A really special book was published this week, one that's already garnering rave reviews and a considerable buzz. What is this amazing book I hear you ask? It's Kathryn Evans' debut novel More of Me, published by Usborne Children's Books. Anyone who is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in the British Isles will know of Kathyrn as a SCBWI stalwart and hard-working volunteer. As you'll see from her bio below she's a very busy woman (and that was before her book was published!). Luckily, though, she interrupted her hectic schedule to talk to me last week. Let's begin the interview with a few words from Kathryn herself:
Following a degree in drama and a short career in theatre, Kathryn Evans quickly realised she was likely to starve unless she got a proper job. She didn't get a proper job, she started a strawberry farm with her husband and began writing- a superb plan that meant, should starvation ever knock the door, there would be an abundance of soft fruit to see it off.
Kathryn is a mother of two, she fences epee; performs Egyptian Dance; is an active citizen scientist; she writes poetry on thefuneverse, blogs at Notes from the Slushpile and she absolutely loves dressing up. Kathryn knows her hobbies are weird but she really doesn’t care.
She is represented by the Sophie Hicks Agency. For further information on Kathyrn and her writing visit her website, or you can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. More of Me is available on Hive and at all bookstores.
Welcome to the blog, Kathyrn, and congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, More of Me.
Thank you, it’s so nice to be here.
To kick off the questions, could you tell us how long have you been writing and how you came to be published?
I’ve been writing for years and seriously writing for about fifteen. I just never gave up, I kept learning and trying and starting again until I wrote something that really captured people’s imaginations. It wasn’t straightforward though – I wrote More of Me very fast because an editor had read the first 3 chapters at a SCBWI conference 1-to-1 critique and loved it. My agent, Sophie Hicks, sent her the finished script and I had the strangest rejection ever from that editor – she loved the book, it had her gripped to the end and it really pained her to have to turn it down, but she did. It really knocked my confidence and I asked Sophie if I could have it back to work on it some more. I didn’t know she had already sent it to Usborne and I then had the nuttiest few days when there was a huge flurry of interest in the book and I didn’t know what to do. Happily, it went to Usborne and I am so so glad it did. They’ve been great.
Wow, there's a lesson in perseverance for us all! I'm delighted it worked out so brilliantly for you. Could you tell us now What More of Me is about and what inspired it?
At its heart, More of Me is a sideways look at the challenges of growing up. Teva doesn’t grow up like normal people, once a year she replicates herself and the other versions are kept hidden at home. They’ve lost their friends, boyfriends, everything. Teva knows that a new Teva is battling to take over her life and she’s determined not to let it happen. It’s weird but I think it resonates with people because we all can recognize the differences in our selves at different ages and how we don’t always feel like the same person we were.
Describe your main character Teva in five words.
Confused; loyal; determined; courageous; loving.
Who is Tommo and what part does he play in the story?
Ah! Tommo, he’s adorable. Tommo represents hope. I don’t want to give too much away but he’s gorgeous and kind and a bit vain but he’s also a real light for Teva.
Who designed your amazing book cover? Did you have any input in the design?
Hannah Cobley – isn’t it GORGEOUS? I didn’t need to have much input – I asked them to make Teva’s eyes a bit darker, which they did, but they so totally nailed it. It was so odd, seeing it for the first time, it just looked so right.
I agree, it's totally gorgeous. Changing topic now, what part does research play in your writing process?
Well, that’s tricky, I do dig into things a bit– for example I’ll research the town where my characters live and then completely change it but it underpins things. Real deep research bores me to be honest, otherwise I’d write history books, which I really love to read! I prefer making stuff up – though sometimes you need to know a bit to be able to do that convincingly.
Talking of your writing process, could you outline yours for us?
Ideas almost always come from characters and their situations – like Teva in More of Me. Once I have an idea I’ll spend weeks turning it over and asking all the ‘what if’ questions until a plot begins to form. I map out the skeleton of that in a big book (I can’t write small). Once I’ve got the plot sketched out, and a few character notes, I start writing. It’s always utter rubbish but in that big book I make notes as I go of things I know I need to come back to. Once I have a script I refer to those notes and then edit and edit and edit. I love editing. LOVE IT.
You've mentioned ‘Shouty Brain’ on your website. How does this affect your writing?
Oh that is such a good question - so, my plan for writing is as I’ve described – get it written, then get it right. Bad Shouty Brain makes me go back and tweak instead of pushing forward - I know I’m writing rubbish and I can’t bare it but it’s such a mistake to try and fix it so early on. I get bogged down in the bit I’ve written and can’t get out of it. This has just happened on my new book and I’m desperately trying to leave it alone and push on!
What lessons - apart from dealing with Shouty Brain! - did you learn during your pre-publication years?
So many, I can’t possibly list them here. The one major thing is this, you’re first draft will be rubbish. It doesn’t matter. That’s what editing is for. And if it’s your first go at writing a book and it doesn’t sell, quite possibly it’s still not very good. That doesn’t matter either. Write something else. No words written are wasted – you are learning all the time.
Great advice there. Thank you. Flipping the coin now, could you briefly describe your experiences post book deal?
It’s been just an endless series of ups. Seeing the cover, working with my editor, selling foreign rights, getting early cover quotes, seeing the book for the first time, getting the first reviews back – it’s been amazing. So far.
How did you feel on publication day itself and how did you celebrate your book baby coming into the world?
Pub day is on the 1st so I don’t know yet but I think it’s going to be a huge thrill.
*Check out Kathryn's Facebook page to see some wonderful photos from her London book launch.
What part has the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) played in your writing career to date?
I don’t think I’d have got this far without them. It’s as simple as that. I learned my craft through SCBWI and met so many friends who’ve kept me going. It’s a remarkable organisation.
Oh yes, I agree! Speaking of learning your craft, what writing advice would you offer to yet-to-be-published writers?
Don’t give up. Listen to your critiques. Be honest in your writing.
Still on the subject of advice, what would you say to your fifteen-year-old self?
You think they don't love you, they do, let them.
And what advice would the fifteen-year-old Kathryn give to her ten-year-old self?
Don't bite your big sister in the stomach, she's more loyal to you than you realise even if she does hide in your room to scare the pants off you.
And now let's mix it up a little:
Raspberry or strawberry?
Your first thought on waking up in the morning is…
Fencing or belly dancing?
Winning The Branford Boase or waltzing off with the Carnegie?
Branford Boase – this book is as much my editors as mine.
If you couldn’t be you, who would you be?
Rock festival or rock opera?
Why the colour pink?
I like it and I don’t like to be told I shouldn’t. (Go, Kathy!)
What’s worse, being too hot or too cold?
Your three all-time favourite books are…
Oh that’s impossible, currently…I am Malala by Malala Yousefzai, Holly Bourne’s Am I Normal Yet? And...oh I really don’t know!!! I re-read Fahrenheit 451 and it captivated me just as much as it did the first time so I’m going to have that…
Finally, what’s next for Kathryn Evans?
US edits! And finish the new book. Half finish it. Write some of it. Do some work!!!!
See what I mean, folks? Kathryn Evans is a busy, busy woman - and a talented one!
Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Kathy. I wish you lots of success with More of Me and with all your books in the future.