2017 Debut author Katie Nelson recently interviewed 2016 debut author Kathryn Purdie about her debut YA novel, BURNING GLASS, which was published March 1 by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.
About the Book:
After the dowager empress’s murder and a tragic accident, Sonya is hauled off to the palace to guard a charming-yet-volatile new ruler with her gift for absorbing other people’s feelings. But Sonya’s power is reckless and unwieldy. She’s often carried away by the intense passions of others. And when a growing rebellion forces Sonya to side with either the emperor who trusts her or his mysterious brother, the crown prince, Sonya realizes she may be the key to saving the empire—or its greatest threat.
BURNING GLASS IS AVAILABLE AT
About the Author:
Kathryn Purdie is the author of the YA fantasy, BURNING GLASS (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). She lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three children. Kathryn is a trained classical actress who studied at the Oxford School of Drama and was inspired to write this debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother.
Katie: One of the things that really makes BURNING GLASS unique is its beautiful setting. How did you approach world building? Did the plot/characters come first or the setting? Any specific things that you did to flesh it out?
Kathryn: I’ve always been drawn to Imperial Russia, ever since I learned the last tsar’s only son and heir to the throne had hemophilia like my grandfather, three brothers, and son. That led me to fall in love with epic Russian literature, which is often dark, sweeping, and romantic. Within a few seconds of conceiving the idea for BURNING GLASS (characters came first), I knew Imperial Russia would be the perfect setting. But since my book deals with a revolution that I didn’t want to feel communist, I colored outside the lines of Russia. I call my empire Riaznin and only use about half the Russian words for things. I gave my characters Russian names, as well as Eastern European names. But for the most part, the world is inspired by fascinating Russia.
Katie: I read in your biography that you have a background in music and acting. How does this influence your approach to writing?
Kathryn: My acting education has drilled into me in that characters must have objectives and correlating tactics in every scene. Acting has also helped me to portray each character’s flaws and strengths better. I always hated portraying a character on stage that was just one note—I sought to find imperfections in the hero and sympathetic virtues in the villain. That’s much more interesting! So I do the same in my writing. About music, it’s a direct channel to the emotions. I always write to music and compose a song for every story I write. Music helps me hone in on the story’s theme, the main character’s feelings, and the atmosphere.
Katie: The relationship between the two brothers, the emperor and the prince, was so interesting for me to read. Did your own experiences with siblings influence how you approached them? At what point did you figure out what made each brother unique and/or motivated him?
Kathryn: This story idea came to me so fast. In that minute that it popped into my head, I knew there would be an empath and two royal brothers. So it’s hard to say why the idea of siblings came to mind. I do have nine brothers and sisters, but I have great relationships with all of them. Really, I think I was drawn to the struggle between the brothers because it’s such a great crucible, a pressure cooker you can’t escape, because you can never escape family. It’s a form of a closed environment that’s super compelling to me. As I did research for the book, I came across a 17th-century account of Frenchman’s experience of living in Russian court, and it included this fascinating legend of a “changeling prince.” That inspired the backstory between Anton and Valko—that both boys were raised separately and believed they would be the next emperor when their father died. That’s the main thing that made the brothers’ characters click for me—that deep-seated rivalry between them, years in the making.
Katie: As an Auraseer, Sonia’s gifted with the ability to feel the emotions of those around her. The book makes a powerful statement about the need for empathy in the world. Was that always an idea you wanted to explore, or did it develop as the story did?
Kathryn: Empathy is where the story stemmed from. I knew for months I wanted to write a story about an empath, but I filed the thought away in my brain until it popped back in fully formed. I went through a period where I felt like an empath while recovering from donating a kidney to my brother. I couldn’t bear anyone else’s suffering, and I wanted to help/fix everyone. That’s when I realized that, yes, empathy gives you compassion, but it’s a very difficult virtue to endure. So I knew, even before I developed the story idea, that empathy would be a catalyst for both dark and beautiful feelings in the book. Empathy starts as the worst gift for Sonya and causes her to do to terrible things when other people’s feelings overwhelm her, but over the course of the story she finds out that empathy can be a positive quality, too. Sonya did surprise me with some of the choices she made, but I let her be real, make mistakes, pay for them, and grow from them.
Lightning Round Questions:
Favorite place to travel?
Zion National Park, especially the Narrows, where you can walk through a river in a sliver canyon, see waterfalls and flowers growing on the desert sandstone walls.
Favorite writing snack?
Wheat Thins. I’m addicted to carbs.
Snowy mountains or sandy beaches?
Mountains! I live in the Rocky Mountains, and my love for them is powerful.
Early bird or Night owl?
Night owl. Ever since I was a toddler, I stayed awake late at night. My mom would come in and check on me, and I’d have my eyes wide open and my imagination spinning.
Best thing about being a debut author?
Meeting new and wonderful people, whether they are other authors, aspiring writers, or readers.
Describe your 17-year-old self in 3 words.
Artistic. Impulsive. Emotional.
About the Interviewer:
Katie Nelson has always loved words and stories. Formerly a high school English and Debate teacher, she now lives in Northern California with her husband, four children, and hyperactive dog.
Katie’s debut novel, THE DUKE OF BANNERMAN PREP, a contemporary YA retelling of THE GREAT GATSBY, will be published Spring 2017 by Sky Pony.
To celebrate the release of BURNING GLASS, HarperCollins is providing a finished copy of the novel to one lucky winner! Click on the Rafflecopter link below for a chance to win.
*The Giveaway is over–Congratulations to Breeana Shields!