New book reading and author signing set for Monday
From the looks of her, you’d never guess that local author and Kentwood resident Kristina Riggle is in her late 30s. On the contrary, she appears to be twenty-something. It’s hard to believe she’s a mother of two children, ages 11 and 6, in addition to being an author of five novels. Her latest novel, The Whole Golden World, hit the shelves of Schuler’s, Barnes and Noble, and Target in November.
“I have to credit my mother for the youthful genes,” she says, laughing, “I used to hate it that I didn’t look my age, but the older I get, the more I appreciate it!”
Don’t let her fresh face fool you. Riggle, who’ll be discussing The Whole Golden World Monday evening at Kent District Library, is clear, confident and conscientious about being a novelist.
“Human behavior fascinates me,” Riggle says of her motivation. Her keen observations translate into intriguing and authentic characters living life on the pages of her novels.
“In all of my stories, I like to create characters with different and valid perspectives. I think about telling the same story from each perspective. Each is valid and tells a different story,” explains Riggle.
For example, for writing The Whole Golden World, Riggle says she was inspired by a newspaper article she read several years ago about a male high school teacher with criminal sexual conduct for his affair with a 17 year old female student.
“What got me was the reporter describing the court scene and noting, in the article, that the victim chose to sit behind the defendant and not with her parents. I thought, ‘clearly that’s telling a different story from the victim’s perspective. She supports the defendant.”
Riggles novel unfolds from there with three main characters presenting their perspectives of a controversial relationship that shocks family members and the community. Individually, they take the reader through the delicate phases between childhood and adulthood, challenging love and manipulation, marriage and motherhood, and consent and responsibility.
“I’d like to think it’s my best work yet,” she says modestly, adding that bloggers are saying it is her best work ever. “I’m very grateful for that. It’s my intention to be a better writer with each book I write.”
Recognized as a respected local novelist, Riggle has been invited to speak at the Write Michigan awards ceremony on March 22 and write the Foreword for the 2014 Write Michigan Anthology, a request she says she is “quite honored to do.”
Riggle credits her fifth grade teacher, Janet Dykema, (now retired), for encouraging her in the craft. “She recognized that writing was important to me. She didn’t dismiss that I was serious about it in fifth grade. She gave me writing advice that you’d give an adult. I’ll never forget it.”
A 1992 graduate of East Kentwood High School, Riggle went through the journalism program at Michigan State University. Her first job was as a reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune covering education and school board meetings.
“Yes, those can be time consuming meetings with a lot of material to digest, “she answers, responding only to the expression on my face. “But what I was able to learn was to look at all that information from my reader’s viewpoint and pull out the nuggets of news that would impact them.”
Now years later and after subsequent positions at The Bay City Times and The Grand Rapids Press, Riggle considers herself a “recovering journalist.” Her newspaper career decisively changed directions with the birth of her first child coupled with job burnout.
“You know it’s true how kids change everything,” she says. “I wanted to be home with my baby but I knew I wasn’t good at being domestic or with isolation. So I started freelancing and doing more creative writing.”
As Riggle became more serious about writing a novel, she read books about writing and the publishing process. The result was the publication of her first book, Real Life & Liars, that holds a special place in Riggle’s heart. Now, she manages to raise her young family and produce a new novel every 12 to 15 months, careful not to discuss her work in progress because “it’s just too fragile.”
Kristina Riggle will do a reading from The Whole Golden World at the Kentwood branch of the Kent District Library at 6 p.m. on Monday, January 13. A book-signing will follow.