I want to welcome Christina Hoag. First I’d love you to introduce yourself.
First off, thanks so much for hosting me on your blog, Barbara, and giving me this space. I’m a novelist and journalist. I’ve been a reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald, and was a foreign correspondent in Latin America for nearly a decade. Now I work freelance so I have more time to devote to my fiction. I’m passionate about reading and writing, and have been my whole life. I’m a member of International Thriller Writers and I’m a volunteer creative writing mentor to at risk girls with an organization called WriteGirl.
Tell us about your latest release.
It’s a YA romantic thriller from Fire and Ice YA titled Girl on the Brink. It’s the story of a girl, Chloe, who gets involved with the wrong guy—haven’t we all done that at some point in our lives?—and this leads to some pretty drastic consequences for Chloe. But Chloe is smart and a survivor. She conquers her fear, summons her strength and not only survives but thrives. Ultimately, it’s a novel about the journey of girl power.
Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.
1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?
I always wish Arthur Conan Doyle had done more with Moriarty, the foil to Sherlock Holmes. He’s a baddie of Holmes’ own intellectual level, which is a setup for some great plots. In general, I find criminal masterminds who use their superior intellect for villainous purposes the most interesting antagonists.
2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?
I have to say it is Magdaleno, the protagonist in my literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld Skin of Tattoos, which is also being released this month by Martin Brown Publishing. Mags struggles to do the right thing and leave the gang, but his pride and ego get in the way. He’s just so humanly flawed.
3.) What do genre do you write? What made you pick that one?
I write character-driven thrillers. I love crime fiction, delving into the seamy side of life and what drives people in that world, but a lot of work in that genre is very formulaic, which gets boring after a while. I like to see how extraordinary events, which often happen in the context of crime, affect character so that’s what I write.
4.) What are you working on now?
I’ve got two novels both in the final stages. One is called The Revolutionaries, and it’s a literary political thriller based on the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, where I was living at the time and working as a freelance journalist. The other is called Angels Lust. It’s a detective mystery set in Los Angeles.
5.) What got you to start writing?
I won a prize for “writing interesting stories” when I was six years old so I guess writing was always there. It came out as soon as I literally learned how to put pen to paper. I discovered journalism in high school so I knew that’s what I wanted to do as a career. I’ve written fiction on and off my whole life.
6.) Where do you get your ideas from?
Like any writer, I draw on my own experience and what I see around me. Working as a journalist for many years has deeply influenced my fiction. As a reporter, you have an entrée into many subcultures, slices of life and people that normally you would not have access to. I’m also a passionate traveler. I’ve visited over 60 countries so international themes really call to me.
7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?
I didn’t come to the United States until I was 13 years old. I lived in six other countries growing up: New Zealand, where I was born, Fiji, England, Sweden, Nigeria and Australia.
8.) Do you have any special talents?
I love languages. I speak Spanish fluently, a decent French and a smidgen of Italian. I always wanted to learn more languages. I’m fascinated how language reflects culture, but it takes a lot of practice to keep them up.
9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?
“Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill said that, and it’s so true. Early on in my creative endeavors, I gave up on myself too easily. It took some maturity to realize you have to keep going even in the face of an onslaught of rejection.
10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?
I think it would be William Shakespeare. I’d love to ask him about his creative process, his philosophy of life, try to figure out the source of that marvelous wisdom.
11.) What song would you say describes your life?
A tough one. I think I’ll go with Van Halen’s “Jump,” because I believe in not letting fear hold you back from taking leaps into the unknown in life–I’ve taken many. Plus, I’m a huge seventies big-hair rock fan.
12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?
I’d come back as a scarlet macaw. They are majestic birds with such resplendent colors. It always wowed me when I spotted them soaring wild and free over the jungle canopy in Latin America. The romantic in me also loves the fact that they mate for life.
The carnival sets up for two weeks every summer in a field outside town. Everyone goes. It’s something to vary Indian Valley’s monotonous diet of bowling, the single-screen movie theatre, miniature golf, and hanging out at the Dairy Cream.
Kieran grabs my hand as we stroll into the fair. It’s a riot of dazzling lights, whirling rides and thumping music. I scan the crowd, hunting for Morgan and Jade, who I spot waiting for funnel cakes.
“Hey, there are my friends.” I wave frantically at them with my free hand as I tug Kieran with the other. Morgan sees me, points me out to Jade and they both look my way.
Kieran yanks my hand in the opposite direction. “We’ll catch up with them later.”
“I want you to meet them. I told them all about you.”
“I just want to play my favorite game for you first.”
I can’t refuse. I let myself be pulled and make an apologetic face at them. Morgan’s expression hardens. She says something to Jade. The crowd swarms between us, and I lose sight of them.
Kieran steers me to a shooting-at-moving-ducks game and grabs a rifle. He’s a good shot and soon wins a white teddy bear with a red satin heart sewn on its chest. He hands it to me.
“Thank you. It’s adorable.” I proudly tuck it under my arm.
“Just like you. Hungry?”
We make for the food concessions. “Carnival hot dogs are the best,” Kieran says. “The pizza and hamburgers blow.”
“Totally,” I say as we line up.
We buy hot dogs slathered with relish—and root beer, of course—and sit at a picnic table. Kieran straddles the bench, patting the seat in front of him. I sit astride like him. He inches closer so our knees touch.
“Open wide,” he orders, looking at my mouth.
I obey. He feeds one end of the hot dog to me, then leans in and bites the other end. I crack up and almost choke.
“Don’t laugh,” which comes out something like “doan waf” through Kieran’s mouthful of hot dog.
No hands, he chews, swallows and takes another bite. I do the same. We manage to eat the hot dog, and at the end, our lips touch. Kieran presses mine into a kiss.
“So that’s why you like carnival hot dogs,” I say when we break apart. “To steal kisses.”
“Hey, I told you they were the best. Hold on, you have mustard on your face.” He swoops in and licks the side of my mouth.
I wipe off his wetness. “Ew, Kieran!”
I giggle. He swoops in again and licks all around my mouth and lips. His tongue tickles, and I laugh as I shake my head, sucking in my lips, trying to get him off me as I crack up harder, which only encourages him. He slurps my cheeks and chin, and I try to recoil out of his reach, but he pulls me to him. Finally, he backs off and dabs my face with a napkin as I recover my breath.
“You’re worse than a puppy,” I say.
“Ruff, ruff.” He pants and holds up his hands like paws, then jumps to his feet, holding out his palm. “Come on. Time for rides.”
We run like it’s an emergency.
“Cup of tea, Madam?” Kieran points to the tea cups, then pushes open the just-closing gate and leaps in a cup.
We spin madly in the tea cups, chase, block and slam each other in the bumper cars, cling to each other in the haunted house. We finish with a ride on the Ferris wheel.
It’s getting late, and the crowd has swelled with rowdy revelers who obviously made a pitstop at a bar before the carnival.
“Let’s go,” Kieran says, after a guy, drunk or stoned, stumbles in front of us.
“I really wanted you to meet my friends.”
“We’ve got plenty of time for that. It gets nasty this time of night, a lot of fights.”
“Okay.” I give a last three-sixty turn in case Jade and Morgan appear. Kieran’s right. Cliques of older guys and girls hang around the perimeter, smoking and drinking from paper bags.
We swing our clasped hands as we walk to the parking lot. I wish the night would never end. When we get in the truck, he blasts the air conditioning and rolls down the windows. We pull out into the street, and as the AC chills, I close my window. Using his control, Kieran buzzes it down again.
“The AC’s on,” I say.
“I know, but doesn’t it feel great? To feel cold air and warm air at the same time?”
He accelerates. Bathtub-temperature air whooshes along the side of my body, while my chest is cooled by the AC. The combination feels luxurious.
“You’re right. It does feel great!”
He grins. “Told ya.”
“My mom would kill me for doing this.”
“That’s why you’re hanging with me, not with her.”
He snakes an arm over and slides off the elastic holding my ponytail. I shake my hair loose and let the wind whip it.
“That’s it, sweetpea, be free.”