Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blog Tour for *Plain Kate* by Erin Bow AND Giveaway!

Plain Kate is Erin Bow's first novel and we're kicking it off with a blog tour! This is the first stop and I have to say it's fitting because Erin is a local author for me. I see her at the bookstore often and we're proud that she's garnered attention for Plain Kate that has stretched far outside our community.

Erin is a talented author and I devoured Plain Kate. Here's a little chat we had about her book, and if you live in Canada, enter below to win a finished copy!

Mandy: Hi, Erin! Thanks for making time today. :)

Erin: Hello Mandy! No problems.

Mandy: Summer has gone by too quickly. This September is a big month for you!

Erin: Crazy big. Release day is only ten days from now, which is scary and awesome. I don't know exactly what I expect to HAPPEN on release day, mind.

Mandy: It might feel more like a release month, rather than just a day. But for you, I'm sure the sun will be brighter. :)

Erin: The idea of someone actually reading the thing is -- overwhelming, is I guess the word I'm looking for.

Mandy: Plain Kate isn't the first book you've written and published -- will it be a different feeling when PK releases compared to past books?

Erin: I've had a little reader response trickle in from the ARCs. But even with that, I can't get used to the idea that people who aren't related to me are going to read the book. I think it will feel different. It's been different so far. I thought I was prepared for publishing a book, but the SCALE of publishing a novel with a big house is so different than publishing my poetry. It really is another world. I could probably put everyone who read my last book of poetry in a room. And not a huge room.

Mandy: And there's been quite the buzz at Arthur A. Levine, and Chicken House for your book.

Erin: The novel is much more out of my hands. It has more life of its own. There could be no better cheerleader for a book than Arthur. He's been amazing.He got up in front of this huge room of people at BookExpo and started talking about the books he'd worked on, Harry Potter and The Golden Compass and so on. And in the next breath he's talking about Plain Kate.

Mandy: Yeah, he has a few successes as an editor under his belt.

Erin: I knew it was coming but I still nearly fainted away. He deserves his successes, let me tell you. He's a genius editor, in addition to a good cheerleader.

Mandy: The role of an editor for a book isn't talked about as much as it should be. But I think they are instrumental.

Erin: Arthur certainly was crucial to KATE. The ending we came up with together is almost unrecognizably different. As in, different people live and die for different reasons.

Mandy: I noticed in one of your blog posts, as you were editing PK, that you completely changed the last few chapters before publication. What was there originally (broadly speaking, of course) that you felt needed to go?

Erin: Hmmmm, I am not sure how to answer that without spoiling things for those who haven't read it. One of the rules of magic in the book is that every gift has a cost. In the original version, the scales didn't balance. I wanted to give my characters a more happy ending, but I took too much away from them by doing so. The things that Kate discovers about herself at the end -- and they are important things -- have to come at a cost. In the original, they didn't. In the final version, they do.

Mandy: Oh wow, great answer, actually. The balance of magic is very important in PK. To the world of fantasy, typically.

Erin: Has to be. I can't remember who said that "if everything is possible, nothing is interesting." If you give people magical powers, you also have to give them increased burdens -- weaknesses or responsibilities. Or their lives are too easy.People with easy lives are dull to read about.

Mandy: Absolutely. Which is why I said that PK really reminded me of A Wizard of Earthsea. So much of that book is about balancing magic. And the importance of the shadow.

Erin: Earthsea is my all-time favorite!

Mandy: An absolute classic!

Erin: I didn't have it consciously in mind when the idea came to me about a girl who sells her shadow. But I think it must have been lurking in my dreams somewhere. I could really dissolve into fangirl squee about Earthsea at this point. The bit with Ged ... where he dreams about the shadow outside the door, and then it's inside the room, and YIKES. Those are great books.

Mandy: I like that you mention PK relating to a dream. Elsehwere you say it was "written under the spell of a Russian fairy tale". Can you say a little more about the tone of PK, how it relates to spells and dreams?

Erin: Hmmmm. I think it has a rather "high" tone, like a spell or a dream. It takes itself absolutely seriously. It doesn't have any of that modern irony that's so common (and usually quite enjoyable) in contemporary fantasy. It's not at all meta. I'm reading a book right now, quite a good one, that uses what it calls "the politically correct phrase 'person with paranormal identity.'" That's pretty much the opposite of the tone PK had to take. I think if it had stepped outside itself, even a little, it would have broken its own spell. But because it's unbroken, it can get away with spell-like elements: the stolen shadow, the talking cat, the ghost made out of fog.
Mandy: It is a serious book. And dark, like a traditional fairy tale. But there are definitely funny parts, most often involving Taggle, Kate's talking cat.

Erin: Taggle just about steals the show, doesn't he. But he's just saying what you know all cats are thinking. It's really an honour for us to get to live with them and pet them and give them fish.

Mandy: hahaha, do you own cats? They obviously have a special place in your imagination.

Erin: I have a cat: Augustus Asparagus, First Cat of the Empire. We call him Gus and sometimes he answers. I like how self-possessed cats are; I admire them. But would it hurt sales if I admitted I really want a dog?

Mandy: haha, it just might. Keep the dog thing under your hat for now ;) How amazing was Meg Rosoff's comment about Taggle being one of the most delightful talking cats in children's literature?

Erin: I swooned. I love Rosoff's work, and I'm so honored she loved mine. It's been interesting, her blurb. Sometimes the publisher uses the part about the cat, and sometimes they don't. I think mentioning the cat, and Taggle, makes it sound like a different book than it is. More Disney, you know? Talking animal sidekick he may be, but Taggle is definitely no Disney creature.

Mandy: I was going to say, after reading PK I think it's suited just as much for adults as for young adults. There is no Disney there.

Erin: I think in fact he'd object to "sidekick."

Mandy: I was personally worried, getting near the end, that you were going to make me cry. :) You must have been affected emotionally countless times while writing..

Erin: Did you cry? People cry...I cried, yes. I wonder if that's tacky, like laughing at your own joke. But I did.

Mandy: I was very moved by Taggle's whole story, especially how the book ends. He was the most real to me, as I read.

Erin: I delayed writing the ending for weeks and just about had a breakdown during the time. Finally I found myself at a Tim Hortons with an hour to kill before a radio interview, and I had nothing but my notebook, so I just sat down with some cranberry juice and scribbled it out. It was an intense experience, writing the climax. I'm sure the Timmy's people were about ready to call the Community Mental Health workers. Taggle is the most real, hmmmm? I live most with Kate and Linay, personally. But Taggle is very dear.

Mandy: Linay also was very vivid. He reminded me of David Bowie from Labyrinth! But Linay's story was a lot more complicated.

Erin: Awesome! He'd like that. He has a theatrical streak and probably just about has himself convinced that he's a goblin king. Linay is ... yes, complicated.

Mandy: I had a bit of a crush on him, I have to say.

Erin: You know how bad guys never think they're bad guys? But Linay is quite aware of what he's doing, and I think very torn about it. He has some intense regrets. I ALWAYS fall for the villians. And the tortured unhappy people. Perferably as played by Alan Rickman. Linay is a strange case. He's definitely the villian and he does terrible things to Kate.

Mandy: Hahahaha, me too! Love Alan Rickman. Linay IS pretty aware of what he's doing. I don't think he actually disliked Kate. He just needed something from her and she was willing to give it away.

Erin: But he's also the person who sticks by her, is most faithful to her, believes in her and tries to help her. No, he doesn't dislike her. He says he likes her, in fact, and he's not lying.
He just saw her as weak enough to exploit. The basic complication of the novel is: He's wrong.

Mandy: PK really is a coming of age story. Kate is tested by so many big life situations in one adventure. What is it about this time in a person's life when they leave childhood that is great fodder for story?

Erin: I'm not sure I know. It's certainly one of the classics, though. I guess "becoming who you are" is one of the fundamental human stories. I have had the odd complaint from reviewers that Kate's story is too reactive, that's she's too passive. I think of it differently: that she's surrounded by things that are bigger than she is, caught up in larger events -- as we all are -- and in the midst of that, she has to learn to take control of her own story.

Mandy: I didn't read Kate as being passive at all.

Erin: She does make mistakes, though, and certainly struggles with some decisions.

Mandy: That's a great line about her having to learn to take control of her own story.

Erin: I can see where that reads as "passive." My agent hated the middle bit of the book, which I always think of as the Stolkholm chapters. Kate stays somewhere she clearly shouldn't. But we're not always ready to jump free when we should, and she isn't.

It *is* a good line. I must use it somewhere.

Mandy: Especially since she's already lost so much by the middle of the book. Her mother, her father, her home. I imagined Kate would want to hold on to what she could. Like her art, woodcarving. It's the thing that keeps her together.

Erin: The truth inside the wood. You could (I am making this up on the fly) read that as a metaphor for her journey. She gets carved away to something stronger, more beautiful. But the woodcarving does keep her together. It's the one thing she has complete confidence in, and that never wavers, no matter what else happens in the book.

Mandy: I love that she carves even though she's not recognized by the Guild. The last thing I'd love to know: is there a sequel? Do you feel a sequel is necessary or maybe a companion book set in the same world, with different characters?

Erin: The British title of the book is going to be Wood Angel. I resisted that at first -- I'm so attached to PLAIN KATE -- but I've grown to like it. She is rather an angel of the wood. Something strong and good and out of place ... with a knife in her hand. I have no plans for a sequel. I know, that makes me rare among YA authors.

Mandy: It ends very well in itself. A complete story. All credits and debits balanced, magically and emotionally.

Erin: I won't rule out a companion book -- there are secondary characters in this book that I like -- but I feel as if Kate's story is told. She is not going to go on and save some different city. in book two. Right now I'm working on a few things that are entirely independent. I'm so glad you liked it, Mandy. Wordsworth is my bookstore, you know. A little slip taped to the cover there means as much as a starred review elsewhere.
Follow the full blog tour for Plain Kate and enter to win a copy of the book each time! See below for blog stops and dates. Good luck!


Steph said...

Wow! This is an amazing chat! It really enhances a book for me when you can talk with the author about it at such length.

I too didn't think of Kate as passive; when I wrote my own review (yet to be posted, closer to when I host the blog tour!), I actually considered Kate a fighter, someone who found she believed strongly, reacted intensely to things around her. I didn't see any of this story as happening to her, but rather revolving around her. She is as central as Linay, if I can say two characters are central. And she's stronger than Linay, too, in many ways.

Kate said...

Love your site and I will definitely check out this book. Wish I was in Canada so I could win a copy. Feel free to check out my blog at


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