Q&A With Christina Baker Kline

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Q&A With Christina Baker Kline

This afternoon I have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with #1 New York Times bestselling author Christina Baker Kline. Christina is the author of “Orphan Train,” “Orphan Train Girl,” “A Piece of the World,” and “The Exiles.” 

Q: So, Christina, at what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

A: When I was able to spell phonetically around age 5, my mother started making blank books for me to write in: sheets of typing paper between cardboard covers, hole-punched down one side and held together with string. I don’t remember whether she instructed me to write stories that would fill the entire book or whether it was my own obsessive-compulsive decision, but I planned them carefully so that each story would end on the final page (with “THE END” in block letters for emphasis). Sometimes I wrote stories in a series (like my favorite picture books about a hedgehog named Frances who had complex feelings and an annoying younger sister, not unlike my own). Even at 5 years old I thought of myself as an author. I was proud of my little shelf of self-published books.

Q: What advice do you give to anyone who wants to be a historical fiction writer like you?

A: Ernest Hemingway said “Write drunk, edit sober.” What I believe he meant – and have discovered myself – is that the first draft is all about inspiration. If you’re too careful, too precise, your phantom editor will never stop looking over your shoulder. Then — revise, revise, revise.

Also, persevere through the hard parts.

Q: What advice do you give to anyone who struggles with writer’s block?

With every one of my novels, I came to a moment when I wanted to give up. For some reason, it’s usually around page 120. I decide the idea isn’t good enough, the writing isn’t strong enough, the story is boring. I feel like Winnie-the-Pooh, stuck in the rabbit hole: he can’t seem to move forward, but he definitely can’t go back. The only thing to do when this happens is to inch ahead, little by little. There’s a quote I love by Honor Moore: “If you don’t put it in, you can’t take it out.” If you don’t get something on the page, you won’t have anything to work with. That advice has saved many a writing day for me – and many a novel.

Q: What were your favorite novels you read so far this year?

A: I loved FELLOWSHIP POINT, by Alice Elliott Dark. It took her 20 years to write this novel, and it shows! I also recommend JOAN, by Katherine Chen, a fresh and original reimagining of the life of Joan of Arc. Currently I’m reading IF I SURVIVE YOU, an astonishing debut by Jonathan Escoffery about identity and family. 

Q: If you had to choose, which of your novels was your favorite to write?

A: A PIECE OF THE WORLD is the hardest novel I’ve ever written, mainly because it takes place in one location and the characters existed in real life. At times I didn’t know if I would ever finish it. But I did – and am truly proud and grateful that I managed to pull it off.

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels? 

A: Hollywood producers have optioned many of my novels, but currently THE EXILES is the only one in play. I’ve gotten used to the ups and downs of dealing with Hollywood!

Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so can you spoil a little bit about it? 


A: The novel I’m working on now takes place in Civil War-era North Carolina. It’s a complex and fraught story, and I’m taking my time with it. I look forward to finishing it in 2023.