Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Interview With After The Fall Author KATE HART! + Giveaway

Kate Hart has been one of my favourite people on the Internet since before I discovered YA Highway, so I was very excited to finally read her book After the Fall, which came out last year. I was even more excited when I read it and discovered what an incredible book it was. Kate Hart writes complex teen dynamics so well and with such intelligence. After the Fall deals with two characters messing up, forgiveness, the blurry lines of friendship, and learning about consent and privilege. I am also a sucker for friendship and double POV books, so I definitely loved it.

I am very excited to have Kate on the blog today to answer some questions about her excellent debut! Kate has also offered to giveaway a signed copy of the paperback which comes out TODAY with the beautiful cover shown below, so fill out the form at the end of this post by the end of January 27 to enter! (US/Canada only.)

Here's the synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Raychel is sleeping with two boys: her overachieving best friend Matt…and his slacker brother, Andrew. Raychel sneaks into Matt’s bed after nightmares, but nothing ever happens. He doesn’t even seem to realize she’s a girl, except when he decides she needs rescuing. But Raychel doesn't want to be his girl anyway. She just needs his support as she deals with the classmate who assaulted her, the constant threat of her family’s eviction, and the dream of college slipping quickly out of reach. Matt tries to help, but he doesn’t really get it… and he’d never understand why she’s fallen into a secret relationship with his brother. The friendships are a precarious balance, and when tragedy strikes, everything falls apart. Raychel has to decide which pieces she can pick up – and which ones are worth putting back together.

One of the things that make or break a book for me are the characters, and I was really impressed with your incredibly complex and dynamic characters. Even the parents were interesting and present in the story, which I find is rare in YA. How did the dynamic between Matt and Raychel and their parents develop as you were writing?

Thank you for the compliment! Several things influenced that depiction. One, while I understand that it's easier to give YA characters agency if you get the parents out of the picture, it's just not a realistic depiction of most teens' lives, and it didn't make sense for this story. Two, as a mom myself, I'm hyper aware that parents are not stock cutouts. Realizing that your folks are individual people with their own pasts and preferences and flaws is a huge part of growing up, even well into one's adulthood, and for girls struggling to find their place in the world and within feminism, that ever-changing dynamic with one's mom or mother figure is an important part of growing up. Three, my own parents were present in my life, but beyond that, my friends' and boyfriends' parents played a big role in my teen years. Some were supportive and almost like friends themselves; some were judgmental and indifferent or even mean to me while they tried to steer their own kids' choices, and some were just straight up awful parents. 

So in early drafts, the dynamic was a little more "good mom vs bad mom," but as the story deepened, I realized it was important to portray Raychel's changing perception of the two moms, in order to support the overall "feminism is complicated" theme in the book. Both moms are doing their best, but both moms screw up, and ultimately, both moms reach the limits of what they can do for Raychel. She can't begin to steer her own life until she reaches that realization.

One of my favourite things are friendship stories, and After the Fall has a lot of interesting friendship dynamics in it, between Matt, Raychel, and their other friends. Was it important to you to focus on the friendships of these characters, and why?

In high school, I was very much that girl who considered herself "not like other girls." Most of my friends were boys, and I invested a lot of energy in trying to prove myself worth of their attention. It wasn't until adulthood that I accrued a solid group of awesome lady friends -- and once that happened, I realized I'd always had lots of girlfriends, but I'd put our relationships on a second tier. So while none of the characters in After the Fall are based on my high school crew, it was interesting for me to explore that particular dynamic and lead Raychel and Matt through the realization that many high school friendships are based more on circumstance than real relationships (but that some can turn out to be the real deal, too). 

After the Fall alternates perspectives between Matt and Raychel. Were there any challenges writing these two different perspectives?

For some reason, all of my projects come to me in multiple POVs. I think it's a side effect of studying history and realizing that there is no true objective perspective: every story has a million sides, and all of them can be correct in some way. Executing the different voices is challenging for me, though. I winged it for awhile on this book, but before I got into serious revisions, I made a list of vocal tics, favorite phrases, and that sort of thing for each character (for example, Matt's narration never uses dashes; Raychel says "y'all" while Matt looks down on southern accents).

Among many things, After the Fall deals with characters struggling with the issue of privilege. How did your own experiences with privilege influence your writing?

This is always a tough question, because while I technically grew up poor, I also rarely wanted for things. My family was upwardly mobile, and my dad's parents were financially secure enough to help us when necessary, so I hesitate to depict myself as someone who grew up in poverty. However, the truth is that it took us a long time to reach lower middle class, and money is an issue I've always worried about. I was lucky enough to get a full scholarship to college, but I was also very conscious of being the scholarship kid who had to actually study and work to stay there. As an adult, I own a small business, but we've scraped by to make it feasible. Meanwhile, economic and social status can play a huge role in assault -- not just in who's victimized, but in who can expect justice, much less afford it. I couldn't ignore that in the dynamics of my hometown, so there was no way I could ignore it in this story.

You’ve talked about your experience getting rejected by publishers, and feedback you received about how your protagonist was unrealistic, even though Raychel’s experiences were largely informed by your own experience with sexual assault. How do you hope your book has an impact on the YA or publishing community?

To be honest, I don't have any illusions about it making any grand changes to the overall narrative. But my hope is that the book will reach some readers who haven't seen themselves on the page -- that they will feel heard, and go forward feeling more confident that their stories matter, or at least knowing how to better support friends who've been victims.

Thanks Kate! After the Fall is a really incredible story, and I would like to think books like this will make an impact, whether that be on an individual scale or encouraging someone else to tell their story.  

One of the many cool items in Kate's Etsy shop!
As well as being an author, Kate also has a really cool Etsy store, The Badasserie, which is fiber arts and woodworking made with lumber reclaimed from projects by Kate's family business, Natural State Treehouses. The stuff she has there is really cool, so go check it out! 

And don't forget to enter below to win a signed copy of After the Fall, by commenting on or sharing this post! US/Canada only, closes midnight January 27, 2018, winner will be contacted through email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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