[Author Interview] Kristen Orlando

Kristen OrlandoKristen Orlando

Kristen is the author of You Don’t Know My Name – which has a cover that totally shouts “SPIES!”

Today, we have the 17-at-heart author for an interview!


What is your full name?

Kristen Marie Orlando (my friends all call me KMO)

When is your birthday?

May 3rd

How old are you?

33 (But in my head, I’m still 17. I’m shocked that I have a mortgage and bills).

Favorite food?

Oh gosh. Food is kind of my life. Do I have to pick just one? If so, my husband’s enchiladas that he makes with this delicious spicy pulled pork. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

Favorite color?


Favorite flower?

There’s something about a daisy that make me super happy.

Favorite song?

This is tough. I’ll go with an old standard that my grandmother (who was a big band singer in the 1940s) used to sing at the piano: Moonlight Serenade

Favorite TV show?

Seinfeld. I think I’ve seen every episode 15 times.

Favorite place to read and/or write?

This lovely chair and ottoman in my office.

Favorite book?

This is the hardest one yet! I guess the book that I’ve read the most and I could read over and over again is Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. I’ve probably read it 20 times. My copy is so old and worn. I just love that book.


Who are you when you’re writing?

My characters. I really try to get into their heads when I write.

Who are you when you’re not writing?

I’m a bit of goofball who loves to eat, wear pajamas and laugh.

Which do you prefer more?

I absolutely love writing and I feel so privileged to get to do it. But I enjoy giving my brain a break, too. But after a couple weeks of not writing, I’m always itching to start writing again. So I definitely prefer to be writing.

What drives you to write more?

Really great art. Be it a beautifully acted or directed movie or an amazing piece of music or an incredibly well-written novel. When I watch or read or hear something that moves me, I get really excited and remind myself that I get to do that, too! I feel so fortunate that I get to create something that could potentially stir up some type of emotion in people because that’s what I’ve dreamt about doing my entire life. It reminds me just how lucky I am and then I get down to writing.

How often do you experience writer’s block and what do you do to get out of it?

It definitely happens and can be frustrating. Usually, I watch something that might spark what I need to write. Or I listen to music that I feel like the characters would be listening to in the scene I’m trying to write.

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your work?

Definitely! Someone told me a story once about artists who show up to museums with paintbrushes and paint to touch up their masterpieces. That will probably be me. Even after the book is published, I’ll probably look back and say hmmm…I should have written it this way instead.

Do you like making outlines when you write, or do you prefer to start from scratch and work your way from there?

I absolutely need to have an outline. I really admire people who can fly by the seat of their pants and not know where they’re going. I’ve heard Gillian Flynn speak and she said she never knows where her novels are going which is astounding because her books have so many twists and turns. So while I am in awe of people who can write without outlines, I like to have a clear path. Things often change as I write and discover ideas I didn’t have in the outline. But I like to have a little bit of a map.

If you could do both at the same speed, which would you prefer: Writing on paper or typing your words? Why?

Typing for sure. I can barely read my own handwriting!

What is the best writing advice that you could share with us?

My dad once told me, “Never be satisfied with success and never fear failure.” It’s the never fear failure part that has always stuck with me and I apply so much to my writing. There are so many roadblocks you could throw up to stop yourself from writing: I’m not good enough. It’s so hard to get an agent. It’s impossible to get published. It will never happen for me. My father’s advice has definitely made me (for better or worse) a close-your-eyes-and-jump kind of girl. If you give in to the fear, you never really know what you can accomplish. So my best advice is to just go for it!

Of all the things that you’ve ever written (poems, essays, short stories, novels, etc.), which one is the most special to you?

Definitely YOU DON’T KNOW MY NAME. First of all, I just really love the characters and the story. But knowing this is going to be published and other people will read it is just so amazing and crazy to me. I’m elated.


What inspired the idea of your first book with Swoon Reads, You Don’t Know My Name?

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 these retired CIA operatives who have assassins after them. After we had watched the movie, I was in the shower thinking, “What would it be like to be the daughter of one of those top secret spies? What an interesting and dangerous life you’d have to lead?” And then I realized…oh my gosh that’s a book! I think I came up with half the plot somewhere between shampooing and conditioning and was so excited about it that I 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. So I did.


How would you define book discrimination?

I think book discrimination is when a reader assigns an automatic “no” to a book based on it’s cover, it’s genre, it’s publisher, etc.

How do you feel about it?

For me, books are all about the writing. And I like so many different types of books. From YA to memoirs to non-fiction. So if the topic interests me and the writing really captures me right away, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s outside my normal reading comfort zone.

What do you think is the cause of book discrimination?

Fear of the unknown. An unwillingness to expand your horizons.

What would you do against it?

In my writing I try to write as honest and raw as possible. With YOU DON’T KNOW MY NAME, I explore not only Reagan’s spy bad-assness, but her vulnerabilities and anxiety and PTSD that has developed while living this dangerous, double life. I try to write as real as possible and hope people connect with that.

Fill in the blanks. More people should read ________ by ________ because ________.

Most people should read a book that intimidates them. You never know how you’ll stretch yourself by picking up something new.

Thank you so much for participating, Kristen! I’m looking forward to reading your book! I haven’t read a lot of spy books yet, and I think reading You Don’t Know My Name would be a blast!

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