Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Interview with Kathe Koja

Kathe Koja is the author of adult novels The Cipher, Bad Brains, Skin, Strange Angels, Kink, Extremities (short story collection), Under the Poppy and young adult novels Straydog, Buddha Boy, The Blue Mirror, Talk, Going Under, Kissing the Bee and Headlong. She won a Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel for The Cipher, which is also currently being made into a film. Her most recent novel, Under the Poppy, is being adapted into a play. You can find out more about Kathe at her website.

What drew you to the horror genre?

I tend to write first and then classify later (with horror, with YA, with historical fiction...).  One editor insists to this day that The Cipher is SF. What I found exciting and welcoming about writing horror was the feeling of no present limits, of the horizon being dark and ever-expanding. Great fun!

Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?

I can't say if that's true or isn't; if so, no hard-and-fast theories here, just curiosity over how gender breaks along genre lines. I don't know how many readers care whether a writer of fiction they admire is female or male, or why they would.
Who are some women horror authors that you admire?

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter (her fairy tales are dreamlike, mythic, dreadful), and Flannery O'Connor, who gets very dark indeed.

What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?

To all writers of all genders and genres, my best and most heartfelt advice is read, read, read and write, write, write; forever. And don't be afraid to push yourself, to walk on thin ice, to forget about the market and just write the book you love.

What are your favourite horror novels?

In no order, I love Shirley Jackson's Hill House and King's Shining and Stoker's Dracula and Cormac McCarthy's Outer Dark.

What is your favourite novel you¹ve written and your favourite character you’ve created? Why?

Whatever I'm doing or have just done tends to be the favorite, but I am especially fond of Istvan in Under the Poppy and Kit in Talk. And I always thought Austen, in Bad Brains, was a very funny guy.

Since 2002, you have been writing young adult novels. Why did you choose to write in a different genre?

I wrote what I wanted to write, enjoyed writing, felt pulled and tugged into writing - and had a lot of fun working in a very different field. I was able to work with Frances Foster (all my YA novels were published by Farrar Straus & Giroux in their hardcover editions, so Frances and I did a LOT of work together!), and Sharyn November, and got to know a lot of excellent writers, some of whom became very good friends. YA is also a literature of expanding horizons, of what's going to happen, of deep feelings, some of them painful or frightening. My YA novels The Blue Mirror and Going Under could both very comfortably fit into the horror genre as far as I'm concerned.

You return to adult fiction with your latest novel, Under the Poppy. Could you tell us about it?

Under the Poppy is a historical novel, the story of an orphaned brother and sister, Istvan and Decca, and their childhood friend, Rupert Bok, set in a Victorian-era brothel called Under the Poppy. The brothel is owned by Decca, who's in love with her co-owner Rupert, who¹s in love with Istvan, who comes to town, puppet troupe in tow, on the eve of a war. Lies are told, hearts are broken, betrayals are revealed and reversed, as Istvan's louche puppet show plays on ...And most of all, it's the love story of Rupert and Istvan.

Here's a link to a trailer for the book, with original music composed just for those naughty puppets. :) People really love this trailer! And we are very proud of that.


Under the Poppy is also being adapted into a play. Could you fill us in about it?

Yes - it's my first adaptation of my own work and my first venture into the theatre. The show will be an immersive experience, putting the audience right into the Victorian brothel of the novel, with live actors and live music, film, and puppetry. We're seeking funding now and will premiere the show in Detroit, in 2012.
On your blog you shared that your novel, The Cipher, is going to be made into a film. Can you reveal anything about it?

The Cipher is currently in development. I've read the script and it's true to the great and dark longing at the heart of the story, so I'm very excited to see where the process will take us.
Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry? Do you plan on making your older novels available as e-books?

The backlist-into-e-book question is one my agent, Christopher Schelling, could answer; the short answer on e-publishing is that anything that makes books available in more formats to more people is beneficial to writers.

What do you hope readers get out of your work?

Pleasure in story and pleasure in language. It's why I read; it's why I write.

What are you currently working on?

Another novel for adults, but it's just too early to talk about. :)


Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Great interview! I loved THE BLUE MIRROR - now can't wait to read GOING UNDER.

Will Errickson said...

I think most if not all of Koja's first few "horror" novels are out of print, but I recommend everyone track them down... so worth reading!