In a market town by a looping river there lived an orphan girl called Plain Kate ….
Kate’s is a colorful world of brokenhearted magicians, wandering gypsy clans, carved charms and stolen shadows. It’s a dark world of ghosts, fog and questions. It’s a dangerous world of witch burnings, persecution and plague. Her story is a coming-of-age story, a story about family and belonging, trust and betrayal, bravery and sacrifice, death and what lies beyond. Also, there’s a talking cat in it.
A Russian-flavored historical fantasy for readers twelve and up.
Here are a few questions that Erin Bowe took time to answer for a mini interview.
The Moody Teenager: What got you interested in writing a "Russian-flavoured historical fantasy" book?
EB: I don't remember deciding to do it. I just sat down one day and wrote the first chapter, and voila, a Russian-flavored historical fantasy!
But, right before I started work on Plain Kate, I read this huge set of Russian Fairy Tales, and I fell in love with them. It was under their spell that I wrote the book.
TMT: Is there someone or something that inspired any of the elements of Plain Kate?
EB: I started PLAIN KATE sitting on a plane. I was fascinated by watching the plane take off and leave its shadow on the ground -- the shadow getting smaller and thiner and more distorted. I watched that, and then I opened my notebook and the first chapter just came tumbling out. Katerina Svetlana, a woodcarver girl, forced to sell her shadow to a wandering musician, up to no good….
I had just finished that book of Russian tales at the time, and I assume it was that book that inspired the setting. When my Russophile friend Noelle heard I was working on this, she said: "Oh, you have to have a rusalka." She was right.
Kate's father is a master wood carver; my father does some wood working, and right before I started Plain Kate, I'd been talking to him about his most recent project.
Where the cat came from is anyone's guess.
TMT: How has the writing process for Plain Kate been?
EB: LONG. It took me six years to write Plain Kate. (In my defence, I did publish two other books and have two children in that time.) I'm what you might kindly call an intuitive writer -- which means I fumble along, getting stuck a lot, and sometimes have to backtrack and throw out finished stuff.
In addition to those six years writing, it's been almost two years since Arthur A. Levine books bought the "finished" book -- which of course was not finished. Arthur spotted all the problems -- he is a genius -- and I did my best to fix them. There is a completely new ending, thanks to him.
TMT: What parts about chilren's books do you enjoy the most?
EB: The story, for sure.
I read a lot of different kinds of books -- poetry and literary fiction and non fiction, besides Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. But I keep coming back to YA and MG. I love that in a YA or MG book you always have a story -- something always happens; a character's life is changed.
TMT: Plain Kate has been pegged for a breakout release - how do you feel about that?
EB: Let me put it this way: I have a recurring dream that I have to give a reading from PLAIN KATE while being strapped into a luge and sliding downhill at 100 miles an hour. So I guess I'm …. ambivalent.
I'm thrilled for the book. I want it to reach as many readers as it can, and the great work Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic and Scholastic Canada have done can only help with that. I'm so grateful and honoured to have my book in such good hands. But it also scares me to death!
TMT: What do you want your readers to take away from Plain Kate?
EB: I really want to leave them with the ending sigh. You know, where you close the book and give a highly satisfied sigh, like, "I just read a book…." I hope it will be one that will linger with them for a while.
TMT: Anything you want your readers to know about you?
EB: I'm really not very interesting.
When I was a teen I wanted to be an extraordinary person; a leading scientific mind. I was going to teach at say, Oxford, and do research all over the world and drive an Alfa Romero and lecture wearing vintage kimonos.
Instead now I have a little condo in a little city with a little secret garden wrapped in a 12-foot cedar hedge out back. I have two little kids and a cat and a husband I love like crazy. I download geeky TV -- Buffy, Doctor Who -- and love to cook. This year I learned to make bread with natural yeasts, and right now I'm working on rolling my own pasta. I wear jeans and v-necks and get around on a bike. Seriously, it is a quiet, low-profile life, and the only extraordinary thing about it is that I get to write full time. But I am very happy.
Erin is also making appearances at the following festival:
September 26th, Word On The Street, Kitchener, ON
And if that isn't enough to quench your thirst for Plain Kate for you, I've got a copy of the book up for grabs!!!! But it can only be sent to Canadian addresses! Fill out the form below! A review of the book will be posted at the end of the weekend! (My other contest is still open!)