Author Interview: Kate Jarvik BirchPosted in author, featured, Goodreads, guest, interview, promotion
About the Author:
Kate Jarvik Birch is a visual artist, author, playwright, daydreamer, and professional procrastinator. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be either a unicorn or a mermaid. Luckily, being a writer turned out to be just as magical. Her essays and short stories have been published in literary journals including Indiana Review and Saint Ann's Review. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and three kids. To learn more, visit her website here.
What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since fourth grade when I wrote my first "novel”. It was written by hand in a dark blue, hardback journal (and illustrated too, I should point out). Whenever my teachers asked us to dream about where we’d like to be when we grew up, I always envisioned myself writing books.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time practicing. I remember having play dates with friends where we just sat in my room and worked on our “Great American Novels”. I was always jealous of my friend, Anne, who came up with awesome lines like “The shot rang out across the Australian outback”. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to compete with THAT.
Where do you get your inspirations from?
I’m easily inspired. Almost anything can spark an idea: a magazine article, a line in a movie, a news article, or a conversation with a friend. Sometimes I feel like I’m a never-ending factory of ideas. This might be because the idea phase is one of my FAVORITE parts of writing. I adore brainstorming. I’ve contemplated getting the words “what if” tattooed on my wrist because those two words always fill me with excitement and the promise of a new story.
Other than writing books, what else do you do in your free time?
Anything creative! I’m also a painter and illustrator (which is actually what I got my degree in), so I love any chance I get to make art. I’m also a HUGE movie fan! I haven’t written a screenplay yet, but it’s definitely on my “to do” list.
If you could work with another author, who would it be?
This is an impossibly difficult question to answer because I could fangirl over A LOT of writers: John Green, Kate DiCamillo, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Jane Hamilton, Lorrie Moore. They run the gamut of genres and styles. But I guess if I had to choose one, I’d have to say John Green would definitely be at the very top of my list. I adore his characters and their smart and witty dialogue.
What are major themes of your work?
First, I have to say that I often approach an idea for a book by thinking about a situation that makes me really angry. Nothing gets me quite so riled up as the thought of injustice and people being oppressed. So, it isn’t much of a surprise that this shows up in my writing. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman myself, but I often write about women being marginalized. Without being too overt, I hope my books touch on ideas of objectification and feminism.
What do you think people look for in a book?
I don’t know what other people look for, but as a reader, I look to find myself within the characters. I want to be swept up in a story that feels both new and familiar (an odd equilibrium). One of my favorite quotes about reading is by James Baldwin, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
Are there any recent works you admire?
Lately, I’ve been eating up anything by Rainbow Rowell. I just finished FANGIRL and LOVED it. I’m currently reading SWAMPLANDIA by Karen Russell. The prose is astoundingly beautiful!
Questions About the Book (Perfected):
Which character in the book do you think you can relate to the most?
I tried to put a little bit of myself in all of them, but I probably relate the most to Ella. It’s an odd comparison, but as a mother, we sometimes forget about our own happiness, we put so much of ourselves into making others (our kids, our husbands, our extended family) happy. But I’ve found that to truly be able to make others happy, you have to fill yourself up first.
How did you come up with the character's names?
Ella had a few names before we settled on naming her after Ella Fitzgerald. I wanted to give her a name that would link her to Penn’s music. The rest of the characters kept their original names. They just felt organically right (if that makes any sense). I do tend to stew over names A LOT! They have to convey a feeling about who the character is. Luckily my agent wrote a whole baby naming book, so I leaf through that a lot to find inspiration.
What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I’ve been an animal lover ever since I saw my first pony at the carnival when I was two and I’ve been a mini zookeeper ever since. At the moment, I have three dogs, two ducks, a bunny and a hedgehog. The dogs are like tiny shadows, constantly in my periphery (if not underfoot or on my lap). I’ve always assumed that they were happy (even lucky) to have me for an owner to shower love and affection on them, but the writer in me wasn’t satisfied with this assumption. She saw a story inside them. So in my mind, the next obvious step between having dogs for pets and wondering if they were happy with their lives was wondering what it would be like to be a pet. Bing! An idea was born. What if people were pets? What if I were given the choice between a life of idle luxury and freedom, which would I choose?
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