A few years before Brian Katcher saw his first YA novel published, he and I performed together in a community theater production in Columbia, Missouri. Ever the nice, funny and charming guy, I remember fondly his on-stage antics in the Shakespeare comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost. Little did I know that within less than half a decade, he would have not one, but two award-winning novels published.
Almost Perfect, Katcher’s novel about a young man who falls in love with someone carrying a secret she believes may destroy them, is the winner of the 2011 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award as well as an inclusion on the 2010 America Library’s Association’s list of best young adult books (an honor his first novel, Playing with Matches also received in 2009).
As an aspiring writer and fellow geek, I was happy to get the chance to interview Brian. His answers to my questions only confirmed what I have long suspected about the man – he is smart, funny, and compassionate, and he is a hella cool husband and father.
Every geek has an origin story – what’s yours?
BK: I am a book nerd. I was never good enough at math to be a science geek, too shy to be a theater nerd, and too tone deaf to be a band geek. But I always loved to read. I blame my parents. I suppose it was inevitable that I’d eventually become a librarian, and then an author.
What drew you to writing?
BK: It started when I lived in Mexico. I was desperate for something to read in English. My school’s lending library mostly consisted on things people read on the flight to Mexico City and did not wish to read again. I remember thinking that as bad as those books were, someone was making money off of them, and I vaguely wondered about getting a piece of the action. Years later, when I found myself broke and directionless in Puebla, I decided to try my hand at writing (instead of my other option, joining the Zapatista insurgent army).
What was the first thing you wrote that you could later read without cringing or criticizing?
BK: Just after college, my friends had the idea of starting an underground paper (this was in the days before most people were on the internet, let alone blogged). We were going to sock it to the man! Tell the truths that THEY don’t want you to hear. Really tell it like it is. I cranked out article after article (again, I was in Mexico, and had to rent computer time at ten pesos an hour), but it would be worth it when those bloated plutocrats read the unpleasant facts that the mainstream was too scared to…hang on, am I the only one still writing for this? Only one issue? Seriously?
You are clearly an advocate for Lesbian/Gay/Transgender causes. Why do you think it’s important for young readers to be exposed to issues of sexuality and acceptance?
BK: Well, when I started writing Almost Perfect, I didn’t set out to write an LGBT novel. I just wanted to tell a boy meets girl story that hadn’t been done a thousand times. But in telling the story of Sage, a transgender teen, I had to do a lot of research. Some of the stories I heard broke my heart. ‘I’d rather you died than told me that.’ ‘Dad decided to beat the gay out of me.’ Etc, etc. I guess when you grow up hearing that you’re a pervert, that your love isn’t real love and that people like you shouldn’t marry, then you wind up feeling isolated. I’d like to help people lose that sense of hopelessness.
Tell us about your experience with fandom or writing conventions, either as a guest or a participant.
BK: I’ve been going to the Archon Sci Fi Fantasy Convention in St. Louis for nearly twenty years now. And yes, I dressed up as Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf. The great thing about cons is that you can absolutely come as you are. No one will judge you. You are you, and that is beautiful. Every woman is gorgeous, every man is a stud. No one will call you a geek, no one will whisper behind their hands. You can release your inner goddess, your secret Jedi, your animal nature. At a con, everyone gets the inside joke. No matter how obscure, someone will get the reference. We are geeks, and it is good.
One year, shortly after my daughter was born, my wife was changing her diaper, while I wandered around with the stroller. I’d tossed a plush Cthulhu doll into the seat, and, after about ten minutes, realized that people probably thought I was treating it like my child. ‘People must think I’m weird…wait, not they won’t.’
Last year, the con was kind enough to invite me to speak on the subject of approaching publishers and agents with your manuscript. It was a lot of fun. During the Q & A (No! Don’t effing give someone $500 to ‘proofread’ your book!), a woman in the crowd introduced herself as an editor from a small horror/fantasy press. Every head in the room turned.
‘Really? You admit that in THIS room?’ I was afraid she was going to have to drop a smoke bomb to get out alive.
We have done shows together – is there a connection between your theater side and your writer-side?
BK: I never really thought about this, but they have certain similarities. In both, for instance, you work for weeks, desperately trying to get a handle on your character to make him real, to breathe life into the printed page, to make that character a real person, someone the audience/reader will love. Shortly after you succeed at that, a director/editor will tell you you’re doing it wrong.
What are your guilty pop culture pleasures?
BK: I love The Big Bang Theory, and often know what Sheldon is going to say before he says it. It just reminds me so much of my college days. I’d like to say I was Leonard, but I was totally Howard.
What geek-world books/shows/movies MUST every reader immediately see or read?
BK: Books: The Pulp Magazine Novels of Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze. The true hero of the 1930s and 40s, he was not only a physical marvel, but a super genius. He invented amazing devices, such as machine that would answer his phone when he was out of the office and a door that would automatically open when someone came near it. He had zany sidekicks, too: The low-brow dude and the high-brow fop who fought all the time but were actually good friends, the tough quiet guy, the electronics geek, and the bookworm.
TV: Red Dwarf, seasons 1-5 or 6. This British show is about Dave Lister, ace astro janitor, who winds up trapped in deep space with a neurotic hologram, a being that evolved from a cat, a sanitation droid, and a senile computer.
Movies: Movies where comedians play both themselves and unattractive female versions of themselves. Or movies where people have their faces forcible attached to other people’s intestines. I mean, these movies must be good, since no one’s approached me about filming one of my books…
My favorite blogs, besides yours (I swear I didn’t pay him to say that): www.foreveryoungadult.com Great, PG-13 reviews of young adult literature. The Sweet Valley High Drinking game alone is worth it.
www.kindertrauma.com What scared you when you were a child?
www.briankatcher.com All about me.
Finally, I am sure readers would love to know a little about your amazing wife and daughter. Tells us all!
BK: I’ve introduced my wife, Sandy, to the con circuit, and she’s been a wonderful companion the past few years. It’s a far cry from the days where I’d share a room with fifteen other guys, most of whom I didn’t know. It’s embarrassing to cuss out a random teenager for turning on the TV during your hangover, and then to be his substitute teacher a couple months later.
My daughter, Sophie, is starting kindergarten next year. We’ll soon introduce her to Archon, which has wonderful children’s programing. Someday she’ll realize her parents aren’t normal. But not just yet.
It was truly a pleasure to interview Brian Katcher. Please check out his website, his books, and everything he recommends. As I am sure you can tell, he is a man worth listening to.
Stuff we geek out about…
- A Little Something for the Fellas (2)
- A Little Something for the Ladies (9)
- Avengers Boot Camp (9)
- Before the Movie – Trailers (13)
- Editorials and Reviews (135)
- Interviews (19)
- Miscellaneous Geekery (48)
- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
What we JUST said…
- All the Posts I Meant to Write this Month, Abridged
- Hemlock Grove-A New Guilty Pleasure
- Deborah Harkness and A Discovery of Witches
- Syfy’s Defiance- Hope They Didn’t Blow the Budget on a Song
- Cover Reveal for the New Liz Long Novel Witch Hearts
- From Gen-X, To Chris Hardwick With Love
- Before the Movie: G.I. Joe Retaliation