A scavenger hunt in the middle of Snowpocalypse? Okay! Today, I'm thrilled to be part of the 2016 YA Contemporary Scavenger Hunt put on by The Book Belles. For my part of the scavenger hunt, I'll be hosting the lovely Kathryn Holmes, author of How it Feels to Fly. As a dancer, myself, I can't wait for this book. Read more about it, as well as my interview with Kathryn, below, and be sure to check out The Book Belles blog for more info on the scavenger hunt and to see my interview on The Last Time We Were Us.
Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for the code word (hint: it may be right in this sentence).
About the Book:
The movement is all that matters.
For as long as Samantha can remember, she’s wanted to be a professional ballerina. She’s lived for perfect pirouettes, sky-high extensions, and soaring leaps across the stage. Then her body betrayed her.
The change was gradual. Stealthy.
Failed diets. Disapproving looks. Whispers behind her back. The result: crippling anxiety about her appearance, which threatens to crush her dancing dreams entirely. On her dance teacher’s recommendation, Sam is sent to a summer treatment camp for teen artists and athletes who are struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. If she can make progress, she’ll be allowed to attend a crucial ballet intensive. But when asked to open up about her deepest insecurities, secret behaviors, and paralyzing fears to complete strangers, Sam can’t cope.
What I really need is a whole new body.
Sam forms an unlikely bond with Andrew, a former college football player who’s one of her camp counselors. As they grow closer, Andrew helps Sam see herself as he does—beautiful. But just as she starts to believe that there’s more between them than friendship, disappointing news from home sends her into a tailspin. With her future uncertain and her body against her, will Sam give in to the anxiety that imprisons her?
For fans of Center Stage, and with shades of The Breakfast Club, this is a compelling novel about body, mind, and the courage that it takes to become who you’re meant to be.
Were you a ballerina when you were younger? If not, what research did you do regarding the ballet aspect of How it Feels to Fly?
I was a dancer—and still am! Growing up, I danced at a studio that fed into a regional ballet company. So, while I did tap, jazz, and modern as well, during my tween and teen years I was very ballet-focused. I even did a few away-from-home summer ballet intensives like the one Samantha, my main character in HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, is planning to attend.
Unfortunately, I never had the right body type for ballet. In high school—especially after going through puberty—I struggled a lot with poor body image. As much as I loved dancing, I worried about whether there was a place for me in the dance world. But in college, I was able to shift my focus toward contemporary dance, and as an adult, I finally found my home in the NYC modern/contemporary dance community. So my story has a happy ending!
On the research front, my first full-time job after graduating college was as an editor with a group of dance magazines. This meant that even as I continued dancing myself, I was also writing and reading about dance for work. When I stopped editing magazines and started writing books, I knew that I wanted to create a story that drew on my extensive dance background, and that reflected both my love of the art form and my struggles with how it made me feel about myself as a teenager. That’s where HOW IT FEELS TO FLY ultimately came from.
Has your writing process changed at all between your first novel and this one?
So far, my writing process has been different for every book!
I wrote my first (as-yet-unpublished) novel in graduate school, so that process involved workshop after workshop. When it came time to set that novel aside and work on the book that would become my debut, The Distance Between Lost and Found, I abandoned the workshop model entirely. I wrote the first draft of Distance in a quiet frenzy, and didn’t show any of it to anyone until it was finished—which felt like quite a gamble when I was used to getting peer feedback every 20 pages! But it worked, helping me fall head over heels into the draft without fretting so much about how each chapter would be received.
When I started How it Feels to Fly, I’d already sold Distance, and I think any writer will tell you that drafting the next book after selling your debut is no easy task. Unlike Distance, How it Feels to Fly came out in fits and starts and required a lot of revising and rethinking, even in the first-draft phase. For a long time, I just couldn’t seem to get any of it right. Each revision felt like I was fighting with the book—and I showed early excerpts to various people as I tried to figure out what the heck I was doing. Then, once my editor bought the book, she and I hammered the plot out together. It took a lot of color-coded post-it notes.
I’m now working on a new project that feels a lot more like Distance, in that it’s flowing out onto the page fairly smoothly. That said, I did try something new for my process: in the first draft, when I reached a point where I wasn’t yet sure what needed to happen, I gave myself permission to skip it and move on to the next scene I did know. It resulted in a first draft with lots of holes in it, but I figured out so much about the story and the characters by propelling myself toward the end that it’s been completely worth it.
What initially made you decide to write in the young adult genre?
My years as a teen magazine editor! One of the dance magazines I used to work at (and still write for), Dance Spirit, is aimed at teen dancers. I discovered at that job that I loved writing for the teen audience and interacting with our readers. When considering graduate school programs in Creative Writing, I chose the Writing for Children concentration at The New School based partly on how much I’d enjoyed teen-oriented journalism. From the first week of classes, I knew I was in the right place.
If you could have dinner with any three authors (dead or alive), who would they be?
Ahh! This question is so hard. I’ll narrow the field by making my dinner a YA roundtable with three awesome ladies: Rainbow Rowell, Libba Bray, and Sarah Dessen.
What’s your favorite 2016 release you’ve read so far?
Confession time: I’ve only read two 2016 releases this early in the year! So I’ll give them both a shout-out. Don’t miss Autofocus, Lauren Gibaldi’s sophomore novel about a girl searching for information about her birth mother, and Summer of Sloane, Erin L. Schneider’s debut about a girl who escapes to Hawaii to rebuild her heart after her boyfriend gets her best friend pregnant. Both are fantastic.
Kathryn Holmes grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, where she was an avid reader and an aspiring writer from an early age. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and piles upon piles of books. A graduate of The New School's MFA in Creative Writing program, Kathryn works as a freelance dance journalist, among other writing gigs. She's the author of The Distance Between Lost and Found (out now) and How It Feels to Fly (June 2016).