Why did you decide to write a spy novel?
I have always loved action movies and suspenseful books, but this idea hit me out of nowhere to be perfectly honest. In fact, I came up with the idea for YOU DON’T KNOW MY NAME in the shower of all places. My husband and I had just watched the movie, Red, which is about retired CIA operatives hunted by assassins. After we had watched the movie, I thought, “What would it be like to be the daughter of one of those top secret spies? What an interesting and dangerous double life you’d have to lead!” And then I realized…oh, my gosh, that’s a book! I’d wanted to write a young adult book for a while but hadn’t come up with an idea yet and then… BAM! I think I came up with half the plot somewhere between shampooing and conditioning. I was so excited about it I literally ran down the hallway in my towel to see what my husband thought of the idea. He loved it and encouraged me to write it.
What are some of your hobbies (other than reading and writing)?
Is eating a hobby? I sort of live for food. I do enjoy cooking and baking but I’m completely spoiled by my husband who is an amazing cook and cooks 95% of the time. I love spending time with family and friends, but I’m a total homebody. Nothing makes me happier than sitting around in sweatpants, binge watching something on Netflix, and eating pizza or a big bowl of mac and cheese.
I enjoy traveling and have been lucky enough to have visited Europe several times. I spent my entire Junior year of college abroad at the University of Exeter in England and purposefully scheduled all my classes on Wednesday and Thursday so that I could have five day weekends to travel. I backpacked and hostel-hopped my way through Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, France, and Gran Canaria. I even spent 3 weeks in Italy during our very long spring break (love those UK school breaks!). It was a year I’ll never forget. I still love checking out new places (although I’m not staying in hostels anymore!) and, of course, enjoying the native cuisine. See, it all comes back to food for me.
Do you know how many books will be in the Black Angel series?
Right now, I’m signed to three books. So we will see! I hope everyone likes Reagan’s story and I’ll have the chance to write more.
I love how unique Swoon Reads’ publishing model is! How has your experience been working with them?
Swoon Reads is incredible! I thought the publishing model was so interesting and I loved how they let real readers have a major impact on what gets chosen for publication. Like the American Idol of authors. How cool is that? I have nothing but the utmost respect and overwhelming love for the entire Swoon Reads team. Everyone on that team is a total rock star and I am honored to work with them. They’ve changed my life! I will always be so grateful to Swoon Reads and couldn’t ask for a better experience.
What advice would you give to young adults whose parents‘ don’t approve of their future career aspirations?
This is a great question! I based a lot of the tension in this book on my own struggles with choosing the right path in life. My father is a doctor and my mother is a nurse. They would have loved for me to follow in their footsteps and join the medical field. I even entered Kenyon College as a Biology major with plans to go to medical school (despite the fact that there was a nagging, heavy knot in my stomach every time I thought about my future). I knew in my heart I didn’t want to be a doctor. I wanted to be a writer. So when I finally found the courage to tell them I was changing my major from Biology to English, they weren’t exactly enthusiastic. Medicine is such a linear path. Go to college, go to medical school, do a residency, become a doctor. Writing has no path (or at least not a clear one). I think they were worried about what I would do with writing but I promised to prove to them that I could follow my passion AND make a living.
So while at Kenyon, I took every single writing class I could. I began interning at a TV news station and then a newspaper and began my career as a journalist. I wrote every single day of my life, loved it, and earned a paycheck for it. At first, it was very hard to disappoint them and choose a scary road that they knew nothing about. But they couldn’t be prouder of me today. They see how hard I’ve worked and how I use that English degree every day. I’m very lucky to have such loving parents (even if they didn’t always understand my choices).
So my advice for other young adults going through this same thing is to follow your heart, but be realistic, too. Going into a creative field like writing is very difficult. I knew that I couldn’t just move to New York City and try to become a novelist. I needed to support myself (because after college, my parents were “done” and rightfully so). I knew I wanted to work my way up in a career that would allow me to write and hone my craft and then take that giant leap of trying to write a book. I wrote YOU DON’T KNOW MY NAME entirely on nights and weekends while I had a 9:00-5:00 (or more like 8:00-8:00 some days) to pay the bills.
My best advice is to do what makes you happy! You only get one life and you cannot live it for someone else. You’re always going to regret the things you didn’t do, not the things you did do. So try, fail, and then pick yourself up and try again. Give your dream a shot and be prepared for a ton of hard work, late nights and sacrifices. Work crazy hard to prove the doubters wrong.
About the Author
Writing is one of the great loves of Kristen Orlando’s life and she has been lucky enough to make it her living, first as a television producer, then as a marketer, and now as a novelist. Kristen graduated with a BA in English literature from Kenyon College. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with the other great love of her life, Michael. You Don’t Know My Name is her debut novel.