Kristin grew up in California and Minnesota, listening to the radio, watching Brady Bunch after school, and reading after bedtime. Vinyl records were still a thing and she had her very own collection of albums in her bedroom —  like ABBA, The Bee Gees and the soundtracks to Grease and Star Wars. This is where she met all of her first crushes; they sang to her from the radio, her record player and the TV and eventually decorated the walls of her room with posters torn out of magazines.

When the lights went out at bedtime, Kristin would pretend to fall asleep and sneak a flashlight under the covers to read just one more chapter. She grew up in a neighborhood full of readers, friends who’d call her up and say, “you wanna come over and read?” And then she moved to a new town and felt like a huge nerd because no one else read as much as she did. That’s when Judy Blume became her best friend; she read every Judy Blume book in the library – even the naughty ones written for adults – because all the people in Judy’s books seemed to have the same problems she did. Kristin finally got to meet Judy Blume as an adult, when she was writing Worldwide Crush, and told Judy that her influence on Worldwide Crush was undeniable. “If this book gets published,” Kristin said, “you can consider yourself one of its creators.”

You can hear Kristin every week on the Pop Culture Preservation Society podcast where she talks about the totally crushworthy pop culture nuggets of the 70s and 80s with her co-hosts Carolyn and Michelle.

Today, Kristin lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the city of lakes, with her husband and her chocolate goldendoodle, Axl Rose Nilsen (fur brother to her human child, Liam, who is in college but somehow still has dirty clothes on the floor of his old room).

Q&A with Kristin

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in a small town in Northern California, and in a city neighborhood in St Paul, and also in the suburbs of Minneapolis. I know what it’s like to live in every kind of neighborhood: urban, suburban and rural.

What were you like as a kid? 

I was a tomboy who wasn’t sporty. At recess, I liked writing notes, quizzing my friends for ESP, and playing with fortune-tellers (here’s a tutorial on how to make one). I mostly liked books. And records. And cool pens for drawing. I didn’t like dolls but I did like stuffed animals, Breyer horses, troll dolls and my Star Wars action figures (C3PO and R2D2). I was always switching hobbies; calligraphy, stamp collecting, sticker collecting, making latch hook rugs. And I used to ride my bike to the library to check out biographies of old movie stars from the adult section.

Did you have any posters on your walls? 

Shaun Cassidy. Andy Gibb. The Bee Gees. GOOGLE IT! You’ll see that the pants in those days were EXTREMELY TIGHT. As in don’t look too closely because it’s embarrassing.

What was your favorite book as a kid?

It changed every year so I’ll give you a chronology:

  • 2nd grade: Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  • 3rd grade: The House With a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs
  • 4th grade: (tie) The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • 5th grade: Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume
  • 6th grade: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • 7th grade: The White Mountains (from The Tripods Trilogy) by John Christopher
  • 8th grade: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

What was your favorite game?

I loved Clue. Miss Scarlet in the Library with the rope. I wanted to play Mouse Trap but I couldn’t get the darn thing set up.

Did you have a favorite movie as a kid?

I saw Grease in the theater nine times. That’s my all-time record. I’ll never see a movie in the theater that many times ever again.

What was your first concert?

Prince. Purple Rain. It was historic and I’ll never forget it.

Do you have a dog?

Yes. My dog is the best dog. He’s the best dog that anyone has ever had. Except maybe yours. My dog is a chocolate goldendoodle named Axl Rose Nilsen and he is a fancy gentleman. He looks like this:

Do you collect anything?

Vinyl records. Good vibes. Compliments.

Why do you write for children instead of adults?

Because I’ve never been attached to any adult books the way I was attached to my books as a kid. To this day, my favorite books are children’s books. That’s why I became a children’s librarian. And I just feel like I have more to say to kids than I do to adults; when people grow up, they often forget what it was like to be ten. Or eleven. Or twelve. For some reason, I didn’t forget.

Why did you write about a celebrity crush in Worldwide Crush?

Because I think it’s an important and helpful and FUN part of growing up. It’s not just your first love –  it’s probably the only love you’ll ever have that provides only good memories. I think that’s why people get so excited to tell me about their childhood crushes (which happens all the time!). It’s because all they remember is the joy. In a celebrity crush THEY ALWAYS LIKE YOU BACK.

And I had such awesome crushes! These were the purest and free-est relationships I ever had; I was always the cool girl in my fantasies and there was absolutely zero chance of getting dumped. These were my practice-boyfriends and they showed me what it was like to be in love without needing to do any IRL love stuff.

Why is it important to affirm that experience for girls? 

And boys, too. It’s a myth that crushes are just for girls. In fact, boys actually have crushes at higher rates than girls do but they’re more likely to keep it a secret. And it’s a mistake to treat it like it’s no big deal. This is a completely natural and age-appropriate phenomenon and if you’re dismissive or disdainful or mocking, you run the risk of sowing the seeds of shame and self doubt. Don’t be that person!

Don’t you think we need to move beyond reducing young girls to having a boyfriend? Real or otherwise? Shouldn’t they be focusing on more important things?

We can do two things at once; we can fall in love AND do lots of other important things. Plus there’s nothing wrong with feeling the urge to seek companionship from the people we’re attracted to. It’s the most natural thing in the world. It’s less about whether or not you should have a crush and more about who you are when you show up for that crush. With a practice-boyfriend, it’s easier to show up as your authentic self. So celebrity crushes can actually be a vital part of our development as independent people.

Of course, it’s also completely normal to NOT have a crush. If you don’t have any feelings for anyone, it might just mean that it wouldn’t be helpful to you right now. Or enjoyable. And you should listen to that.

What kinds of conversations do you hope Worldwide Crush sparks within families?

Fun ones. It doesn’t have to be serious! Ask your mom who her first crush was. Or your dad. Or grandma. Or your teacher!!!  It’s so weird when we find out that the adults around us had celeb crushes, too. It’s like they were real people or something! 😂

What kind of impact do you want this book to have on this generation of girls?

And boys, too. Especially boys who have crushes on other boys. It’s all good stuff. And helpful. And fun. I hope people will feel free to like who they like whether that person is a real person or not. Enjoy it. Don’t judge it. And when you’re an old lady like me, you’ll probably look back and think, “Wow, that was nice.”