a very special night and that experience also helped open many doors for Mike and myself after that.
How is making movies different than writing? (And, inversely, how is it similar?)
I’ll start with how writing for books and writing for movies are the same. It’s the same because you are creating a story that you hope that people will enjoy spending time with.
I like writing novels because it’s only me that I’m dealing with (at least at that moment) and I feel the same is true when writing a screenplay unless I am writing with a partner.
When your book is done and sold it goes through an edit process and you more than likely will work with an editor and proofreader. After going through other hands your story may change slightly or could change a lot depending on the editor.
In filmmaking, it’s the same process. Especially in independent filmmaking. You can write the grandest of visions but if you don’t have the time or money you will have to rewrite to make things work. And you story may evolve as well.
How making movies is different from just sitting and writing by yourself with your stinky dogs is that you are dealing with anywhere from 20 to 50 other people (stinky or not) when making a movie.
You have to have enormous amounts of energy and organization skills because everything you have written then becomes interpreted by the director of photography - the cameraman who shoots your story. In your mind’s eye, you may have seen your character in a close up shot with a solid tear when she is left alone when you originally wrote the script. But your cameraman might see it differently and have an extreme wide shot of your character in giant room standing in a corner to convey the same idea.
But you don’t just have to communicate your vision (and your story) with the cinematographer, you have to be able to communicate this vision to the gaffer (the one who lights the set), the art department, the hair and make up folks, wardrobe, sound, the script supervisor, the music supervisor and the editor.
You get to used to working 12 hours a day minimum on a film set. This endurance helps when you want to become a writer and have to sit and write all day long.
Both writing for novel and screenplays and making movies aren’t for the weak of heart. And you have to have extremely thick skin. My skin has grown so thick over the years maybe that’s why I have to wear bigger pants! Thank God for stretchy yoga pants!
Little Willow already asked about your favorite books. What are your favorite movies?
I can’t even begin to tell you but here’s a few.
Willy Wonka, Imitation of Life, Amelie, City of Lost Children, Delicatessen, Mean Girls, Roll Bounce, Little Miss Sunshine. Napoleon Dynamite, Pulp Fiction, Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life. I love lots of foreign films and anything that has Will Farrell or Jack Black.
What are your top 10 songs?
I don’t really have a top ten because like my life, my songs evolve. But here are some that have been theme songs to my life.
1) I Will Survive (My daily motto)
2) The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow. (I sang this in the 8th grade. Now that I recall, I actually sang the song called Maybe from Annie but I really wanted to sing The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow. My family sang it for years after that to remind me of my shortcomings in life. Love them. My family not my shortcomings.)
3) At Last by Etta James (We played this on our iPhone when Mike and I eloped on a beach)
4) We are Family (My family’s motto)
5) I Love New York by Madonna (NYC is my favorite city outside Texas)
6) Lose yourself by Eminem (This is a good running song)
7) Mama Used to Say (This is a song I used to dance to when I was little)
8) Theme to Twighlight Zone and Night Gallery (Both still freak me out)
9) All pop, rap, dance and soundtrack songs that I forgot to mention due to low blood sugar.
10) Theme song to Sponge Bob Squarepants. (I love that show)
I know you draw, but do you do other crafts?
I like to paint and design toys and clothes. I love making gift baskets for my friends and I love surprising people with hand created notes or my photography.
I have a new sewing machine that I need to break in because I bought it over a year ago!
You have 3 rescue dogs. I can't shut up about my rescue dog, so I'm guessing you love to talk about yours. Tell us all about them!
I love dogs. I love animals in general but I LOVE dogs. I’ve had two of my of my dogs Shortie and Rabbit for ten years. We had another dog that we had for eleven years named Pud who we got when he was anywhere from 5-8 years old from the SPCA of Dallas. We had to put him down in September and he was probably close to 100 years old in dog years. That was the hardest thing we ever had to do but also the most compassionate thing we had to do because of Pud was in extreme pain and was beyond medicine or treatment because of his age.
Shortie is a black and white rat terrier and he’s Mr. Personality and needs tons of attention. We found him a day before an important shoot in our alley when we lived in a warehouse downtown. Rabbit is a Poodle-Terrier and was found on another shoot. It took Mike and our make-up artist friend Kalen Hoyle three hours just to shave off all the nasty matted hair Rabbit had. Mike named him Rabbit because he used to hop when he was walked on a leash.
Our newest member came from the internet. We had 3 shoots back to back and then Mike and I were going to be gone for 3 weeks and then I saw this dog online. Mike thought I was crazy for even looking. Something told me to look at the SPCA site and I’m glad I did. The local SPCA had just rescued 100 dogs from a puppy mill then a week later at another location they had rescued another 250 animals. The conditions were awful to say the least. Our dog had been locked in a crate for 3 years (he is only 3). He didn’t know what grass was or what petting was. The folks at the SPCA said that he would need special help.
We brought him home and he didn’t know what to do. Then we had to leave him for three weeks. We had my friend stay at our house and work with him. Because of the two other dogs our dog (who we called Nelson after Nelson Mandela), started to feel much more at home. We have been nicknaming him Waggles because that’s all he does)
Waggles brings us so much joy along with our other boys, maybe I’ll write a book just for him.
Adopt a dog from the SPCA. Change their lives. And change your own. I promise!
Thanks so much for stopping by!!