Author Catherine Egan joins us today to talk about her latest release, Julia Vanishes!
Can you tell us a bit about this world where Julia lives?
Julia lives in Spira City, which is a sort of alternate version of late-Victorian-era London or La Belle Époque in Paris. The Prime Minister, Agoston Horthy, has outlawed all forms of magic and superstition, and witches are drowned in public Cleansings. The city is still reeling from a failed revolution and a terrible plague that left Julia’s brother scarred and crippled. It seems that magic has been virtually stamped out, but scratch the surface and the city is teeming with hidden powers and what Julia’s friend Liddy calls Something Elses.
What are these witches like? What are their abilities?
Witches can only work magic by writing it down, so an illiterate witch would essentially be powerless, and a witch with a pen is considered armed and dangerous. While they can alter nature in some small ways, the larger the spell, the greater the physical toll it takes on the witch. Julia’s mother never fully recovered from using magic to save her son’s life when he was ill as a child. Witches are also physically much stronger than ordinary people. They cannot be burned, and so fire is the test for a witch, and they cannot swim or float, so they are killed by drowning.
What do you have planned next after JULIA VANISHES? Any other stories on the horizon?
My horizon is made of stories! Right now I am still working on the sequels to JULIA VANISHES, but I confess that every now and then I guiltily spend my writing time making notes on my next planned book instead of tending to Julia. I’ve loved writing these books, but I am very ready for the next thing, and it is ready for me!
What is your favorite genre to read?
I don’t know if I have a favorite genre. I suppose the majority of my books are literary fiction, SFF, or historical. If you mix those three together, like in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I’m in heaven.
Can you tell us about your journey to getting published?
I think I’ve been stumbling blindly for a long time without a clear idea of what I wanted to write or what I wanted to do with it. I published short stories in journals for many years – I thought I was writing magic realism for adults, but if I’d noticed earlier that half my stories had teen protagonists and a ghost or a troll or a fairy godmother it might not have taken me so long to come around to YA fantasy.
I wrote a novel for adults that nobody wanted, but I had a long exchange about it with the editor of Coteau Books, a small indie press in Saskatchewan. He gave me excellent feedback for a very thorough rewrite. When I told him I was going to take a break and write a children’s book, he told me to send it to them when I was done, and so I did. This “break” turned into me feeling like I’d found my genre, and Coteau Books published my three novels about a young Sorceress finding her place in the world.
While those books were coming out, I was working on JULIA VANISHES, which I sent by standard query to four agents when I was done (or: when I thought I was done!). Steve Malk thought it was promising and asked if I was willing to revise it. I said OF COURSE and we spent about a year reworking it. He would send me (excellent) notes, I’d rewrite the book, send it back, and he would send more notes. The result was a much better book, of course, and it sold quickly once it was done.
What are your plans for book release day?
I haven’t thought about it yet! It should probably involve chocolate, don’t you think?
About the Book:
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers invites readers to meet a heroine like no other in JULIA VANISHES (on sale June 7, 2016 / $17.99 / Ages 14 up), the first book in the Witch’s Child trilogy by Catherine Egan. Filled with murder, magic, mystery, and betrayal, this captivating read will have teen readers and fantasy lovers hanging on every page as they become acquainted with Julia and the things she needs to do in order to get by—even if it leaves a mark on her conscience. Even as the line between good and evil seems to become more blurry every day. . . .
Julia lives in a city terrorized by a serial killer. A city that witnesses the drowning of anyone deemed a witch, and that has outlawed all forms of magic. With no biological family to call her own, Julia and her brother have taken up with a group of thieves who steal in order to survive. And Julia makes a great thief and spy, thanks to her unusual ability to remain unseen. Not invisible exactly, but just beyond people’s senses. In her world, it is a valuable trait to have.
Now a teenager and fully immersed in the life that has been handed to her, Julia finds herself being paid to spy in the house of Mrs. Och, a woman known to aid witches and associate with a cast of mysterious characters. It seems as if suspicious activities are happening both inside and beyond the house’s walls, too and Julia’s boss wants her to report back with every detail.
As Julia becomes more entrenched in the Och household, she realizes that the job she has been paid to do is a conflicting one. If she delivers the information required of her, she can harm some of the very people she is starting to care for. But if she doesn’t, she won’t receive her payment, and she puts herself at risk for some very unpleasant consequences. A traitor no matter how she looks at it, Julia now faces the ultimate dilemma and the results will both surprise and stun readers.
About the Author:
CATHERINE EGAN grew up in Vancouver, Canada. Since then, she has lived on a volcanic island in Japan (which erupted while she was there and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband), in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Beijing, on an oil rig in the middle of Bohai Bay, then in New Jersey, and now in New Haven, Connecticut. She is currently occupied with writing books and fighting dragon armies with her warrior children. You can read more about her at catherineegan.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ByCatherineEgan.