...Interview Kristen Elise, PhD

This is Kristen!

This is Kristen's book! Buy it here.

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Three things before we start…

My little weekly serial was recently accepted by Juke Pop Serials, which is right up there with Amazon’s program as the best place to publish serials. I’m really happy about this, especially because Juke Pop has a “rights exclusive” clause in their contract, but they are cool with me continuing to publish the serial on my site. Also, Juke Pop uses a voting process to determine the best serials so, if you’re enjoying WHEN THE DEEP PURPLE FALLS, I’d be really happy if you voted for it on their site. I don’t ask for much.

Two, since the interview below deals with self-publishing, I want to mention that my good friend Nina Cole is publishing her own novel this fall! You can read her blog here. She’s really funny and a good writer, so clicking on this link will make your life better.

Three, I'm participating in something called the Blogger Book Fair next week. So I'll be interviewing three writers and posting the interviews here, probably Monday through Wednesday. And they're interviewing me. I'm not that interesting, but I lied a lot.

And now it’s all about Kristen…


Okay, this is really annoying, but not only has Kristen Elise written a kick-ass book, but she’s also a PhD-level scientist who works on curing cancer. What the hell, right? You’re only allowed to do one thing well.

I met Kristen earlier this year and we ended up trading e-mails as we simultaneously sought publishers. We're both wicked smart and happily ended up in the unusual situation of multiple offers but Kristen decided, as quite a few writers do nowadays, to put out the book on her own. I like the idea of self-publishing, but I haven’t found many self-published novels that I've enjoyed. Happily, THE VESUVIUS ISOTOPE does not fall into that latter category. Kristen tells a fun and informative story that is as meticulously edited as it is thought-out. Here’s the official description:

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

And here's my official interview:

What's your favorite joke?

Oh…there are so many…brace yourselves...

Two scientists walk into a bar. The first says, "I'll have H2O." The second says, "I'll have H2O, too." The second guy dies.

What do you call a guitarist with no significant other? Homeless.

How does a lead singer change a light bulb? He holds the bulb and waits for the world to revolve around him.

Why do bands only take 15 minute breaks? So they don't have to re-train the drummer.

What does Ph.D. stand for? Pathetic hopeless dweeb. Potential heavy drinker. Prozac handouts desired. Please hire! Desperate! Professional hamburger dispenser…(this joke has no end, so I'll stop there…)

A neutron walks into a bar and asks how much for a beer. The bartender says: "For you, no charge."

OK I'll stop now before your readers start throwing up...

Stranded on a deserted island. What three books do you bring?

Don Quijote in Spanish and a really great English/Spanish dictionary. I assume this will keep me busy for a while, so I don't have to start talking to a volleyball.

The third book would be a Sears catalog (no toilet paper on desert islands, you know).

How do you like to relax?

Walks are always good, especially with dogs in tow. My husband and I go for short walks daily and long walks at least once or twice a week, either at the beach, Balboa Park, Old Town, through the zoo or Sea World, or some other cool place in San Diego, of which there are many. I'm also a fan of sitting somewhere with a cool drink and a cool view and just staring at said cool view. If there's an ocean or a fountain involved, even better.

Aside from writing, what other art form would you like to pursue?

The aforementioned band/musician jokes come from my 15+ years as lead guitarist in a metal/hardcore band called Six Foot Deathtrap. You know you just Googled Six Foot Deathtrap. We released a CD entitled "Vindication." I'm now far too old for those types of shenanigans, and my hearing has suffered greatly for them, but I would love to return to my original musician roots - classical piano. My mom is a brilliant awesome pianist and was my first music teacher. Unfortunately, my house is too small for the grand piano of my dreams. So for now, I have to live vicariously through my next door neighbor, who serenades the neighborhood nicely every night with gorgeous solo piano. Love it.

I would also love to do some type of visual art but I totally suck at those. My sister, who paints with oils, got all of the talent in that department.

Is it easy to balance life as a scientist and writer?

Yes and no. Science gives me a lot to write about, but a lot of the really cool stuff can't be written or I'll be sued and possibly jailed. So yes, the word "balance" is key.

What's been your best moment as a writer?

The moment when I finished my first manuscript for a novel. I had the ending all worked out in my head, and I was dancing around as I was typing because I couldn't hold still. That book is the prequel to The Vesuvius Isotope, which I'll be returning to now that Vesuvius is finally a reality.

Finishing The Vesuvius Isotope was as rewarding, but without that "first finished novel" feeling.

Best moment as a scientist?

I think I have to say, getting my first real paycheck. I starved to death during college and grad school. As a graduate student in my field, you actually get paid a small stipend in exchange for your research and teaching. And I mean small. I made $900 a month in San Diego, where rent alone is usually upward of 2K. So do the math. I lived in a garage with my dog (I only had one at the time) and fed him Nutro Max while I ate Top Ramen. I worked three jobs at a time while working on my Ph.D.

Then you graduate and move on to a post-doctoral fellowship, expecting that you'll suddenly live like a person instead of a pauper. Your salary goes up to "less ridiculous," but it's still less than your friends are making with a high school education, working in various trades. And as a post-doc, you're basically treated like a slave with a learning disability by the rest of the scientific community.

Then you get your first REAL job. This is the moment where the earth moves and the angels weep. You're treated like an intelligent person with a valued mind at your company. And the sky opens and grants you your first real paycheck. And you get to take the aforementioned friends who have been buying you pizza for the last eight years out for a really great dinner. That's a great moment.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

From Mom: You can do anything you want as long as you prioritize school when you're young. Don't let anything get in the way of your education; just do what you need to do to finish it. All the years I just whined about in Question Number Seven paid off, because I was somehow smart enough to get the message on this one. I ended up with a great career that gave me the freedom to do whatever I want - release a CD, publish a novel, travel… all of the things I love to do.

Thanks Mom!

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. Please visit her websites at www.kristenelisephd.com and www.murderlab.com. The Vesuvius Isotope is available in both print (www.kristenelisephd.com andwww.amazon.com) and e-book formats (www.amazon.com for Kindle, www.barnesandnoble.com for Nook, www.kobo.com for Kobo reader).

And remember to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. As always, I love you.


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