Kathryn Born's Blog

November 29, 2012

The Blue Kind
by Kathryn Born

Media Interview Guide

As an art journalist and entrepreneur, what inspired you to write this novel?
I started writing the first version of the novel in 1992, when I was around twenty. Although it wasn’t publishable, the book and its characters haunted me over a number of years. In 2007 I re-visited it. Having become a professional writer and editor I decided it needed a full line-by-line rewrite, and a complete restructuring. I’ve always been influenced by film structure, and the pacing of films. Reading read Syd Fields’ Screenwriting and Maas’ Writing the Breakout Novel helped me take my book to another level. My time away from the story also allowed me to look at it with fresh perspective.

Tell us a little about the main character and narrator Alison.

When I started the novel I was Alison’s age, and when I finished writing the novel I was old enough to be her mother. Being older, there was a layer of maturity that got applied to the novel, and I could see the story and the characters more objectively. I love to take my female characters and place them in the worst possible situation and having them claw their own way out.
Alison is a mix of being smart and strong, and at the same time traumatized by the past and hopelessly stoned. She’s vulnerable, but she keeps her sense of humor and perspective throughout it all, and she comes up with insights along the way that change her, and the decisions she makes.

Is Alison going to be strong or is she going to be weak? At the end she has a decision to make. She’s the only character in the book with the potential to change. Her key awakening is that no one is going to save her, she keep looking for “some guy” to rescue her, but she finally realizes she’s got to escape by herself. Like a kitten stuck in a tree, no fireman is going to come get her. She has to figure out how to get down on her own.

How are the roles of women portrayed in the novel?

Women like Alison and Ahn are women of the underground. A disenfranchised people among the disenfranchised: discrimination is a very real thing here, even in the lower depths. So there’s this bravery and resourcefulness that really has to come from within. Even with the odds against them, inner-strength is the most interesting part of the story. In this extreme situation we see how Alison copes and advocates for herself.

Conversely, women are not put on a pedestal. At one point in the story, the women rise up and take control of things in the wake of an elaborate drug bust. There are characters named May Daisy and Dilly Dally who seize the opportunity to run the show in place of the men. However, within a day or two, it’s completely over. Why? May Daisy and her boyfriend “make up”, and because she is emotionally weak in her personal relationships, the whole revolt fails. It’s a satire on women’s employment on the level where it really matters – their own personal lives.

The novel has been described as dystopian in advance reviews. Would you call it that, and what other descriptions would you place on your novel?

You can’t avoid categories. It’s satire, allegory, metaphor. Not science fiction. It’s what I call mystic realism, or magical realism. I would also call it speculative fiction and steampunk rolled into one. By its very nature, I see the story as a hybrid.

What is speculative fiction?

Science fiction is about science in the future – spaceships, motors and energy sources - everything is explained scientifically. In speculative fiction, the literary elements lead the story. Mainstream fiction has gotten more accepting of these fantastic elements appearing without changing the genre to science fiction.

What is steampunk?

A mixture of antique technology with futurist technology: -- Industrial Revolution, or an alternate history setting. In my book there are no cell phones, characters still use video arcades, and the fabric of the universe is ripping. World falls apart: --“Laws of physics have become lax.” Rules don’t apply to these characters, they are such rebels. “Steampunk” often has a love of futuristic countercultures, so I have to relent as accept it’s a Steampunk book.

Tell us about authors and books that have been a primary influence on you in writing this particular novel?

Margaret Atwood’s, Surfacing was a big influence on me, exploring the concept of the unreliable narrator. Also, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: where an extreme environment becomes a metaphor for the point the story is trying to make. A couple others would be Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, and William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch.
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan has the shadow as ego, and showing the other side of themselves. This plays a big part in my novel. Richard Brautigan, In Watermelon Sugar – in the book is a junkyard called I Death, which the name of the coveted drug in my story.

Switchgrass Books mission to publish Midwest authors and books about the Midwest. How is your book Midwestern? Is the sprawling city in the novel supposed to be Chicago?

The opening line of the book is “All is forgiven, and I return to the city we burned down long ago.” Alison and her boyfriend Cory are immortal, drug-crazed, and occupy abandoned space in the city of Neom, which is a fictional stand-in for Chicago. There is no reason given why, but in the beginning of the book there is a flash-back to 1871 and Alison and Cory are like little kids playing with fire. The wooden buildings of Neom go up like matchbooks, and the flames are so strong they jump the river. But here again the city rebirths itself, and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. They burn down the city and it comes back stronger! It grows back like a chimera. The city engulfs its characters, and becomes a character all by itself. There is a place by the lake around Wilson Ave called Cricket Hill. This is the primary locale in the book. Runaway Village, the place where Alison lives with Cory is based on the Wicker Park – Bucktown neighborhood. Train is the loop.

Can you give us a sneak-peek into what the sequel will be about?
There is a character in the story called Ahn, and she is the ringleader of a group of strippers who are also members of the “Army of the Revolution”. They figure in the sequel.

Are you planning any other books outside The Blue Kind franchise?

Each chapter begins with a graphic, an illustration I created myself which consists of a sentence or fragment that hangs in the air without any context. These are based on my visual art practice where I create “one line poems” that are about typography, space and words. There’s a large collection that was slated for publication, but the press had to let the contract lapse due to financial reasons -- but it would be great to see that in print.
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Published on November 29, 2012 20:25 • 171 views

October 24, 2012

I got my first national review!

The Blue Kind.
Born, Kathryn (Author)

Nov 2012. 184 p. Northern Illinois Univ., paperback, $14.95. (9780875806822).
Allison and Cory live like feral hippies, squatting in an old theater and forever seeking the next high. But this is decidedly not the Woodstock milieu. Instead, first-novelist Born transports us to a sprawling city in a grimly dystopian world, in which various hierarchies of drug dealers, or Jacks, and the women, or chains, who serve as their flesh-and-blood collateral, are designated by the color of their clothing. Allison and Cory, who are inexplicably immortal and sick of being so, wear blue, and blue is the mood in this brooding, surreal, and sorrowful metaphysical fever dream. Born, an art journalist, uses altered states both ecstatic and horrifying, the shackles of addiction, and her characters’ hell-bent quest for IDeath, a new drug promising out-of-body experiences, to question our perceptions of self, freedom, and purpose. Irony, parody, and homage, including echoes of William Burroughs and of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, abound in this darkly fascinating, heart-rending mind-bender. By agilely combining a touch of literary fantasy and acute emotional realism, Born succeeds in creating a strikingly atmospheric, suspenseful, imaginative, and compassionate novel.
— Donna Seaman
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Published on October 24, 2012 12:33 • 118 views • Tags: book-review, booklist

July 29, 2012

I know that not every review is going to be positive. I knew that going in. So to have the first two reviews be that incredibly positive - I don't know what to say - I'm speechless and totally honored.

In some ways I have a conflict with the idea of selling a book for money because I feel like having an audience, people that takes the time to read my work, is an honor in itself.

So thank you for reading the book, let alone writing a nice review.

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Published on July 29, 2012 20:13 • 88 views • Tags: gratitude, reviews

July 3, 2012

"Now, in the light of day, looking at the skyline, I notice something different about the world. The sky has an aching stretch of loneliness to it. The blue dome looks overgrown, or like it's too far away. Maybe it's me that's different, and Neom is just the same. I look out the window now and try to put my finger on what has changed in the landscape. It's more than just a feeling; something is missing in the lone stretch of sky, where the clouds are torn and piled on each other.

And I realize in a flash that the mountains are gone."

See ebook download
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Published on July 03, 2012 19:20 • 101 views • Tags: preview