ALL FOUR KIDS: Interview with Kristi Helvig, author of BURN OUT


Today we welcome author Kristi Helvig, whose novel BURN OUT, released yesterday!

BURN OUT Cover About the book: Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth’s final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns “red giant,” but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone–her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun–one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in.

When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora’s fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must quickly figure out who she can trust, as she must choose between saving herself by giving up the guns or honoring her father’s request to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.

Fonda Lee: Welcome, Kristi, and congratulations on the release of your debut! Tell us about what inspired you to write it.

Kristi Helvig: Thanks, Fonda, and I’m excited to be on your blog today! So this first question has a long convoluted answer involving a really hot day, a space documentary, a Pandora song and a vivid dream. To make a long answer brief, I’ll say that ultimately I had a very detailed dream involving the characters and plot of the book that became BURN OUT. I started writing the day after the dream and finished the first draft in six weeks.

FL: Tora, the heroine of BURN OUT, is pretty badass. Was her personality inspired by anyone real or fictional?

KH: No, I’ve never encountered anyone like Tora until that aforementioned dream. I woke up and thought “that’s the most badass girl I’ve ever seen.” She might be a little scary to meet in real life though!

FL: I understand you are a fellow Star Trek fan. I’ve always loved Star Trek for its ability to explore very real issues through the lens of an imagined future. Did you set out to do this with BURN OUT, and do you think your message is ultimately pessimistic or optimistic?

KH: Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica are amazing in their ability to touch on socio-political issues using imagined settings. No, I didn’t intentionally set out to address any specific issues, and honestly, I didn’t even intend to write sci-fi. I’d been working on a fantasy novel when the idea for BURN OUT hit and wouldn’t let me go. Despite the hostile world that Tora inhabits, I think the overall message of the book is optimistic and reflects her reluctant faith in humanity.

FL: You’re a Ph.D clinical psychologist. Has your training helped you when it comes to writing fictional characters?

KH: I think being a clinical psychologist helps in terms of character motivations and arcs. I’ve seen people who have done some pretty horrible things, yet convey all kinds of justifications for their actions. For me, an antagonist is more interesting if they have complex desires and motivations rather than just being thrown in a plot to serve as the bad guy.

FL: And finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.

KH: I actually don’t see Tora as fearless, but I view her as someone who doesn’t have the luxury to dwell on those fears or she’d already be dead. As for myself, I have an irrational fear of spiders that involves high-pitched shrieking when I come across one. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can scoop up the little ones and move them outside, but the big ones still freak me out. As far as common fears that I don’t have, I’m not afraid of heights, the dark, or roller coasters.

FL: Thank you for the interview, Kristi, and we’ll be looking for BURN OUT on the shelves!

Author photo

About Kristi Helvig:

Kristi Helvig is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist turned sci-fi/fantasy author. She muses about Star Trek, space monkeys, and other assorted topics on her blog. Kristi resides in sunny Colorado with her hubby, two kiddos, and behaviorally-challenged dogs.


FJLee HeadshotFonda Lee is an author and recovering corporate strategist who was born and raised in Calgary, Canada (land of hockey, rodeo, and oil reserves) and now lives with her family in Portland, Oregon (land of rain, hipsters, and Powell’s books). When she is not writing she can be found training in kung fu or searching out tasty breakfasts. Her debut upper YA science fiction novel, ZEROBOXER, will be published by Flux in April 2015. You can find Fonda at and on Twitter @fondajlee.

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