Good morning, Eastern PA! I am so excited to host PA author Katherine Locke at the EPP Cafe. Katherine will be joining us at Fall Philly/PA Author Day, and I really can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her YA debut, The Girl With The Red Balloon! You’re going to want to hear her talk about how to mix history and magic together, so go ahead and sign up for Fall Philly today.
Oh, the door is jangling! She’s here!!
LB: Hi there, Katherine, and welcome to the Eastern Penn Points Cafe! Can we get you something to drink?
KL: I love chai lattes so much they’re in my author bios. So I’ll have the largest chai latte you can get me!
LB: Triple-extra-large chai latte coming right up! And please say you’ll have something to eat, because I’m starving!
KL: A croissant please! 🙂
LB: Viola! Soooo…congratulations on the release of your YA novel THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON! The reviews are fabulous, and I can’t wait to read what Kirkus calls “An absorbing blend of historical fiction, mystery, and magical realism.” Can you tell us a little bit about what got you started on this story?
KL: Thank you! It’s been really exciting. I started writing The Girl with the Red Balloon in 2013, which feels like a lifetime ago. It was certainly a different world when I was writing it. Like most of my story ideas, TGWTRB came to me in a split second mental image of a girl floating over a wall holding onto a red balloon (99 Red Balloons was playing on the radio!). I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting.” And chased my mind down the rabbit hole. What wall? Why was she floating over it? Why a balloon? What was she escaping? As soon as I got back to my computer, I sat down and started to write. I threw out almost everything from that first draft, but it’s remained the story about a girl, a red balloon, and the Berlin Wall.
LB: I love that song, and the way it sparked a whole new story in your imagination. Your talk at Fall Philly will be an interview, including how you mixed history and magic together. What drew you to write historical fantasy?
KL: I wanted a way to think about identity and two times in European history that are connected, and hard, and full of oppression and darkness. Magic became a thread to tie them together and make it accessible for modern teen readers. To put it another way, the history I write about is a lot like the sun during a solar eclipse. It’s hard, or painful, to look directly at it. I want my books to be your eclipse glasses, a way to see this history clearly, and without losing anything or hurting marginalized people with ties to this history.
LB: This is your first YA book, but I know you’ve written some New Adult romances, as well. What advice do you have for writers for older teens who are unsure of whether their story is YA or NA?
KL: I have a pretty quick and easy litmus test. I write my YA for 16 year old me. If I write a book, and it doesn’t feel like something 16yr old me would want to read and it feels like something 25 year old me would want to read, then it’s adult. That being said, NA really only took off in romance, and as a market NA romance has realllllly consolidated in the last two years, and I’m not sure if I’d market anything as NA right now. That’s just a marketing decision though.
LB: Imagine that THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON is now a movie! (Yay! Popcorn!) What song would play in the background of the opening credits?
KL: Have you heard Air & Simple Gifts? The music written for President Obama’s first inauguration? It’s one of my favorite pieces of music ever. And while it’s incredibly pretentious to pick this song because of its origins, in this fantasy world, I’m picking it. You can listen to/view it on YouTube here.
LB: Omygosh, I love it! So beautiful, and not a smidge pretentious. Sky’s the limit around here!
Okay, Katherine, now it’s time for rapid-fire favorites! Tell us your favorite….
Book as a teen:
All four Alanna books by Tamora Pierce
One-liner of writing advice:
Allow yourself to be vulnerable on the page
Spot to snuggle a feline:
Everywhere! I have two lap cats, so if I’m home, my lap is never empty.
Place to read:
In the bath. (Very carefully…)
Goldfish. The crackers, not the actual fish. (This is a West Wing reference, for those who don’t know!)
Thanks so much for joining us today, Katherine! Can’t wait to hear more about writing historical fantasy in Philly!