Today I present you Alecia Whitaker, author of THE QUEEN OF KENTUCKY. Alecia is a Kentucky native, so I’m super excited to be hosting her on Naughty Kitties. THE QUEEN OF KENTUCKY is an absolutely fantastic novel, and I can’t wait for you guys to read it.
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Alecia Whitaker grew up with a big imagination on a small farm in Kentucky, which was worlds away from where she currently resides in fast-paced New York City. She knows more about cows, tobacco, frog gigging, and carpentry than the average girl, and she applies the work ethic and common sense she learned from her southern upbringing to the way she now navigates her career and family life in the big city. The Queen of Kentucky is her first novel.
1. You grew up in Cynthiana, KY and now live in New York City. What, if anything, do you miss most about your hometown? What do you miss least?
I miss my grandparents and my high school friends more than anything. It's so nice going back and knowing that I'll bump into someone I know around town. There are people that live in that town who have supported me and wished me well with every single endeavor I've attempted, so the relationships I made growing up are priceless. (I also miss Leono's pizza, which says a lot considering that New York pizza has a pretty solid reputation of its own.)
What do I miss least? I don't miss the fact that a few stores and restaurants around town still allow smoking, (or at least they did last time I was back home).
2. Was THE QUEEN OF KENTUCKY any easier to write because you know the setting so well?
Definitely! When people who have read the advanced copy ask me if it's based on me or if the things that happened to Ricki Jo happened to me, I remind them that it's fiction. That said, the setting is so rich because I can close my eyes and picture my childhood. I see the creek on my uncle's farm where we used to watch crawdaddies scurry around backward on the bottom. I hear the kids screaming on bus 30 after school as we bumped through the countryside headed home. And I smell the thick scent of tobacco curing in the barn and feel the sticky residue it left between my fingers. I love that back home feeling so much that I had to give rural communities a protagonist that wasn't backward or redneck, but that was a normal, fun teenager going through the same stuff suburban or big city kids go through.
3. If there’s anything you and Ricki Jo, the protagonist in THE QUEEN OF KENTUCKY, have in common, what is it?
When I was Ricki Jo's age, I was built exactly like her. My growth spurt came laaaaaaate. I know what it's like to watch other girls "develop" (for lack of a better term) all through middle school and be left wondering if I had a prayer at shopping at Victoria's Secret one day. Puberty is brutal. Can we all just agree on that?
4. In THE QUEEN OF KENTUCKY, Ricki Jo tries really hard to fit in at her new school, and sometimes she becomes so desperate it affects her relationship with her best friend/boy next door, Luke. It’s quite sad, but I also felt sympathy for Ricki Jo—we’ve all been in her shoes (or, in her case, cowboy boots) before. If you could offer any advice to girls like Ricki Jo—girls that try so hard to fit in that it comes at the price of important components of their lives—what would it be?
I would grab Ricki Jo, or girls feeling that same sense of desperation, by the shoulders and face them toward a mirror. I would ask them to name three things that they see that they like. I would tell them to love those things and love themselves – spend at least as much time appraising themselves as they do picking themselves apart. But moreover, I would tell them that high school is not nearly as big a deal as it seems. That you will only stay in touch with a handful of your "friends" and that you will be surprised at what you see at your high school reunion. Hang in there!
5. What sorts of books can we expect from you in the future? Do you think you might stray away from the small-town setting, or keep at it?
Well, the book I'm working on right now takes place in Lexington, KY. I love bringing positive attention to a place in this world that I truly love and that's my home state. But I will say that the setting isn't nearly as important in this next one.
6. What are some of your favorite current YA titles?
Well, like most people I know, I devoured The Hunger Games trilogy and will definitely be at that movie on opening weekend. But I also loved Tighter by Adele Griffin and was gripped til the end. My new friend Jen E. Smith has a book coming out from the same publisher on the same day as me called The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and I adore both the story and the novelist.
7. What’s the best thing about being a published author?
Having a dream realized.