1

The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author CATHERINE LINKA

What’s your book about?  What is it really about?

Catherine answers this as we discuss her YA debut, the romantic speculative fiction novel A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS (St. Martin’s, 2014). She also gives some hints about what the sequel has in store, talks about how she maintains a balance in her life and writing, and reads a particularly intense snippet!

*

*

*

Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL is out now (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).
1

Introducing Kate A. Boorman, author of WINTERKILL


9781419712357

Out here, I can feel the dead in the trees… 

 

Today we’re speaking with Kate A Boorman, author of WINTERKILL, a young adult alternate history thriller that releases September 9th, 2014. One author, four questions….. and go!

 

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen? 

I always want this answer to be: I started writing when I was a child and just pursued a life long dream. I mean, I wrote a kickass mystery short story in grade six (just ask my elementary school—it won an award, I remember, and why wouldn’t it? It featured death by steam room!) and some extremely bad poetry and some short stories in high school, but the truth is, it didn’t occur to me that I could write fiction until very recently.

I’d been writing for hire for several years—qualitative research/analysis etc.—and I was an avid reader, but fiction always felt like it lay far beyond me—not so much beyond my abilities, but my purpose (ie. what would I have to say?). You know those people who have “write a bestseller” on their bucket list—or if not their bucket, their Dream Big list? I always thought those people were completely out to lunch. Like, yeah, I’ll write a book and also be an astronaut and a rockstar in my spare time. I think my decision to try writing fiction was born of a combination of (old) age emboldening me, and needing a creative outlet outside my life of momosity. It was sort of like: what’s the worst that could happen? I don’t have to tell anyone I’m writing.

Very quickly I realized I loved it (also? I am obstinate and the first book I wrote went nowhere and my failure made me more determined). When life threw a curveball a couple of years ago I realized writing was also a really safe place for me. I used NaNo 2011 to finish a different book. I went to a couple of conferences, took workshops on craft, read voraciously, and revised that book. When I felt like it was finally the book I’d hoped to write, I started querying. I received offers of rep, accepted rep, revised with agent, went out on sub, and my agent sold the book in about three weeks. And that book, obviously (and surreally) is my debut that releases this September.

 

What’s your debut book about?

WINTERKILL is about a young girl living in an isolated settlement whose dreams urge her out into the forbidden woods, where the enemy lies in wait. It’s about fear—how it motivates and inhibits us—and discovery, and choosing to believe you are worthy of love.

Here’s an unofficial blurb: 

The woods outside Emmeline’s walls are deadly. Years ago, her people settled out there. Only a handful survived.

Emmeline knows she can’t go out there. She is already watched for Waywardness—the rule-breaking behavior that sent her grandmother to death. She should ignore those dreams that urge her to ask questions she shouldn’t.

But inside the walls is a marriage she doesn’t want, and a boy she can’t have.

And something out there calls to her.

 

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

Super cool: I have man-hands, which are “abnormally large hands on the end of rather stick-ish arms” (not the OED definition). The hands are very useful for playing piano (which I do) and opening jars (which I feign being unable to do because who likes opening jars?). The stick-ish arms would be useful for stabbing zombies through their torsos. Or so says my husband. I suppose I’d have to make my man-hands go rigid into something like spear-points to accomplish such a thing, but if I couldn’t get ahold of a stabby-stabby-poke-stick (which is what you’d need to fight zombies), then I’d be willing to try it. (Note: my book is not about zombies. Or man-hands.)

Less cool: I’m a terrible bike rider. Five words: pant leg in bicycle chain.

 

Why do Canadians use extra letters in their words and spell stuff funny? (colour, honour, cheque)

It’s an issue of National Security and I can only tell you if you pledge allegiance to these things: maple syrup, poutine and David Suzuki. On Canadian soil, of course.

 

Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL debuts September 9th, 2014 (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).
1

How to Survive Your First Author Event

I hate public speaking. Loathe it. Loathe it like Jacob loathes Edward. Loathe it like my cat loathes me when I try to give him his deworming medicine.

The problem is, I wrote this book called Lies We Tell Ourselves. And it’s coming out this fall. And when you write a book you are supposed to go out and promote it and stuff. And promoting a book tends to involve appearing public and ― gulp ― talking about it. Otherwise known as public speaking.

Two weeks ago, I did my first such event. To say I was kind of nervous going in would be to say the YA community is kind of excited to see the Fault in Our Stars movie.

And yet. It actually wasn’t that terrible.

In fact it was kind of awesome.

Okay, it was actually, genuinely, no-holds-barred fabulous.

I had fun. In all my anticipation for what my first event might be like, it never occurred to me that I would actually have fun.

But fun was had! In fact, it was such a positive experience that I felt compelled to list out some tips for other debut authors who are biting their nails with dread awaiting their first official appearances.

Here’s my quick list:

  1. Have something to talk about. My first panel was about diversity in young adult fiction. A fascinating topic ― and having a specific agenda meant I didn’t have to spend the whole time just talking about my book. Sure, I talked some about Lies We Tell Ourselves, but mainly we talked about the broader topic of diversity and how it affects the YA field as a whole. It’s much easier to get pumped to discuss a meaty topic like this one than to feel self-conscious for plugging your book the whole time.
  2. Know what you’re getting into. The event I spoke at was the third in a series of panels for writers called “Shut Up and Write” moderated by kick-ass author Jon Skovron at the Arlington Central Library in Virginia. So, I made sure I went to the first two panels in the series prior to my own event. Knowing what to expect made me way more comfortable when it was my turn to be on the panel. Granted, not every author event is part of a series, but if you can go to other events similar to the one you’ll be appearing at ― for example, signings held at the same location, or launch parties for other authors in your genre ― it can give you an idea of what your appearance will be like. (I’ll go to the future panels in “Shut Up and Write” series too, by the way, because these panels are freaking awesome.)
  3. Start small. I’ve been to author events that had ten attendees and to events that had hundreds. The crowd at our panel was about 30 or 35 people, which was perfect, in my view. It was small enough that it felt intimate, and everyone was excited to be there. The crowd was really engaged in the topic and asked great questions. It felt more like we were all hanging out having a conversation than what I usually think of as Public Speaking.
  4. Have an excellent moderator and outstanding co-panelists. The aforementioned Jon Skovron is the perfect panel moderator. He asked thought-provoking questions that were easy to answer and got us started on a fascinating dialogue. The other two ladies on my panel, Lucky 13 author Ellen Oh and author/cover designer Shirin Dubbin, were brilliant, and had so many insights to share that I kept wanting to raise my hand and ask them questions too. If I could have my way, they would be my co-panelists for every event I ever do!

Granted, I was still nervous. And granted, it was still bizarre to be talking about my book in front of a crowd who actually appeared to be interested in hearing what I say about it.

But now that I’ve got an appearance under my belt ― and an awesome one ― I’m not quite so scared about doing it again.

I know I won’t always have such a supportive crowd, and I won’t always have such an interesting discussion topic. But I’ll never be a first-timer again.

Next time I’ll be that much less nervous. And the time after that, I’m sure I’ll feel like an old pro.

Or, at the very least, I’ll be less nervous approaching an upcoming appearance than I am when approaching my cat with a medicated syringe. At least author panels rarely involve bloodshed!

Robin Talley lives in Washington, D.C., with an ornery cat, a goofy hound dog and a lovely fiancée. Robin’s debut novel, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES (Harlequin Teen, 9/30/2014), follows a black girl in 1959 Virginia who’s the first to desegregate an all-white high school, and winds up falling in love with a white girl in the process. Robin tweets at @robin_talley.
2

When We Say YA

Welcome to When We Say YA! Every month, the OneFour YA authors get together to talk about everything related to young adult lit. This is our very first When We Say YA post, so this month’s topic is:

Did you always know you wanted to write YA?

I did! When I started writing, I wasn’t even a young adult yet. I was about eight, and obsessed with my big sister’s Sweet Valley Highs, and I just wanted to create gorgeous and popular California girls of my very own. So I started writing what we’d now call YA, and never stopped.
Dahlia Adler, BEHIND THE SCENES

Yes, I did. I began writing seriously as a teenager, so it made sense to me to write for people in my age group. I love YA so much, I’m not sure I’ll ever write anything else!
Stephanie Diaz, EXTRACTION

I didn’t! I always thought I would write for adults until I received feedback that various stories of mine might work better as YA. I tried it, and then I was hooked. No going back now!
AdriAnne Strickland, WORDLESS

I never considered writing fiction! But when I got hooked on reading YA, stories just started collecting in my head and I gave it a try. I can’t imagine writing in another age-range now.
Helene Dunbar, THESE GENTLE WOUNDS

No–my first few novels were adult SFF (even though I was a teenager at the time). When one of my adult novels wasn’t clicking I re-envisioned the characters as teenagers, and the book fell into place straightaway. All my ideas since have been YA, with a sprinkling of MG. Given that in my time in fandom, I’d spent a lot of time writing characters in that same age range, I wonder why I didn’t make the switch sooner!
Corinne Duyvis, OTHERBOUND

I am a Janie-come-lately to YA novels. I began my career writing and publishing a children’s picture story book series, ages 5-9, and NF articles for adult market magazines. Then I went back and got another degree in jounalism and wrote for newspapers. So prior to selling NO SURRENDER SOLDIER to Jacqueline Mitchard, editor of Merit Press (Adams Media/F+W Media) I was published in poetry (in English and French), picture story books, ESL/EFL fiction, HI/LO-ESL NF, NF middle-high school library books, plus articles in newspapers, magazines and journalis. My first choice in writing novels was middle grade. But along this path editors kept telling me over and over that I’m an abstract thinker who writes complex concepts in an understandable manner and I write best for YA.
Christine Kohler, NO SURRENDER SOLDIER

All of my first literary loves were YA or middle-grade. I grew up living in those imaginary worlds, and I never wanted to leave. So I didn’t.
Also, I think it helps that I’m perpetually a teenager at heart. Or at least I retain my teenager sleeping habits. (Mornings? What are mornings?)
Emily Lloyd-Jones, ILLUSIVE

A friend once suggested to me that we write to the ages at which we most needed stories, the ages when things happened that shaped us in some fundamental way, and I subscribe to that. For me, there are several big signposts starting around age ten and carrying into young adulthood. Since I felt like an adolescent well into my twenties, I have plenty of life experience to tap into in the YA realm, and so far that’s where my story brain has wanted to live.
Rachel M. Wilson, DON’T TOUCH

When I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing fiction, the first idea I had was what would now be considered New Adult. But at the time, NA wasn’t a thing at all, so I abandoned the idea because I couldn’t find any comp titles to read for genre guidance. Soon after that was when I really got into reading YA and I realized that was where my passion was. I may try to write something else some day, but right now YA is where my heart is!
Jessica Love, PUSH GIRL

Not at all! I was working on an adult novel that had some kid characters. I kept getting such great feedback on the kid characters. Everyone was most interested in them and wanted more of them, not the grown ups. That was when I realized I should follow that strength.
Sashi Kaufman, THE OTHER WAY AROUND

I thought I was going to try my hand at romance, but then I had an idea for this book and I knew the character wasn’t an adult. And then the more YA I read, the more I loved it. I’m actually writing a middle grade right now, and it feels strangely right.
Lisa Maxwell, SWEET UNREST

When I joined SCBWI I wrote picture books, but then I had this idea…I thought it was going to be a short story, but it kept growing and then it sort of stalked me. I think I was afraid of writing something longer – that I couldn’t sustain it, but I adore young adult – it’s where my voice naturally settles. Such a volatile time of so many changes – how can it be anything but exciting?
Robin Constantine, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING

I read “The Catcher in the Rye” when I was nineteen and thought it was the best, most powerful book I’d ever read. I wanted to create characters like Holden, with unique voices that critiqued society and carefully examined the world around them. I didn’t start seriously writing for a number of years after reading “Catcher”, but that voice has always been an inspiration and guide. Sometimes I wonder if “Catcher” is really YA – it came about before the YA category did, so the book could probably lean in either direction (YA or adult or maybe NA) and I think that’s the direction I typically lean as well.
Chris Struyk-Bonn, WHISPER

I didn’t think I’d be a writer of anything until I was thirty, but it was a YA novel that inspired me to try. And I wanted to write something my high school (math) students would identify with and want to read. Since then, it’s been YA all the way!
R.C. Lewis, STITCHING SNOW

No. I read a lot of adult SF/F as a teen (and a lot of it from decades ago, when the YA barely existed as a separate category), so I always figured that I would be a general fantasy author–winning the Hugo and the Nebula, of course! But slowly it dawned on me that I kept writing about teenaged protagonists, and that the current YA genre was a really good fit for me. So here I am, and it’s awesome! Though I still think I would like to write adult as well someday…
Rosamund Hodge, CRUEL BEAUTY

I always read YA, and was really disappointed when I graduated high school and felt pressured to move to adult fiction (which, in my mind, was all about middle-aged white men feeling angsty and having sex). But taking fiction classes in college and grad school, I wrote more standard literary fiction, even though I was mostly interested in YA. Then, in my Shakespeare class, I did a project on Shakespearean imagery in YA and realized I was working way harder on that project than on any of my other standard fiction stuff. I threw myself into the genre after that and haven’t looked back.
Annie Cardi, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN

YA is definitely where I feel the most comfortable, although I have written a few picture book manuscripts and a MG contemporary that I absolutely adore. But when I decided to really get serious about my writing a few years ago, YA was my default category. YA contemporary books are my favorite things to read, so naturally that’s where my mind goes when I create. (My 13-year-old daughter recently took a “how old are you mentally?” quiz, and when she finished, she told me that I didn’t need to take it, because she already knew my results. “It would tell you you’re 13-18 years old, because you think just like a teenager. Good thing that’s the kind of books you write.” High praise from a girl firmly in the middle of her “my parents are so embarrassing!” years.)
Veronica Bartles, TWELVE STEPS

I’ve been all over the place as a writer before finding my home in YA. I wrote academic prose, literary fiction, adult fantasy and sci-fi…. And then I had kids. Reading to and with them made me fall in love again with the genre I’d loved when I was a YA myself, and I’m so glad I found my way back. Now I’m re-imagining all my old, unfinished non-YA projects as YA!
Joshua David Bellin, SURVIVAL COLONY NINE

YA wasn’t such a big thing when I was a teen, and I more or less stopped reading it in my last year of high school in favour of adult fantasy novels. I didn’t start writing until I was 26, and the first couple novels that I completed were adult epic fantasy. I didn’t actually start reading YA again until I picked up a copy of Twilight to see what all the fuss was about, which got me started reading more and more of it. I found I really enjoyed the pacing and character focus in stuff written for teens, so I decided to give it a go. And I never looked back 🙂
Danielle L. Jensen, STOLEN SONGBIRD

Yes! It’s 90 percent of what I read, so it only makes sense.
Livia Blackburne, MIDNIGHT THIEF

I never thought of myself as a writer because I never thought I’d be good enough. But soon the desire to put the stories in my head onto paper overcame that fear. And since my natural voice is definitely YA rather than adult, YA became a natural niche for me.
Christy Farley, GILDED

Even as an 10-year-old scribbling stories in a notebook, I wrote about characters in their teens. At the time, it was probably just me wishing I was a teenager because, for some reason, that seemed like the ideal age. But as I got older, those sorts of books were the ones that stayed with me and left the strongest impressions. So of course, that was what I wanted to write as well.
Lori M. Lee, GATES OF THREAD AND STONE

I started out trying to write adult chick lit. Whoops! I randomly stumbled upon YA when I saw an online YA writing course offered and figured I had nothing to lose. Since then I’ve never looked back. Writing for teenagers comes so naturally, I wish I’d thought of it sooner!
Robin Talley, LIES WE TELL OURSELVES

Was YA always for you, or did you try other categories/genres first? Share your answer in the comments!

Annie Cardi lives outside Boston, MA, where she spends her time baking, creating alternate lyrics for tv show theme songs, and writing YA fiction. Her debut novel, THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, is forthcoming from Candlewick Press on April 22 2014. Her writing is fueled by copious amounts of coffee and chocolate.