Friendship 101, An interview with Kristina McBride, YA author of THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES
Jun 14th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

Tension. Opposites. Friendship.


Kristina McBride

Kristina McBride, author of The Tension of Opposites, understands that in every relationship there are complicated layers.  Loyalty and love. Fear and insecurity.  Now imagine that your best friend vanishes most likely kidnapped with no leads and the strong possibility that she may be dead.

Kristina has done a masterful job of weaving the story of Elle – a teen who returns home to her family and best friend Tessa two years after her abduction by a pedophile – with the complications of friendship and relationships.  Imagine separated hands – one represents friendship, and the other the kidnapping and safe return of your BFF.  Now weave the fingers together.  This is precisely how Kristina integrates these two different ideas to create an amazing YA novel.

This interview focuses on friendship, what we can learn about ourselves from the people we hang with and a special rule that Kristina uses, which can help us decide if the people in our lives are good for us.  To enter a drawing for a signed copy of The Tension of Opposites please see instructions below.

Q:  What qualities do you believe are necessary for a true and meaningful friendship?

A:  Any type of relationship is difficult unless you can be a friend to yourself first. That might sound cheesy or cliché, but it’s true. You must listen to your inner thoughts and not go against that little voice inside your head. It also is essential that you feel appreciation for who you are as a person. I was so shy and unsure of myself when I was in high school, and even into college. One thing that helped me appreciate who I am was looking at myself through the eyes of my best friends. I always thought my closest friends were pretty cool, so if they liked me maybe I was okay. If you can’t learn to appreciate yourself you’ll begin comparing yourself to others, resenting others, and become an all around sticky mess. It took me a VERY long time to get to the point where I loved myself as much as I love my friends.  That’s the goal to strive for. When you get there, you’ll feel a freedom unlike anything you’ve ever known. You’ll stop feeling afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. You’ll automatically hang around people who accept you for who you are because you’re not so busy trying to be whatever it is you think they want you to be. And you’ll have a much better life because of it!

Beyond this, I think friends must share common ground, a sense of safety (including honesty and respect), and tons of laughter.

Q:  Do your main characters, Tessa and Elle, possess these characteristics, or is one friend more loyal than another?  How does this friendship work?

A:  I believe that Elle is so broken after spending two years with her kidnapper that she can’t be much of anything to anyone when the book begins. Tessa is fiercely loyal and protective – to a fault actually. She lets her relationship with Elle become too much of a driving factor in her own life. This friendship is difficult because there is no balance. Tessa has to give and be understanding, even as she’s hurt by this new version of her friend.

The reason this friendship works is that Tessa is so loyal and patient. Tessa feels that if she gives Elle enough time, she’ll come around.  Not too many people could have that kind of patience or devotion to another person, and that’s definitely admirable.  If it had not been for the kidnapping, Elle’s behavior as a so-called friend would be inexcusable and Tessa should give up her quest to have Elle in her life.  It’s Tessa’s loyalty, however, that helps Elle find her footing again.  I appreciate the journey these two friends take together.

The lack of balance we see between Tessa and Elle is evident in many types of relationships. There is a natural sway of give and take in some relationships that last for a long period of time.  You must, however, be sure that the sway is there – that one person isn’t constantly giving while the other is constantly taking.

Q:  Many YA go from relationship to relationship or hook up to hook up.  Often these experiences result in pain.  Other than the possibility of sexual gratification, what is it that a YA is looking for and how can s/he find it?

A:  I believe that this goes back to my statement that you first must be a true friend to yourself. You have to protect yourself and respect yourself in the same manner you do your best friend.

We’re all searching for the people we can be our true selves with and not worry about judgment, right? That was my struggle as I made my way from young adulthood to adulthood. I learned that I have some incredible friends who will stick by my side through anything, others who kind of flit in and out of my life, and yet others who I cannot trust at all.  Look at the people who come into your life as if you’re “dating.” Ask yourself the following: “Do I want this person in my life? Does this person make me feel positive and bring out the best in me?” If the answer to either question is no, then you give yourself permission to “break up” with the people who are not healthy energies in your life. If you can understand that most people will not stay in your life forever, if you take from each person what you can to make yourself a better person, there won’t be so much pain as you move through the important relationships in your life.

I think if I had to do it all over again, I’d just chill out a bit and realize that it’s all a process. It would have been so much easier early in life if someone had spelled it out for me by explaining the following:  This is the way life goes – you meet people – some stay in your life and others go. It’s okay no matter what happens with each person because you’ll always have you. You’ll figure out who’s important to your journey and who isn’t as you move forward.

Q:  Guys and girls often find that girlfriends/boyfriends interfere with their other friendships or with schoolwork/sports.  This tension leads to breakups.  Why is that, and how can YA deal with these situations?

A:  DRAMA! I was a very intense high-schooler and I played into the whole relationship game too much. I have learned something VERY important about relationships. It’s the 90/10 Rule, and I live by it. Here’s how it works: If you’re not having fun and feeling good about yourself 90% of the time you’re with the wrong person (whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship), stop hanging out with them. You can do this gradually by pulling away, or make it a clean break. There are a zillion people for you to spend your time with, and you shouldn’t waste a minute of your life with anyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. Ever.

It was a huge “Ah-Ha!” moment for me when I realized that though a breakup (with a friend or boyfriend) might stink, it was happening for a reason. I learned to allow myself a few days to feel depressed if I needed it because I had to honor my feelings.  Then I found something to help me move on – like an art class – something special just for me.

Q:  When you think of Max and Tessa, what is it about their relationship that clicks?

A:  I believe that the relationship between Tessa and Max works because there is a mutual respect and compassion between them. (Okay, Max might have to take more weight in this because of all the issues Tessa is going through with Elle.) It’s important to be able to put yourself in another person’s situation, and to treat them kindly based on their individual situation. But you have to create boundaries and not allow anyone to cross them. Tessa certainly tests Max’s limits, and she’s not sure if or how long he’ll stick around. (You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens between them!)

Q:  Looking at your own high school years and the friendships that worked and didn’t work, please share a story or two about the lessons you learned from those relationships.

A:  I’ve already talked about my 90/10 Rule, which I have had to put into effect for several relationships in my adult life. I’m not talking about bad people, just people that didn’t make me feel positive about myself and what I was thinking/saying when I was around them. I only wish I’d lived by this rule when I was in high school.

The most important thing I have learned is that the only person who will be with me every second of my life is me. I have to be true to myself first and foremost, and the rest will fall into place. I spent a lot of time being afraid of what others think about me, and it’s the coolest thing to be able to say, “This is me, and I’m not ashamed of any part of me. If someone likes me – cool. If not – that’s okay too.” This is much easier said than done!! especially as I move into the public eye with the publication of my book!  I just take a deep breath and remind myself that it’s all about my perspective. I do my best to stay positive.

Q:  With the easy and fast-paced access to information today via such communication modes as e-mail, texting, Facebook, and Twitter what do YA need to know in order to build positive friendships/relationships?

A:  Be careful.  Don’t throw something out there that could be hurtful to someone, because it’s not worth it and you’ll never be able to take it back. Be the person you want others to remember later in life. Think about your actions and their consequences. Above all, strive to be kind in every situation. That’s what it’s really all about.

There are many lessons readers can take away from the relationships in The Tension of Opposites.  What have been the most powerful for you and why? I’ll take this full circle and end where I began. It’s essential to build a positive relationship with yourself. You must learn to be comfortable with you – all of you – even the stuff that’s not so great. If you can do this, you’ll learn to open up, as Tessa struggles to do throughout the story, and the rewards will be plentiful!

To enter the drawing for a signed copy of The Tension of Opposites please do one of the following under comments:

  1. Share your thoughts about this blog piece.
  2. Share your ideas on what makes a person a true and loyal friend.
  3. Share a short story of friendship.
  4. Retweet this blog piece on Twitter and/or put a link on Facebook.  (Please let me know that you’ve done this by providing the Facebook link or add @LizaWiemer on Twitter.)

Entries for this drawing will close on July 1, 2010 at 8:00 PM CST and are open to individuals in the United States and Canada.

To learn more about Kristina McBride please see her website:  www.KristinaMcBride.com.  For more information from the publisher go to: http://tinyurl.com/24ceaus To order or read reviews of The Tension of Opposites check out Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/2bgbfb2 The book also is available at any bookstore near you.

Wisdom from Starbucks – Life Lessons from Teens to Seniors
Feb 8th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer


 Life Lessons from Teens to Seniors

I love connections and people’s stories.   I’m also a Starbucks addict.  If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m not shy.  So, I had no problem walking up to complete strangers at various Starbucks and asking them to share some wisdom with the rest of us.  I was blown away!  Some of the most brilliant thoughts came from teens and young adults! 

The priceless question:  What has life taught you so far?

The answers:  Definitely worth your time – a lot of wisdom came from people waiting for a mocha or cappuccino!

Kelly, 28, “Spend time with the people you love because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”

Molly, 13, ON FRIENDSHIP: “When you have two friends who are fighting – stay out of it because they will put you in the middle and then you’re the one who will end up in the most trouble.  It’s okay to know that your best friend today may not be your best friend in the future.  Friends can change.  I lost my best friend because of a stupid mistake, but true friends are forgiving.  True friends also don’t focus on clothes and all the outer stuff.  Years from now, it won’t matter.  WHO YOU ARE INSIDE IS WHAT MAKES YOU A STAR!”

Also, don’t overreact because it’s pointless – a waste of energy – and in the end, it’s not nearly as important as you most likely thought it was.  Instead of wishing for life to be different, deal with the way things are. (Wishing doesn’t do anything – change only happens if you make it happen.)

Amanda, 25, NOTHING LESS.  I read this phrase in my assignment notebook in sixth or seventh grade.  It struck me then, and it has stayed with me.  What it conveyed was a message that I should settle for nothing less than fulfilling my personal goals and dreams.  It motivated me.  As I got older, I continued to follow this idea.  The only thing that has changed is that I realized that sometimes you can alter your dreams as you go along the way.”

Isaac, 13, Respect your friends.  Don’t yell at them or keep things bottled up.  It will only come out at another time or land on someone else that you care about.”

Jodi, 34, “Trust in who you are, and trust your heart.  Sometimes your head can get in the way, especially when you start wondering what other people are thinking.  Let that go and when you do, you’ll find that things fall into place.

Taylor, 14, “Boys can be stupid.  When they act like they’re interested in you, they’re not, and when they act like they aren’t interested in you, they are.  Why don’t they just say exactly what they mean!

Maureen, 62, “It’s important to find something to laugh about every day.  Surround yourself with people whom you enjoy and feel good to be around.  True friendship involves relationships that understand that things happen – we all go through a lot in life – so appreciate how precious life is and cherish each moment.”

Jamie, 45, “Never underestimate what (you can do) or what your children can do.  Your children are capable of so much more than you think; so don’t limit them with your perceptions.” 

Marnie, 30, “When you put anything on the computer, even when you think it’s private, it’s not.  Facebook, e-mail, Twitter etc. is not private.  If you don’t want the world to know about it, keep it off the computer – PERIOD!”

Hannah, 13, “Don’t put off your homework!  I had an assignment and had two weeks to do it.  I kept thinking that I had time to get it done and when I finally got around to doing it then night before, it was way too late.  I could have done a lot better.”

Jennifer, 46, “Don’t make drama where there is none, because doing so is unnecessary.  There’s enough real drama in your life to deal with without creating more.  Also, don’t play the “what if…” game if you’re going to focus on the negatives.  It doesn’t help you one bit in life!”

Judy, 63, “A person’s worst qualities can also be his/her best qualities.  For example, if someone is stubborn, this quality may mean she will keep at something until she gets it perfect – she will be driven to succeed.  On the other hand, being stubborn might lead to being inflexible.  A person needs to learn how to use these qualities for the best, and in the most positive way.”

How about sharing some of your own wisdom?  You don’t have to be at Starbucks to do so – just click on comments.  Thanks, Liza

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