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I’m Kat, an author from North Wales, and I write young adult thrillers/horror. My latest is Wicked Little Deeds/Burden Falls, and it tells the story of Ava, who gets tangled up in a series of gruesome murders in her small town where superstitions about witchcraft and vengeful ghosts are rife. You can find out more about my books and where to buy them here.

If you missed last month's newsletter, you can catch up here.

Pictured: me looking like a floating head in my sneakiest black polo neck.
Happy New Year! It seems like 2021 was both a decade long and passed in a blink, but here we are. 2022 and still kicking, just about.

First of all, congratulations to the winners of my giveaway last month: Sharon, Nicole, Charlie and Jason (I picked 4 because I was feeling festive). I hope you all enjoy your books.
What’s coming for you…
 
In this newsletter, you will find:
  • book news, updates & events 
  • an interview with Kate Brauning, author of The Ballad of Dinah Caldwell
  • what’s on my radar: books, TV, movies, music
Book news, updates and events
Just before Christmas I got the excellent news that the Harrow Lake US audiobook made Book Authority’s list of Best Horror Audiobooks to listen to in 2022! The 3 narrators — Kristen DiMercurio, Alex McKenna and Jason Culp — did such an amazing job with the audio version, so it’s wonderful to see their work getting this commendation.
Aaaand Wicked Little Deeds was also named as an Editor’s Pick on Amazon UK, which I was delighted about!
I’m in the final throes of revising (for now) my new novel, so fingers crossed I’ll have more to tell you about that in the coming months. For the time being I’ll just say it’s probably the creepiest thing I’ve ever written, and I got to include 2 things I’ve had on my writerly to-do list for eons: rival musicians and deadly quicksand. How do these things fit together?  Well… wait and see.
 
Events-wise, I had a fairly quiet December while I focused on my new manuscript, but I did have one fun event with Dawn Kurtagich called ‘Frightfully Festive’ where we talked about all the books, movies and TV shows we recommended to horrify you this season. Watch that back here
 
Coming up this Monday I’ll be taking part in an 80s-themed movie quiz hosted by the brilliant Josh Winning and featuring Liz Corr and Matt Killeen as panelists. It’s an Instagram Live event being run by @UKYAbooks (I’m one of the admins there, in case you didn’t know) to kick off the 2022 UKYA Showcase organised by Holly Race, and there’ll be tons of great events and giveaways going on for that 10th – 30th January. In the meantime, follow @UKYAbooks and tune in at 7pm this Monday to watch me fail badly at quizzing.  
 
Tuesday 11th at 7pm I’ll be taking to IG Live again – this time with host Charley from The Rabbithole Bookshop and panelists Andreina Cordani and Naomi Gibson to talk about YA thrillers! Follow @charley.therabbithole to watch. Hope to see you there.

I’ll be adding more events to my events page as they’re confirmed/available to watch online so keep an eye out there.
Interview with Kate Brauning

Kate Brauning is an author of young adult thrillers with a twist of the unusual, including The Ballad of Dinah Caldwell, How We Fall and the short story “Godzilla Girls.” As a child, she spent a lot of time in her local library, wandering the shelves and discovering all kinds of stories about all kinds of people. She grew up in the hills of Missouri on twenty acres with a big pear tree, cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, and bottle calves. An incurable love for seeing real life through the pages of a book drew her to writing fiction, and at fifteen she decided she wanted someone to find her own books by searching through the shelves of a library. She’s been writing ever since.

Currently Kate lives in Austin, Texas, with her family and two dogs.

Find out more about Kate and her books on her website

True Grit meets Sadie in this #ownvoices near-future revenge thriller that tackles capitalism, queerness, and revolution.

Seventeen-year-old Dinah runs her family’s farm in the Ozarks. When she finds her grief-stricken mother dead in the living room with wealthy rancher Gabriel Gates standing over her, Dinah’s life narrows to a single point: kill Gabriel Gates.

But Gates has built his wealth giving out bad loans and surrounds himself with bodyguards. Dinah’s mountains are now one giant foreclosure, including her own farm. It all belongs to him. Once he puts a ten-thousand-dollar reward on Dinah’s head, everyone in the starving county wants a piece of her.

Homeless and alone in the woods, all she has is Johnny, the moonshining bootlegger at home in the caves. He begs her to leave the mountains, to start over with a new life. But Dinah is hell-bent on sparking a county revolution. She’ll lose her life to see this killer dead.

There are links to buy The Ballad of Dinah Caldwell from various retailers here

Kat: This is a story about revenge, but also about love and family — the ones we’re born into, and the ones we make for ourselves. What inspired you to explore these themes?
 
Kate: Honestly, I grew up in a volatile home, and I had always had a fear that the worst might happen to one of my siblings. DINAH was a way for me to ask that question for myself—if the worst happens to someone you love, what do you do? How do you set it right? Who are you, if you’re not a daughter or a sister or a neighbour anymore?
 
Kat: How did writing Dinah differ from writing your debut, How We Fall?

Kate: I very much shifted from being a pantser with my first book to being a plotter with this one. And it was How We Fall that showed me how much I love writing suspense and thrillers—there’s something captivating and so human about writing characters on the edge of no return.
 
Kat: The story takes place around 50 years in the future; water’s scarce, things like cars are hard to come by, and yet other technology has continued to move forward. How did you decide what the world would look like then, especially for your characters living in the Ozarks?

Kate: I wanted to write a world where there was no apocalypse, but the rich have gotten richer and the poor have continued to figure out their own ways to live within the machine of unregulated capitalism. I am lucky enough to have some engineers, mechanics, and farmers in my family who could talk to me about the fringe futures of these fields and plausible future realities. It was a lot of fun to think about state-run farms and combines the size of city blocks. But within that, what do you do with unfarmable land? It became a haven for my characters, a place the outside world couldn’t touch.
 
Kat: In one scene, Dinah finds some treasured sheet music — Yesterday by The Beatles & Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd — do those songs have a special meaning for you? Which songs would you hope to find the sheet music for if you were in Dinah’s shoes?

Kate: I love that you asked this! Music is so key to this story partially because the book really is based on a gender-flipped version of “Dust Bowl Dance” by Mumford & Sons. So I wanted to fill it with mountain music and dulcimers and songs that are nostalgic to me. I chose “Yesterday” and “Wish You Were Here” because they’re so haunting played as mountain music and they sound so lovely on dulcimer—and the lyrics are a bit of insight as to what Dinah is feeling at the moment, and it wakes something up in Johnny, too.
 
Kat: Gabriel Gates — the villain of the story — is a nasty piece of work! I was definitely rooting for Dinah to get the best of him all the way through. What was the inspiration behind his character?

Kate: It makes me so happy you loved him! Is “loved” the right word? I definitely named him Gabriel because people like him are so often what we’re told to believe is our way out, path forward, the good future—but it’s a power grab that leaves people hurting.

He’s the “good old boy” down the street that everyone’s known their whole lives, his family was nice, he’s the success story, he employs a lot of people. He can’t be bad, right?
 
Kat: Dinah’s very skilled when it comes to knives ­— especially throwing them! If you were living in St George alongside your characters, what would your specialist skill be?

Kate: This is not nearly as exciting but it might be gardening and baking. I love growing things—getting to follow their life cycle from seed to the plate. And I love making something really lovely for family to eat just from what’s there. That’s part of why food is so central in Dinah’s story. Music, food, and animals bring a lot of life and joy to a dark, gritty revenge story.
 
Kat: What’s next for you? 

Kate: January 19 I am doing an event with the brilliant Alison Ames at Mysterious Galaxy! It’s virtual because of Covid, so you can attend here. We both write queer, feminist thrillers so if that’s your jam, we’d love to have you there!

I’m also writing a super-secret, super magical, super chilling YA that I can’t wait to tell you more about. Fingers crossed that’s soon!
  

On my radar
Books – Over the Christmas break I got to catch up on some of my TBR pile, and the first one I read and really enjoyed was The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass, about a teen medium who gets targeted by the ghost of a vengeful school shooter. I also finally read Pet by Akwaeke Emezi which was a really odd book, but in the best way — beautifully written, off-beat, and with a lot to say about the nature of monsters. I also want to give a shout-out to Win Lose Kill Die by Cynthia Murphy which came out this week and Dead Lucky by Andreina Cordani which is out next week — both fantastic reads I was lucky to be asked to blurb. Check those out if you’re in the mood for a twisty thriller or two!

TV & Movies – I can’t lie, I binge-watched a ton over the Christmas break. I caught the last ever season of Superstore on Netflix and a lot of Christmas films including Die Hard (twice), Home Alone, Krampus, A Christmas Horror Story, A California Christmas 2 (do NOT recommend), The Holiday, and a bunch of other stuff that’s all merged together in a haze of too much food and Bailey’s Irish Cream. I also watched all 4 Insidious films almost back-to-back, so that’s some fun feature-length nightmare fuel.

Music – The music I'm listening to at the moment all has a slightly villainous vibe due to the book I'm working on. These are 2 of my current favourites: This Is How Villains Are Made by Madalen Duke and Jim Jones by Skynd. 
In next month’s newsletter look out for a new author interview and lots more bookish news!

'Til then… 
 
Kat x
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