Though the story is not autobiographical, much of it is “true” in the sense that it was written after a difficult period of my life. I lost my father when I was seventeen and my mother when I was thirty. After my mother passed away when my daughter was ten months old, I found myself sandwiched between the death of my best friend and the presence of this new life. It was a dark and confusing time – I wanted to drown in my grief but also knew I had to keep myself afloat for the sake of my new baby. That’s when I turned to writing. On my darkest days, my husband would tell me to take time for myself – to go for walks, yoga, etc. – but more often than not, I would find myself at the library, writing. The act of writing was a way for me to work through my own grief and to also find new purpose my life.
What do you hope readers will take away from HOW TO BE BRAVE?
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. Georgia also feels uncomfortable in her body that's deemed "overweight" by society's standards, and part of her storyline is that she finds confidence in her body, as it is – that losing weight does not equal being brave. This has definitely been part of my storyline as well. Furthermore, as Georgia discovers, there are many different ways to live a life of courage – whether it be by skydiving or taking a trapeze class (numbers 3 and 4 on Georgia’s list), by learning how to draw or dancing to your heart’s wild content (numbers 6 and 10), or by reaching out to others in their time of need (not on the list, but equally important). I hope this book encourages readers to reflect on their own fears and to face life bravely.
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
I’ve been writing since I was four years old (strange little odes to Crystal Gayle, 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!
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
Dining room table or coffee shop or in my car after yoga or while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store. Handwritten in my journals or typed on my computer or scribbled on receipts or thumbed into the notes section of my phone. 4:37 a.m. or 11:49 p.m. for ten minutes or te hours. Sometimes every single day, sometimes not at all. Music, most definitely, Andrew Bird and Lana del Rey are my most recent faves, though it varies. Sometimes the crows at six a.m.; sometimes the traffic of the freeway. Sometimes silence.
I offer this all to say that I do not have a writing ritual, but I write where ever and whenever I can.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Writing is hard and fun and frustrating and exhilirating. I can’t imagine not writing. And if you write, you understand this strange demand – it’s not a desire; it’s a necessity. Follow that call, whatever it is inside you that asks you to write - and keep writing, no matter what.
What are you working on now?
My second book, a YA contemporary which is tentatively set for publication in Fall 2016 with St. Martin’s Press!
ABOUT THE BOOKHow to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
St. Martin's Griffin
An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.
Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.
Purchase How to Be Brave at Amazon
Purchase How to Be Brave at IndieBound
View How to Be Brave on Goodreads
ABOUT THE AUTHORE. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, but now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and teaches writing and literature at Pasadena City College. She is at her happiest when she is either 1) at the playground with her husband and daughter and their wonderful community of friends, 2) breathing deeply in a full handstand, or 3) writing.
Her debut YA contemporary novel, HOW TO BE BRAVE, is forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press (November 3, 2015). Her second book is tentatively set for a 2016 release.
Have you had a chance to read HOW TO BE BRAVE yet? Have you used writing to work through grief? Do you feel writing is a necessity?
Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Lisa, Susan, Sam, Lindsey, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa