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Katrina Leno AMA

Last week, you asked Katrina Leno, author of You Must Not Miss and the upcoming Horrid, some of your burning questions. Here are her answers!

What was your favorite book as a child?

I loved Alice in Wonderland, the Narnia books, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, The Indian in the Cupboard series – I had a very obsessive approach to books when I was younger and I would read them again and again, metaphorically devouring them. Which of course is where a lot of the inspiration for Horrid came from – the idea of a girl who loves books so much she has to consume them, eat them.

Favorite type of character to write?

Characters who are struggling with something, who are generally good but flawed, like every single one of us. It’s not a lot of fun to write an uncomplicated, morally just, super nice character – I much prefer the characters who have a streak of danger or darkness.

What’s your favorite genre to write?

I love to write contemporary fiction with a thread of magic, whether that magic is just under the surface or more obvious and out in the open. To me, the world is a very magical place, even though it’s sometimes hard to see that magic. So I think that’s why in my books, I like to make the magic a bit easier to see.

Are there any genres you haven’t yet written that you’d like to?

I just read Gideon the Ninth so now of course I’d like to write something science-fictiony and gothic and space opera-ish! But in reality, I don’t think I’ll ever actually get around to it. But – never say never!

Did something inspire you must not miss? It was horrifying and brilliant!

The whole idea for You Must Not Miss was born from the character of Magpie. I actually remember very vividly when she first popped into my head – it was like she arrived fully-formed and completely real, which is rare for me. I felt her darkness and her anger almost like it was my own, even though in real life, I was pretty happy at the time, on vacation, floating on a pizza-shaped pool float. She was like an invader who marched onto my pool float and demanded to be seen, and the whole novel evolved from there!

Do you or any other author you know write all their chapters on paper first?

I don’t often write extended scenes or chapters on paper, but I definitely have in the past, and I usually do take a lot of paper notes alongside my computer writing! I journal a lot by hand, almost every day, and I think any sort of writing we do informs all other writing. And I do think there is something very romantic and very lovely about writing on paper – but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to write. The right way to write is whatever way you want to do it. It’s different for everyone, and that’s what makes it cool.

What’s your favorite flavor of tea or coffee?

I love mint tea or chai, and I’m a fan of all coffee. All coffee is my friend.

Tips for writers block

Go for a walk, read a book, clean your room, practice making the perfect shadow puppet wolf – basically, don’t force it. A good distraction can be super inspiring, as long as you come back to your writing at the end of it. It’s amazing how much new inspiration can be found during an intense shadow puppet session.

Why are you so cool?

I allow myself to feel very cool for about ten minutes per day, and then I remember that all humans are weird and awkward and all of us are either equally cool or equally uncool, depending on the time of day and whether Mercury is in retrograde. I think this is pretty much the right approach to take, in regards to coolness.

Are you penning a pandemic-themed book next or is it too soon??

I think I can safely say that I will never write about a pandemic – this one or otherwise! I’m sure there will be books and stories and shows and movies created about this very strange, very sad time in our lives, and I bet a lot of people will find them cathartic and helpful and positive. But for me – I’m all about escapism. I want to forget about the pandemic whenever possible. I want to give my brain little breaks wherever I can – so that’s why I don’t think I’ll ever write about it, but also don’t begrudge those who do!



Katrina Leno was born on the east coast and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is a photographer and the author of four books published by HarperTeen—The Half-Life of Molly Pierce, The Lost & Found, Everything All At Once, and The Summer of Salt. You can visit her online at katrinaleno.com.