Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Interview with Kathleen Duey: Children's Book Author

I met Kathleen at a writer's retreat in Tahoe. Her bright red hair got my attention right away -- remember the blog about branding? But what is most interesting about her, is her writing. 

She's won numerous awards, including a Kirkus "best of YA" pick in 2007 and 2009, a Locus featured YA book in 2007, and a National Book Award finalist for A Resurrection of Magic. Her books have also been translated into four other languages. 

When she introduced herself at the workshops, I remember thinking, I'd like to get to know her. She seemed genuine, bright, and funny. And I was right.

   Her books and genres include:

   YA Author of Skin Hunger, Sacred Scars (third book, upcoming asap!)
   MG Author of Hoofbeats, American Diaries, The Faeries' Promise, The Unicorn's Secret and more.

Below are the questions I asked her:

1. You started writing when you were a kid. Did other kids ever give you a hard time? Any bullying?

I lived in a rural place when I was in grade school.  I went to 4th —6th grade in a three room school that had  two grades in each room—making a total of about 15 students for each teacher. So everyone knew everyone well. There was no bullying. Some teasing, but nothing truly mean. The teacher (because she only had 15 students!) often gave us unique assignments. Mine was to write a short story for her to read every Friday. Other kids had other assignments that fit them perfectly. She was a brilliant, wonderful, life-changing teacher—in her 80’s. (Oh, thank you, thank you, Mrs. Fredricksen, you opened my world)

Middle school was in a huge (to me) building that held 1200 students. I kept writing, but I didn’t tell very many people about it. I got teased for other things. I was (and am) team-sports-impaired and was small enough to earn the nickname one of the popular girls gave me: Mouse. But I had my friends from the small school to hang with and that helped. 

3. Describe your typical day of work. How many hours do you have butt in chair?

I am usually up by 6:00 am. I often fiddle around the first hour or two, talking to our dog Adah, doing a few outside chores, answering fan mail, reading news, catching up on interviews, etc….then I allow myself half an hour or so to tweet @kdueykduey, talk to people on FB  and play on my blog:  

Then I get to work. I have a hard time sitting still but try to put in 4-6 hours on the current work almost every day and an hour or two on something else. I sometimes critique other people’s manuscripts, and will switch to that if I get stuck on my own work.  ((Rereading that, it sounds by far more organized than it actually is.  There is usually a point where I glance at the screen-clock and think, WHAT? How can it be 12:30??  Then I shut down the internet and get something done.

    4.   Is there anything on your writing desk or workspace that MUST be there for you to write?

      I see three things among the paper-mess that I know I need: A stainless steel water bottle, reading glasses, and three digital recorders (Each one has five files: Each file will hold 200 voice entries.) The progress of my trilogy is ALL there.  The pre-writing ideas for my next two books are there. I usually take the recorder when I travel and am always conscious of what losing it would mean. Someone tried to steal my backpack in Atlanta once, grabbing it off my shoulder and sprinting for the train doors as they opened. He did not win the race. 

5. What do you eat for breakfast?

Almost always: raw oats in soy milk, a dollop of Greek yogurt, a handful of nuts, whatever fruit is available on our trees---with cinnamon sprinkled on top.  Once in a blue moon, eggs are involved in breakfast, with toast. I make really good omelets--usually for dinner though.

6. What is the funniest thing a kid has ever asked you about your books?

      I love to visit schools.  A third grader once asked me if ALL the words in my books were real words. I told him they were. Later in the visit, he asked me again. I assured him a second time, but it was obvious he thought I was lying. At the end of the day, with my book “Moonsilver” in hand, he chased me down the hall to ask me one more time. Before I could speak, he opened the book and jabbed his finger at the paper.  I bent to look. The “word” was: ISBN. I got permission to sit with him in the library until we had it all sorted out.  Then I went to the airport…

7. You belong to SCBWI. Why? How has it helped your writing?

      SCBWI has raised the bar for children’s and YA literature. They address both writer’s and illustrator’s needs at their conferences. The organization began in LA, CA, USA the brain child of Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser. Over more than 40 years they have expanded it in every way. There are now chapters all over the US and worldwide. I have taught writing at three SCBWI events so far this year and leave for one in Canada tomorrow.  It’s a guild at it’s heart, one of the oldest and best ways to pass knowledge and insight onward that can then be expanded by the next generation.  If you want to write for kids and YA readers, SCBWI will save you years.

8. Do you belong to any other writer's groups or associations?

I belong to the Writer’s Guild. They are on the front line of all the new ways to publish books, the copyright issues that are arising with ebooks, platform choices, etc. And they try to keep Google from ruling the world. So I send in my dues and read their updates with care.

9. What is the one word that best describes you?

      I don’t know. Maybe “persistent”.  

10. Ever had writer's block? If so, how did you overcome it?

      I have writer’s block every morning. I overcome it by writing crap until the real-writer-me kicks in and cleans it up. Then we go on together….

11. What is your favorite word?

I love them all, really. Today it is macaronic. I just learned it a few days ago. It means “mixed up, containing many parts or ingredients”.       

    12. What is the best part about speaking and/or teaching at a workshop?

      I like writers!! They are thoughtful, interesting people. I love it when I can help them along.  

      And there is this: Whenever I dissect/explain/explore some facet of writing in order to teach it, I can suddenly spot more weaknesses in my own work too. Writing is a lonely gig. After a conference, we all go home encouraged, ready to write--which is always lovely.

13. How many rejections did you get before you published your first book?

I think it was nine. They all hurt like thorns. One said to make it shorter, “younger”. The next one wanted me to create a longer, more mature plot.  The editor who finally bought it had me do a complete revision and taught me a lot along the way.

14. What advice would you give a newbie writer?

Forgive me for linking to the blog again, but there is no quick answer to that one.  and

15. When an idea comes to you, do you see it as a movie? Know a character? Hear a voice?

All of the above. Sometimes I hold casting calls if the idea doesn’t come with a built-in protagonist.

16. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Wow. No one has ever asked me that before.

      First: the obvious and sincere request: Please buy (or borrow from your library) my books and if you like them, tell people about them. My trilogy “A Resurrection of Magic” is shelved as YA but well over half my fan mail is from adult men and women.

      Second: If you are in a book club--and can talk the others into reading my books, I will happily Skype (free) to answer questions or discuss my work with the group. Sometimes bookstores are open to hosting Skype visits with book clubs--libraries do, too, sometimes. These are always really fun for me.  
      If there are teachers among you, my books for younger readers can make really good classroom reads. If your classes ever read the books, I would be happy to interact with them in some way: Skype, answering questions emailed to me, whatever is easiest for you. This is my standard message to schools:  if you budget for Skyping, it is lovely to get paid.  If you don’t, I am free.

 17. What is the most annoying thing about writing?

I never feel finished with a book. I can always find things I wish I could change, re-write. It makes me nuts.

18. Describe your writing in 5 8 words.

I am trying to write books that matter.

19. Why children's books? What are you drawn to in this genre?

Books always fascinated me as a child. Some of the books I read changed me, shaped me. I wanted to touch lives like mine had been touched.

20. What authors would you recommend to your readers?

This is an almost impossible question for me. I know so many writers and love their work for many different reasons. 

      So here are a few out of gazillions…
      Holly Black’s novels. Ah!! The White Cat series: astonishing premise and she writes SO well.
Sarah Zarr’s deep and true novels, all of them.
I love Lainie Taylor’s newest fantasy work.
Nova Ren is an interesting and smart “new” author.
John Green: amazing writer and exemplary human being. Read his stuff if you haven’t!!!
Neil Gaiman’s creepy/fascinating novels are wonderful
Ellen Hopkins is a unique writer, a poet who designs each page…teens LOVE her work.
I just blurbed an upcoming first book for Mike Jung: middle grade boys will *love* it.
Jay Asher’s YA work is all good, thoughtful, contemporary, and distinct.
      And I will stop there…because I need to get back to my own work!!!  Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog. 

Good wishes to everyone and may the words fly OUT!


  1. Great interview! And so much helpful information. Thank you!

  2. Fantastic interview! Thank you so much.

  3. Angie, your questions were super. Kathleen, I love knowing a little more about you and your inspirational journey.