Sweet Sixteener Lois Sepahban recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Kathryn Ormsbee about her MG novel, THE WATER AND THE WILD (April 14, 2015 from Chronicle Books).
Kathryn Ormsbee was born and raised in the Bluegrass State. She has lived in England and Spain, and also other parts of the USA, like Birmingham, AL and Austin, TX. She has taught English as a Foreign Language and interned with a film society. These days, she teaches piano lessons and plays in a band.
A green apple tree grows in the heart of Thirsby Square. Its leaves are a sad emerald and its apples a cheery peridot, and at its roots—starts the story of Lottie Fiske.
For as long as Lottie can remember, the only people who seem to care about her have been her best friend, Eliot, and the mysterious letter-writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things and people are arriving on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot’s getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless.
And then a door opens in the apple tree.
Follow Lottie down through the apple roots to another world—a world of magic both treacherous and beautiful—in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless, and protection against the pain of loss.
Lois: When and how did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Kathryn: I was a huge bookworm as a kid, and that love for stories grew, as it so often does, into a desire to tell my own. From the time I was twelve, writing was as necessary to me as eating, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career that had something to do with literature. I feel so insanely lucky to now be able to write and read on a daily basis and call it work.
Lois: How did you come up with the idea for your novel? Did you know this was “The One”?
Kathryn: I’m a very visual person, and I frequently get strange images stuck in my brain (which is why I can’t watch slasher movies). In the summer of 2008, I got this image of a white finch in a green apple tree lodged soundly into my head. If I had any artistic talent whatsoever, I probably would’ve drawn the image and been done with it. Instead, I ended up describing it through prose, and that was the very beginning of THE WATER AND THE WILD. Soon the story was unraveling itself, drawing its main inspiration from my love of folklore from the British Isles. I didn’t think of THE WATER AND THE WILD as “the one.” I just knew it was a story I had to tell. The alternative was exploding.
Lois: What was your revision process like for this book?
Kathryn: I finished my first draft in early 2009. There were many, many revisions between then and now–some self-imposed, some from CPs, and more from my agent and editor. All of those revisions taught me tons about my story, my characters, and my writing process. Okay, and my patience. 🙂
Lois: Imagine your perfect reader. How would you describe that person?
Kathryn: I don’t really believe in perfect readers, just fierce connections. Sometimes you simply connect with a story, and it becomes a part of who you are and how you look at the world. I don’t think there’s a formula that can pinpoint who will make that connection with which books. But when the connection happens—that’s pretty perfect. It’s the closest thing to magic I know.
Lightning Round Questions:
Favorite writing snack?
It’s not exactly a snack, but TEA. Tea every day, all day.
Oddest job you ever had?
I worked at an ice cream shop one summer during college, which isn’t a particularly odd job in and of itself, but I was vegan at the time, which meant I couldn’t eat any of the ice cream we served. My co-workers mocked me mercilessly.
Big brother, little sister, in the middle, or one and only?
Younger of a sister duo.
Music to write by?
It depends on the project, but my old faithfuls are Metric and Arcade Fire.
What were you reading when you were sixteen?
Weeell, I was a very serious sixteen-year-old and made it my goal to read MIDDLEMARCH, ANNA KARENINA and THE REPUBLIC my junior year. And so help me, I did. To this day, they’re still three of my favorite reads!
Favorite Broadway musical?
Les Miz will always be my go-to, but a recent obsession is A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. It’s deliciously and darkly funny.
About the Interviewer:
Lois Sepahban grew up in central California. She spent her childhood reading, climbing trees, and leading her brother and sister on hunts for buried treasures. She is married and has two children. Today, she lives on a small farm in Kentucky where she has a barn that she fills with animals who need homes: goats, dogs, cats, and chickens. In her MG historical debut, PAPER WISHES (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG, Winter 2016), Manami stops speaking when her family is forced to move to a Japanese internment camp in 1942. To save her family, Manami must find her voice.