Kate Boorman and I met at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference a few years go, and she’s been a member of my tribe ever since. Hers is one of the first faces I look for (and it’s easy to spot, way up there above the crowd), and not just to shop for books with, or go for drinks in the hotel bar with. (Lavender gimlets? Why, thank you!) She’s is smart, funny, and all-around good company. And she writes good books!
Kate A. Boorman is a writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal and grew up in the small town of Rimbey, where the winters are long and the spring thaw is a highly-anticipated event. Kate has a MA in Dramatic Critical Theory and a resumé full of an assortment of jobs. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her family, and spends her free time sitting under starry skies with her friends and scheming up travel to faraway lands. The WINTERKILL trilogy is her young adult debut series.
Please tell us about your story/book
There are currently two books out in the WINTERKILL trilogy.
- WINTERKILL (Abrams/Amulet, Sept 2014) takes place on the spooky prairies of a reimagined North America.
In the woods outside Emmeline’s settlement, a powerful enemy lurks, one that wiped out much of the population generations ago. Inside the walls, Emmeline is watched for Waywardness—the rule-breaking behavior that sent her grandmother to her death. Emmeline knows she shouldn’t go into the woods or seek answers to the questions no one will ask. When one of the settlement leaders asks for her hand, she could wipe the slate clean, ridding herself and her family of the Stain of her grandma’s crimes. But there’s something out in the woods….and it’s calling to her.
- DARKTHAW (Abrams/Amulet, Oct 2015) is the continuation of Emmeline’s story and picks up during the Thaw (spring) after the deadly winter has passed. Without giving anything away about the first book, I’d say the sequel is truly about change and what responsibilities and consequences come with freedom and choice.
How long did it take you to write this story/book?
The first book was written in a month, and then revised for a year before it went out to editors. The second book was in process for probably a year and a half.
What led up to you writing this story/book?
WINTERKILL started as a persistent image in my mind. I could see a girl out in the woods, digging, and she was out somewhere she shouldn’t be. I could also hear the first line of the book “Out here I can feel the dead in the trees”. From there, I had to unpack who the girl was and what she was facing. The world and story unfolded rather organically around her, but certainly my fascination with history and reimagining history, and my love of the natural landscape in this part of the world, helped shape it.
What is your favourite part of this story/book, and why?
My favourite part of WINTERKILL is the moment Emmeline heads out into the forbidden woods for the very first time. It’s intoxicatingly beautiful and exciting but she knows how dangerous it is. I love that tension. My favourite thing about DARKTHAW is that it continues that idea of adventure into the unknown. I love survival stories, and taking my characters on a journey into new and wonderful places and also dark and scary places was really thrilling for me.
Where do you write from?
I rent space in a shared artists’ studio.
What is one essential part of your writing process?
Emailing my critique partner in an absolute panic several times a day. This is only when deadlines loom—I don’t do it year round (which I’m sure she’s grateful for).
Where can people find you on the web (blog, website, sites where stories are published)?
On social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc.)?
And in real life (appearances, tours, conventions)?
Too varied and random to list, but one thing I am looking forward to in 2016 is appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival!
What is your favourite movie?
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Write from the heart.
Name one person who has influenced your writing, and explain how they’ve influenced you.
My thesis advisor, Dr. Rosalind Kerr, taught me a lot about choosing my words carefully. What you think you are communicating and what you are communicating are often two very different things, so being really precise about your word usage is important.
What’s something personal about you that people might be surprised to know?
I have an intense and irrational fear of birds.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing up the third book in the trilogy and fussing around with a new super secret project.
Everyone’s path to publication is different; please tell us about yours.
I feel pretty lucky; my road was not as painful as it could have been. I have a trunked novel that I wrote and rewrote and tried to get interest in for probably a year. It never went anywhere, and never will (not in its current form anyway)—I consider it my learning novel. In the meantime, my first ever unsolicited submission to a publisher, a short story to a Canadian spec fic anthology, was published. I signed with an agent for WINTERKILL about a year after I started writing it, and he sold the series really quickly, in about three weeks, because he’s awesome and the market was receptive to it. Your best foot forward (your best work, a good agent) is so important in the path to (traditional) publication but of course luck also plays a role.
Who is your agent, and how did you find him?
I researched which agents represented the kinds of books I loved and I felt were similar to mine, and then I cold-queried them (email). In the end I got very lucky and had a choice of four great agents. I signed with my heart choice: Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich.
What are one or two of your big learning experiences or surprises in establishing yourself as an author?
I’m a pretty private person, so creating a presence on social media has been an interesting experience for me: learning how to engage with readers and still maintain a comfortable degree of privacy is something I’m still figuring out.
That was fun, and I’m sorry it took me nearly a month to post it, Kate. Many thanks to Kate for agreeing to be interviewed. Please check our her website and her books and stories.
If you know an emerging author or you are one, especially one with a book or other project to promote, let me know and let’s see if we can’t spread that word of mouth a little further!