A few weeks ago when I was away from home on my actual tour, I received an email from Katie Quirk about participating in a virtual tour. I think I was actually sitting in Rachel Person’s car outside of Northshire Books. This was exciting to me because Katie is someone who I have admired from a far, even though she is actually not so far from me in Maine. We share an agent in Sara Crowe, as well as a love of international travel, though she actually had the gumption to pack up her family and move to India. Then, after I finally got myself organized and got back to her, we found out that both of our novels were finalists in the Maine Literary Awards, the ceremony for which is today!
So, first of all, here is a little more about Katie (the official version so to speak):
Katie Quirk (katie-quirk.com) is the author of A Girl Called Problem. Set in Tanzania, East Africa, this middle-grade novel received a starred Kirkus review, a glowing review by School Library Journal‘s Elizabeth Bird, and a write-up in the New York Times Book Review. Katie’s current project, Richard Nixon Gave Me Chocolate, is a memoir of motherhood, adventure, and coming to terms with not “having it all,” set in the mountains of southern India. She currently lives in Orono, ME, and frequently visits schools, libraries, universities and book festivals to talk about her time in Tanzania and about the craft of writing.
And, now, my answers to the blog tour questions. By the way, I like how these questions are addressed from me to me. It feels very therapeutic.
1) What am I working on?
I am juggling a lot of projects right now. I am finishing up revisions on a middle grade novel that will be out with Bloomsbury next year (2015). We may have finally landed on a title for it, but it’s not 100% sure yet. It’s about a girl who discovers a note in an origami envelope that’s been tucked into an old, ugly book in the library. She soon realizes that it’s part of a larger scavenger hunt, and sets out to find all the clues, enlisting the help of other students along the way, all while studying for a school spelling bee. Then I’m deep, deep in revisions for a YA that will be coming out from Harper next year, which also is currently titleless. I have been working on this novel of a mathematical girl in an artistic family for a long time, and I am thrilled that it’s going to be out in the world. I have also begun drafting and researching a new middle grade novel. It’s tricky to balance all of this, but I got good advice from Kate Messner which was essentially, when you are working on one project, you have to pretend that the other ones don’t exist. Work on the one with the closest deadline, and then move on to the next one.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is hard for me to answer, especially in regards to my middle grade work because I like to cross and blend genres. This is most obious in The Water Castle, which is a mix of sci fi, fantasy, realistic fiction, and historical fiction. Even my YAs — which are pretty soundly contemporary realistic fiction — bend genres a little, with Secrets of Truth & Beauty including an historical diary; the new YA has poetry. The upcoming MG is contemporary realistic fiction, but has the mystery to ground it, and gives a nod to fantasy.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Why do I write what I do? See, this really is like therapy. I don’t know why I do. I write layered, complex stories which can be very challenging to work on from drafting through revisions. I have reams of supporting materials and I often find myself in a heap. Then I read something by Rebecca Stead, which is spare and perfect and does not waste one single word, and I think, “What am I doing? Why do I need so many words? So many intertwining threads?” But it doesn’t make any sense to compare yourself to anyone else. We would all like to write like Rebecca Stead, of course, but then there are writers like Libba Bray and Clare Vanderpool who write gorgeously layered stories. I’ve never spoken to any of them about this, but I have a sneaking suspicision that every writer wishes they could write in a different style than their own. And the best thing we can do as writers is to give ourselves freedom to write our own stories in our own ways.
4) How does your writing process work?
I try to get a first draft out as quickly as possible. I call these skeleton drafts because they are just the bare bones of the story, with maybe a little bit of flesh. Sometimes a scene will be little more than dialogue. Then I start revising. I make outlines so I can see the arch of the story, and then move, add, and cut scenes, all the while adding more detail. I do several rounds of revision on my own before I show anyone else a draft. Usually it goes to my agent first, but sometimes I have early readers.
Sashi, officially, is a middle school English and science teacher who lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and daughter. Her first book, The Other Way Around, was published this year. She is also an amateur trash picker. Sashi and I like to read books together and talk about them — or we did before our book group disbanded. I suppose I would go trash picking with her, too.
Sage Blackwood lives at the edge of a large forest, with thousands of books and a very old dog, and enjoys carpentry, cooking, and walking in the woods of New York State. She is the author of Jinx and Jinx’s Magic. She is wise on her blog and on twitter (a precious trait).