Thursday, June 9, 2022

Kristina Forest Interview - Zyla & Kai

Photo Credit: Steven Forest

Kristina Forest is the author of romance books for both teens and adults, including I Wanna Be Where You Are, Now That I've Found You, and Zyla & Kai. Her adult romance debut, The Neighbor Favor, will publish with Berkley in Spring 2023. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at The New School and she can often be found rearranging her bookshelf.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
As a teenager, I was really influenced by authors like Sarah Dessen and Rachel Cohn, who wrote contemporary stories about teenagers figuring out their lives and falling in love. I wanted to write stories like that, but with Black main characters.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
In grad school I learned that outlining might not work for everyone, but it works for me.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’ve been really lucky to meet readers who dress up like my characters. That’s always such a huge compliment.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
My creative writing teacher in high school brought her dad, who was a published author, to our class and he talked to us about his books. I realized that I could turn my hobby into a career.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Listen to your characters. Really listen to them. They have a voice and as the author, it’s our job to bring their voice to the forefront.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My next YA romance, ZYLA & KAI publishes on June 7, 2022. My adult romance debut, THE NEIGHBOR FAVOR will publish in Spring 2023.

In your newest book; ZYLA & KAI, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
ZYLA & KAI is a story about a cynic named Zyla and a hopeless romantic named Kai who meet once summer while working together at an amusement park. They fall in love, then later break up…then run away together. Or at least that’s what everyone thinks. It’s a story of opposites attract and the intensity of first love.

  • Sailor Joe’s, the amusement park where Zyla and Kai work, is based on an amusement park that I worked at one summer in high school.
  • Kai’s full name is Hezekiah.
  • Zyla loves fashion. Her style icons are Iman, Cher, and Rihanna.
  • This is my longest book, but it took me the shortest amount of time to write.
  • This book was almost called I Got You Babe.
  • The structure of this story was inspired by the movie, Moonrise Kingdom.
  • Kai’s favorite television show is Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • Zyla’s great aunt has a Boston terrier named Bartholomew.
  • This is the first book I’ve written that takes place over a time period that’s longer than a week.
  • Like all of my books, ZYLA & KAI has a HEA.
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope that they find themselves feeling invested in Zyla and Kai’s story and their relationship. I hope that readers root for Zyla and Kai, and that reading my book might make then ponder the different ways that love exists.

What part of your Zyla and Kai did you enjoy writing the most?
The whole thing! I didn’t experience writer’s block even once. Extremely rare for me. But I particularly writing any of the scenes where Zyla and Kai were being sweet or sharing their feelings for each other. There’s a scene of the two of them at Homecoming that I hope people will like.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing ZYLA & KAI?
I don’t know if I experienced an unforgettable moment, necessarily. That moment happened after I’d already finished writing the book, once I found out that it sold to my publisher.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d introduce Zyla to Chloe and Evie, the main characters from my previous novels, I Wanna Be Where You Are and Now That I’ve Found You. They have such different personalities, but I think they’d all get along pretty well.

  • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
  • This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
  • Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett
  • Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
  • Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
  • Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
  • Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Who has had the most influence in your life?
My mom and grandmother.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
I don’t know if I can pick one memory that was the happiest above all—it would probably have something to do with Christmas or a birthday party. One really fun memory I can recall is receiving all three Destiny’s Child Barbie dolls for Christmas one year.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
Seeing my debut novel at a bookstore for the first time.

What is your greatest adventure?
I’ve been lots of places, but I don’t know if I’ve had my “greatest” adventure yet. I’ve always wanted to go to Greece like Lena in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

A fresh new YA romance novel by Kristina Forest, Zyla & Kai is an epic star-crossed love story about first love and not just the will they, won’t they— but why can’t they?

While on a school trip to the Poconos Mountains (in the middle of a storm) high school seniors, Zyla Matthews and Kai Johnson, run away together leaving their friends and family confused. As far as everyone knows, Zyla and Kai have been broken up for months. And honestly? Their break up hadn’t surprised anyone. Zyla and Kai met while working together at an amusement park the previous summer, and they couldn’t have been more different.

Zyla was a cynic about love. She’d witnessed the dissolution of her parents’ marriage early in life, and it left an indelible impression. Her only aim was graduating and going to fashion school abroad. Until she met Kai.

Kai was a serial monogamist and a hopeless romantic. He’d put a temporary pause on his dating life before senior year to focus on school and getting into his dream HBCU. Until he met Zyla.

Alternating between the past and present, we see the love story unfold from Zyla and Kai’s perspectives: how they first became the unlikeliest of friends over the summer, how they fell in love during the school year, and why they ultimately broke up… Or did they?

Romantic, heart-stirring and a little mysterious, Zyla & Kai will keep readers guessing until the last chapter.

You can purchase Zyla & Kai at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KRISTINA FOREST for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Zyla & Kai by Kristina Forest.


  1. I'd probably waste a lot of time just goofing around online.

  2. I'd get to read more, do crafts, crochet, paint, garden...