Wednesday, November 9, 2016

E. Katherine Kottaras Author Interview

Photo Credit: Emily Mae Marie

E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, and 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 an active member of NCTE and SCBWI, as well as a proud board member of the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California. Katherine is interested in the stories we tell, the stories we are given, and the ways we can redefine our worlds by discovering which stories are true.

She is the author of the YA contemporary novel, HOW TO BE BRAVE (2015) and the forthcoming THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER (2016), both from St. Martin’s Press/Griffin Teen.


Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was four years old (strange little odes to Crystal Gayle’s, 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. I took some more classes through Litreactor where I started the book has eventually become my first book, 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 three years and nine months, which is actually quite amazing!

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I believe that storytelling is fundamental to the human experience and the very key to our survival. Unfortunately, we know quite well that humans are fearful creatures and we are often afraid of difference. I believe that storytelling is an antidote to that fear, for stories connect us; they allow us to express our deepest fears, desires, and dreams, and they give us space to listen and understand others’ experiences. When we sit down to write or tell a story, we are offering questions about what it means to be human. When we sit down to read or listen to a story, we are holding space for another person; we are opening our hearts to possibility.

In your book; The Best Possible Answer, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
Many writers talk about books that are the “stories of their hearts.” My first book, HOW TO BE BRAVE, was most definitely that since it is told through the eyes of Georgia, a Greek-American teenager whose mother passes away. I am half-Greek, and my father died when I was seventeen, so much of the story, in terms of its exploration of grief and loss, identity and love, came directly from my heart and my life.

My second book, THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER, is equally the story of my heart. Viviana is a driven honors student and the daughter parents who have extremely high academic expectations for her. As a result of both these expectations and an exposing mistake Viviana made in sharing a nude photo with her boyfriend (who proceeded to send it to the entire school), Viviana suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks. She knows that she didn’t do anything wrong in sending the photo to him – she trusted and loved him at the time – but world still blames and shames her for it.

At her summer job, Viviana is finally able to escape the judgmental eyes of her school, but she soon becomes the odd vertex of a love triangle; her childhood best friend, Sammie, has a crush on the outgoing, college-aged lifeguard, Evan, but he seems to be more interested in Viviana. Against her better judgment, Viviana falls for him, thereby damaging yet another important relationship in her life and disappointing herself. Soon after, when her father finally returns from his mysterious six-month long business trip, Viviana discovers some deep, dark truths about him that force her to question all of her ideas about love and trust and the control she has over her life.

For those who are unfamiliar with Viviana, how would you introduce her?
Viviana is smart, honest, kind, and a good friend. She can also be guarded and shy, partly because she was burned by her ex-boyfriend and is in the midst of discovering secrets about her father. At the beginning of the book, she also lacks confidence, but she comes to discover how strong she really is.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I am currently in the midst of revising a YA contemporary that I’m SUUUUUPER excited about, and when I’m done with that, I’m going to continue work on a MG that I started last spring. I’m writing this one as a gift for my daughter, so my deadline is Christmas.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Ooooh, what a good question. I’m currently reading all of the Harry Potter books to my daughter (we’re in the middle of The Prisoner of Azkaban), and of course, Hermione will always, always be my favorite. I would love for Viviana and Hermione to sit down and discuss what it’s like to be an intelligent, nerdy girl in a world that doesn’t always respect the invaluable experience of girls and women. And I would like my daughter to be there to participate, too.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Evan?
Evan was a character that came fairly easily to me. I’ll admit that the male love interests in my books are mostly based on my husband, who’s been my partner for almost 21 years. Both Evan and my husband are kind and patient and good listeners. My husband actually advised me on the scene where Evan confronts Viviana’s ex-boyfriend, Dean, towards the end of the book. I was surprised by my husband’s visceral reaction to Dean’s vile behavior, and I ended up altering the scene a bit to show this.

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
Q: Can you give me a ride to/pick me up from the airport?

A: Sorry, I’m busy.

What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I worked in a group home in Chicago with teens. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, and it cemented my desire to work with youth and become a teacher.

Tell me about your first kiss.
2a.m. A stairwell, He asked, “May I kiss you?” I nodded and stood on my tip-toes since he was a full-foot taller than me. My mouth grazed his bottom lip before I freaked out and ran away as fast as I could. The next night was our second date, and the kissing was much more successful (and lasted much longer than that first night.) The boy was my now husband, and like I said above, we’ve been together for 21 years.

When was the last time you cried?
Yesterday. The Cubs won, and I remembered watching games with my dad when I was a kid.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
It would have been amazing to see the Beatles perform live, and my favorite haircut is a sleek. mod bob, so the 1960s for sure.

Thank you so much for having me!

Ultra-high-achiever Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe has always had a plan—and no room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection comes to a screeching halt when her boyfriend leaks racy pictures of her to the entire school. Making matters worse, her parents are getting divorced and now her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Viv feels like a complete and utter failure.

Then she gets a job working at the community pool, where she meets a new group of friends who know nothing about her past. That includes Evan, a gorgeous guy who makes her want to do something she never thought she’d do again: trust. For the first time in her life, Viv realizes she can finally be whoever she wants. But who is that? While she tries to figure it out, she learns something they never covered in her AP courses: that it’s okay to be less than perfect, because it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.


“In this fast-paced novel, Vivi’s character development is complete as she grapples with her own mistakes and copes with anxiety…Kottarasrealistically depicts the difficulties that working parents face…The side of the story of Professor Cox, who has schizophrenia, conveys the importance of advocacy for those who face mental illness.” ―School Library Journal

“Kottaras’ creative use of ‘College Admission Tips’ and tongue-in-cheek SAT questions at the start of each chapter adds a terrific satiric touch to the angst around all things college, and will speak to teens looking for a life amid the pressures and expectations of their high-school journey.
A warmhearted and sensitive coming of age romance.” ―Booklist

“Vivi's vividly portrayed panic attacks and pressure to succeed will speak to many readers. The truth about her father…allows Vivi to react and break free of the expectations. Supporting characters are also strong. A sensitive novel about accepting imperfection.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“A complicated family drama about living with betrayal and learning how to open oneself again to love.” ―Publishers Weekly

You can purchase The Best Possible Answer at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you E. KATHERINE KOTTARAS for making this giveaway possible.
One Winner will receive a Copy of THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER by E. Katherine Kottaras.


  1. What an amazing interview! Such great questions and I LOVED the answers! The Best Possible Answer has been on my wish list and TBR since I first came across it on Goodreads before it was released! I absolutely loved Katherine's answer to which characters she would have meet(I love Hermione as well) and I LOVE that she is writing a book for her daughter! I would love to do that for my daughter as well. Thanks so much to you both for the opportunity to win The Best Possible Answer! Viviana sounds like a character I can definitely relate to and I can't wait to read her story!

  2. Great interview.So nice she's writing a book for her daughter. Can't wait to read her book.

  3. Great interview.So nice she's writing a book for her daughter. Can't wait to read her book.