FAQs About Random Stuff

What is your stance on fanfiction/slash, particularly of your worlds/characters?

*smile* I rarely read and never write fanfic, and I would certainly never want to read fanfic about my characters or worlds (for legal reasons and because it could interfere with my process). But I quite like the concept, I’m glad people in the world are writing fanfic, and I don’t care what fanfiction writers do with my characters and worlds, as long as I don’t have to read it and as long as they’re not making money off of it. Actually, I’ll go a step further — I think I’d find it flattering and fun to hear that my characters had entered the world of fanfic. (6/8/09)

Can I chat/IM with you online?

*smile* That is a very sweet question. Truth is, I don’t chat online with anyone, not even my best friends. I seem to have an allergy to the entire concept. I don’t do Facebook or MySpace or Twitter or any of those things, either. I like to keep my life simple. (12/1/08)

Kristin! How is your car running? (A question frequently asked by my Dad.)
Dad! My car is running GREAT. The right rear bumper is hanging slightly loose but I’m holding it on with Obama stickers. I get 35 mpg, my odometer reads 174,880 miles, and I’m thinking of commemorating 175,000 with a new clutch. I love my car and here is the plan: I am going to live to be 101 years old, and I will drive this car for the rest of my life. (10/20/08)
What is your favorite musical performance inspired by Bizet’s Carmen and performed by a grapefruit?
Ah, yes. That timeless question that all of us must ask ourselves eventually.

Could I just say, before I get to my answer, that a couple of weeks ago I went to see a violinist named Augustin Hadelich, and his performance of Sarasate’s “Carmen-Fantasy op. 25,” inspired by Bizet’s Carmen, had me jumping out of my seat? If this young man happens to come to your town, do try to go see him, even if you have to pawn your winter boots to afford the tickets. (Btw, you might know the Sarasate piece even if you think you don’t. Listen to Itzhak Perlman play it here…)

Anyway. Augustin Handelich is not a grapefruit. And so, without further ado, here is my favorite musical performance inspired by Bizet’s Carmen and performed by a grapefruit:


Are galaxies uniformly distributed in the universe?
(Okay. I confess that maybe not all of my FAQs are always things I’m frequently asked. But, come on, outer space! Way cooler than my dumb book! ^_^)
No, galaxies are not uniformly distributed in the universe. Galaxies “collect into vast clusters and sheets and walls… interspersed with large voids in which very few galaxies seem to exist.” Or so I learned the other day from the Atlas of the Universe (thanks, MTP, for leading me to it). Check out that website to get a sense of how small we are. And then go here to see some Hubble photos of the wonder that is our home… (12/4/08)
What’s the story behind your snood fixation?

It all started last August. I was preparing for a School Library Journal photo shoot in which I was to wear medieval garb and wield a sword. I picked out the perfect snood for the occasion. I was so excited about the snood. It was the B.E.S.T. thing I’d ever purchased. But when I tried everything on for my sister, secret code name: Cordelia, SHE TOLD ME THE SNOOD LOOKED STUPID!
As you can imagine, I was devastated. Naturally, I took the story straight to my publicists, Sarah and Barb, because I knew they would understand and shower me with sympathy — which they did, and more! They embraced the entire snood moment and came up with a new battle cry: SNOOD, BE DAMNED! (Highly satisfying when bellowed.) Over the weeks, the battle cry evolved, until we were also bellowing, OUT, DAMN SNOOD! and, WHAT THE SNOOD?! (As in, “WHAT THE SNOOD IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE WHO DON’T USE THEIR TURN SIGNALS?”)
Inevitably, at some point, Barb, Sarah, and I became the Ladies of the Snood. We gave each other secret snood codenames, we embraced our snood identities, we devoted ourselves to snood worship, and since then, life has been completely snoody.
The photos from the tragically snoodless photo shoot, btw, are here. (5/4/09)

Are you left-handed or right-handed?
I’m a leftie. (7/23/09)

What is your favorite Fire-themed widget?
Okay, no one has actually asked me this. But I just wanted to show you this cute movie widget Penguin has created. In anticipation of the question, no, I do not have a movie deal for Fire — this is just for fun. So, have fun with it! (And vote for Gael García Bernal! ^_^) Here it is:


How old are you?
36 as of June 2013. (6/13/13)

Are you afraid of heights?
Actually, I LOVE heights. If the sun comes out sometime this week, I’m climbing a nearby tower to check out the fall foliage from way up high. But it’s funny you ask, because you know who is afraid of heights? Bitterblue. (10/19/09)

Who’s your favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Well, I’m just now wrapping up Season 4, and I love Willow in Season 4. However. Is it possible to love ANYONE more than I love Spike? (10/19/09)

FAQs About My Own Reading Library

Tip: if you’re looking for book recommendations beyond what you see here, click on the label “books” at the bottom of this page. That’ll take you to just about all the posts I’ve ever written in which I recommend books.

Have you read Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley?

Gee, what gave you that impression? :o) I LOVE Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley; they have definitely inspired me. When my editor emailed me to tell me that Tamora Pierce was blurbing Graceling, I burst into tears. I ran to tell my sister, secret code name: Cordelia, who was luckily talking on the phone at the time to my sister, secret code name: Apocalyptica, so we were able to have an impromptu family celebration. (12/1/08)
Can you recommend some good YA fantasy?

I can indeed. I’ve never read anything by Tamora Pierce or Robin McKinley I didn’t like. With Pierce, the Alanna quartet is a great place to start; with McKinley, The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and Deerskin are among my personal favorites. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials cannot be beat. Cynthia Voigt has an inter-related quartet of books called the Novels of the Kingdom that aren’t technically fantasy (nothing impossible happens), but they have a medieval fantasy feel. They are: Jackaroo; On Fortune’s Wheel; The Wings of a Falcon; and Elske. I’ve also just started reading the Megan Whalen Turner Attolia books, starting with The Thief — WONDERFUL.

Digressing slightly from fantasy, Margaret Mahy writes beautiful YA magical realism; The Tricksters is one of my favorite books (not to mention the book that inspired the title for my blog). And for plain old women-having-romantic-adventures-in-beautiful-locales stories (not YA, usually not fantasy, nonetheless fantastic), do you know the novels of Mary Stewart? They’re a little dated and sometimes hard to find (check your library), but Nine Coaches Waiting will always be in my top ten. In addition to her adventure tales she wrote a wonderful series that’s a King Arthur retelling from Merlin’s point of view (starting with The Crystal Cave). Good stuff. (12/1/08)

I’m a bit of a packrat when it comes to books. You couldn’t pry them from my cold, dead hands. Do you get rid of your books once you’ve read them, or do you hoard them like a little squirrel hoards nuts for the winter?
Well, my squirrel friend, I don’t read books. Ha! Just kidding. Truth is, I read an absurd number of books, BUT, I also seem to have anti-packrat genes. I don’t mean that I hate packrats, just that I definitely am not one myself. ^_^ I tend to only keep books that I love madly and/or books that have sentimental value. Of course, that still leaves me with a ton of books. But let’s just say I’ve got hundreds of books, rather than the tens of thousands of books I would have if I kept everything. Actually, I tend to do most of my reading from the library. Then, when I stumble across a book that I ♥♥♥, I put it on my purchase list so that I can own it and have it forever.

Some books I recently purchased after reading them from the library: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (which I loved so much that I bought several copies, to spread around); Dead Man’s Ransom by Ellis Peters (my favorite so far in the Brother Cadfael mystery series); Alchemy by Margaret Mahy (I am steadily building my collection of Mahy books; one day I will OWN THEM ALL!). Some books I’ve recently read, loved, put on my list, and will purchase soon: Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller (DO READ IT! With tissues in hand!) and Dairy Queen and The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (have you met D.J. Schwenk yet? You should).

I’ve started getting a lot of free books, too, now that I’m going to trade shows and so on. I keep the ones I love passionately and pass the others on.

I love my book policy, because it allows me to spend lots of time in libraries (♥) and it allows me to minimize my belongings, which is good for a person who moves a lot, and also makes each possession that much more precious… (2/2/09)

Off the top of your head, what’s a good book you’ve recently read?
Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli. (10/19/09)

My Index of Frequently Asked Questions

 The Old Grey Donkey, Eeyore, stood by himself
in a thistly corner of the forest, his front feet well apart,
his head on his side, and thought about things.
Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, “Why?”
and sometimes he thought, “Wherefore?”
and sometimes he thought, “Inasmuch as which?”
-from Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne

Welcome to my Index of Frequently Asked Questions. My FAQ pages are always a work in progress, which means they’re only as organized as I can make them! I promise I’ll always warn you if questions or answers are likely to contain spoilers.


Here are some FAQs About the Books.

Here are some FAQs About Writing, Getting Published, and Being Published.

Here are some FAQs About My Own Reading Library.
Here are some FAQs About Random Stuff.

You might notice that most answers are dated. These are the dates of the posts in which I originally answered the questions. Some questions have elicited lots of conversation, and if you’re curious to read the conversations, just use my archive (on the left side of my web page under the “Subscribe to Me” stuff) and my navigation buttons (at the bottom of the page) to find your way to the post of that date. (Note: dates are month / day / year.)

Enjoy, everybody!

Ernest H. Shepard image found at Just-Pooh.com

My Books

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t
been written yet, then you must write it.”

-Toni Morrison


Winterkeep is my latest release, and the fourth installment in the Graceling Realm series. As usual, I’m appallingly behind in updating this page, but it was released in January 2021 and I’ll come back and provide more details as soon as I have a minute away from revising the fifth installment in the Graceling Realm series!

Jane, Unlimited is my fourth release, a kaleidoscopic novel about grief, adventure, storytelling, and finding yourself in a world of seemingly infinite choices. It’s also about umbrellas and umbrella-making :o). It comes out on September 19, 2017. I hope to have more stuff up about it soon, including reviews and foreign release info! For now —

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions. Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. And at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

Read Jane, Unlimited and remember why The New York Times has raved, “Some authors can tell a good story; some can write well. Cashore is one of the rare novelists who do both.”



Graceling, my debut novel, is the story of Katsa, who has been able to kill people with her bare hands since she was eight. Katsa lives in the seven kingdoms, where very occasionally, a person is born with an extreme skill called a Grace. Gracelings are feared and exploited in the seven kingdoms, and none moreso than Katsa, who’s expected to do the dirty work of torture and punishment for her uncle, King Randa. But then she meets a mysterious stranger named Po, who is also a Graced fighter and the first person ever to challenge her in a fight. The two form a bond, and each discovers truths they never imagined about themselves, each other, and a terrible danger that is spreading slowly through the seven kingdoms.

Graceling is published by Harcourt Children’s Books in the U.S. and Canada, by Gollancz in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand, and has been sold to thirty-three foreign markets so far. A New York Times bestseller, it’s gotten a whole bunch of great reviews and even some awards; check out my Awards and Reviews page if you’re interested in the gory details.

You can buy Graceling (and all my books) online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Even better, please support your local independent bookstore by going to Indie Bound, or order online at Powells! If you’d like a signed copy, please see the instructions on my Contacts, Info, and Credits page.


Fire, Graceling‘s stand-alone prequel-ish companion book, takes place across the mountains to the east of the seven kingdoms, in a rocky, war-torn land called the Dells.

Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored– fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green– and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.

Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.

Wondering what makes it a companion book/prequel? Fire takes place 30-some years before Graceling and has one cross-over character with Graceling, a small boy with strange two-colored eyes who comes from no-one-knows-where, and who has a peculiar ability that Graceling readers will find familiar and disturbing…

Fire came out in October 2009 from Dial Books for Young Readers (in the U.S. and Canada) and Gollancz (in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand), and its list of foreign publishers is growing. It premiered at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. Check out the Awards and Reviews page if you’d like to see the awards and read the starred reviews! :o)


Bitterblue is a companion book to both Graceling and Fire and takes place in the seven kingdoms eight years after Graceling.  (Consider yourself warned: there are Graceling spoilers ahead!) Bitterblue, ten years old in Graceling, is now eighteen, and the queen of a kingdom still in recovery from the reign of its previous king, her father. The influence of Bitterblue’s father — a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities — lives on in Monsea, in ways Bitterblue hasn’t yet learned the extent of. Feeling hemmed in by her over-protective and controlling staff, Queen Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle to walk the streets of her own city at night — and meets two thieves who hold a key to the truth of her father reign.

 For those wondering: Yes, Katsa, Po, and others from Graceling are among the cast of characters!

 Bitterblue came out in May 2012 in the USA and various other markets and premiered at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. In Sweden, she is a #1 bestseller! Go here for Awards and Reviews.

My Writing Process

On the left, the writer hides from her writing, convinced it is out to get her.

Seriously, writing is hard, and I am occasionally crazy.

First, the nuts and bolts of my writing process: I write longhand. If you were to open to a random page in my notebook you would find so many cross-outs and arrows and signs saying “go to blue tab” or “go to 37a” that it might make you cry. (At least, that’s the effect it has on me sometimes.) You might also find that I’ve written a note to myself at the top of the page informing myself that my writing is rot. (It’s always good to keep a realistic grasp of the situation.)

Once I’ve written the equivalent of 30-40 typed pages, I transcribe it into a Word document using voice recognition software. I print it out and edit on paper.

I write most days and tend to decide on a day-to-day basis if today I need a break. Sometimes for 2 hours, sometimes for 12 hours; most often something rational and in-between. I don’t have a daily quota. I write however much I write, and my plan is always changeable. I don’t force myself to write if it’s not working. I try not to check email or do other distracting things, but I don’t succeed very often, and that’s okay, because small rests and distractions are part of the process.

My ideas tend to start with characters in my head who are having conversations– usually arguments. I listen to them– they’re so angry, but there’s love there too, or desire, or insecurity, or despair– and I ask myself, what are they fighting about? What happened to them? Who are they? What do they want? Why is life so hard for them?

And then it all starts to come together.

Characters, relationships, and feelings come first. Then setting, plot, and so on tend to filter in around it. The details of the plot, the bones that hold it together, are often the last things I work out; there are parts of the plot I don’t know until I get to them in the book, and they happen.

Characters are similarly elusive. A conversation I’m writing may veer off course or get out of hand; I can intend a character to say something, but it doesn’t mean she will. My characters often surprise me. And then I realize I was wrong about who they were, and I adjust my perceptions.

What else about my writing process?

I spend a lot of time staring into space.

I talk to myself.

I walk from the living room to the bedroom in search of something specific and by the time I get there I’ve forgotten what I was looking for.

When people knock on the door, I hide. When my phone rings, I yell, “Oh, who the hell is bothering me now?!” and don’t answer.

When I go for walks in the neighborhood I carry a pen and post-its and can often be seen exclaiming in triumph or scowling or laughing maniacally.

Sometimes I worry that the house is going to burn down. This is why I keep my notebook in a fireproof, waterproof safe. When I go on vacation, I leave the key on top of the safe with a note for robbers asking them to please open the safe before deciding to steal it, because if they’d only open it, they’d see there’s only paper inside, nothing worth stealing. Before I had a fireproof, waterproof safe, I kept my notebook in the refrigerator. I learned this from Stephen King. The other thing I learned from Stephen King is distance. Sometimes you’re too close and you just have to back away from your writing for a while– sometimes a long while. Things are a lot clearer after you’ve had some distance. For example, when I come back from vacation and notice that I’ve left a note on my safe for robbers, I am able to see clearly, thanks to that nice long time away, that I am a paranoid crazycakes.

I don’t angst about my writing as much as I used to, and I’ve also learned to take more time away from it. I work on it just as hard as I always have, and there are a lot of things to balance: I worry about the wording, I worry about the themes, the plot as a whole, whether the characters seem to others the way they seem to me, whether the book is getting too long, whether my protagonist is likable, whether my fantasy world is consistent, whether I’ll be able to hold everything together, whether there’s even anything worth holding. There is never a moment when there isn’t something that feels out of control. But I don’t angst too much. I have learned that this is just what it feels like to write a book. You get good at ignoring the discouraging voices. Or giving them the attention that’s best for them: listening to them and laughing and giving them a hug, and saying, “Yes, I know you’re worried. It’s okay. Let’s go watch a pretty sunset.”

Writing is a strange activity, but humans are weird, right? A writer is an extremely human thing to be.

A Short Bio

“The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis, and we’d have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.”

-William Styron

Nonetheless, I am always a happy chucklehead when I take a dip in my telephone bathtub.

So, here’s the short tale of me: I grew up in the countryside of northeastern Pennsylvania in a village with cows and barns and beautiful views from the top of the hill and all that good stuff. I lived in a rickety old house with my parents, three sisters, and a scattering of cats, and I READ READ READ READ READ. I read while brushing my teeth, I read while chopping parsley, the first thing I reached for when I woke up in the morning was my book; the only two places I didn’t read were in the car and in bed. What did I do then? The one thing I liked even more than reading: I daydreamed.

And so, without knowing it, I was planting the seeds. Reading and daydreaming = perfect preparation for writing.

At 18 I went off to college– thank you, Williams College, for the financial aid that made this possible– and it almost killed me. College is hard, man, and the Berkshires are cloudy. A (phenomenal) year studying abroad in sunny Sydney revived me. After college I developed a compulsive moving problem: New York City, Boston, Cambridge, Austin, Pennsylvania, Italy, and even a short stint in London, where my showerhead hung from the cutest little stand that was exactly like the cradle of an old-fashioned telephone. The best phone calls are the pretend phone calls made from your telephone tub.

During my stint in Boston, I got an M.A. at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. (Thank you, Simmons, for the scholarship that made this possible!) Grad school almost killed me, but I felt a lot more alive than when I was almost being killed in college. The Simmons program is stupendous. It got me thinking and breathing YA books. It got me writing.

Am I getting boring?

Since Simmons, I haven’t stopped writing, not once. I’ve developed a compulsive writing problem that makes my moving problem look like a charming personality quirk. I can’t stop! But it’s not actually a problem, because I don’t want to stop. I’ve been writing full-time for over fifteen years now, first doing educational writing for the K-6 market and now working exclusively on my novels. It’s a dream job, which is another way of saying that when I shop for work clothes, I go straight to the pajamas section.

A decade-plus ago I grew tired of all the moving and dealt with it by, um, moving, from Jacksonville, Florida, to the greater Boston area, trading the St. Johns River for the Charles River and pelicans for geese. As a native northerner, it’s nice to be back in the land of four seasons. I feel as if I’ve come home. :o)

And that’s my story.

Wondering why my blog is starting out a little impersonal and weird?

Well, it’s like this. I want this blog to also serve the function of my author website, with clear links at the side that connect to my bio, a page about my books, a page with contacts, etc; and to create links to those pages, I have to create those pages as posts. So as I get started, I’ll have a few impersonal posts and some that I even leave empty, to edit in the future when necessary. Bear with me; eventually I’ll start posting good stuff, I promise!