After a very long wait, author Kate Anderson is on the blog! Kate reached out to me about six months ago with interest in an interview, and though I was excited for her to join the series—after all, she described her book as “cozy horror with LGBT content”—I had scheduled my entire year out. So here she is as my first interview of 2024! Kate’s debut novel, Here Lies Olive, released from Flux last October, and it’s been very well received. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books wrote of the book, “Funny with a touch of melodrama . . . . Olive’s relatable fears about death carry most of the story, and it is sweetly satisfying to see her resolve her conflicts with Davis and grow into her feelings for Maren. The campy, gothic tone also provides a lot to love in this spooky read for the Wednesday fans.”
Christina: Congratulations on the publication of Here Lies Olive, a story in which, according to Publisher’s Weekly, “a 16-year-old girl summons a ghost to find out what happens after people die, unleashing an otherworldly danger that threatens everyone she loves.” Where did the idea for this book come from? Did anyone in particular inspire Olive?
Kate: I think everyone has probably wondered at some point or another what will happen after we die, but Olive’s story in particular was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend when he told me he didn’t think there was anything after this life. I was surprised by how terrified I was of that idea! So in a way, this story was me working out in real time my own feelings about death.
Christina: Sixteen-year-olds are a special breed. Why did you choose that age in particular?
Kate: I love sixteen-year-olds because they’re starting to navigate the adult world while still holding onto childhood. I think a lot of who we are comes from those pivotal few years. I also think this rising generation is so incredible—smart and capable and kind and considerate and supportive and eager to embrace differences. They’re amazing!
Christina: You write “dark upper MG and YA books about snarky, socially awkward girls trying to figure out their place in the world.” What draws you to tell their stories? Were you snarky and socially awkward? How do you capture the right amount of snark without going overboard?
Kate: I was definitely very socially awkward! Less so now, but I still sometimes come home from large gatherings and collapse in embarrassment of how weird I was. Olive and I have that in common. And to be honest, she’s a bit much—insecure, immature, sarcastic to the point of being annoying. She can be very unlikable, but that’s what I LOVE about her. She’s so flawed and real.
Christina: You talk a little bit about your writing journey on your blog. Did anything surprise you about the journey? Is there anything you would do differently?
Kate: I think the most surprising part of the writing journey is how much it can vary. My path was definitely unusual in that I received an offer of publication before I had agent representation. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out for me, but it’s definitely not something I foresaw!
Christina: I love to talk about fabulous covers, and Here Lies Olive has one. Did you have any input into what you wanted for the cover? When you were writing the book, did you have a cover in mind?
Kate: Thank you! I was blown away by the cover. Luckily the design team at Flux and the artist Raluca Burcă had much more vision than I did—I asked for dark florals and 17th century funerary art, but besides that I didn’t have any ideas. My very favorite part of the cover has to be the smoke from the candle that has just gone out!
Christina: You work in special education. All aspects of education can be both inspiring as well as challenging. What do you like about your job? Does it inform your writing at all?
Kate: Special education is new for me, but I am so happy there. The kids I work with are so incredible, and it’s really fun to work in a junior high setting. Kids nowadays are way cooler and nicer than when I was in seventh grade! I love their energy and creativity and watching different minds at work. There are so many ways to learn the same thing, and that’s one thing I really enjoy about my job. We’re able to help kids learn in their own way, which is not something every teacher is able to do!
Christina: I have to ask about the spider skirt you wore to your pre-launch event because it is just fantastic. Do you have any other outstanding outfits that could help celebrate your book? What’s your favorite article of clothing to write in?
Kate: Another perk of working at a school—I feel like finding fun, seasonal clothing is a must! The spider skirt is part of my Halloween wardrobe, but it was the perfect thing to wear to my launch. I feel like it’s something Olive would wear. I wear lots of dresses to work (Jessica Day is my fashion inspiration) but at home I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of gal.
Christina: Readers love to hear about pets, and you’ve posted a few pictures of cats on Instagram, including one you recently had to say goodbye to. How many cats do you currently have? Do you have other pets? Do they help or hinder the writing process? Do they show up in your writing?
Kate: Pets are the best! Currently we have one gray tabby cat named Poppy, aka Little Girl. I don’t think we’ll get another cat while she’s with us because she is pretty territorial and she spends most of the day screaming out the window at any dogs or cats in the neighbors’ yards. She loves to climb onto my shoulders and cuddle, especially when I write, which can sometimes be distracting!
Christina: What’s next for you?
Kate: I’m so excited that my second book, YA folk horror Lonely Places, will also be published by Flux in October 2024! Lonely Places is a special book because it’s the first story I ever wrote–it’s also set in my home state of Utah! Look for it on Netgalley this spring and in bookstores in the fall!
Thanks to Kate for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author or artist who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.