Kristine T. Hall has criss-crossed the state pursuing her love of books. From attending the TLA conference in Houston, to volunteering at the Fort Worth Book Festival, to meeting up with authors in events in Dallas and Austin, she has pursued her love of Texas literature in person and online — as the blog tour coordinator of Lone Star Book Blog tours. Starting in January 2019 she takes this literary appreciation to a new level as owner and publisher of Lone Star Literary Life. She talked with us via email during this holiday week about her thoughts and plans for Lone Star Lit.
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Where were born, Kristine? Where did you grow up, and how would you describe those days? I am a Fort Worth girl and have lived more than forty of my fifty-one years there and around Tarrant County. I was (am?) the much-spoiled youngest of three children and have wonderful memories of those days. My parents were big on cultural experiences, so we never missed going to Oktoberfest, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, and Mayfest, visiting museums (my favorite was the FW Museum of Science and History), or seeing live theater at Casa Manana or the Hip Pocket Theater. My siblings are a bit older than me, but I was always included and was singing along with them to “The Age of Aquarius” as a two-year-old and learning how to do the Hustle at age seven. It was a wonderfully rich childhood.
Have you always been an avid reader, and what books influenced you as you were coming of age?
I have! Our house was full of books, as were my grandparents’ houses. When I was a child, someone was always sharing a favorite story with me and often, I was gifted those hand-me-down copies. Dad shared his Old Mother West Wind and Bobbsey Twins books, and my first Nancy Drew books were my mom’s or sister’s copies (In them, Nancy wore a frock, and her “special friend,” Ned Nickerson, drove a Roadster!). We had all the Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia volumes, so I often plopped down on the floor and read those, too. I was lucky enough to be able to order most any book that I wanted from the Scholastic Book Club order forms at school, but I had to use my own money for posters or activity kits. Harsh!
I don’t recall ever being restricted with what content I wanted to read, but I do recall that there was a certain Harold Robbins book that I found on someone’s shelf (not naming names), and I read it in secret at much too young an age. YOWSA. As a teen, I jumped on the V.C. Andrews bandwagon, and there were other titles that were passed between friends that I gobbled up. I am sure those books influenced me, but I’d like to think that the influence was that books can be an escape and a (guilty?) pleasure and that any reading is better than no reading.
Do you enjoy writing as well as reading, or do you just prefer reading?
I love to write, and like so many other bookish people, I’ve thought about writing a book. I have plenty of super-interesting stories to tell, after all. But, the truth of the matter is that I know I would never be comfortable letting any of my writing go into the world. I mean, what if there were an error in it? (Notice I used the subjunctive?) I am a bit obsessive about proper grammar and syntax, so I doubt any of my writing will be shared beyond the book reviews that I currently write. *stops here to proofread again*
How have you been able to weave your avocation — reading — into your career path?
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher (or a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader), so I would set up my classroom of dolls and stuffed animals and read stories to my students. I read my way straight through college as an English and French double-major, then I got my teaching certificate and taught those subjects until I became a mother. That’s when I really started reader’s advisory: all the play group moms would ask me for the best book recs for themselves and their children! I always volunteered in my kids’ school libraries, and it was truly my happy place. When my youngest three were in high school, the librarian at Grapevine High School, Karen Brost, changed my life. I arrived one day for my volunteer shift, and she said, “You should be a librarian.” I began to protest, but anticipating my argument of the five kids to get through college first, she handed me some forms and said, “Sam Houston State University has an MLS program and has a scholarship. You should apply.” The rest, as they say, is history.
You've been a librarian, a book blog coordinator, and now, the new owner and publisher of Lone Star Literary Life. How would you say the book world has changed through the years?
The book world has exploded with the ability for writers to self-publish quickly and inexpensively. Plus, there is now this vast catalog of digital books available to readers seeking instant gratification. It’s really astounding to think of the sheer number of new titles that come out every single day and that you can be reading many of them on a moment’s notice. For this bibliophile, it is simultaneously exhilarating and overwhelming, but what a wonderful way to be overwhelmed! So many books, so little time.
What excites you about heading up Lone Star Literary Life?
EVERYTHING. It seems like such a natural segue for me to take LSLL into its next chapter. What doesn’t excite me about it is an easier question to answer because there’s just one thing that doesn’t excite me: I will likely have even less time to read. It crushes me that as we enter the final days of 2018, I am likely to fall about twenty books short of my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 100. The irony that having a bookish job leaves me little time to read books is not lost on me.
Who are some of your favorite Texas authors? Texas bookstores? Texas publishers? Texas libraries?
In coordinating the LSLL book blog tours, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with so many Texas authors that I couldn’t possibly make a favorites list; these are some of the friendliest, most talented, and hardest working people I have ever met. I consider quite a few of them genuine friends, but in another ironic twist of the job, I’ve never read books written by some of my favorite Texas authors. (But the titles are on my ever-toppling TBR pile.)
My experience with Texas publishers has been primarily with the university presses (TAMU Press, TCU Press, TTU Press), and their reps and books are consistently fabulous. As for Texas bookstores and libraries? I LOVE THEM ALL. Truly, it is a delight for me any time I discover, visit, or re-visit a place that houses books. I am grateful they exist at all and find that each one of them offers something unique. I seek-out and explore bookstores and libraries in any city I visit.
Have you had some time to think about some new features or approaches you might bring to Lone Star Lit?
I kept hoping that I would have a lovely block of uninterrupted time when I could dream and brainstorm about all the possibilities. But since all of this happened right as we entered the holidays, no such opportunity has arisen. Generally speaking, I want to feature more children’s and young adult titles and authors, maybe spotlight libraries and librarians and literacy advocates who are making their mark, and also do something with audio books since that’s such a popular book format. Readers can expect a new website to launch sometime in January, and there will be a page or two dedicated to the book blog tours and featured books and authors on tour. Oh…and of course the page that has the Aggie War Hymn and Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band marching video playing 24/7... too much?
If you were stranded on a desert island — say, off of South Padre Island — what two Texas books would you take and why?
Easiest question yet! No doubt, my books would be Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and Texas by James Michener. I’m a practical person, so with these two books, I’d be getting major bang for the buck since they are beefy books with lots of glorious pages and escape-worthy story lines. Plus, Captain Augustus McCrae is probably my favorite book boyfriend.
What's on your nightstand to be read pile?
The books on my nightstand are titles that my husband gives me, and he sometimes bookmarks only certain sections or pages for me to read. Most recently: The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond, and a marker on the chapter titled “Bridging Human Language”; The Rabbi Jesus by Bruce Chilton (full book, DNF’d it), and The Dictator’s Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith. Not on the nightstand but by the sink, I always have a book in progress that I call my toothbrush book. It’s never a book I have to read for editing or review, and I pretty much only read it while I’m brushing my teeth. Not coincidentally, I always have very good dental reports.