Kristina Naydonova is a thirteen-year-old bestselling thriller author of The Black Sisterhood Files, regular podcast speaker, and mental health advocate.
We invited Kristina for a Q&A inside our book club to discuss her book, her future plans with regards to writing, her advice for first-time authors, and the unique challenges and opportunities that come with being a young author, among other interesting topics.
Here is the unabridged transcript of the event:
Q: Question by a community member
C: Comment by a community member
Q: How do you handle people talking about your young age? Is it sometimes a source of discomfort for you?
Kristina: That’s actually a fantastic question! In most cases, people are respectable when approaching my age as a factor. However, there are instances when it makes me uncomfortable to be treated as if my career is encapsulated entirely by my age! For example, I appreciate all support from people, but it doesn’t make me feel too good when I am given extra opportunities or something due entirely to my age. All authors should be treated fairly.
Q: When you first decided to write a novel, did you struggle with self-doubt? What made you believe in yourself that you could do it?
Kristina: Yes! I certainly struggled with a lot of self-doubt, especially considering that I got flooded with numerous rejections from many agents and publicists. I suppose it really helped to look at the stories of other authors and realize that success doesn’t come instantly and requires a lot of work/ethic.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the characters and the plot of The Black Sisterhood Files?
Kristina: Of course! The Black Sisterhood Files is a murder mystery thriller that encompasses six girls’ mission to unearth the identity of a mysterious killer who has massacred their hometown. Meanwhile, it’s also a story of some romance and coming of age as all the main characters are teenagers and still fighting to find themselves amidst all the chaos.
Q: How did you get into podcasts and what subjects do you usually talk about besides writing?
Kristina: That’s a great question! I am a very avid public speaker and have participated in numerous live speaking events before, so I knew that podcast talking is definitely something for me. Other than talking about writing, I usually like to discuss factors such as mindfulness, resilience, and finding creativity/inspiration.
Q: Do you relate with one or several of your main protagonists, as in writing your own self into your stories to help your mind in the real world?
Kristina: Great question! Definitely yes. I based the main character, Lexie, a little off myself and her best friend, Sophia, off my older sister. It really helps to develop the characters when you actually have the ability to empathize and connect with them.
Q: Do you enjoy using social media and connecting with readers directly? Any instances of other debut/young authors reaching out to you for advice?
Kristina: Yes! I actually had a couple aspiring authors, as well as one writer a couple years younger, reach out to me and ask for some writing/publishing advice. Although I’m busy with activities such as school and marketing and more, I always devote my time to helping others because I never really had a mentor myself when writing The Black Sisterhood Files!
I’ve had some scheduled classes with aspiring authors these past weeks, to give them some insights on writing a book and navigating the complicated roads of publication. I love using social media and connecting directly with my readers; it’s always great to hear what they think about my work!
Q: What other hobbies do you have besides writing?
Kristina: Other than writing, I have many hobbies. I’m definitely a very avid reader (especially of mysteries and thrillers), I play the piano as well as some sports, and I’m deeply interested in philosophy and culture.
Q: Speaking of mysteries and thrillers, who is your favorite author?
Kristina: I have a couple! Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. George Orwell is also one of my favorite authors of all time, but he writes in a different genre. More of dystopian fiction.
Q: Do you have Hermione's Time Turner? Your time management is truly impressive!
Kristina: Hahah, that’s such a great comparison! I’m actually sometimes overworking myself and really NOT managing my time correctly, so I wish I did have Hermione’s Time Turner 🙂
Q: Are you currently working on your next book?
Kristina: Yes! I am currently writing my next book, an anthology of folklore and dark academia themed stories.
Q: Do you have an established daily routine? If yes, what does it look like?
Kristina: Yes! I wake up fairly early in the morning and get started with some book marketing before joining online classes and doing some work for a couple hours. Afterwards, I usually do something for my own enjoyment and relaxation; piano, listening to music, something like that. And I finish up the evening by browsing through social media and getting insights from my followers and inspiration for new content/new books and stories.
Q: What were some challenging and some enjoyable aspects of the creative writing process for you?
Kristina: Writing the actual book and having the ability to cultivate my creativity was by far the best part of the entire process. However, exploring the fields of publication and trying to find an agent who’d actually accept my work was incredibly challenging.
Q: What advice would you give to a person who wants to fit time for writing and school?
Kristina: I would say create a very equal balance between working and mindfulness. By mindfulness, I mean it’s always very important to lay time aside for yourself and for your mental health.
Q: I wanted to know if people were generally dismissive or supportive most of the times after they found out how young you were - or is it kind of like 50/50?
Kristina: It is a 50/50. Some people are overly supportive and excited upon finding out my age (which I greatly appreciate, but it can make me uncomfortable sometimes), however, others are very dismissive and negative about everything. I’ve had people tell me I’m too young and should be doing “normal kid stuff.”
Q: In a recent discussion with Rachel Varga, you said you’re thinking about building a business as a writing coach, can you tell us a bit about that - and do you have a general interest in entrepreneurship besides writing?
Kristina: I’ve been doing some one on one classes with aspiring authors and I am hosting my first official writer’s workshop next Monday evening. I possess a very large interest in entrepreneurship and definitely want to consider implementing it into my overall career.
Q: What did you do to market your book? Which strategies do you think work best?
Kristina: My two top marketing strategies are social media and podcasts. I’ve been on over a dozen podcasts/author events since my book has gotten published and I must say, it’s certainly helped out a lot.
With social media, it’s all about monetizing your content and using the right hashtags/approach towards posting in order to always reach new readers in your niche. I try to post regularly but in a manner that doesn’t annoy people because that pushes readers away. What’s really important is always answering comments, DMs, messages, anything you can to stay engaged and communicative.
Q: How do you respond when someone asks you “What do you want to become when you grow up?”
Kristina: I’m not entirely sure yet. I used to want to be a lawyer or a Supreme Court Judge because I’m also really invested in law and politics. However, over quarantine, I got much more interested in writing, business, and even quantum mechanics. I guess I’m still discovering my true interests. However, I do know that whatever it is I’ll be when I grow up, it’ll be something I actually enjoy doing.
Q: Who is your biggest support system?
Kristina: My biggest support system is definitely my family! They’ve always supported me through everything and never once doubted my ability to execute a certain task.
Q: You mentioned that your next book will be about folklore; will it include perhaps some from eastern Europe or Russia? I ask this because your name reminds me a lot of Poland. 🙂
Kristina: My name is actually Polish! Russian was my first language and I’m originally from there. I’ll definitely be including Eastern European folklore, more with a creepy edge rather than just an archaic one.
Q: If you get hate on social media, how do you deal with it?
Kristina: I do actually get hate on social media, some more than others. For example, I tried out doing an individual AMA on Reddit and that didn’t go well; I was flooded with hate and very cruel remarks. It did upset me a LOT at first, but I realized you just can’t please everyone. There will always be people who try to tear you down no matter what it is you say or do and I attempt to approach that with understanding, because most of our hate and misery usually arises from personal problems or insecurities.
Q: Can you share a favorite quote or a piece of favorite advice you’ve gotten?
Kristina: My favorite quote is “Happiness is a choice.” The only person who determines your happiness is you yourself. This may sound bizarre, but I sometimes think of myself as a car and of my energy/happiness as the gasoline. When it runs low, I can’t function properly. Which is why it’s so important to be mindful and take time for yourself.
Q: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Kristina: Introvert. I have many just friends/acquaintances, but only one or two actual close friends. I’m definitely one to stay in reading/writing on a Friday night rather than go out partying. Solitude and peace are two things I greatly enjoy and they don’t necessarily have to be treated negatively.
Q: At what age did you start writing for fun and for your first novel?
Kristina: I began to write short stories/poems at the age of seven, but then progressively got more invested in writing and decided to test out creating a whole novel!
Q: Do 'they' let you use the money you earn with your book sales, or does it all go into a savings account until you're 18, as Emma Watson did?
Kristina: I didn’t know Emma Watson did that! My money goes into a savings account and my father sometimes helps me profit/invest it during times when the stock market is advantageous. I feel like it’s all about managing your money correctly, no matter how little or how much you have.
Q: What was your first story and when did you start taking writing seriously?
Kristina: I think I wrote my first ever story in second grade; it was a fairy tale based off of Goldilocks and the Three Bears but with a little twist. I think that’s when I realized how truly intrigued I was by the concept of writing.
Q: What led you to become an advocate for mental health and mindfulness and write on these topics? Was there a particular event or a general build-up of interest in this topic?
Kristina: That’s a fabulous question! I actually write for Arianna Huffington’s platform, ThriveGlobal, with articles on mindfulness and creativity and mental health. I’ve always been very aware of how important it is to preserve your mental health and wanted to share that passion with others. 🙂
Q: How has life changed since the pandemic for you and your family? Did you go through any major transitions?
Kristina: Yes, for sure! Quarantine helped me realize who was a true friend and who wasn’t, as well as become closer to family. It also assisted me with cultivating my passion for writing, science, and reading many more books!
Q: What has been the reaction of kids at your school, especially your friends, to your accomplishments at such a young age? Also, do teachers treat you differently once they find out you’ve written and published a novel?
Kristina: I actually haven’t told any teachers really! Some found out on their own and did treat me a little differently afterwards, but I really try to keep my life outside of school as private as possible when in school. One of my classmates did see my feature on CBS6 back in July and made an unnecessarily big deal out of it which I didn’t appreciate. Again, I really just try to keep to myself and not make a fuss out of my publication.
C: haha that's incredibly interesting! You have a secret identity! Like Spider-Man 😂
Kristina: Haha, love that!
Q: Speaking of science and school, what subjects do you love and which ones do you dread? I am curious to know if you're good at maths?
Kristina: I personally hate mathematics just because I’m absolutely terrible at it, haha, but I do really love Science and English. I know it’s quite weird as science does correlate a lot with math, but for me, math is the dreaded subject.
Q: Since you like quantum mechanics and science in general, do you have any plans for the future to write a cool sci-fi novel using the stuff you learn and imagine?
Kristina: I do plan on writing a sci-fi thriller sometime, maybe in a couple years or so! I think that would be pretty awesome 😃
Q: What’s your message for young writers who feel like they’re not ready to write their first story or book yet?
Kristina: That’s a great question. I say, just do it. My apologies that this sounds incredibly cheesy, haha, but you do miss 100% of the shots you never take!!