[AUTHOR INTERVIEW] Interview with Katy Upperman, author of ‘The Impossibility of Us’!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Katy about her next book, ‘The Impossibility of Us’, which will be released by Swoon Reads on July 31, 2018! Last summer, I interviewed her about her debut novel, ‘Kissing Max Holden’, which you can check out here. At the end of this post, I have included links to all of my posts and reviews of Katy’s books!

Here’s the synopsis of ‘The Impossibility of Us’:

The last thing Elise wants is to start her senior year in a new town. But after her brother’s death in Afghanistan, she and her mother move from San Francisco to a sleepy coastal village.

When Elise meets Mati, they quickly discover how much they have in common. Mati is new to town too, visiting the U.S. with his family. Over the course of the summer, their relationship begins to blossom, and what starts out as a friendship becomes so much more.

But as Elise and Mati grow closer, her family becomes more and more uncomfortable with their relationship, and their concerns all center on one fact—Mati is Afghan.

Beautifully written, utterly compelling, and ultimately hopeful, THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US asks—how brave can you be when your relationship is questioned by everyone you love?

INTERVIEW

COURTNEY: What inspired you to write “The Impossibility of Us”?

KATY: Not so much a what inspired me, but a who inspired me—my husband, actually. Back in 2014, I told him I wanted to participate in National Novel Writing Month but didn’t have any book ideas I was truly excited about. He’s spent a fair amount of time in Afghanistan and had just returned from a trip there; he suggested I write about an American girl who meets an Afghan boy, and the challenges they might face in the way of their different cultures, religions, and upbringings. I was immediately intrigued, and after I did some preliminary research, I knew his suggestion was one I wanted to run with. Whenever the book comes up in conversation now, he’s quick to let people know that it was all his idea. 

COURTNEY: How was your writing process for TIOU different from the one for KMH?

KATY: There was a big difference! I spent nearly eight years working on Kissing Max Holden: drafting, revising, rewriting, and fine-tuning off-and-on during that time. I didn’t have a strong understanding of plotting and high stakes when I first started that story, so I had to study a lot of craft books and constantly rework the manuscript. Luckily, I learned from the experience, and was able to apply that knowledge to The Impossibility of Us. TIOU required much more research than KMH, but it was a fairly quick drafting process (50K in November 2014, followed by another 25K in February 2015) and a few relatively painless rounds of revision (definitely not several years spent revising, like KMH!). Honestly, every book I’ve worked on has been a vastly different writing experience from
the ones before it. Each story brings its own set of challenges. The only thing that stays the same are the steps in my process: inspiration, plotting, drafting, revising.

COURTNEY:  What (or who) changed the most from the first draft to the finished copy?

KATY: All of the characters changed quite a bit in their motivations and their complexity, but I think the character who changed the most, start to finish, is Mati’s mother, Hala. Originally, she was so righteous, she came off as villainous. She was hard to relate to, but for the wrong reasons. Thanks to some thoughtful feedback from an early reader and some nuanced tweaks, she became someone who loves her family profoundly, someone who is deeply devout, and someone with a history that informs her behaviors. I hope readers will come to appreciate her experiences and motivations, even if they don’t always agree with her actions.

COURTNEY: How did you decide to write Mati’s POV in verse? Was that more difficult than writing Elise’s chapters?

KATY: I don’t remember making a deliberate decision to write Mati’s POV in verse. Originally, the story was only going to be told from Elise’s POV, but as I got deeper into drafting, I realized it demanded Mati’s perspective as well. I’d thought a lot about the kinds of observations he might make in the little notebook he carries, and those observations always came to me in free verse. So, when I sat down to attempt a chapter from his POV, that’s what naturally flowed. Writing Mati’s POV in verse was definitely more challenging than writing Elise’s POV in prose. Elise’s voice isn’t so different from the way I think and speak, so her chapters didn’t require nearly as much contemplation and conscious effort. Mati’s chapters forced me to consider every word, and to pay more attention to rhythm and flow than I ever
have before. That said, I loved writing Mati’s chapters. I think it’d be really fun to include verse in future books.

COURTNEY: If TIOU were to be adapted into a movie, who would be your fan casts?
Oh gosh – that’s so hard! Can I choose the cover models? Because they’re both so
close to the characters I imagined while working on the book. It’s eerie in the best way, seeing them there on the cover, looking so beautiful and smitten with each other.

COURTNEY: What scene was your favorite to write? What scene are you most excited for readers to read?

KATY: There’s a scene about a third of the way through the book that takes place while Elise and Mati are driving home from a day trip to Sacramento. It’s in Mati’s POV, and he makes some sweeping declarations about soul mates and destiny and love, but it’s very tentative and sweet and hopeful, too. It still gives me little butterflies when I read it. I hope readers feel the same way!

COURTNEY: Which scene was the hardest for you to write? (Or what about the book in general was hardest for you to write, if that’s easier to answer)

KATY: Basically, any scenes where Elise and/or Mati experience turmoil was difficult to write. I’m so silly – I hate causing my fictional people pain! But the very hardest scene to work on was (this is going to be vague because no spoilers!) one where Mati is the target of some intense and very terrible racism. I hated writing it, and I hated revising it and, frankly, I hope readers hate reading it. It’s that kind of scene.

COURTNEY: Was there a scene that you absolutely loved that you had to end up cutting from the final draft? If so, can you tell me anything about it?
Not really, no, and here’s why… If I truly love a scene but know it’s not working (either I have a feeling, or I get feedback from my CPs or editor), I do my best to recycle it in a way that retains what I love about it. So, if there’s a certain line, or a setting, or a feeling the scene gives me, I try to hang on to that element while reworking or rewriting to better serve the story. Sometimes I do have to completely delete scenes because I’m getting rid of a character or subplot, but not once have I looked back on a cut like that with regret. Whatever makes the story stronger, right?

COURTNEY: Do you have any other upcoming novels in the works? Do you see yourself ever going back to revisit any other characters in TIOU, or do you think it’ll stay a standalone?

KATY: I definitely see The Impossibility of Us as a standalone. Because to revisit Elise and Mati, I would have to give them conflict and I prefer to imagine them, somehow, living their happily ever after. My next project is a young adult novel called How the Light Gets In, releasing Summer, 2019 from Swoon Reads/Macmillan. It’s a ghost story about sisters, swimming, grief, and love, and it’s set in a west coast beach town based on one of my favorite places, Cannon Beach, OR.

HUGE thank you to Katy for allowing me to interview her! You all are not going to want to miss this book! 

OTHER LINKS:

ABOUT KATY:

Katy Upperman is a graduate of Washington State University, a former elementary
school teacher, and an insatiable reader. When not writing novels for young adults, Katy can be found whipping up batches of chocolate chip cookies or exploring the country with her husband and girls. KISSING MAX HOLDEN is her debut novel; her sophomore novel, THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US, is available July 31, 2018, followed by HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN, scheduled for Summer, 2019.

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