Hi guys! So in the next upcoming weeks, I’m going to be blogging a bit less than usual since I’m having so many summer activities pop up. In a few weeks, I’ll be taking my ACT, so I gotta focus on that! But I’ll still be around here on WordPress and Twitter! Now, today I’ll be introducing a wonderful author I met at SE-YA: Kathryn Ormsbee, whose latest book Tash Hearts Tolstoy is releasing in a couple of weeks!
About Tash Hearts Tolstoy
After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.
Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.
And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.
Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?
1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?
I say this a lot, but it’s true: I can’t not write. I’ve loved creating stories since I was a kid. I wrote half-baked novels in my Lisa Frank notebooks and subjected my poor family to homemade movies starring my Barbie dolls. And that love of storytelling came out of my love for reading. I pretty much lived at the library growing up, and my parents read to me from an early age. It’s a tale as old as time: I loved books so much, I eventually decided to write them!
2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and you writing style the most?
I adore classic literature; it’s most of what I read as a teen, so I will always have a soft spot for Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, and Virginia Wolf. My favorite Young Adult novels are The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Perks is what first inspired me to write YA contemporary, and I will often flip open any given page of I’ll Give You the Sun to remind myself what compelling storytelling looks like. My favorite book growing up was Matilda by Roald Dahl. I also loved anything by Louis Sachar, The Chronicles of Narnia, and, of course, Harry Potter. Those books are what first inspired me to write for children. They played such an important role in my life, and I wanted to write books that would inspire a new generation with wonder and creativity.
3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?
I love anything to do with the arts, so if I’m not writing, chances are you’ll find me doing something else creative. I play (and sometimes teach) piano, I record and produce a podcast with my sister, and I design posters and cards on Photoshop. I’m also enrolling in improv classes this fall, so that should be a whole new adventure! I feel very lucky to be able to write full-time at the moment, and I’m taking advantage of that opportunity by traveling and meeting new people. And those travel experiences often inspire and fuel my new books!
4. Your latest novel TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY, which comes out this June, revolves around Natasha “Tash” Zelenka, a famous vlogger who identifies as asexual. Why did you choose Tash to be asexual? Why do you believe that it is important for YA fiction to accurately portray asexuality?
I knew from the moment I plotted Tash Hearts Tolstoy that I wanted to feature a romantic asexual MC. I’m so glad that there is ever-growing sex positivity in YA, but there are so many spectrums within sexuality, and just as there are teens who want to be sexual, there are other teens who don’t, and both those ends of the spectrum should be affirmed. Growing up, I watched teen movies and TV shows where teens were constantly talking about or thinking about or having sex, and I felt abnormal for not wanting the same thing. So when I wrote Tash, I purposefully wrote the book I wished I had as a teen—a story that normalizes the experience of a girl like Tash Zelenka. I think there are still lots of misconceptions out there about what asexual means. Some people assume that anyone who identifies as ace must be emotionless or not able to form deep, meaningful relationships. Nothing could be further from the truth. Tash is just your average 17-year-old girl with complicated relationships and fascinating hobbies, figuring out herself and the world around her. I’m so excited to live in a time when ace stories are being published by big five publishing houses, and I’m honored to be part of that. But Tash’s story is just one story and one particular kind of ace experience. I’d love to see even more rep out there—especially aromantic rep!
5. Are you also a big Tolstoy fan like Tash? If so, which one of his works is your favorite?
Oh yeeeah. I, too, heart Tolstoy, and read him in my teens. My favorite of his novels—will this surprise anyone?—is Anna Karenina. I still love the Kitty and Levin storyline so hard.
6. In addition to your young adult books including LUCKY FEW, you also write middle grade novels, such as your THE WATER AND THE WILD series. Do you prefer to write YA or MG? Which one is more challenging?
I feel like a parent saying this, but I really don’t have a favorite child! Both YA and MG are rewarding and challenging in their own unique ways, and I love that I have the opportunity to write both. Generally, when drafting new projects, I alternate between the two. I find that switching helps keep my craft fresh and engaging. I write YA contemporary and usually use first-person POV, whereas in my MG fantasy I use third-person POV. Those genre and POV changes keep me constantly honing my craft. So far, my YA novels have come to me a lot easier than the MG ones, but I think I like MG best when I’m at book festivals, because I love meeting young readers who read my books at an early age or heard them during family story time. That warms my heart!
7. What was your world-building process for the fantastical setting of THE WATER AND THE WILD series? Would you rather live in the Northerly Kingdom or the Southerly Kingdom?
Oh man, world-building involved a ton of research. I joke about this, but I really do much more research for my fantasies than my contemporary novels. The world of Limn in The Water and the Wild was also heavily inspired by my favorite fantasies as a child: Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s a very British feel to the world, and originally, I’d set the land in an alternate England. Eventually, I moved it to a fictional island off the New England coast, but it’s still got an old timey feel to it.
See, if I were super cool, I’d say I’d like to live in the Northerly Kingdom, because it’s all about sword fighting and foraging and rock climbing. But honestly? I’d rather be a Southerly. I’m a girly girl who loves my creature comforts and pretty clothes and tea and concerts. But I’d choose a Southerly Court that was not run by a tyrannical king.
8. How did you get the back of your head in an iPhone commercial and get paid for it?
GOOD QUESTION. I was living in Austin, TX at the time and walking home from a Tegan and Sara concert during SXSW, a big music and media festival that takes place there every spring. As I was walking, a film crew stopped me and asked if I had an hour to spare. (Note to self: Why did I say yes? That was so suspect.) As it turned out, the crew was completely legit, and we walked around Lady Bird Lake for thirty minutes—me with a brand new iPhone in hand and the crew with a video camera. In the end, they had me sign a contract, and I walked away with a shiny check. A few months later, my mother called me to say she’d seen the back of my head on national television. The commercial aired for several weeks on all the major networks, and it’s one of the more surreal experiences of my life to date.
9. You’ve lived around the world and road-tripped all around the nation. What was your favorite place you’ve ever been to? Do you have any funny or crazy traveling experiences you would like to share?
London, hands down, is my favorite city on earth. I studied there for six months and fell in love. Unfortunately, it costs your weight in gold to live there, but I still love visiting occasionally and eating up all the culture (and fish and chips) the city has to offer. I also really love the Pacific Northwest. Again, I don’t think I could live there long term, because I need my sun, but I’m heart-eyed over the Oregon and Washington coasts and the breathtaking Cascade Range.
As for a crazy traveling experience, here’s a claim to fame that I doubt few others can boast: I’ve puked in the largest cathedral in Northern Europe. To make an extremely long story short, I got food poisoning while in York, England, but I was bound and determined to see the York Minster before I left town. (I mean, it is the largest cathedral in Northern Europe, come on.) Since the only way to see the cathedral for free was to enter during a church service, my friends and I attended Choral Matins. This was a bad idea. Midway through all the standing and sitting and reciting of a high church service, I got to feeling sick again. I was locked into my pew, so I turned to my friend and said, “I’m. Going. To. Puke.” She quick-wittedly handed me a Sainsbury’s plastic bag, and I heaved the remaining contents of my stomach into it. And guess what. THE BAG HAD A HOLE IN IT. I’m sure you can imagine my acute embarrassment, but hey! It makes a great story now, right?
10. I am so glad I got to see you at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival in Murfreesboro, TN! What do you like most about being an author at book festivals? How was your experience at SE-YA?
Whoo, whoo! So glad I got to see you too, Kester. My favorite part of any book festival is meeting readers like you! Seriously. There is nothing better than meeting young readers. You all are the most intelligent, creative, witty people I know. And I LOVED my time at SE-YA. I’m so grateful to the amazing women who run the festival; they toil tirelessly, and that festival works like a well-oiled machine. I had so much fun there this year and hope to be back again soon!
11. You have an upcoming MG standalone called THE HOUSE IN POPLAR WOOD that is coming out next year. What is it about? Would you like to give us any secrets about your next book?
I do, indeed! The House in Poplar Wood is slated to come out in Fall 2018, which still seems like an eternity away to me. The story is about twin brothers who work as apprentices to Death and Memory and pair up with a local girl to solve a murder mystery. Poplar Wood is set in rural Tennessee and takes place during October and November; I like to call it my love letter to autumn. As for secrets about my next book, I have to keep my lips stitched on the details for now. But I can say that there should be an exciting book announcement SOON.
12. Do you have any tips or advice you would like to give to any aspiring authors or writers?
Absolutely! 1) Know your genre. The more you familiarize yourself with the genre you intend to write—its classics, new releases, bestsellers, award-winners—the better equipped you’ll be to plot and subsequently pitch your books. 2) Reject age snubbers. I got into the publishing world early, at nineteen, so don’t pay attention to anyone who discourages or disparages you because of your age. 3) Set up standards for what you want in this process and don’t lower them. This is so important when searching for an agent and publisher. It’s tempting to jump at the first offer that comes your way, but be sure it’s an offer you want. 4) Don’t give up. Rejection is a given in the publishing industry. Be open to critique, revise, get better, and keep trying. I heard a lot of “no”s before I got those few important “yes”es.
About the Author
Kathryn Ormsbee writes books & songs in Nashville, TN. Her debut YA, LUCKY FEW, published June 2016 with Simon & Schuster. Her next YA, TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY, comes out June 6, 2017.
Kathryn also writes Middle Grade fantasy novels as K.E. Ormsbee. She is the author of THE WATER AND THE WILD series and the upcoming standalone THE HOUSE IN POPLAR WOOD (Chronicle Books, 2018).
In her wild, early years, Kathryn taught English as a Foreign Language, interned with a film society, and did a lot of irresponsible road tripping. Nowadays, she teaches piano lessons, records a weekly true crime podcast with her sister, and runs races she never wins. She likes clothes from the 60s, music from the 70s, and movies from the 80s. She is from the 90s. You can visit her online at keormsbee.com or follow her on Twitter & Instagram @kathsby.
Now for the giveaway!
I’m going to keep emphasizing this because I made an entire discussion about this! Please no giveaway accounts! If you have a giveaway account on Twitter or Instagram, you are automatically disqualified!
Kathryn is super nice that she’s giving away a finished copy of Tash Hearts Tolstoy! Enter through the Rafflecopter below!
Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!