Kristin von Kreisler is a well-known voice for animals. Her books, articles, and journalistic skills have shared her passion with readers around the globe. She has also traveled the country advocating for the welfare of the creatures, both furred and feathered, with whom we share this planet. To interject, how we treat the world around us is a reflection of how we treat, or mistreat, ourselves, and a barometer for our own future.
Her novel “For Bea,” the memoir of her beloved beagle once rescued from a medical laboratory and who became Kristin’s personal inspiration for helping animals, captivated readers. Betty White and Mary Tyler Moore both acknowledged the poignant story. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals including the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Reader’s Digest, to name a few. Her articles have found homes in anthologies and textbooks. Yes, textbooks. She’s taught English and Journalism, and currently resides with her husband in Bainbridge Island, Washington.
In her latest novel “An Unexpected Grace,” Kristin has shifted her focus to fiction in order to tell the story of two survivors who won’t get past what has brought them together, unless they can uncomplicated the unimaginable. Lila Elliot survived a shooting rampage that left many of her coworkers dead. What she left in the bloody office was her ability to trust and live without fear. Grace survived abuse, but the Golden Retriever can’t seem to find the key to wanting to recover. Both need courage, both need to move on, both need to learn to trust all over again. One of them will have to make the first move, and I promise that move won’t come from where or how readers think it will.
Yes, keep the tissues close when reading this book. It’s good. Really good. And, the ending is so very worth the journey.
Q) The obvious question: You are so well known for your nonfiction work, why jump into the fiction
A) Deep and dangerous water, yes. But very pleasurable! I’m so glad I dove right in, though making the change several years ago was complicated. A publisher had offered me a contract to write another animal nonfiction book, and I kept trying to get myself to sign on the dotted line. But something was stopping me, though I wasn’t sure exactly what. One day as I was walking along a street in Seattle and brooding about the contract, a question suddenly came to me: If you don’t want to write nonfiction, why not write fiction? How about a novel about an animal? In that instant, I knew I’d found what I was meant to do. The freedom was delicious. There was nothing to do but dive into the unknown fiction pool, and I’ve never regretted it.
Q) I have to ask, what was the inspiration behind Lila and Grace? The insight/life you give them is incredible.
A) I knew I wanted to write an animal novel, but I wasn’t sure what it should be about. Then one afternoon after picking up my mail at the post office, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Grace happens.” I have always loved the idea of grace, which I define as the unsought, undeserved good that comes to us. And I thought, Grace! What a great idea for a story! I decided to write about a dog named Grace, who would become a grace in someone’s life. From that simple beginning, the story evolved. It’s not just about the grace of Grace the dog, but also about the grace of healing.
Q) Your love, appreciation, and knowledge of animals cover many species. Why did you choose a dog for your first fiction story when you could have gone a more exotic or unexpected route?
A) I chose a dog because I adore dogs. It’s as simple as that. I’ve had dogs since childhood, and I can’t imagine life without them. I also believe that dogs have much to teach us if we only open our eyes and see. I’ve learned important lessons from my dogs about loyalty, kindness, patience, and courage. Grace teaches all those things to Lila, the woman who adopts her in my novel. I hope readers will learn from Grace, too.
Q) So many questions, so little space. Will you continue in the fiction genre, and, if so, what’s next?
A) Absolutely, I will continue writing fiction. It’s hard work, but I love it. And, of course, I will keep writing about animals because showing their importance in our lives is my personal mission. I’ve started another novel about a dog who helps people forgive each other and reconcile. I’ve already fallen in love with that dog. I love him as if he were sitting at my feet right this minute.
Q) I almost sense a desire to expand into romance. The location you reside, the scenes around your home life (living on an island, the ocean, ferries, seals, etc) scream for it. Has that thought, along with incorporating animals as key components, crossed your mind?
A) Yes, it’s crossed my mind. I suppose that romance will come into some of my stories because it’s a beautiful thing – and you’re right about my island being a special place. But romance won’t be the major purpose of my books because my interest is always in the animals and their ability to heal us and influence our lives. If the animal’s story fits in the context of romance, then I welcome it. Animals first, romance second.
Q) With this new venture, are you stepping away from, or at least slowing down, your work in animal welfare?
A) I am committed for life to helping animals in any way I can. That means being open to whatever comes my way in the form of a needy creature or of a request for me to serve in some capacity. I feed birds and squirrels and rescue lost dogs and kitties. When invited, I give talks on writing about animals and on animal compassion and emotion. I’ve served on boards of animal welfare groups, organized an animal photo exhibit for our local wildlife shelter, and “manned” booths for animal charities at fairs. Certainly, I am committed to answering all the calls for help that I can manage. That’s part of my vocation.
Q) Any parting comments for fans and new readers?
A) Be kind to animals! If you come upon a starving squirrel or a desperate kitty, stop and help. You’ll
Thank you for this interview! I appreciate your interest!
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net