I met Kate Ellison years ago, because I happened upon some of her beautiful artwork online and was immediately inclined to purchase several prints (which now hang proudly on my walls). Kate is, in addition to being a phenomenally talented artist, also a brilliant writer, as is evidenced by her dark, gorgeous, and sexy new YA thriller, The Butterfly Clues. I am such a huge fan of both the girl and the book, I had to ask Kate to stop by the blog for an interiew.
1. The Butterfly Clues is such an immersive mystery, with an unconventional heroine who suffers from OCD. How did these two elements come together to write this story?
In large part, these elements of the story were inspired by my cousin. We grew up like sisters, and she struggled with OCD for as long as I can remember. When we were in high school, her grandparents died in a very sudden, tragic way and her compulsions seemed, in turn, to intensify. So many of these compulsions make absolutely no sense to an outside observer, but when they're going on in your own head, they make perfect sense—they’re the only way to keep things safe. And I loved the idea of writing a book in which these behaviors might also benefit someone—might draw her into a mystery, and cause her to feel a kind of compulsion to solve and untangle it.
2. Penelope, your protagonist, becomes incredibly attached to objects, which is in large part due to her OCD. Do you share her love for objects--if not her OCD compulsions :) ?
I do share her love for rare, beautiful objects. I'm a big thrifter/vintage affectionado, and one of my favorite things to do, especially when traveling, is to search for incredible things that no one else has. I always like to imagine who it might have belonged to before and what era it's from.
It's sometimes a struggle to not become too attached to objects, especially the artwork I create.
Lo becomes attached to objects because, in her mind, they are so wonderfully unlike human beings—who are risky and easy to lose. Objects can be kept safe. They can't just up and die.
3. Through the bulk of the novel, Penelope is navigating a depressed area of Cleveland called Neverland. Can you tell me more about the setting and the characters she meets, and if you yourself had similar experiences?
Neverland was based, in large part, on Baltimore. There are long stretches of city blocks with boarded-up houses and businesses. You wonder how such huge sections of a place can just be left to die like that. The setting is meant to mirror the state of many of its inhabitants—kids, runaways, who felt ignored, or unwanted, or fled from emotional and physical violence.
But Malatesta's is the safe, artistic epicenter of Neverland—and it was based on an anarchist bookstore in Baltimore called Red Emma's. Flynt was inspired by a boy I knew from the bookstore who existed, very much by choice, on the fringes of society, and lived life on his own terms.
4. What else are you working on? And is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming book?
I've been working intermittently on some short fiction and poetry, as well as a strange little hand-written book that I bound (poorly)--I'm trying to work on its illustrations.
In terms of my next novel for teens, I can't tell you much (in order to appear as coy as possible) but I can tell you it's another murder mystery. It involves a sassy teen artist attempting to unravel a recent tragedy while dealing with major heartbreak. Oh, and it's definitely sexy. I'm very excited about it.
If you haven't picked up your copy of The Butterfly Clues, do it! Kate writes with some of the most luscious and imaginative prose I've encountered. And Flynt? Hot.