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May 12, 2015

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Kirsten Hubbard

Kate Hart

Today I have the joy of profiling one of my very best friends: author, artist, burner, and intrepid explorer Kirsten Hubbard. Kirsten has traveled (almost) every continent, illustrated her own novel, co-founded YA Highway, organized repeated Burning Man camps, and most recently, moved to the wilds of Los Angeles as she dealt with the challenges of coming out as queer. I love her and I think you should too.


Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) led you there?

Kirsten: I published my first two YA novels, LIKE MANDARIN and WANDERLOVE, with Delacorte Press in 2011 and 2012. My first middle-grade novel, WATCH THE SKY, was published this April -- for various reasons, after a bit of a gap that felt much longer when I was in the thick of it. I sold my next two YA novels to Egmont USA last year, but as many of you might have heard, the publisher closed recently, which means those books will need a new home. It's a major setback, but I'm crazy in love with that project and am hopeful. (Oh, publishing.)

Portrait of the Artist (and her
twin) as Young Badasses

Kate: When and how did you decide to commit to your career? How does it intersect with your passions?

Kirsten: In many ways, I committed to the path that led me here the summer after my freshman year of college, when I switched my major from Ecology, Behavior & Evolution to Literature/Writing. I doubled down soon after graduation, when I began the novel that would become LIKE MANDARIN, and in tandem, the assembly line of restaurant, nightclub, and freelance writing jobs that allowed me the flexibility to write it. I had to wear go-go boots and write about some really tedious things, but it worked out.

Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?

Kirsten: Drawing and painting of all kinds -- lately, watercoloring birds because they make me so happy. I illustrated my second YA novel, WANDERLOVE, myself, and I have been feeling super inspired to jump into another writing/art combination project. Once I get this next book written...

Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Kirsten: Honestly? This time in my life, right now. I've been going through some pretty extreme (and emotionally taxing) personal life stuff lately, and I'd be lying if I said that didn't affect my writing. Not the words themselves, but finding the time and the concentration. These kinds of personal brier patches are difficult for anyone, but they pose a unique kind of challenge for writers -- when much of our job is about accessing & transcribing crazy deep emotions, every single day. And just like, hard thinking. Sometimes it works as an escape from reality, and other times reality eclipses our ability to access those places. But in the end, my word count's still growing. And that's what counts.

Kir at Salvation Mountain
Kate: How do you stay inspired? Productive?

Kirsten: Great music, caffeine, and road trips through the desert.

Kate: How do you deal with negativity?

Kirsten: I don't avoid it -- I read critical reviews of my books, for example. I definitely feel the feelings, but only briefly; I am usually able to move on pretty well. Maybe because by not shying away, I get somewhat inured to them? Or maybe because I've experienced larger setbacks, both in publishing and in life, that make petty stuff easier (still not easy, but easier) to ignore.

Kir's dog, Sky (who is the best)
Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Kirsten: Even though it wasn't a personal failure, losing my Egmont deal sucked majorly. One of those publishing worst case scenarios you try not to even entertain -- and it happened, not just to me, but to so many Egmont authors. But I'm in the bounceback process right now: getting that project back out there. And in the meantime, writing, and writing, and writing.

Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Kirsten: Again, the last year or two. Coming out as a queer woman, I've become so utterly conscious of those patriarchal and heteronormative voices in my head. All those years of "advice", and judgement, and traditions, and The Right Way to do things -- which I did do, for so long. And I'm a lifelong liberal and staunch feminist. I've lived my whole life in progressive California cities, and I've always been queer, just heterosexually partnered. Historically, it's easier to be out than it's ever been (especially here!) -- and so, it irritates the hell out of me that those voices are there at all. Sometimes whispery, sometimes a damn mixed-message cacophony. It can make it so hard to battle through them for your truths, for the wisdom that actually counts.

Kir and Kate at a 2013 retreat
Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Kirsten: There are a lot of things I could say here, but they all come down to empathy. And a lot of that is achieved by knowing when to listen. Particularly to voices that aren't as loud.

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Kirsten: Damn the man. (Save the empire.)


In search of transcendent backdrops for her novels, Kirsten Hubbard has hiked ancient ruins in Cambodia, dived with wild dolphins in Belize (one totally looked her in the eye), slept in a Slovenian jail cell, and navigated many desert apocalypses (usually in face paint and combat boots). But she always comes home to California.

Kirsten is the author of YA novels LIKE MANDARIN and WANDERLOVE (Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books) and middle-grade novel  WATCH THE SKY (Disney-Hyperion). You can learn more about her at:

Goodreads  /  Twitter   /  Instagram  /  Tumblr
Facebook (shrug)  /  Website (still under construction oh god) /  Pinterest

Don't forget to watch the Badass Ladies You Should Know website for part two of Kirsten's interview!


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