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  • Writer's pictureKristina Elyse Butke

40 Questions for My 40th Birthday


A yellow-frosted birthday cake with numerous multicolored lit candles - 40 Questions for my 40th birthday
Photo by Richard Burlton on Unsplash

This week I turn forty and I thought I'd write something pondersome, but I had a little trouble coming up with something on my own. So I did a quick Google search and found the "40 Questions for My 40th Birthday" article by Jason Armstrong on the Write or Fight On website and thought I'd answer these too as a special birthday post. Some of these questions are a little funny because they were asked by the author's children, so some of them don't apply (you can tell which ones!). Without further ado, let's dive in!


Why do you always write?

I don't always write, though I've tried to start writing every day now. It's really hard. But why have I been writing as long as I have? I love creating characters and making situations for them that cause all sorts of emotional trials for them. Plus, writing is really all I know how to do well. It's fully a part of my identity at this point and I don't know what else to do with myself. The pull to keep writing is there.


What got you interested in writing?

I think it was a very fanfictiony sort of mentality. I didn't like how a story went, and I thought I could write it better, so I did. I wanted the characters to do things that hadn't happened in the original story, and I liked inventing new things for them to do and say. My very first stories were adaptations - Sleeping Beauty, The Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - and of course, I write fanfiction now because I like extending the story for certain characters. On top of all of that, I have always loved reading and writing just seemed like a natural extension of that.


What gave you the idea to start a blog?

In 2010 for my Readings in the Genre courses at Seton Hill University we were required to keep a blog to write about the books we were assigned to read. My blog just naturally grew from there. In 2021 I rebooted my old blog from Blogger and moved it over to Wix and lost about 10/11 years' worth of posts, unfortunately, but I'm happy with my blog rebranding, and the fact that I blog regularly now with one post a week. I hope to continue blogging even when I become a published writer, as this site doubles as my official author website.


Why don’t you have good balance?

When I was a ballerina, I had excellent balance, but over the years I've gained a lot of weight from meds and lifestyle changes, and my posture went to crap. I think the extra weight I've been carrying, especially in my core, has led to me becoming a little wibbly-wobbly now. I don't know if this is a legitimate reason; it's just a theory. But I've definitely lost my sense of balance and poise over the years.


Who is your favorite child?

I don't have children. But my friend Kathy's kids are pretty awesome.


What is your favorite color?

For a long time my favorite color was blue but it changed to green. I'm not sure why. Maybe because green reminds me of trees and plants and the planet feeling alive.


What place from your childhood do you miss?

There was a great place called "The Seven Caves" that had hiking paths and of course, multiple caves you can go into. My grandma took us there when we were little, and then we went back with my father one time, but the caves have since closed down. It was a really cool place to go.


When have you been most proud of your children?

I don't have kids and I'm never going to, but I think I would be proud if they grew into genuinely kind and considerate people.


Favorite movie?

I can watch Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett over and over again.


Guilty pleasure?

I wrote about this for Speculative Chic but I really had fun with the animated series Diabolik Lovers. It's terrible but I couldn't stop watching.


What is one sentence you wish you wrote?

"The whisper caressed her mind like a flabby hand" is from Sorcery of Thorns and I wish I was brazen enough to write something so ridiculous. I don't like the sentence itself; I just wish I had that kind of bravery in my writing.


What is one quote you often think about?

I always think of the question, "What happens to a dream deferred?" by Langston Hughes.


What is one goal you would like to accomplish over the next 10 years?

I would like Son of the Siren published and have a few more books in the wings published, too. To be honest, I'd like to be a full-time writer but I don't see how that's possible at the moment.


How’s your book going?

I'm 20,292 words into it as I write this. It's going really slowly as I am rewriting The Name and the Key from scratch, and I've made a lot of changes to it and plan on continuing to do so. It's been much harder than I expected it to be.


What is one thing people may be surprised to learn about you?

I'm perpetually afraid of almost everything.


One thing you got in trouble for as a kid?

I have a hard time not talking. When I was in middle school I got a detention for speaking during reading time, even though I like reading! I was helping another student but it was still disruptive, so I got in trouble.


What was a good memory from childhood?

I have a lot of good memories but the very first one that popped into my head was when Mom and Dad took us to the Barnum and Bailey Circus in NYC (I think Madison Square Garden) and I hugged a clown.


What the are 3 most important qualities to have?

Kindness, empathy, and forgiveness.


If you could be an instant expert in one thing what would it be?

I would like to be an expert in historical clothing. I know some stuff but I would love to be a costume historian.


The does the world need right now?

To tax the billionaires and upper classes.


What is one thing you would like to learn more about?

I'd like to learn more about knowing what to look for when buying a used car. I need one and I don't want to get a lemon.


What is one thing your kids do that you don’t understand?

As I said before, I don't have kids. But one thing I would like to understand is why kids can be so brazenly mean to each other sometimes.


What nonfiction books do you recommend?

I'm Glad My Mom Died and Ghosts of the Tsunami.


What fiction books do you recommend?

Sorcery of Thorns, and A Curse So Dark and Lonely.


What was something embarrassing you did?

I embarrass myself frequently but the first memory that popped into my head was when I was doing a pep rally in high school with the band and I went to do a kick and fell backward onto the floor and knocked over a bunch of music stands.


What keeps you awake at night?

I have trouble falling asleep at night because my brain likes to replay memories of mistakes I made and painful pieces of my past. It really sucks.


What gets you mad?

I don't get mad very often but I do when people are mean or when they misunderstand me.


What surprising lesson has teaching taught you?

It doesn't matter how good of a teacher you are; there are going to be students who absolutely hate you.


What is one thing you wished you learned sooner?

I wish I would've learned more about my bipolar disorder sooner. If I would've gotten treatment in high school I think my life would have been much easier.


What is something people need to stop doing right?

This question is worded really funky. It sounds like people should not do something correctly anymore, and I have no idea what that would be. If I had to choose something people should stop doing in general, it would be for people to stop butting in to each other's business and leave each other alone.


What has been your funniest moment as a teacher?

In Japan, one of my students told me he loved me so to tease him I got down on one knee and told him I loved him back. The whole class burst out laughing.


What is the worst advice you often hear?

There's a lot of bad writing advice out there but I think the advice to only use the dialogue tag "said" in your writing is something that should be reconsidered. It's true that people can go overboard on other types of dialogue tags, but sometimes people grunt and hiss and ask and moan and murmur. Using "said" only all the time is boring to me. And author Abbie Emmons did an informal survey and readers mentioned they hate seeing "said" all the time!


What is the best medicine?

I was going to say Rexulti (the best antipsychotic I've ever been on) but in terms of folk wisdom I've got to say chicken noodle soup.


What lessons did you learn from your parents?

My Dad imparted wisdom for me right when I was starting college, and he said a major part of college was very much the people that you meet, and that was absolutely true. Mom was very much about learning to give grace when people make mistakes.


What have you learned about friendship?

The friends who can pick up with you right where you left off (especially after lengthy absences) are the best kinds.


What is your favorite poem?

"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe.


What is one thing people need to practice?

Empathy.


What movie makes you cry?

Glory.


What is something that is underrated?

Walking through a forest.


What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?

Don't feel guilty about cutting the harmful people from your life. Even "nice" people can be bad for you.


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