On the 2009 Amelia Bloomer List (Recommended Feminist Literature for Birth through 18). On the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 2009 Blue Ribbon list. A New York Times and a Publishers Weekly best seller.
“[An] eccentric and absorbing first novel…. [Katsa] overturns every biological reality and cultural stereotype of feminine weakness, which is a large part of her charm. She is the girl’s dream of female power unloosed…. Cashore plays with the idea of awkwardness, how at a certain age gifts and talents are burdens, how they make it impossible to feel comfortable in the world…. somehow in all of this struggle and resistance Cashore offers an acute portrayal of sexual awakening: ambivalent, rageful, exhilarating, wistful in turns…. “Graceling”… offers a perfect parable of adolescence, as its characters struggle with turbulent emotions they must learn to control…. The teenage characters in this novel, like some we may know in life, grow into their graces. They realize that their monstrous individuality is not so monstrous after all.” — The New York Times Book Review
“An assured fantasy debut…. Katsa is an ideal adolescent heroine, simultaneously confident of her strengths yet unsure of her place in the world. Every character is crafted with the same meticulous devotion to human comprehensibility…. In a tale filled with graphic violence and subtle heartbreak, gentle passion and savage kindness, matter-of-fact heroics and bleak beauty, no defeat is ever total and no triumph comes without cost. Grace-full, in every sense.” — Starred, Kirkus Reviews
“[The] exquisitely drawn romance… will slake the thirst of Twilight fans, but one measure of this novel’s achievements lies in its broad appeal. Tamora Pierce fans will embrace the take-charge heroine; there’s also enough political intrigue to recommend it to readers of Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia trilogy. And while adult readers, too, will enjoy the author’s originality, the writing is perfectly pitched at teens struggling to put their own talents to good use. With this riveting debut, Cashore has set the bar exceedingly high.” — Starred, Publisher’s Weekly
“Cashore treats readers to compelling and eminently likable characters and a story that draws them in from the first paragraph…. Cashore’s style is exemplary…. This is gorgeous storytelling: exciting, stirring, and accessible. Fantasy and romance readers will be thrilled.” — Starred, School Library Journal
“Cashore… creates believable characters with enough depth, subtlety, and experience to satisfy older readers…. An impressive first novel. — Starred, Booklist
“With a butt-kicking but emotionally vulnerable heroine, [Graceling] should appeal to fans of recent girl-power urban fantasies as well as readers who’ve graduated from Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series.” — The Horn Book Magazine
There’s a lot of information on this page, including instructions for purchasing signed copies and how to write to me. Check out the red descriptors at the beginning of each paragraph.
I am once again signing and personalizing books via my local indie, Harvard Book Store! I no longer live around the corner from the store, so I expect to sign and personalize only about every couple months or so. Please order ahead if you anticipate wanting something. Here is the link: https://shop.harvard.com/kristin-cashore-signed-copies. Notice the instructions at the top: When checking out, indicate in the comments field that you would like a signed copy. Include the name of anyone to whom you’d like the book personalized as well. Depending on the state of my chronic hand problems, I’m happy to honor requests for brief messages such as wishing someone a happy birthday, good luck with their writing, etc., but please note that if you ask me to write something long or something I’m not comfortable signing my name to, I won’t honor those requests. (Yes, I’ve occasionally been asked to write some head-scratchers…) Also please note: I am unable to respond to personal requests on Twitter or elsewhere for signatures or signed copies.
My agent is the goddess Faye Bender, sine qua non, one of the founding partners of The Book Group.
Graceling was published in the US by Harcourt, now Clarion Books. All of my subsequent books have been published in the US by Penguin Young Readers. The switch is the result of an editorial move.
Regarding the timing of releases, especially of foreign translations: Every territory has a different timetable, and I don’t always have the latest information. I recommend doing some googling. Particularly if you speak the language, you’ll probably be able to find a more accurate answer than I can.
Regarding general questions, my FAQ pages will answer a lot of questions.
If you are a writer, I wish you joy and luck. There are some thoughts about writing in my FAQ pages and I blog about it sometimes. I regret, however, that I am unable to read manuscripts.
Regarding blog interviews and guest posts, I’m sorry to say I’m unable to take these on at the moment; I hope to have more time in the future when things are less nutty! (Things will be less nutty in the future, right?)
Regarding invitations,please feel free to contact my publicists at Penguin Young Readers. I regret that I do not do school visits.
If you love the true literary study of YA and middle grade novels and picture books —and/or if you’re interested in writing same — by all means check out theCenter for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. They offer an MA in Children’s Literature and an MFA in Writing for Children. I went the MA route and can say that the program is rigorous, invigorating, and inspiring, and it changed my life in all the best ways. The portraits on my Bio and Writing Process pageswere taken by Daniel Burbach. Literally 20 years ago. Please imaginatively add some wrinkles and an aspect of wisdom. My profile picture was taken by Kevin Lin and is up to date. 🙂
If you’re wondering how to pronounce my name, go here and click on it. And then click on everyone else’s name. It’s fun! You can send me mail at:
Kristin Cashore Penguin Young Readers c/o Author Mail 1745 Broadway New York, NY 10019
I’ll state up front that I receive a lot of mail and can’t always write back. I do not respond to school projects.
When you start a book, what is it like? Is the book just sitting in your head, mostly formed? Where does it come from?
For me, when I start a book, I’ve got parts of it formed in my head — pivotal, dramatic tension between characters that hasn’t necessarily formed itself into clear scenes with dialog and action yet, but that will form itself as I continue to mull it over. I guess what I have at the beginning is the feeling of my characters, and the feeling of their relationships with each other.
What I don’t have is the plot, and that’s where the serious, plodding, trial-and-error, tedious work comes in. I have to figure out the story that fills in the spaces around all of these feelings. I have to make up a story that will explain the feelings, support the feelings, make the feelings believable. And make logical and structural sense; and pull the reader in; and NOT be boring.
I guess every writer is different. For me, characters tend to come kind of naturally, but plotting takes tons of work! (12/4/08) ******
I’ve always thought of fantasies as world-building books where the authors create the characters after building the world. But that doesn’t feel like the case in Graceling, because the characters seem so real. Which came first: the characters or the kingdoms?
Well, thank you, and you’re right — the characters came first in Graceling, completely and absolutely. I knew Katsa, Po, and Raffin fairly well before I ever began to build a world around them. Of course, they came with their special powers and their situations intact, so they brought pieces of the world with them from the beginning; but without a doubt, characters were the genesis of the book. If you’re curious about how Graceling grew, I talk about it a bit in this interview. (10/20/08) ******
How did you learn about fighting, weapons, and everything else?
Ha ha! In a lot of cases, by reading, both fiction (Tamora Pierce, Hilari Bell, Vivian Vande Velde, for example) and nonfiction (books about horses, martial arts, the history of warfare; encyclopedia articles about swords or the history of medicine). In other cases, by asking oddly specific questions of the right people. For example, I’m lucky to have a general surgeon and wound specialist in my life who wouldn’t even blink if I were to say to him, “Uncle Walter, if I were shot in the gut at close range with a steel-tipped arrow and then ran up four flights of stairs, would I be likely to faint? And how long before I’d be able to climb down the tree outside my window into my lover’s embrace again?”
Anything I get wrong is my own fault, of course, not the fault of my sources of information. I take a lot of creative liberties with reality sometimes… (12/4/08) ******
In Graceling, what made you give the Gracelings two-colored eyes? Are the colors significant?
Good question! Truth is, I don’t remember why I decided to do this. I guess it just came to me and felt right; it looked right in my mind. I chose the particular colors I chose simply because I liked them. As far as Katsa goes, well, blue and green are my favorite colors; and Po, he’s just a glow-y guy (his rings and earrings were part of his character from the very beginning), so it seemed right to give him eyes of glow-y colors. (12/1/08) ******
I have a lot of trouble coming up with fantasy names. How did you come up with the names in Graceling?
Heh. I sympathize. Fantasy names are really tricky, and frankly, often kind of silly — I mean, let’s face it, basically we’re making up a bunch of silly words. And for me, they always seem to end with the letter “N.” (Giddon, Raffin, Murgon, Drowden, Thigpen, Birn, Silvern, Ashen — and wait ’til you read Fire! Hee hee) Why do I do this? It’s SILLY! Why not just name everyone nice, simple names, like David and Julia? Sigh, I don’t know.
For some reason — maybe because I think of Lienid as a place full of color — Lienid names always have some sort of color base, or at least a visual reference. (Ashen, Bitterblue, Silvern, Skye, Faun, Patch; Po’s real name is Greening.) For monikers in the rest of my kingdoms, however, I basically try to come up with names that have the right sound when they hit my ear. Sometimes I’ll read the credits of movies carefully, looking for real-life last names that would make good fantasy first names. Sometimes I catch myself reading exit signs on the highway. For the book I’m writing now, I had three men working together named Ambler, Runnemede, and Darby — until it occurred to me that anyone living in the Philadelphia suburbs might find themselves thinking, Ah, yes, and no doubt Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Upper Darby will come along at any moment… :o) (12/4/08) ******
How did you come up with the names in Fire? Hm. Well, ever since rereading Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, I’ve wanted to name a tall, handsome man Archer. I think Archer may have grown from his name, actually; his name (which is a nickname) is how I realized he was so good at archery. My sister, secret codename: Cordelia, has always despised the name Nash for various reasons, but I’ve always kind of liked it, so I decided to reclaim it and prove to her that it was worthwhile. Nax seemed like the perfect variation for Nash’s no good father. Cansrel… a dear aunt was dying of cancer around the time I started writing Fire. The similarity between the two words is not a coincidence.
Musa was a dancer on So You Think You Can Dance whose name I liked. Mila was my dear friends’ dog. Larch converted well to the thing I needed it to convert to ;). Brocker, Roen, Tess, Gentian, Neel — they just felt right. Mydogg and Murgda… well, don’t they just sound unpleasant? The horses… again, the names just felt right.
Clara, Garan, Hanna, and Brigan. I loved the way these names sounded when extended to their full royal titles: Claradell, Garandell, Hannadell, Brigandell. I particularly liked the way Claradell sounded like Clarabelle, but wasn’t, and the way Hannadell sounded like Annabel, but wasn’t. And Brigan’s name was always Brigan (just like Archer’s was always Archer’s), because it sounds like brigand, and that’s how I thought of him in his early appearances in the book.
I don’t remember thinking up Fire‘s name. I think I must have always known it. (11/9/09) ******
Are your characters based off of anyone you know personally?
No, never. Or at least, not intentionally! I don’t recall ever having an actual person in mind while building one of my characters. Of course, the stuff of my imagination includes characteristics of people I know (including myself), characters from books I’ve read, character from movies I’ve seen, so nothing is ever completely original. But I certainly can’t point to a real-life person Katsa reminds me of, for example. (12/4/08) ******
Does Katsa loiter? Does she lurk in the corner of your mind and say things like, “That is so not how I would do it!” (for example)? *smile* No, she really doesn’t. None of my characters do. There is a very clear line between me/my life and my characters/their lives, and when I think about my characters, they’re always in their own world, not mine. I wish this did happen now and then, though. There are plenty of times when my characters would make better decisions about how to handle certain situations than I would. I could really use some tips from them :o) (8/31/09) ******
Did you want to become a writer when you were younger? I can never think of a subject to write about! Were you that way, too?
Oh my goodness, yes. I was COMPLETELY that way! I always wanted to write, but I was always too out-of-my-mind busy doing other things, plus, I didn’t have any plots in my head. What changed that was the act of making myself sit down to write every day. Sure, I was a bit dry of ideas in the beginning, but the more you poke around and write little, meaningless, no-pressure, practice things, the more ideas start to bubble up. It’s a thing that responds — grows and becomes fertile — when you give it attention. (Or at least, that was my experience. No doubt other writers have different experiences to relate!) Oh, and I started doing serious critical writing when I was about 25, and serious creative writing around the age of 27. I’m 32 now.
I think that sometimes people think that writers are inspired by story ideas, and if you haven’t been inspired, then there’s no hope for you as a writer. Whatever. Sometimes coming up with a story takes plain-old work. So don’t despair if you don’t know (YET) what to write about! Just keep at it. Never surrender! (12/4/08) ******
You keep talking about how hard it is to write Book 3 / Bitterblue. Can you tell us why it’s so hard?
*smile* I guess I didn’t realize what I was getting into. Which is just part of the human condition, right? You make a seemingly innocent decision; you don’t realize what you’re getting into; but now you’re into it, and there’s no turning back. You’ve just got to figure out the best way through. Didn’t somebody once say, “The best way out is always through?” Yes — I just googled it — Robert Frost.
One of the many tricky things about Bitterblue is that there is a LOT of stuff going on. Possibly too much stuff; so much stuff that it’s hard to figure out how to structure it. I would describe the current structure as, um, rather numinous. I know it’s possible to write a good book in which a million things are going on at once; I know it’s possible to weave things together so that the reader isn’t left asking, WTF is going on in this book? What is this book even ABOUT? I’ve seen it done in other books. But that doesn’t mean I know how to do it. So, there’s some on-the-job training going on here. A lot of rewriting; a LOT of writing 10 pages and throwing out 5. I’m also trying to read a lot of complicated books, to see how other, better writers do it. Most of all, I’m trying to keep perspective: The fate of the world does not exactly depend on this book, now, does it? I’m trying to remember to laugh at myself and, in emergencies, eat cannoli. :o) (12/1/08) ******
I’m writing a book. It’s slow going at times to try to keep my focus. I feel like I can see ahead to more exciting parts of the story, while right now I’m trying to set up the setting, which can be tedious. Do you have any suggestions for this? Should I skip ahead and write the exciting parts, then go back and fill in the build-up? This is a really good question, and it’s something that happens constantly, over and over, in the course of writing a novel. There are so many parts of a novel that are the parts without a major tension or emotion or climax or revelation.
Some people skip ahead and that works for them. I can’t tell you what to do. But I can tell you what I do. I do NOT skip ahead. (The only time I skip ahead while novel-writing — and I never skip more than a few lines/paragraphs — is when I absolutely cannot know what’s supposed to happen now until I’ve written something that won’t happen until later. I leave a gap with a small outline or notes, and make myself move on, even though I hate to leave blank places and it makes me worried and nervous.)
What I do try to do is figure out a way to write the establishing-the-setting type things, the establishing-who-the-characters-are things, in scenes that are emotionally interesting anddo have some sort of small excitement. I don’t mean that every single scene needs to have high drama; I only mean that… well, for example, right now in my writing, I’m building up to some fun, exciting stuff that will be happening soon. But the parts I’m writing right now are distinctly unexciting, and it’s hard to make myself keep writing. I kind of need to show the passage of time and do some exposition that feels pretty boring to me. So, I’m trying to use these passage-of-time sections to build the relationships between characters I’ve neglected so far. For example, if there’s some information I need to convey to the reader during this slightly unexciting section of the novel, I might try to find a way to reveal the information using an unexpected conversation between two characters who haven’t interacted much before. Put them in an interesting place, maybe give them a few props to work with (something to do with their hands or look at with their eyes), and also give them a few things to talk about at once — some important topics, some less important topics, and maybe even something frivolous or funny, all mixed in together. (Don’t make your conversations too linear! If you get your characters moving around their setting and talking, revealing the way they interact with each other, your setting/characters/exposition will come to life, and the conversation/action will engage the reader at the same time as you convey the possibly unexciting stuff you need to convey. And you might learn something from their conversation that you hadn’t realized before.
Does that make sense? It’s only one example of a way you can use laying-the-scene to also further-the-plot and increase-inter-character-tension. ^_^ If you feel like you’re bungling, don’t worry too much. I don’t think it’s possible to write a novel without feeling that way, (8/31/09) ******
I always wonder about how to make time in my own life to write. What was your day job when you were writing Graceling?
When I wrote Graceling I was working as a freelance educational writer. There was a great discussion on the question of “the writer’s day job” on The Longstockings several months ago; if you’re curious, check it out here. And if you’re specifically curious about my work as an educational writer, scroll down to my own comment in The Longstockings discussion, because I wrote a tome about it there, describing the work in detail… :o) (12/1/08) ******
When and how did you start writing? How did you get your “big break” into publishing? Do you have any publishing advice? Do you have any writing advice?
[I answered these 4 FAQs in a very long post, and rather than taking up space here, I’ll direct you to that post for my answers. Answers are here!] (5/21/09) ******
I love to write, I need to write… but at the same time, I am afraid of publishers and editors and agents. Not so much about rejection letters or working with them, but sending my work to them. I know it must sound weird, or maybe not. How did you cope with it when you sent Graceling away? Was it really hard to let your creation out of your hands?
[This is one of the best FAQs I’ve ever gotten, and my answer, all about the fear and joy of being a writer, is long. The conversation it elicited is also worth reading. So I’m going to link you to the post in which I answered it. Go here to read my answer!] (2/5/09) ******
Do you read online reviews / buzz about your own books? Not any more. I don’t google myself or my books, and I do not get google alerts. I do not read reviews on Amazon or other book sites. If someone tells me about a link to anything concerning my books, I almost never follow the link. It’s not that I don’t appreciate that people are writing reviews and spreading buzz — I’m hugely grateful, because online dialog brings readers to my books. But I don’t involve myself. I’ve learned it’s better for my writing process, my sanity, and my happiness to avoid it. (Besides, I get a ton of feedback without looking for it — my friends and publishers are on the ball and keep me informed of what people are saying — so I generally have a sense of what’s going on out there without seeking it out myself.)
I do usually (though not always) read reviews if my editor or publicity department sends them to me. Those ones tend to be the ones in major review journals, and are hard to ignore. And, okay, I’ll admit that occasionally I stumble across a review in the blogosphere by accident, but it’s only when one of the few sites on my own reader runs a review of one of my books. (I have to say, it always gives me a slight heart attack when I open my reader and see one of my book covers in a post that I didn’t write!) These are the only exceptions. (6/8/09) ******
*WARNING! All FAQs beyond this point contain spoilers! Proceed at your own risk!*
The villain in Graceling is really creepy and disgusting. Was it hard for you to write him?
Actually, quite the opposite. I tend to enjoy writing creepy, bad stuff. I suppose Freud or Jung or somebody would say that society represses our natural human tendencies toward deviance, and creating a deviant character could be a kind of release. Or something? Whatever the reason, I would much rather write about a creep being creepy than about someone bland being bland. Or landscapes. I don’t much like describing landscapes. (10/20/08)
Disclaimer: I don’t answer questions about subtext. The book serves as its own explanation; you come up with your own interpretations. Make sense? Okay, here goes. :o)
You talk about Graceling, which is out now; Fire, coming out in the fall; and Bitterblue, which you’re currently writing. How do they fit together? Are they prequels, sequels, etc.?
They are loosely connected. Fire takes place about 35 years before Graceling in a nearby land. Bitterblue takes places six (correction: EIGHT) years after Graceling, in the seven kingdoms. I’m going to refer you to my My Books page, which answers the question more fully (and which does contain some minor spoilers, along the lines of what you’d find on a book jacket). (2/16/09) ******
Why did you decide to write the books that way?
When I began Graceling, I never had any intention of writing another book in that universe. But then, at some point, a character in Graceling mentions an imaginary land he’s heard about in a story, and I found myself thinking about that land. I asked myself, what if it were real? Where is it, and how does it connect to Graceling? An idea for a new book came to me (Fire), and I had to write it. The same thing happened with Bitterblue. While writing Fire, I never intended to write a third book in this universe. Then, one day, a loved one said out of the blue, “Hmm, what about Bitterblue?” It was kind of a revelation. An idea began to latch onto my mind, and I realized I had to write it. (2/16/09)******
Will there be more books that take place in this universe?
I don’t know. If a fourth book starts growing in my mind and demands to be written, then yes. If not, then no. Sometimes, writers aren’t as in control of what they’ll write next as you might think! I’ll have to go with what feels right. (2/16/09) ******
When is Bitterblue coming out?
I don’t know. Sometime after I’m done writing it. :o) (2/16/09) ******
IsGraceling going to be made into a movie?
No one has optioned Graceling at this point. If and when anyone does, I’ll explain more about how it all works. (Getting optioned does not mean it will necessarily ever be made into a movie.) (2/16/09) ETA on 1/31/14: Graceling has now been optioned and I will announce any news as it happens on my blog. ******
How do you pronounce Lienid and the other names in Graceling?
Really and truly, I don’t mind how people pronounce the names of characters and places in my books. In fact, my own pronunciation of Katsa has changed because everyone else seems to pronounce it differently from the way I do. So please, say the words however you want to say them.
That being said, if you want to say them the way I say them — I pronounce Lienid LEE-uh-nid or LEE-nid, like the Leonids, the meteors that occur every year (in real life, in our sky) around November. That’s where I got the idea for the name, actually. It struck me as the perfect kingdom to name after falling stars, even if the association was only in my head (because in the seven kingdoms, of course, there are no yearly meteor showers called Leonids…).
While I’m on the subject, I pronounce Katsa to rhyme with PAT-suh; Randa to rhyme with HAND-uh, Raffin to rhyme with LAUGH-in, Oll to rhyme with doll. Bitterblue is accented on the first syllable: BITTerblue. And I speak with an American accent. But that doesn’t mean you have to! (10/20/08)******
On your “My Books” page, you say that Katsa, Po, & Co. will appear in Bitterblue. What do you mean by “& Co.?”
*smile* Literally, it means, “and company,” but I don’t think that’s what you’re asking. What it really means is that I’m close-mouthed about works in progress — I need to be, for my own writing process — and I’m not willing to name the Graceling characters who appear in Bitterblue just yet, other than Katsa and Po. You’re not the only person who’s asked about the “& Co.” thing, though, so I’ve changed the wording over there so it’s less confusing. I also got rid of the line about how writing Bitterblue is killing me with loud death agonies, because I got a comment from someone who was worried that this meant her favorite characters get killed. :o) All I meant was that I’m finding it hard to write. (4/13/09) ******
Do I need to read Graceling before reading Fire? This is hard for me to answer objectively, because, of course, as the purist author, I would prefer everyone to read them in the order in which they were published, and also, reading Fire first gives away one big Graceling spoiler. BUT, I have heard from plenty of people who read Fire first and then Graceling and say that reading them in that order totally works. Both books stand alone — technically, you don’t need to read one in order to understand the other. So I think you’re safe either way… but I still recommend starting with Graceling. (8/31/09) ******
I missed your signings. How can I get signed copies of your books? To purchase signed/personalized books, please place an online order at Harvard Bookstore. Before you finish your order, a Comments box will appear. Please specify in the Comments box that you’d like the book signed, and to whom you’d like it personalized, if anyone. Kindly use the online ordering system rather than trying to order over the phone — this will eliminate confusion at the store! All orders are pre-paid and non-returnable. These instructions are also available on my Contacts, Info, and Credits page.
(Note: Please DO NOT try to mail me books or bookplates to sign! I regret that I am unable to accommodate such requests, and I would hate for your books to get lost in the process!) (10/19/09) ******
*WARNING!! The following questions contain spoilers! Proceed at your own risk!*
Can you tell us more about Leck? His backstory; parentage; anything about his eye?
There will be more about Leck in Fire and Bitterblue. (10/20/08)******
Are Raffin and Bann a couple?
This is, hands down, my most frequently asked question. It’s also a perfect example of a question I won’t answer. My reason for not answering has nothing to do with the subject matter; it’s only that, as I say at the top of this page, I don’t answer questions about subtext. I don’t think the author has the right to stand outside the book explaining the book. The reader needs to be allowed to have his or own interpretation; the book needs to be its own answer. Make sense? (10/20/08)******
Will Katsa and Po ever get married?
Ahem. Welcome to my second most frequently asked question. I never, ever discuss future plot things, except occasionally with my editor, my agent, and my official First Readers. This is partly because (1) until a first draft is written, I need to be free to have it to myself, without the interference of anyone else — without the pressure of other people’s questions, worries, opinions, or expectations. It needs to be my book and only my book, my business and only my business. That is the only way a book can grow. It’s also partly because (2) before a book goes to typesetting, anything is subject to change.
So I’ll never, ever answer a question like this. (Which I doubt will surprise anyone. ^_^)
However, I do have a counter-question. My question is: Why do you ask? Do they need to be married for their relationship to be genuine? I challenge you to think about this. Bounce it around. See where it lands. (1/15/09) ******
I love the themes of choice, independence, and sacrifice in Graceling. It was refreshing to read about a heroine whose purpose wasn’t necessarily to “get married and settle down.” That said, I do still love a “happily ever after” ending. For the first time (ever) I felt like I got equal measure of independence and HEA (lo and behold, they are not mutually exclusive!). I love that! So my question is – was independence + HEA your goal from the beginning or did the characters just fall into place that way?
Awesome question. The simple answer is both: my characters fell into place that way from the very beginning. I knew Katsa was dedicated to her independence and I knew she was going to fall in love. It was, very simply, who Katsa was and where Katsa was headed when she came to me. (And it also made for a really fun conflict to write! ^_^)
I suppose I could say more, but I’m not sure where to go with it, and I don’t want to bore everyone to tears. (1/15/09)******
Some of your online reader reviews say that Graceling has an anti-marriage message. Do you have a response to that?
Well, normally I would say that I don’t want to get into it, because I don’t think my opinion, as the author, really matters. And I respect any reader’s right to his or her own opinion! However, if I were to express a few thoughts of my own, they might sound a little something like this….
First, some facts: there are some existing, steady marriages quietly depicted in the book. There is also one, single, solitary character who feels that marriage is not the right choice personally for her. Remember, Katsa herself doesn’t try to stop other people from marrying; she even hopes for happy marriages for other people. Them’s the facts.
I didn’t write Graceling with any particular messages in mind. But if it does have a message, I hope it’s not anti-marriage, but rather, pro- “being true to yourself.” I think that being true to yourself sometimes — not always, but sometimes — means thoughtfully, intelligently choosing to take a route that differs from the norm.
Here is something that Jon and Rumer Godden (writers for both children and adults) wrote in their book Two Under the Indian Sun: “We knew that marriage was not the only kind of love.”
If Katsa and Po find a way to relate to each other that works for them and that involves self-respect, mutual respect, self-examination, mutual delight, mutual regard, and honest communication, how can their relationship be a bad thing? (1/15/09)
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 isyour 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)
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)
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.
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.)
“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t
been written yet, then you must write it.”
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.
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.