Interview with YA author Kathi Baron

Today Kathi Baron, author of Shattered, joins us to talk about her writing, books she loves, and more.

What do you love about writing?

I love writing to discover things about my characters–what they’re thinking, feeling, why they’re acting in a certain way. I often start writing because I hear a certain voice in my head, or a line from a character and then I follow that out and see where it leads. I enjoy the surprises that happen on the page. I also have fun putting words together, playing with them on the page, to see what combinations I can get. It sort of feels like painting to me or being musical. Sometimes it’s a very beautiful place to be.

Where do you write most often?

I usually write at my special writing desk I bought for myself when I decided to “launch” my writing life back in 1996. It’s a simple, sturdy, wide, wooden (pine) desk that reminds me of a table you’d find in an old farm house. It speaks to me, saying, “This is your sacred space to create.” Off to the right of my laptop I have a bunch of candles that I light to connect me to the Divine. The room is painted a light wheat color and my desk faces a set of windows trimmed in purple. To my right and left, I have tall bookshelves, filled with my collection of young adult books, picture books, old journals, craft supplies and drafts and notes for the novel I’m currently working on.

It sounds like a lovely place to write.

What do you think is the most important thing (or things) that makes a good book work?

I’m usually drawn to honesty–characters who are honest in their emotions and real. Characters who show us how complex life is. I also think surprises give the work a boost; either when a character surprises us by their actions or something happens in a book that you didn’t see coming. Good writing is also important so that the reader’s brain can move freely through the words and not get tripped up in things that aren’t clear.

I like those things in books, too.

What are some of your favorite YA books? How about picture books?

My very all-time favorite book is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It inspired me in many ways while I was writing Shattered. In January 2011, I read the YA book, The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson and haven’t yet been able to stop thinking about it. Also, I was moved by Ned Vizzini’s, It’s Kind of a Funny Story. And I’m very fond of books my classmates from Vermont College have written: Taken by Storm, Unbroken Connection, CAYMAN SUMMER, & Sing Me to Sleep all by Angela Morrison, Shifty by Lynn E. Hazen, and Rubber Houses by Ellen Yoemens.

I also love picture books! Sometimes when I’m stuck while working on my YA novel, I stop and read a couple of them. The playfulness of the writing and the art usually jog my brain out of a rut. I have a big collection because I have my own and all of the ones I bought my son when he was little. My favorite is Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey. Again, books by my classmates have a special place in my heart: Dogs on the Bed and How Do You Wokka-Wokka? by Elizabeth Bluemle, Buzz Bumble to the Rescue by Lynn E. Hazen, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Minnesota and Hello, Minnesota! by Constance Van Hoven and Jubilee by Ellen Yoemens.

I love SPEAK and Make Way For Ducklings, too, Kathi! I’ll have to check out the other books you recommended. 🙂

What do you want to tell readers?

I want to invite readers to check out my YA novel, Shattered. It’s about 14 year old Cassie, a violinist in the Chicago Youth Symphony, who discovers a painful secret about her family; and how she transforms her experience with trauma into an opportunity for healing her family and herself. I hope Cassie inspires you to do what you love, no matter what!

Where can readers find you online?

I’d be happy if readers came to visit me at: and at my blog. Also, for a live interview with me and to hear some beautiful violin music, go to: and search for “kathi baron shattered” and the link will come up for my 6/3/10 interview. Enjoy!

Kathi Baron is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. In addition to writing, she works part-time as an occupational therapist. In the past, she has worked with teens in crisis and has publications in a variety of occupational therapy journals and books. Currently, she lives with her husband, son and their cat in Oak Park, Illinois. SHATTERED is her debut novel.

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