Oh my goodness I can’t believe it’s finally the end of our second annual 2014 Debut Authors Bash! It’s always such a rush and keeps me so so so so so busy. If you don’t receive prompt emails from me from June through September…this event is why. I want to thank all of the bloggers and authors who participated in this event and kept up with my craziness via both email and Twitter. I also want to thank every single one of you who kept up with the posts and checked out some of these awesome new books! And now..before we end this event…I would like to introduce you to our final 2014 debut authors of the month, Kate Hattemer!
“We have to do something!” That’s what Luke Weston keeps telling his friends. Selwyn Academy has been hijacked by For Art’s Sake, a sleazy reality television show, and Luke’s fed up. Ethan Andrezejczak, Luke’s henchman and best friend, shrugs and nods along. He doesn’t really mind the show. It lets him stare at ballerina Maura Heldsman without being creepy. And he’s fine with his life: teaching circus tricks to his beloved gerbil Baconnaise, teasing his four-year-old triplet sisters, and hanging out with his friends, Luke and nerdily brilliant Jackson and smart, sharp, neon-garbed Elizabeth.
Nonetheless, he’ll go along with Luke. He always does. In the tradition of Ezra Pound, the foursome secretly writes and distributes a long poem to protest the show. They’re thrilled to have started a budding rebellion.
But the forces behind For Art’s Sake are craftier than they seem. The web of betrayal stretches farther than Ethan could have ever imagined. It’s up to him, his friends, and maybe even Baconnaise to save Selwyn.
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Can you tell us about your book, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, in 25 words or less?
When a sleazy reality show takes over Ethan’s arts school, it’s up to him, his friends, and a heroic gerbil to bring it down.
What inspired you to write in the contemporary genre?
It was less a matter of “inspiration” than “utter incompetence at anything else.” I deeply admire writers who are capable of things like building words and inventing superpowers and tweaking regular names to make them fantasy names. I am not one of them. It’s hard enough for me to imagine characters who do Latin homework and struggle with parallel-parking (i.e., characters who are basically my teenage self). Contemporary is all I can do.
But I do love it. I used to teach high school, and I’ve got adolescent siblings, and I work at a summer camp, and I find teenagers hilarious, brilliant, and engaging. Most of them, anyway. So it’s a natural fit for me to write about them in this world, as they are.
What was your favorite scene to write?
My narrator, Ethan, has four-year-old triplet sisters. They torment him, play tricks on him, and force him to play Candy Land at regular intervals. When I was in high school, my three (non-triplet) little sisters did the same to me, and I had a lot of fun writing kids who were just as mischievous and dreadful as I remember Lucy, Emma, and Rebecca at those ages.
Even though The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy is a contemporary, it is actually not a romance. Why did you decide to go that route?
Ah, yes. The Booklist review commented, “Romance, while in the air, takes a sideline to friendship.” And I said, “Story of my life, sister.”
When I was in high school (and yeah, now too), friendships loomed much larger than romances. Crushes existed so you could talk about them with your friends. And I think that’s a more common experience than the media and the culture would have us believe (or am I just making myself feel better?), and I’m interested in reflecting that experience in my writing. Friendships are such a complicated negotiation, especially when you’re changing so fast and the social pressures are so great and you just spend so many dang hours together, in school and out of it — they’re fascinating, and I love writing about them.
I have to ask..how on earth do you pronounce Selwyn?
Two fun facts:
- My editor’s husband made a great Selwyn/sell-out pun that I totally ripped off.
- The name comes from Ezra Pound’s long poem “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley,” because I was really into shoehorning thematic resonance into every allusion possible. It’s a little embarrassing.
I believe that this is a standalone. Do you have any plans to maybe make a companion novel or to turn it into a series down the road?
Not at the moment, but due to my incredible capacity to feel nostalgic about absolutely anything (like, certain shapes of macaroni make me teary-eyed for my lost childhood), I can imagine someday wanting to return to Ethan’s voice. We’ll see. To be honest, right now it’s very refreshing to be done with all of them.
Are you currently working on anything else?
Yes! I’m in the midst of revisions for my second novel, The Land of Ten Thousand Madonnas, forthcoming from Knopf next fall. It’s about a seventeen-year-old boy who dies of a heart defect; a year later, his three cousins, his best friend, and his girlfriend receive a mysterious missive that sends them on an enigmatic quest to Europe. I’ve recently spent a lot of time cursing my harebrained decision to write from six points of view (why, former Kate, why?!), but I’m pretty excited about this book.
What is the best book you’ve read recently?
Well, I just reread the Harry Potter series, so…
But that’s a cop-out. Thanks to the recommendation of a colleague at the bookstore where I work, I’ve lately gotten into David Lodge. He’s a treat: the hyperintellectualism of Ian McEwan, but funnier. And thanks to my Cincinnati writing pal Emery Lord (Open Road Summer), I’ve started reading the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty. The voice! The humor! I wish I’d discovered those about ten years ago.
Thanks so much to Nichole and the others at YA Reads for hosting me! Bloggers, I’m telling you: they’re the unsung heroes of the publishing world. And I love to hear from readers! Or anyone! Tweet me @KateHattemer or visit my sporadically updated website at katehattemer.com.
About the Author:
Kate Hattemer, the oldest of eight siblings, grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and attended Yale University. She taught high school Latin in Virginia before returning to Cincinnati, where she now works as a bookseller.