Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Kim DeRose Interview - For Girls Who Walk Through Fire

Photo Credit: Sylvie Rosokoff

Kim DeRose grew up in Santa B arbara, California, where she spent childhood summers holed up in her bedroom, reading and writing stories (which she was convinced her local bookstore would publish). She now lives in New York City, where she still holes up in her bedroom reading, and writing stories. DeRose earned her MFA in film directing from UCLA, and she currently works in digital media. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can be found geeking out over her favorite obsessions (Twin Peaks, Harry Potter, and anything Halloween-related, to name a few), drinking way too much coffee, listening to way too many podcasts, and spending time with her family. For Girls Who Walk Through Fire is her debut novel.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a writer. I started dictating stories to my mom when I was three and started writing my own stories as soon as I was able. And by writing my own stories what I really mean is retelling famous fairytales—though, honestly, I still love a good fairytale retell. My best friend and I would spend summer afternoons holed up in my bedroom, writing and illustrating stories, which I was convinced we could just march over to our local bookstore to have published.

Then, when I was in third grade, my mom signed me up for an after-school writer’s workshop, and that’s when I really started thinking about my own stories and how to shape a reader’s experience. The class was taught by our teacher’s husband, who was a writer, and he introduced a lot of great concepts, including how to hook a reader early, and how to build cliffhangers into chapter endings. I still have the story I wrote, which involves death, grief, and ghosts (and, thematically, is actually pretty similar to the kind of thing I’d write today).

But all that said, as I got older, I let go of my writing and publishing dreams because I was convinced they weren’t practical. It took me a long time to circle back around and remember what I’d always known as a kid: that I am a writer.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
I would say if you want a life in writing (which isn’t the same thing as having a life in publishing, totally different) the key is to write. Yes, that’s obnoxious, but it’s also 100% true. Finding the time to sit down and write is often the hardest part. Before having kids, it was easier to spend my evenings and weekends writing. Now, as a parent, I’ve learned to take my writing time where I can get it. It might be an hour before the kids get up, or 30 minutes after they’re in bed, or 20 minutes on my lunch break. I’m not precious about how and when I write—in coffee shops is lovely, but I’ve also written in doctor’s offices, corporate lobbies, the backseat of the car during road trips. I do make a big effort to write every day, though. Sarah Ruhl’s book “100 essays I don’t have time to write” really captured the idea of stealing writing time whenever and wherever you can, which deeply resonated.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
Oh, hands down “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. But, alas, the universe is not a wish granting factory.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
Yes, there are a lot of books that have really changed me, but I’ll mention three that are specifically writing related.
  • The first is Anne Lamott’s brilliant “Bird by Bird.” I highly recommend this for all writers. I love all of her writing, but I return to this one again and again. I particularly love her suggestion to write “shitty first drafts,” which is great advice for anyone who is a recovering perfectionist.

  • The second is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.” I especially loved her discussion of not relying on your art for your income. Yes, your art might make you money, but that’s not the reason to create it. And having a day job/alternate source of income can be quite freeing in that it puts less pressure on your art. I’d never thought about it that way. But I found that idea liberating, and I found her examples of all the writers who had day jobs to be quite validating.

  • The last one is Beth Pickens’ “Make Your Art No Matter What.” Like the above books, this is one I revisit. This book explained me to myself. Artists are people who have to create in order to feel connected to themselves and the world around them. They are happier when they are creating. Understanding this helped me further value the writing process and how it feeds me—and it helped me separate the value of that from the end result.
What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
When I first saw the email from my agent with the subject line “OFFER” it was absolutely the moment I’d always dreamed of. I was elated. And then when I called my agent and she read me the offering letter from my editor I cried. My editor was so enthusiastic and made clear from the start how deeply she understood this book. My path to publication was long and winding, so finally learning that one of my books would be out in the world was profoundly emotional.

Seeing the cover for the first time was also amazing. I had the chance to first see it when my editor and I met for coffee. I knew how talented the artist, Katt Phatt, was, and was thrilled that they and the design team really captured a vibe that matched the book.

  • 1. This is my first published YA novel but the 3rd YA novel I’ve written. I started brainstorming the book on and off in 2016, started outlining it in 2019 in between other projects, but didn’t sit down to write it until the spring of 2021. Once I did, the first draft came pouring out in 7 weeks.
  • 2. Like Elliott, I grew up in Santa Barbara and attended Santa Barbara High.
  • 3. Adams Elementary, where Elliott attends her weekly support group, is where I almost went to school (we lived nearby), but I ended up attending Roosevelt Elementary instead.
  • 4. The coffee shop Elliott and Madeline go to in chapter 2 doesn’t exist in real life, but it was loosely modeled after one that I used to go to in LA, which was, in fact, called Anastasia’s Asylum.
  • 5. The names Elliott and Madeline were both on my short list when we were naming our daughter.
  • 6. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time at Franceschi Park, where the coven gathers. We had family picnics there when I was a kid, and as a teenager people from my high school used to go there to drink. I can neither confirm nor deny if I was one of those people!
  • 7. There is now a park ranger on-site at Franceschi Park who actively kicks you out at sunset, so sadly, it’s not actually an ideal place for coven gatherings in real life. But a girl can dream.
  • 8. I was part of a Girl Scout troupe from private school Laguna Blanca (Chloe’s school) because my cousin, who is my age and whom I was close with, went there. I was the only public-school kid in the troupe and I always felt like a complete outsider—especially when we met at troupe members’ fancy Montecito or Hope Ranch homes.
  • 9. I based Mary’s house on my childhood home (though her d├ęcor is quite different).
  • 10. The final moment in the book always makes me teary.
What is the first job you have had?
I started babysitting for families when I was in 7th grade.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why?
English; unsurprisingly, I loved reading and talking about books.

Name one thing you miss about being a kid.
Trick or treating. I still dress up for Halloween every year (always and forever!) but the thrill of Halloween and trick or treating as a kid just can’t be beat.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?

What's your most missed memory?
Visiting my grandparents’ home. My grandfather had a huge collection of antique clocks in the basement that he liked to tell me about, and my grandmother, who loved to crack jokes, always made me a rhubarb pie, and after dinner we would sit around their kitchen table and play card games like Spite and Malice.

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
When I was 15 years old, I witnessed the death of a close family member and it profoundly transformed me. I felt awakened by that experience, with a newfound awareness that we all die, and that we will all lose everyone we love—so we had better use our time well.

Have you ever stood up for someone you hardly knew?
Yes, and I would do it again.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or to have never loved before?
True love with a guarantee of heart break. All love eventually ends in heart break because inevitably we all die. But that’s all the more reason to love while we have the privilege of being alive.

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
David Bowie! To be a rock star who constantly reinvents themselves and always walks to the beat of their own drum? Yes please.

Most horrifying dream you have ever had?
I’ve had a recurring dream most of my life where I see a mountain and then realize it’s not a mountain, it’s a tsunami headed my way. Terrifying.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
I actually think the late 80’s through the 90’s were a pretty great time to be a kid, so I don’t think I’d choose differently than what I experienced.

First Heartbreak?
Oof. It hurt. I also should have seen it coming when my then boyfriend gave me a mixed tape that had a Charlie Brown quote on the front that read, “Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter like unrequited love.” When I asked him why he included that quote he claimed to not know what unrequited meant, but I mean…

When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
This morning.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
I went to Kenya to visit my cousin, who was doing research on hyenas in the Masai Mara. I stayed in her research camp for nearly 2 weeks and went on rounds with her every morning and evening. It was amazing and also, at times, terrifying. On my first night, one of the cars in our caravan got stuck and as we tried to get it unstuck a pack of lions showed up and we had to jump back into the car. I’m 100% certain we shouldn’t have even been out of the car! But as the city-dwelling visitor I didn’t want to sit around and not help. I’ll never forget seeing the glint of eyes in the headlights as the lions passed us by.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
I don’t know how unique it is, but I can’t handle crawling through tiny spaces. I was once traveling in Vietnam and visited the Cu Chi tunnels—a network of tunnels that were the Viet Cong’s base of operation during the Vietnam War. Tourists were invited to crawl through part of the tunnel, and I decided to participate. I ended up having a full-blown panic attack. I started sweating and shaking, and my heart was racing. There were three exits along the tunnel, and I had to take the first one. I will absolutely never do something like that again.

Those who would suppress and destroy you stand not a chance when confronted with the power that lies within these pages . . .

Elliott D’Angelo-Brandt is sick and tired of putting up with it all. Every week, she attends a support group for teen victims of sexual assault, but all they do is talk. Elliott’s done with talking. What she wants is justice.

And she has a plan for getting it: a spell book that she found in her late mom’s belongings that actually works. Elliott recruits a coven of fellow survivors from the group. She, Madeline, Chloe, and Bea don’t have much in common, but they are united in their rage at a system that heaps judgments on victims and never seems to punish those who deserve it.

As they each take a turn casting a hex against their unrepentant assailants, the girls find themselves leaning on each other in ways they never expected—and realizing that revenge has heavy implications. Each member of the coven will have to make a choice: continue down the path of magical vigilantism or discover what it truly means to claim their power.

For Girls Who Walk Through Fire is a fierce, deeply moving novel about perseverance in the face of injustice and the transformational power of friendship.

You can purchase For Girls Who Walk Through Fire at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KIM DEROSE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of For Girls Who Walk Through Fire by Kim DeRose.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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