E. Katherine Kottaras is here today as part of the How to Be Brave Blog Tour. For the blog tour, I’m happy to share a Q & A provided to me by St. Martin’s so you can get to know about Kottaras and her debut novel.
You are also a yoga instructor and practitioner. How has this influenced your writing?
E. Katherine Kottaras (EKK): I am in my head, a lot. My yoga practice grounds me like nothing else. One definition of yoga is the linking of body and breath to focus the mind. I find that when I’m not doing my practice, I can’t focus and I become easily overwhelmed by my fears and my anxiety – and as a result, I can’t write. When I am doing my practice, I’m able to deal with those fears and those anxieties in a way that is healthy.
What was your path to publication? How long did it take you to write the book? Was this the first book you wrote or just the first one that got published?
EKK: I’ve been writing since I was four years old (strange little odes to Crystal Gayle’s, my favorite country singer of the ‘80s – oh how I wanted her hair). I wrote throughout high school via environmentally-themed zines that my friends and I Xeroxed and handed out to the entire school, as well as secret poetry written in journals stashed under my bed. Of course, there were all those papers for college and grad school. (I’m a freak because I love writing essays for school.)
However, I didn’t pursue creative writing seriously until I was 25 when I signed up for classes at UCLA. About seven years later after taking classes in short story, nonfiction, and YA, I finally decided to start submitting my work places – poetry, short stories, essays, etc. Around the same time, I decided to write a book. It’s YA paranormal, took me four years to write, and was rejected by absolutely every single agent I queried. Not even one request.
So, after a bit of soul-searching and some acceptance that perhaps this book wasn’t “the one,” I started over. I took some more classes through Litreactor where I started the book has eventually become HOW TO BE BRAVE. I’ve been extreeeeeemely lucky as the process has been fairly quick from initial draft to publication. Between beginning the book and publication, it will be a grand total of two years and nine months, which is actually quite amazing!
How do you address body image issues with your daughter? Was that part of the drive to write this book?
EKK: Absolutely. We talk a lot about how the media often “sells” a certain body type. .” I’ve shown her Photoshopping videos [click link to view] and we discuss, quite openly, how it’s unrealistic to try to change your body to meet the standards presented in magazines and on screens. I try to guide our conversation as a discussion, asking her questions about why she thinks the media represents women and girls in certain ways. We talk about how every body is beautiful, and that she is beautiful, just as she is.
Your protagonist, Georgia, lost her mother and is honoring her by completing her bucket list. How much of this premise was taken from your own experiences?
EKK: HOW TO BE BRAVE specifically started as a thought experiment to see what my relationship with my dad would have been like had my mom died first. As I started writing, Georgia became her own character with her own struggles.
What’s currently on your bucket list?
EKK: Here are a few things on my Do Everything Be Brave List:
- Learn how to roller skate and/or ice skate without using the wall.
- Ride my bike to yoga. (Bike lanes scare me!)
- Hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and all the way back up, I guess…)
- Visit every continent (I’ve only been to two.)
Here are a few brave things I’ve done:
- Flown down the largest zip-line in the continental U.S. despite my fear of heights. (and gave my eight-year old permission to do so as well.)
- Paddle-boarded during high-wind season in Hawaii.
- Fallen in love and stayed there for more than twenty years.
- Become a writer. I tell my students everyday: it’s the scariest thing in the world.
Thank you to E. Katherine Kottaras and St. Martin Griffin for this great Q & A.