Ask the Author: Katy Upperman
What would you like readers to know about you?
That I’m a reader, too! I love stories; when I was a kid, I snuck Judy Blume paperbacks and a flashlight into my bed so I could read late into the night. Even now, there are few things I like to do more than curl up with an amazing book—one that gives me all the feels. My love of writing grew from my love of reading. When I write stories, my number one goal is for my words to help people experience intense emotions.
What are your books about for those who haven’t read them?
My latest release, The Impossibility of Us, is about a California girl named Elise whose older brother was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan a few years before the story’s opening. When Elise meets Mati, an Afghan boy visiting the United States with his parents, they strike up a friendship and, eventually, a romance. The story revolves around their deepening relationship, and the pushback they experience from their families regarding their different cultures and religions. The Impossibility of Us is told mostly from Elise’s point of view in prose, but there are several chapters told from Mati’s perspective in verse sprinkled throughout.
My August 6, 2019 release, How the Light Gets In, is a ghost story—my first non-contemporary novel. Here’s the official synopsis: Since her sister’s tragic death, seventeen-year-old Callie Ryan has basically given up. Her grades have plummeted, she’s quit her swim team, and she barely recognizes the people her parents have become. When she returns to her aunt’s run-down coastal Victorian one year after Chloe’s death, Callie resigns herself to a summer of guilt and home renovations. She doesn’t expect to be charmed by the tiny coastal town or by Tucker Morgan, a local boy brimming with sunshine. But even as her days begin to brighten, Callie’s nights are crowded with chilling dreams, unanswered questions, and eerie phenomenon that have her convinced she’s being haunted. Will Callie be able to figure out what her sister is trying to communicate before it’s too late?
What has been your inspiration for writing?
I snag bits of inspiration from lots of places—art, music, movies, books, and travel. I’m often inspired by literary tropes, like “best friends become sweethearts” (my debut, Kissing Max Holden) or “star-crossed lovers” (The Impossibility of Us). I also take inspiration from locations. The Impossibility of Us is set in a whimsical fictional town called Cypress Beach, which was very much inspired by Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. How the Light Gets In is set in a fictional town called Bell Cove, which is basically Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s fun to imagine what sorts of stories might take place in the small, beachy towns I love.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
I’ve never had more fun drafting a project than I did while working on Mati’s verse chapters in The Impossibility of Us. I don’t consider myself a poet, but writing in verse felt freeing and creative and challenging in ways I haven’t experienced before or since. I’d love to write another story with verse chapters one day—or maybe even a whole novel in verse.
I had so much fun working on How the Light Gets In, too, because it’s such a departure for me. I’m a contemporary girl at heart and while How the Light Gets In is set firmly in our world, its ghostly, spooky elements were a huge creative stretch that kept me constantly inspired.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Judy Blume for sure! I’ve been devouring her books since I was in elementary school. I love how she writes about normal life experiences in really powerful ways, particularly in her middle grade and young adult novels. For instance, Blubber is a book about bullying, a topic that’s been covered infinite times in kid lit, yet that story is more nuanced and relatable and compelling than any other bullying book I’ve read. Same goes for Judy Blume’s Forever…, a YA romance that’s simple in concept, but extraordinary in execution.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Read, read, read! In the category in which you write, of course, but also widely. Take note of what gives you strong reactions. If you loved a particular scene, why? If you disliked a certain conclusion, why? Try to incorporate those lessons into your own work. Also, practice writing as much as you can. No words are wasted words; everything we write teaches us new things and helps us grow. Write what interests, excites, and inspires you. Have fun with it!
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 and THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US are available now, and Katy’s third novel, a ghost story titled HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN, will release August 6, 2019.
HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN (August 6, 2019) –
Since her sister’s tragic death, seventeen-year-old Callie Ryan has basically given up. Her grades have plummeted, she’s quit her swim team, and she barely recognizes the people her parents have become. When she returns to her aunt’s run-down coastal Victorian one year after Chloe’s death, Callie resigns herself to a summer of guilt and home renovations. She doesn’t expect to be charmed by the tiny coastal town or by Tucker Morgan, a local boy brimming with sunshine. But even as her days begin to brighten, Callie’s nights are crowded with chilling dreams, unanswered questions, and eerie phenomenon that have her convinced she’s being haunted. Will Callie be able to figure out what her sister is trying to communicate before it’s too late?
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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?
California girl Elise’s older brother was killed-in-action in Afghanistan; when she meets and falls for an Afghan boy, Mati, she must find the courage to stand up to the prejudices of her mother and widowed sister-in-law in order to fight for her relationship.
TIOU BLURBS/REVIEWS –
What could have been a clichéd, tired romance novel will surprise readers with depth of character and a unique layout. This book tackles several heavy subjects as the author explores religious and ethnic intolerance, bigotry, fear, and lack of fairness. Though Upperman uses traditional romance tropes, readers will find the story meaty, satisfying, and enlightening. This surprising and worthwhile romance is a solid choice to add to any teen collection.
Upperman crafted a great summer romance, combining the headiness of finding someone and falling in love over just a few months with the bittersweet of knowing summer—and possibly that relationship—has a definite end. I devoured this book in an evening and it left me with a smile by the end.
~ Forever YA for Kirkus
A poignant reminder that the world isn’t black and white, The Impossibility of Us crackles with chemistry and will fill you with hope.
~ Gina Ciocca, author of Last Year’s Mistake, Busted, and A Kiss in the Dark
The Impossibility of Us is such a sweet story of tolerance, hope, and love. It’s a timely one too. As we mourn the rise of bigotry and xenophobia, stories like this offer reassurance that there is still goodness in the human spirit. Katy Upperman does not shy away from including problematic opinions among her characters, but she also shares intelligent, thoughtful and poetic responses to them. This is the age old story of star cross’d lovers retold beautifully for the challenging world we live in today.
~ Caroline Leech, author of Wait For Me and In Another Time
Tender, romantic and realistic, The Impossibility of Us is the story of a strong girl growing stronger and a boy surrendering to the power of a love that seems impossible… It will linger in your mind and your heart.
~ Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of My Life Next Door and The Boy Most Likely To
Katy Upperman’s The Impossibility of Us runs the gamut, from laughs to swoons, from goosebumps to tears. It’s a soaring, beautiful romance, for sure, but there are also so many powerful messages about loss, desertion, racism, tolerance, love, equality, selflessness, friendship, family, and kindness. Touching, well written, and impressively honest, The Impossibility of Us is not to be missed.
~ Marci Lyn Curtis, author of The One Thing and The Leading Edge of Now
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KISSING MAX HOLDEN
After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge wants to help him, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea. With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?
KMH BLURBS –
Full of wit, humor, and spine-tingling smooches, Kissing Max Holden combines the classic themes of contemporary romance with riveting family drama. I literally could not put this book down and would buy a physical copy for my shelf in a heartbeat. I can’t wait to read what Katy writes next.
~ Erin Bowman, author of Vengeance Road and the Taken Trilogy
Sarah Dessen fans rejoice — you are going to love Kissing Max Holden!
~ Lisa Schroeder, author of Chasing Brooklyn
In her debut, Kissing Max Holden, Katy Upperman weaves a story that crackles with romantic tension while exploring complex issues through real, flawed, lovable characters. Full of humor and heart, this one is sure to be a new favorite for contemporary lovers!
~ Jessi Kirby, author of Things We Know By Heart
A moving book with depth, Kissing Max Holden is perfect for readers wanting a strong female character in a realistic romance. Wonderfully written and swoony.
~ Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan and Jesse’s Girl
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