Thank you so much for having me!
Can you tell us about your newest book, The Land of 10,000 Madonnas, in 40 words or less?
When Jesse died, he left behind five grieving cousins and friends — and five plane tickets to Europe. Squabbling, sight-seeing, and backpacking through Germany and Italy, the friends try to figure out the trip’s true purpose.
I know this is such an odd question, but I’m curious……did you listen to any of Madonna’s music while writing this book?
Yes, definitely the first time I’ve been asked that question! And no, I didn’t! But I should have. What a wasted opportunity.
What was your favorite scene to write?
I love writing dialogue, and I love going a bit over the top — two scenes in particular fulfilled those natural inclinations of mine. In the first, a strawberry smoothie explodes all over the only pair of pants one character packed. In the second, the whole group starts playing Art Museum Bingo.
What was the hardest scene to edit out?
A lot of material for this book hit the cutting room floor. I hadn’t realized this until thinking about this question, but in three subsequent drafts, I wrote and then cut three different love interests for the main character, Cal. Ultimately, the romantic subplots just didn’t serve the book.
It’s a standalone, thank goodness. I became very fond of the characters over the years it took me to write the book — and also very sick of them.
Favorite quote from the book?
This paragraph says exactly what I wanted it to say, which is rarer for me than you might imagine:
Five years had passed, and nothing much had changed: the rowdy joys of sunlight, of sneaking off and scrounging makeshift meals outside. And everything had changed. She had heard the shuttering gasp of the old world ceding to the new. In every life there was a zero point, and hers was that day last August. Without knowing, she had always counted down toward that day, and for the rest of her life it would be the point from which she would mark her time: one year, two years, five years, fifty. Nothing important would ever happen without the lancing reminder that it drew her further from the world in which her cousin had lived.
Is this going to make readers cry?
Please consult the following mathematical model:
W = TI x n
W = likelihood of weeping
TI = reader’s personal teariness index (did you give yourself a sinus infection with The Fault in Our Stars, or are you the type who stayed dry-eyed throughout the entirety of The Book Thief?)
n = proportion of book, expressed as a decimal, devoted to topics that set off this particular reader (impossible to forecast, but at least note that no animals die)
That should help.
If you had to assign The Land of 10,000 Madonnas a theme song, what would you choose and why?
I haven’t listened to anything but Hamilton since October, so, since I’m unsure that other music exists (is that still a thing?), I’ll choose “Cabinet Battle #1.” Why? Lots of words, lots of shade.
What else are you working on?
I’m bouncing between two projects: a ridiculous middle-grade novel (MG is hard! I am not naturally concise!) and a YA about a feminist firebrand. I hope they’ll both see readers someday!
What is the best book you’ve read recently?
Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia. It’s so well-crafted and beautifully written, and it somehow manages to be both character-driven and incredibly suspenseful. Read it!
What is currently on your TBR pile?
I can’t wait to read these new releases: Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words, and Lindy West’s Shrill. And supposedly my roommate and I are going to read Middlemarch this spring — we were shooting for the middle of March, but that ship seems to have sailed. It’s been sitting on our kitchen table for a few months now. So far it’s served a purely decorative function.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
KATE HATTEMER graduated with a degree from Yale in Classics. She works as a bookseller in Cincinnati and is the author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, which has received five starred reviews.
Praise for The Land of 10,000 Madonnas:
“John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Rainbow Rowell fans will be deeply moved by Hattemer’s novel of a pilgrimage.” — School Library Journal
“A moving read for readers of all ages.” — Publisher’s Weekly
Praise for The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy:
« “A treat from cover to cover.” —Kirkus Reviews « “Irresistible.” —The Bulletin « “Relying on the passion and ideals that drive adolescence, this has a vibrancy and authenticity that will resonate with anyone who has fought for their beliefs.”—Booklist