Friday, August 1, 2014

Keepin' It Real Interview with Kate Hattemer

Y'all may not know this. but on occasion I do enjoy reading contemporary books. While I may not go down that bookish road often, there are quite a few titles near and dear to my heart.
   A big thank you goes out to Kaitlin @ Reading is My Treasure for putting together the Keepin' It Real event to celebrate YA contemporary fiction.

About the Author:
Kate is the author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy (Knopf, Spring 2014) and The Land of Ten Thousand Madonnas (Knopf, 2015).

You can haunt Kate Hattemer at-
Website |


1.   In five words, tell us about The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy.

            Ezra Pound meets reality TV.

2.  Why did you choose to have Ethan and friends use a long poem to speak against For Art's Sake? 

            I blame it all on my Wikipedia procrastination habit.  Trawling the pages for various poetic genres (this is what I do when I should be writing), I became fascinated with the weird form of the long poem.  It’s a genre that’s defined more by what it’s not than what it is -- and a genre that’s been used to reclaim the voice of a downtrodden culture.  I’d started with the idea of writing a farce, and clearly it’s pretty farcical to have a long poem as the vehicle of protest against… a reality show.  Then the serious aspects of the plot and themes grew out of the opposition, and apposition, of Pound’s Cantos and reality TV.  What’s the distinction between life and art?  What about between art (“art”) and pop culture?  How does an artist’s life reflect upon his work?  What does it mean to be a good person?  A good artist?

3.   Kate, what was the hardest chapter for you to write in your book? Would you mind sharing a two-sentence teaser from your favorite chapter?

            My narrator, Ethan, is pretty clueless, especially in regards to the people he idealizes:  his English teacher, his best friend, and his crush.  My biggest challenge was to stay within the bounds of his unreliable narration while also portraying these characters as they are, not just as they’re imagined by Ethan.
            To be honest, it’s hard for me to pick a favorite chapter because I don’t really feel very affectionate toward the book anymore… When people say their books are like their children and they can’t pick a favorite, I start fearing for my future kids. 
            But here’s a randomly selected bit about Ethan’s introduction to long poems:

I titled my half-assed page of notes Long Poems, and then added a parenthetical note:  (wah).  How long, I wondered, is long?  A page?  More than a page?  I tried to find someone to exchange commiserative glances with, but Luke was still writing intently, and Jackson was staring down at his crotch, surreptitiously playing (let’s hope) one of the math games he’d written for his graphing calculator.

4.  If you could rediscover any young adult contemporary book, for the first time, which book would it be and why?
   I’m really good at forgetting all major plot points, which is dreadful for my job at an independent bookstore (“Oh, yeah, you should totally read that book!  It’s about… uh…”).  But it generally makes for a delightful rereading experience.
            However, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the twists Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, and so that’s the one I’d choose to rediscover fresh.  What a book:  heartbreaking and insanely clever.

5.   Who are three of your favorite YA contemporary authors you think everyone should give a shot?

            It’s hard to choose!  But I’m a huge fan of Emily Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post (lyrical and melancholy yet very funny), Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (as my sister said, the book creates a world of its own), and Sarah Combs’s Breakfast Served Anytime (which contains the funniest, most accurate line about a high schooler imagining being a teacher that it is possible to write).

6.  Last book you stayed up late into the night to finish?

            Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, in part because I was cringing so hard (at the characters, obviously, not the writing!) I couldn’t look away.

7.   The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day.  Who do you choose?

            I’ll send Ruby Oliver (of E. Lockhart’s fresh, smart, and funny series, starting with The Boyfriend List).  The robots would be so intrigued by her use of footnotes, so enamored by her fishnet stockings, and so tenterhooked by her romantic ups-and-downs that they’d forget to besiege civilization.

8.   Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?

            I’ve got the most gorgeous writing cave in the world right now!  I’ve been working at a summer wilderness camp for girls, and I was planning to head home a few weeks ago to finish my revisions but my generous director is letting me write here in exchange for some activity-teaching and dish-doing.  Perks include several things I don’t get in regular life:  delicious and varied meals, a lake to jump in, human contact.

9.  Any upcoming project you can share with us?

            Yes!  My second novel, The Land of Ten Thousand Madonnas, will be out from Knopf in fall 2015.  It’s the story of a seventeen-year-old boy who’s just died of heart defect; a year later, his three cousins, his best friend, and his girlfriend are sent on an enigmatic backpacking quest to Europe.  It’s currently in shambles -- the manuscript includes lots of comments like  “Delete this” and “Too melodramatic” and “That joke is not funny” and “This is just plain wretched” -- but I’m hoping that within a few months I’ll have slightly more positive feelings about it.

Thank you so much, Orchid, for hosting my interview!  Best wishes. :)

Kate, thanks so much for stopping by. 

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer, April 8, 2014. Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers. 
Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art's Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art's Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It's up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they'll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.
You can add The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy  to your Goodreads shelves.


  1. Your writing cave sounds lovely! The camp sounds like the perfect place to be writing

  2. I haven't heard of this book but it sounds really interesting. I remember when we did Ezra Pound's poetry and it's be interesting to see how "Ezra Pound meets TV" looks like. Great interview :)

  3. I so enjoyed this interview, and I'm thrilled to hear about the second book in the works. After just one book, I'm already a fan and can't wait for next fall. :)

  4. Now I'm really itching to create a writing cave of my own. This book sounds amazing, I'm shocked I haven't heard of it yet! Those comments on the manuscript are hilarious.

  5. I really want to read this book now! I read a lot of contemporary, but I don't read that many that sound like this one. I love the robot question and response. :D The Land of Ten Thousand Madonnas sounds like a great idea. I'm hoping it turns out good.

    Thank you for being a part of this event! :)

  6. I am the exact same way about major plot points! Seriously, if I've read it more than a month ago, chances are I couldn't tell you a lot of important details! Glad I'm not the only one ;) And Wikipedia procrastination is truly an art form (can I keep telling myself that?). The books sound so good, off to add them to Goodreads now!

    -Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

  7. She seems like a very interesting author! It's funny that she doesn't feel emotionally attached to her books. I don't know how I would feel about a book, if I wrote one, but I don't think I could detach myself from it. Thanks for the interesting interview!

  8. ooh, sounds like a wonderful writing place!! ;) I'd really like to read Code Name Verity. lol, I'm always procrastinating on Wikipedia. There's just so much to learn!! Funny, I think that lots of people are clueless about the people they idealize... Great interview!

  9. There's so many books in here that I need to get to reading ASAP(Code Name Verity, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe). I'm one of those people who forget the plots of books if I read it more than like 6 months ago D: But like she said, it does make a delightful rereading experience.

  10. Awesome interview. I haven't read any of the books mentioned here, so I will definitely need to check them out. Kate's book sounds great and I like the premise of the WIP. Also, what a great writing cave. I bet is nice to jump into the lake on hot days. Great questions and love the answers!


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