Monday, October 5, 2015

Q & A with Katrell Christie, Author of TIGER HEART: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling and What I Learned About Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family Half a World Away + Giveaway!!

Please join me in welcoming author Katrell Christie to A Literary Vacation! Her book, Tiger Heart, is the true story of how Katrell, a roller-derby-queen-turned-tea-shop owner, is changing the lives of impoverished young women in Darjeeling, India. What's even more amazing? A portion of the book sales for Tiger Heart will go to The Learning Tea, Katrell's organization that provides scholarships to these women. How wonderful is that?! So please enjoy this Q & A and be sure to read more about Katrell's book and enter to win one of TWO copies of Tiger Heart!


Where did the title Tiger Heart come from?
One of the young women in my project in Darjeeling gave me the nickname Tiger Heart because she said it represented strength and compassion. The girls liked the name – tigers have a lot of powerful symbolism in India – and it stuck.
Why India?
It was really a fluke. I had no connection to India at all. But a regular customer at my tea shop in Atlanta was traveling there for a Rotary Club service project connected and she invited me along. I said no a few times and then, for some reason, I said yes. It was a whim that completely changed my life.
You have had some wild adventures traveling over there. What sticks with you?
Every trip has had some crazy highlights. There was the time my friend was nearly attacked by a feral monkey at a temple. On another trip my whole group became violently ill on a marathon train ride. I’ve been covered in chalk dust at a Hindu festival and hauled up the Himalaya Mountains in the back of livestock truck filled with chickens. I’ve come to really love India and its many surprises.
How did you find the young women who would become your first scholars?
A lot of walking up and down hills. Really! When I first arrived in Darjeeling I knew I wanted to find a way to help, but I really didn’t know what that would mean. I kept talking to people and one person would send me to another and so on and so on. When I finally arrived at a Buddhist orphanage I knew I had found the right place. I gravitated to the oldest girls there because they were set to age out and had nowhere to go.
And that is how The Learning Tea began?
Yeah. I just couldn’t walk away after meeting them. But if you had told me then that today I’d be responsible for a house full of young Indian college students I would have said you were nuts.
How did you model your project The Learning Tea?
I’m inspired by philanthropic ventures like Tom’s and Newman’s Own. They are able to run a business and also contribute to a greater good. That’s what I’m after with The Learning Tea. People can buy their coffee or tea lots of different places. When they choose my shop, they know they are helping educate young female college students in India.
What do you think of the Indian people?
I am blown away again and again by how giving they can be, especially when they often have so little. They live right in the moment and enjoy an uncomplicated happiness that leaves me in awe.
How did you come to open your shop - Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party?
The funny thing is I actually really like coffee better than tea! The little coffee shop near my apartment in Atlanta was closing and I liked the idea of opening a place that would be a community gathering spot. I think that’s what it’s become. My business partner is English and is a tea lover. He’s the one that moved us in that direction and it caught on.
How difficult was it to put your life down on paper?
I wanted to be as honest as possible, show the good along with the bad. I am far from perfect and have made lots of mistakes and I wanted to make sure those came through. On some of my earlier trips to India I kept a blog for some friends where I kept track of some of the crazier things that I saw and did. When we sat down to write, we were able to adapt a lot of those posts for the book, like a diary. It reminded me of things like colors and smells and people. It made the writing a little easier.
What do you hope readers take from the book?
That they can make a difference, even in a very small way, by the choices that they make. And that happiness can come from helping others. It’s amazing how good it can make you feel to see a smile on someone’s face and know you played a part in putting it there.
Katrell Christie with Shannon McCaffrey
Publication Date: October 6, 2015 (HCI)

In TIGER HEART: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling and What I Learned About Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family Half a World Away (October 2015), Katrell Christie tells her remarkable story – how an impromptu trip to India inspired her to house and educate the country’s displaced young girls. Katrell never intended to visit India. In fact, her dream getaway involved a tropical beach and a margarita. But when this former art student turned roller-derby-rebel-turned-tea-shop owner met three teenage girls at a crowded Buddhist orphanage in Darjeeling, Katrell knew she had to help. What began as a trip on a whim proved to be a life-altering experience that would change the fate of these displaced girls, and others to follow. Katrell soon would find a new purpose in India, and in the most unlikely way, her life would be eternally entwined with women from a whole new world. TIGER HEART is beautifully written and offers a shot-gun seat on an inspiring trek across the globe, capturing the essence of India: its quirks, its traditions, and its people. It examines the ties that bind us, the power that each of us has to make a difference, and the way we live, love and find meaning in our lives. 

While in Darjeeling, Katrell learned that the girls in this orphanage would soon “age out,” without any place to go and that the fate of many of them was bleak. At 16-years-old the girls are “evicted” from the orphanage and left to fend for themselves in a society where one’s family is the vital support network. Many of these girls faced grim futures as laborers or domestic servants. Some might have been relegated to lives of sexual exploitation. When Katrell learned about these “throwaway” girls, she couldn't walk away. Instead she moved forward--on a mission to help in any way, and once back in Atlanta, founded The Learning Tea, which today has offered scholarships to 15 young women in Darjeeling. By selling tea, cupcakes, scones, and other items, Katrell raised enough funds to provide life necessities for the girls, providing them with life necessities -- a safe home, an education, uniforms, medical care, as well as music lessons, tutoring, computer classes, and other extracurricular activities -- all because of one unlikely hero and her tea shop.

TIGER HEART recounts Katrell's riveting adventures in India, through the chaotic streets of Mumbai, to tiny villages with roadside tea huts and hot samosas, to elephant crossings and snow-capped mountain switchbacks of the Himalayas--an unexpected backdrop where Katrell fell in love with a country that was gorgeous and heartbreaking all at once, where tragedy, humor, resilience and kindness were inextricably bound. Katrell has readers sipping tea with her at roadside tea huts and tasting hot samosas. The smells from small villages waft from the pages as readers accompany her on her riveting and sometimes hilarious adventures across the globe in her mission to empower the young women who have become a part of her family. Katrell dodges feral monkeys, slams shots of whiskey to win acceptance at a local Rotary Club, and forges lasting friendships with the people who step up to help her cause. Katrell will inspire readers as she shares her story and her mission to make a difference through the power of educating girls. Fate may have led Katrell to a tiny spot on a map, but it was a kinship that brought her back home a half a world away.

About the Author


Katrell Christie is the founder and owner of The Learning Tea, a project that provides schooling and TIGER HEART is Katrell’s first book. She lives in Atlanta, GA. Please visit for more information or connect with the project on Twitter.
a safe haven for impoverished young women in India. Through her efforts with The Learning Tea, Ms. Christie has changed the lives of many women living in Darjeeling, India.

Shannon McCaffrey is an award-winning reporter focusing on investigative stories for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She is an avid reader, a mother, and a runner.


Giveaway Time!! 


Thanks to publicist Jessica Jonap I have two (2) copies of Tiger Heart to give away!! If you would like to enter to win one of two copies (US only) please fill out the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!

I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on October 12th, 2015 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.

Good Luck!!

1 comment:

  1. I've chosen the two winners of a copy of Tiger Heart! Using a random number generator the winners are....Bonnie Zobel Karoly and Diana So! Congrats ladies! I'll be sending you an email in just a few minutes and you will have 48 hours to respond to my email with your full mailing address. Thank you to everyone who entered!