How To Be Brave: A Novel
By: E. Katherine Kottaras
St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Hardcover: $18.99 USD
ABOUT THE BOOK
An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want. Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, but now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and teaches writing and literature at Pasadena City College. She is at her happiest when she is either 1) at the playground with her husband and daughter and their wonderful community of friends, 2) breathing deeply in a full handstand, or 3) writing. She now lives in Los Angeles where she’s hard at work on her next book.
Here’s the Q&A:
What was your path to publication? How long did it take you to write the book? Was this the firstbook you wrote or just the first one that got published?
I’ve been writing since I was four years old (strange little odes to Crystal Gayle’s, my favorite countrysinger of the ‘80s – oh how I wanted her hair). I wrote throughout high school via environmentally-themedzines that my friends and I Xeroxed and handed out to the entire school, as well as secret poetry writtenin journals stashed under my bed. Of course, there were all those papers for college and grad school. (I’ma freak because I love writing essays for school.)However, I didn’t pursue creative writing seriously until I was 25 when I signed up for classes at UCLA.About seven years later after taking classes in short story, nonfiction, and YA, I finally decided to startsubmitting my work places – poetry, short stories, essays, etc. Around the same time, I decided to write abook. It’s YA paranormal, took me four years to write, and was rejected by absolutely every single agent Iqueried. Not even one request.So, after a bit of soul-searching and some acceptance that perhaps this book wasn’t “the one,” I startedover. I took some more classes through Litreactor where I started the book has eventually become HOWTO BE BRAVE. I’ve been extreeeeeemely lucky as the process has been fairly quick from initial draft topublication. Between beginning the book and publication, it will be a grand total of two years and ninemonths, which is actually quite amazing!
How did the idea for HOW TO BE BRAVE first come about?
Though the story is not autobiographical, much of HOW TO BE BRAVE is “true” in the sense that it waswritten after a difficult period of my life. After my mother passed away when my daughter was ten monthsold, I found myself sandwiched between the death of my best friend and the presence of this new life. Itwas a dark and confusing time – I wanted to drown in my grief but also knew I had to keep myself afloatfor the sake of my new baby. I started writing with this in mind – I was looking forward to the life of myown daughter, thinking about what I want for her.That’s when I turned to writing. On my darkest days, my husband would tell me to take time for myself –to go for walks, yoga, etc. – but more often than not, I would find myself at the library, writing. The act ofwriting was a way for me to work through my own grief and to also find new purpose my life.
What’s currently on your bucket list?
Here are a few things on my Do Everything Be Brave List:
Learn how to roller skate and/or ice skate without using the wall.
Ride my bike to yoga. (Bike lanes scare me!)
Hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and all the way back up, I guess…)
Visit every continent (I’ve only been to two.)
Here are a few brave things I’ve done:
Flown down the largest zip-line in the continental U.S. despite my fear of heights. (and gave my eight-year old permission to do so as well.)
Paddle-boarded during high-wind season in Hawaii.
Fallen in love and stayed there for more than twenty years.
Become a writer. I tell my students everyday: it’s the scariest thing in the world.
How do you address body image issues with your daughter? Was that part of the drive to writethis book?
Absolutely. We talk a lot about how the media often “sells” a certain body type. .” I’ve shown herPhotoshopping videos like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPnfjwKfkSkand we discuss, quite openly, how it’s unrealistic to try to change your body to meet thestandards presented in magazines and on screens. I try to guide our conversation as adiscussion, asking her questions about why she thinks the media represents women and girls incertain ways. We talk about how every body is beautiful, and that she is beautiful, just as she is.
Of Georgia’s tasks, are there any you don’t think you could complete yourself? Are you up for thechallenge?
The only one I’m really afraid of is skydiving. My husband went skydiving ten years ago, but he didn’t tellme until AFTER the day was over. (And I was incredibly grateful for this choice.) But I don’t know…maybeone day…
“This is a solid story of loss that fits in well with other recent stories of grief in the face of a parent’s death, like Jennifer Castle’s The Beginning of After (2011) and Jennifer Brown’s Torn Away (2014). The book’s strongest sections are the lyrical flashbacks that tell the story of her mother’s life and death, but Georgia’s struggles with weight and body image are also handled with care. A perfect book for anyone trying to figure out what they want their life to look like, and how to be brave enough to make that life a reality.” —Booklist
“Georgia’s realistically profane voice aptly captures her personality, carrying the novel; her traverse through grief and experimentation make for a believable and satisfying character arc. A thoughtful exploration of grief and life.” —Kirkus
“Georgia’s Greek-American heritage offers a distinctive backdrop for the novel’s themes of emotional healing and self- discovery, while Georgia herself emerges as a realistically flawed and genuine protagonist.” —Publishers Weekly
“How to Be Brave is a celebration of life, from the captivating open page to the emotional ending. Kottaras acutely and poetically depicts the painful struggle of re-finding yourself after a defining loss-and the stark effects of both success andfailure along the way-in a lovely, heartfelt debut.” —Dahlia Adler, author of Behind the Scenes
“Just enough sass, just enough heart, and a narrator to root for. How to be Brave ushered me into another yet familiar world. Come along for the ride. You’ll be glad you did.” —Ron Koertge, award winning author of Coaltown Jesus
“Powerful and rare, How to Be Brave is a wonderfully told story with gleams of humor and wit that will inspire readers to live their lives for real.” —Robyn Schneider, bestselling author of The Beginning of Everything
“How To Be Brave does a cartwheel in your heart. It artfully reminds us that bravery forges a path through fear and grief.” —Courtney C. Stevens, author of Faking Normal
WHERE TO PURCHASE
St Martin’s Press was kind to offer one lucky winner a copy of the book (: It’s US and Canada only I’m afraid