Interview with Kimberly Reid, Author of My Own Worst Frenemy

Kimberly Reid is the author of My Own Worst Frenemy, the first book in her Langdon Prep series.  This is a fun mystery romp with a feisty heroine who is trying to fit in her new surrounds and stay out of trouble at the same time.  Trouble follows Chanti like moths are drawn to light,  and she is soon scrambling to clear her name and save her reputation.  Kimberly dropped by the virtual offices to discuss her book, and to allow us to get to know her better.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Kimberly Reid] In constant battle w/self because I’m equal parts left & right brain; change-hater/risk-taker; realist/dreamer. Amazingly, I’m quite happy.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, My Own Worst Frenemy?

[Kimberly Reid] In My Own Worst Frenemy, fifteen-year-old Chanti Evans is trying to adjust to her ritzy new prep school, which is another world compared to her sketchy Denver neighborhood; turn a crush into something more; and clear her name when she’s arrested for a crime she didn’t commit.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the book?

[Kimberly Reid] The first YA novel I completed and gave to my agent was crime fiction, but it was dark, brooding and not very good. The mechanics were there, but my voice wasn’t – mainly because my voice is not very dark or brooding. My agent didn’t want to pitch that book to publishers and suggested I try again – she really believed I had a YA voice, I just needed to find the true one. I agreed with her when I realized every manuscript I’d ever written for adults had a young adult narrator. I’d been writing YA all along and didn’t know it. I discovered that while I like reading dark and brooding, it probably isn’t meant for me to write it, at least not in YA.

Once I had all that worked out, I needed a concept for a stand-alone novel that I could turn into a series if I had the opportunity. I once attended a writing conference where I learned the trick to keeping a series going is to make the main character a lot like yourself, but more exciting and interesting. It’s easier to grow a character over the long-term if you understood her intimately. Basically it’s taking the writing adage another step — write what you know about yourself. I was watching an episode of Veronica Mars – I love cop shows and mystery/thriller/suspense is my favorite movie genre – when I realized my real-life experience was my concept. From my early grade school years through college, my mother was a police detective. I was fascinated by her work and learned a lot from her. As a kid, I always wanted to solve crimes but I was never that fearless. I realized I could write a character who was. So Chanti is part me and part who I wanted to be as a teen – and as an adult, for that matter.

[Manga Maniac Café] What have you learned about yourself through your characters?

[Kimberly Reid] I’m a born worrier, yet I always try to find humor in the unknown and other dark, scary things.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Kimberly Reid] Remembering what everything felt like when I was fifteen. Many things you experience at fifteen you’re doing for the first time. Hormones make emotions more intense. Questioning authority feels scary but right. Realizing for the first time that your parents don’t know all the answers and aren’t perfect (and quite possibly are clueless) is almost magical. Things that don’t faze me now were cataclysmic events back then – and I mean that in a very real, not condescending way. I had to relearn how to process life with a fresh perspective—you know, before time and experience made me jaded and bitter.

Seriously, though – I think I got that young-again part down and I’m having way too much fun with it. Now my challenge is acting my age when I close the laptop. I catch myself talking and writing like a fifteen-year-old even when people are expecting me to sound like a mature, articulate adult. When I tell people I write YA, they ask, “Why? Did you actually like your teen years?” I tell them now I get to make things up and relive those years the way I want.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Kimberly Reid] I had one of those personalized picture books for kids—the main character was a giraffe named Kim who lived at the same street address I did but in a fictional town. The sidekick was named Mik, my name spelled backwards. I was too young to realize my mother had the book made for me – I thought it was just an amazing coincidence. The book that turned me on to writing was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!

You can learn more about Kimberly by visiting her website.

My Own Worst Frenemy is available in both print and eBook.

Thanks to {Teen} Book Scene for making this interview possible!