In July, I discovered author Brian Katcher’s work while browsing the stacks of my local library’s YA section. I enjoyed his Almost Perfect so much that I ordered Playing with Matches. I really enjoyed it, too. I was pleased when I posted reviews here, that Brian stopped into the blog to say hello, and he was willing to do an interview with me. Of course, I managed to procrastinate for a month or two, but at long last, here are the fruits of that serendipitous discovery in the stacks.
Part two will appear tomorrow!
Interview with Brian Katcher:
Your protagonists are very realistic young men with very unexpected challenges to their romantic theories. In some ways they have similar attitudes and expectations. How are Leon (from Playing with Matches) and Logan (from Almost Perfect) similar to and distinct from each other?
Thank you for interviewing me. You know, the problems of Leon and Logan are both so similar, sometimes I feel like I’ve written the same story twice. They’re two young men who want nothing more than to meet a girl who could be both their girlfriend and their friend. And when they find her, they end up losing her because of an issue that, in retrospect, should not have been a deal breaker. As for their distinctiveness, I think Logan was the slightly more mature of the two. He’s had a rough home life and is more worldly and less trusting.
In Playing with Matches, Leon has to sort out the privilege of dating the cheerleader against the honour of having a true friend with physical imperfections. Part of his dilemma relates to the pressure of ‘what everyone else will think.’ How do his choices reflect what you see in the boys at the school where you work?
Actually, I work at an elementary school, but I remember those feelings well from when I was a teen. I don’t think there’s a man alive who didn’t once see a girl they’d really have liked to have asked out, but then thought ‘but she’s overweight/plain/dresses funny/isn’t cool. What will the guys think?’ And we’ve all lived to regret it. And nine times out of ten, the same guys who’d make fun of you for having an imperfect girlfriend are the same ones staying home watching TV weekend after weekend. The older you get, the more you realize that you want to date someone who you enjoy hanging out with. And by then, all you can do is look back and the wasted opportunities and try to learn from them.
Of course, I remember similar behavior in girls, as well. My incredibly smart and talented sister used to act dumb around the popular kids so she wouldn’t be thought of as a nerd.
In Almost Perfect, the story explores Logan’s feelings when he discovers the new girl he’s wildly attracted to, is biologically male. The story could have been about Sage’s journey to become herself. Did you consider telling it from Sage’s point of view? Why did you choose to tell Sage’s story from Logan’s perspective?
In my original draft, I punctuated the chapters with excerpts from Sage’s diary, detailing her feelings about Logan and their relationship. However, since I did not reveal that Sage was transgender until page 100, I had to deliberately not mention a lot, which was kind of jerking the reader around. In the end, I used Logan to tell Sage’s story. I felt more comfortable writing from the point of view of a young man who was meeting someone like Sage for the first time. I considered writing from Sage’s point of view, but I feared that I wouldn’t be able to accurately capture the first person feelings of a young transwoman. The last thing I wanted to do was make Sage an unrealistic character.
See the rest of the interview tomorrow!
Interview with Brian Katcher, Part two September 18, 2012
Tags: almost perfect, author, Brian Katcher, interview, Playing with matches
Here is the rest of my interview with author Brian Katcher:
In my experience, there is a germ of truth from our own lives in every book we write, and each character we craft. Where are the germs of truth in Playing with Matches and Almost Perfect? What were the geneses of the stories?
How do you write? i.e. Are you a linear writer? Do you use outlines to pre-plan? Do you write in scenes and integrate them later in the process? Do you have a regular writing routine? If so, what it is? If not, why not?
You also work as a school librarian. We have seen our government cut funding to libraries and non-enrolling teachers in the names of austerity and progress. In their minds, libraries are outmoded and unnecessary. In your experience, how important is the library to students? How are libraries changing to continue to be relevant? What do you as a librarian contribute to kids’ growth and development?