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Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Critically acclaimed novelist Katrina Leno discusses the process of bringing her childhood memories to magical life in her new young adult novel, Sometime in Summer.

Katrina Leno was born on the East Coast and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, including You Must Not Miss and Horrid. Like Miriam, she believes everyone in the world has a book that will change their life—hers was The Letters of Vincent van Gogh. Visit her online at katrinaleno.com, and find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Katrina Leno

In this post, Katrina discusses the process of bringing her childhood memories to magical life in her new young adult novel, Sometime in Summer, her advice for other writers, and more!

Name: Katrina Leno
Literary agent: Wendy Schmalz at Wendy Schmalz Agency
Book title: Sometime in Summer
Publisher: Poppy by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: June 28, 2022
Genre/category: Young Adult Contemporary
Previous titles: Horrid; You Must Not Miss; Summer of Salt; Everything All at Once; The Lost & Found; and The Half Life of Molly Pierce
Elevator pitch for the book: 14-year-old Anna feels like her life is falling apart—her parents are getting a divorce, her best friend has stopped talking to her, and her mother is selling Anna’s one safe haven: the family-owned bookstore. Anna expects her summer vacation to be similarly miserable, but a (magical??) comet and a well-timed wish end up changing her life forever.

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

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What prompted you to write this book?

As a child, my family would spend most of our summer vacations in the small, seaside town of Rockport, Massachusetts. These kind of New England towns are so romanticized and magical in my memory, and I really wanted to honor that on the page. I loosely based Anna around how I was at 14—a little lost, a little sad, and a little defeated. And then I gave her the summer of a lifetime, just like all of my own childhood summers. (Except hers has a bit more magic than mine did!)

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

It took quite a while! The first stirrings of this idea came to me in March 2017, and it will be published in June 2022. Usually when I first start a book, I don’t have much of the plot fleshed out. Instead I’ll start with a character or a scene that jumps into my brain and demands to be written down. I’ll free write around that idea until (hopefully!) a plot begins to take shape. The editing process really bulked up the text (I wrote about 10,000 additional words from my first to second draft!) but the plot itself wasn’t changed too much. Anna’s journey was really clear to me from the beginning.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

This is my seventh book, but I feel like I’m constantly learning and growing as a writer, especially during the publishing process. With this book in particular, I think we really struggled to figure out the cover copy and exactly how much of the “magic” to reveal. You have to let people know what the book is about and what to expect, but you also don’t want to give too much away. It was hard to find a balance!

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

There are always surprises in writing! Sometimes characters will do things I don’t expect them to (in this book, there’s a very small subplot of two characters dating that really took me by surprise, haha!). I try to let these surprises develop organically as I go along, and even if I have the book fully plotted, I leave room for the unexpected. It’s just more fun to write that way!

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope younger readers find this book and feel a connection with Anna. I felt kind of lonely and out of place as a teenager, and I was always looking for that kind of connection. That’s why I write for young readers and for teenagers—I’m always hoping that I can establish that connection that I so longed for when I was their age.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Write a lot! And read a lot. But also do other things, things completely unrelated to writing that will ultimately serve as inspiration and help to fill your creative well. This could be as simple as going for a walk around your neighborhood or as elaborate as planning a fun road trip. It’s all about writing a lot—and then knowing when to stop writing for a moment, to give your brain a nice recharge.

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