Saturday, June 15, 2019

Christina Hagmann, Author of Stratagem

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Today we are interviewing Christina Hagmann, author of “Stratagem,” a young adult suspense/fantasy novel.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in rural Wisconsin, running through the woods and climbing trees. I’ve loved reading and writing my whole life which is why I became an English teacher. In fifth grade, while on a family vacation, I got in a bike accident and couldn’t leave the couch. My mom told me not to read the Stephen King book that she brought along, so of course I did. That was when I first really began to enjoy reading because I saw it as something “dangerous.” I also coach youth sports, basketball and volleyball, when I’m not reading and writing.

Describe the plot of your new book, “Stratagem,” in a few sentences.
Born a shapeshifter, Meda is a young girl in an unfortunate situation. Taken from her family, she is forced to be a spy for a secret agency, until she is kidnapped by three boys who are seeking revenge on the agency. 

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?
I think anyone who likes mystery and suspense, novels with a twist, and quick reads will like Stratagem. It’s a young adult novel but interesting enough for adults to enjoy. 

Tell us about the protagonist, Meda.
Meda is a young girl in an unfortunate situation. She’s a shapeshifter and is forced to be a spy. Up until her kidnapping, she feels she has no other options, but when things start falling apart, she realizes that she needs to be strong enough to make her own decisions and live with the consequences. It really is a coming-of-age story. 

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about Meda’s kidnappers?
Meda’s kidnappers are three teenage boys: Brody, Aaron, and Dan. They aren’t just normal teenage boys though. Much like Meda, certain situations have forced them to do what they need to do to survive. 

Meda reaches a point where she has to make decisions for herself and move beyond her training to just follow orders. Can you tell us what her thought process is like when she makes this transition?
Meda has always felt that she never had a choice but to follow orders because her family is in danger. She never thought about all the people she may have hurt. When she realizes she has a choice, she finds it difficult to determine which decision is the right one. 

Your book is filled with suspense and other classic elements of an edge-of-your-seat thriller. Were you always interested in writing suspense? Or was it something that evolved alongside your writing?
I’ve always loved movies and novels with plot twists and suspense. I’m also a big fan of horror movies that keep you on the edge of your seat. I’ve always loved that feeling, and I wanted my readers to feel the same way. It’s the idea that books make it possible to experience the danger in the world without actually being in danger. 

What inspirations contributed to this book?
A couple years back, I wrote a short story about a young shapeshifter who took over the lives of the people she shifted into. In order to do that, she had to kill them. After writing the story, I realized that the poor shapeshifter didn’t have much of a choice it was the only way she knew how to live. It was at that time that I began to play with the idea of telling the story from a different perspective, through the eyes of the “bad guy” because really, a story is all about perspective. Stratagem really embodies that because it is difficult to tell difference between right/wrong and good/bad. 

ya, mystery/suspense, fantasy, magical realism, coming of age, thriller, spies, shapeshifters, kidnapping, ya suspense, ya fantasy, stratagem, christina hagmann
Author Christina Hagmann.

Is there an author that had a major influence on your writing style?
I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since reading Tommyknockers in the 5th grade. I also loved the writing style of Dean Koontz. I began collecting his books in 7th grade and had nearly 40 of them. Both King and Koontz write with amazing imagery and are able to set up unsuspecting plot twists. 

Who was your favorite character to write?
While I enjoyed Meda, Brody, and Dan, Isi was probably my favorite. She’s a wild card and it’s hard to guess what she’ll do next. She is always in survival mode, and you can bet that she’ll do what will benefit her. 

What are your goals as a writer for the next ten years?
I would love to put a book out every year. I’d love to do some school visits and engage young adults as readers. One of my passions is to pass on my love of reading to others, but I also love the process of creating a book by starting with an idea. I’ve been a pretty productive writer for the last ten years and I’d like to continue that.. 

How have your readers responded to the book so far?
So far the response has been amazing! I’ve heard from most readers that they just can’t put it down. There’s been a lot of questions around the second book, and I do have it outlined, so when readers ask when the next one is due out, that’s the only response I can give right now. 

Have you ever had writer's block? If yes, how'd you deal with it? If you have not had writer's block, why do you think you haven't?
I don’t really get “writer’s block.” I’m an outliner, so I always have multiple projects with outlines. Because of this, I’m able to skip around from scene to scene rather than tell a story chronologically. It’s easier to pick a scene that inspires me rather than try to work through a scene that I can’t quite picture. 

What do you have in mind for your next project?
I have a book coming out in winter of 2019 called The Brothers Finn. It’s another young adult fantasy about two brothers who are framed for the murder of their parents. It’s another fast paced, quick read with plenty of plot twists for readers to enjoy. 

Is there anything else you'd like potential readers to know about your book?
Many people have asked about the title. The title is actually an allusion that comes up later in the book and is important to the plot. 

An excerpt from “Stragegem”: 
“They’re coming,” the blond yelled out. The boy holding me pulled me around to the back of the car. Everything seemed to be taking so long, but only a matter of seconds had passed. There was a click, and the trunk popped open. “Quick, put her in.” The blond boy held a gun up. I squinted towards the rusty vehicle and the dark interior of the trunk.  
“No!” I kicked, struggling for words, and jerked my head back, trying to hit the dark-haired boy who was holding me, but he was bigger than me, and my head only thumped harmlessly against his chest. My kicks were useless. I couldn’t connect with anything. I tried to twist around, but he had a firm grip and was not letting go.  
“The cuffs!” the blond boy yelled. The driver of the car, who I couldn’t see, tossed something out the open window, but it missed its mark and clattered to the ground. Gunshots rang through the air. I flinched and stopped struggling, not sure who was firing. The dark-haired boy stopped and looked back long enough for me to see the men from the van running at us and firing their weapons.  
“Help!” I screamed. It occurred to me that if they were willing to open fire, then maybe the target, Mr. Gray, no longer mattered to them. Maybe the assignment was void and they would have to go with Plan B, which was riskier and had a higher mortality rate. That was what I was told going into this, warning what would happen if I failed or refused to follow through. More importantly, they didn’t need me for Plan B. 
I kicked again, but the boy holding me was too strong. The blond held the trunk open as the dark-haired boy lifted my legs in. He fumbled with me as I used my legs to push off the edges of the trunk, or whatever I could get my feet on. Instead of losing his grip on me, he pushed himself forward and folded himself over me. With his weight heavy against my back, he forced me down and hopped in the trunk with me. More gunshots fired. Bullets pinged off the side of the car. The trunk closed, wrapping everything in darkness.
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