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Under the Poppy (Under the Poppy, #1)
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Author/Reader Discussions > Under the Poppy - Author Reader Discussion

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message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Mar 03, 2017 02:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
In March, we'll be discussing Under the Poppy with author Kathe Koja.

She is giving us a total of 10 signed copies to give away - in print for US residents only (sorry guys!).

In order to be considered, you must comment here or on the blog for a shot at winning one and secure a spot in the discussion that kicks off on March 20th.


This giveaway will run through February 9th.

Winners will be announced here and via email (if you provide one) on February 10th.

Here's how to enter:

1 - Leave a comment here or in the giveaway thread over at TNBBC's blog (linked above). REMEMBER, You must be a resident of the US for this one.


2 - State that you agree to participate in the group read book discussion that will run from March 20th through March 26th. Kathe has agreed to participate in the discussion and will be available to answer any questions you may have for her.

*If you are chosen as a winner, by accepting the copy you are agreeing to read the book and join the group discussion right here in this thread next month.

3 - If your goodreads profile is blocked (set on private), please leave me another way to contact you.


Rosanna (rosannabell) | 125 comments I would love to read this book and participate in the discussion. I live in the U.S.

message 3: by Sophie (new)

Sophie | 1 comments Us resident and I'd love to participate!!!

message 4: by J.V.L. (new)

J.V.L. (jvlbellcom) | 1 comments I'd love to participate. Thanks!

message 5: by Audrey (new)

Audrey (audiemonkie) | 3 comments Us resident and I'd love to participate!!!! Thank you

message 6: by Chris (new)

Chris Wallace (chrispwallace) | 112 comments Ah yes! I am a U,S, resident. Of course I would join in the discussion - that is the icing on the cake! Send me a message on Goodreads if I win. Thank you!

message 7: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Bihlmayer | 81 comments I agree to participate and would love to read this book. You know where to find me if I am lucky enough to win a copy

message 8: by Rachelle (new) - added it

Rachelle I started reading this book from my local library last year but never finished it. I would love another chance. I live in the US and agree to participate in the discussion.

message 9: by Dottie (new)

Dottie | 3 comments Thank you :0)

Amanda Brouwer I totally agree to participate in the discussion. Sounds like an amazing topic. Brothel? 1800's? I mean come on! I did one of these not too long ago and it was amazing to be able to speak to the author.

message 11: by Tiffany (new) - added it

Tiffany Coffman (tiffanycoffman) | 24 comments I would love to participate in the discussion and yes I live in the US.
You can message me here.

message 12: by Angel (new) - added it

Angel (gbelladauna) | 14 comments This book sounds right up my alley. I am in US and agree to participate in discussion.

message 13: by Laura (new)

Laura  Wright | 1 comments I agree to participate and would love to read this book. I live in the U.S.

message 14: by Laurie (new) - added it

Laurie | 3 comments I agree to participate and am a US resident!

message 15: by Sallena (new)

Sallena (sally13) | 1 comments Would love to read and discuss the book. I agree to particpate in discussion if I win the book.

message 16: by Meredith (new)

Meredith (meredithgayle) | 32 comments I live in the US and I would love to participate in the discussion.

message 17: by Allison (new)

Allison (golfingrrl) | 4 comments I am in the US and agree with the terms. It sounds interesting!

message 18: by Lori, Super Mod (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
Hi guys! I've entered all of the valid entries into List Randomizer and the site randomly selected the 10 winners.

Congrats to the following TNBBCers for landing themselves a signed copy of Kathe Koja's UNDER THE POPPY! I'll be in touch shortly to request your shipping address so please check your GR inboxes!


message 19: by Lori, Super Mod (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
We have two unclaimed copies of the book. The winners were contacted twice and have not responded within the stated deadline...

So that means the names that appeared in the number 11 and 12 spots on the List Randomizer are now eligible to get the signed copies.

Those winners are....

Rachelle and Rhonda.

I will reaching out shortly, ladies. Be sure to respond as soon as you can so we can get those books out to you!!!

message 20: by Angel (new) - added it

Angel (gbelladauna) | 14 comments Holy crap this is a beautiful book. Just read your review, Lori, and I am ready to dive into it but need to finish my current one.

message 21: by Lori, Super Mod (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
So what are you guys thinking of UNDER THE POPPY so far? Have you all managed to get started on it?

message 22: by Laurie (new) - added it

Laurie | 3 comments I have only managed a few pages so far because it's a different reading style for me so I need to just dive in and keep going!

message 23: by Lori, Super Mod (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
Laurie, keep pushing through. It can be a bit jarring at first but oh my god, once you get into the swing it, it's amazing!

message 24: by Allison (new)

Allison (golfingrrl) | 4 comments I had a tough time with the first chapter as it wasn't what I was expecting. The reviews I have read so far say what you said- push through the first part and it gets better.

message 25: by Lori, Super Mod (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
yes, Allison, don't give up. the writing is so lush and the storyline is so amazing. keep going!

message 26: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Welcome to the brothel, everybody! Excited to start our discussion tomorrow.

message 27: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Mar 19, 2017 02:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
Alright you guys. You know me well enough by now to know I am going to kick this thing off early because I work tomorrow and don't want to miss the party : )

I'm really excited to have Kathe joining us this week. I fell in love with Under the Poppy when I read it. At the time, I hadn't read anything by Kathe before, but I knew it was unlike anything she had written before.


Welcome to the group! Thank you so much for making the copies available and for taking the time to hang with us all week long.

My first question for you ties into what I just mentioned above... that UtP is so unlike everything else you had written up to that point. The language is absolutely stunning and mezmerizing. How did you decide on the tone and form of prose for this particular novel?

message 28: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Thank you, Lori! I've been looking forward to sharing the POPPY with you and the group. And what a great first question!

For any book, its language is really the atmosphere in which the story takes shape, and takes place. In UNDER THE POPPY, the language is purely, wholly theatrical, it's rhythmic and propulsive, it plays with words, it has fun! And it trusts readers to play along, to ride that rhythm and let the novel happen to them, as if it were a story being told at a party, or in murmurs in a shadowy room.

It may take a bit of getting used to - when I read the amazing RIDDLEY WALKER, with its invented proto-English, I had to trust that Russell Hoban had made that choice for a reason, and he had: to really ground the reader in that book's fractured, post-apocalyptic world.

And I totally loved it. As a reader and a writer, I love the breadth and nuance of language, of slang, of wordplay - and especially wordplay as swordplay, which is where Istvan comes in . . .

All my books start with a character, and in POPPY it was Istvan I saw first, this rebel dandy and his louche troupe of puppets, a man who's pure performance, who understands that language can be a caress, a tool, or a weapon. At one point, he says to Rupert "Names are for armor. Or camouflage." And he names and renames himself throughout the book, because he understands the use of names, and words, offstage as well as on, especially in uncertain or dangerous situations. Of which there are plenty, many of his own making. :)

I hope you've been having fun with the book so far, and I'll welcome all your questions and comments. And in case you haven't yet seen it, here's the book's trailer, with shadow puppets and a song composed especially for the POPPY.

Rosanna (rosannabell) | 125 comments Hi Kathe! Thanks for sharing your book with us. I like how the book immerses you into the period and introduces you to the vocabulary of the time. How did you do research for this book and what made you want to write about this time period and place?

message 30: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Hi Rosanna!

Once I saw Istvan, his puppets, and Rupert in my mind's eye, I knew that they were men from another era, and I started investigating their world. Our own time has a lot in common with the Victorians' - fascinated by change, by science and technology, but deeply anxious about the coming future.

And that period was particularly rich for performance of all kinds, from high-end theatres to knockaround street performers, so I did a lot of reading in that direction, as well as research specifically on puppetry. Eileen Blumenthal's PUPPETRY: A WORLD HISTORY was a gold mine for me.

The fun of researching is spending time learning about a subject that already intrigues you; the hard part is knowing when to stop. But all research is there to serve the story, not the other way around, especially in a historical novel. We need just enough information to immerse us in the world that the book's creating, but no more.

Amanda Brouwer Hi Kathe,

First of all, what an amazingly captivating book. I love books that take place in historical settings. I felt like I was transported back in time.I believe that if you are going to do a historical fiction, things need to be accurate, and you nailed it.

The question I kept in my head the whole time while reading was "Where on earth did she find all this vocabulary??" I was very impressed. I guess I'm curious about how much research you had to do for this book. I understand you had to do research about the puppet aspect of the book, but the vocabulary of the characters and the word choice to describe the novel is fascinating.

Thanks for producing a wonderful novel for the world to enjoy.

message 32: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Thank you, Amanda! Very glad you had fun at the brothel. :)

As for the vocabulary: some of the slang is completely period, some is specific to place; all the rest of the language is mine. I do love words! and the POPPY books gave me carte blanche to play.

message 33: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Mar 20, 2017 04:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod

For a book that is set in the middle of a brothel in a historical war-raged town, I was most impressed with how you addressed your characters' sexuality.

The pining and longing, the puppets, the sexual fantasies and, at times taboo, preferences... Instead of coming across as raunchy, and 'in-your-face', I thought you handled it so tenderly and beautifully.

Did you ever fear, as you were writing it, that the sex would come off too strongly or overshadow the story you were trying to tell?

message 34: by Chris (new)

Chris Wallace (chrispwallace) | 112 comments I am babysitting my grandson - will join in on Wednesday

message 35: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Since our sexuality is vital to our personality, it's vital to these characters, and especially so since, at its heart, the POPPY is a love story. Rupert and Istvan belong to each other, mind and body, and that love shapes every aspect of their lives, it pulls them apart and holds them together, it's pleasure and it's grief and it's resilience and it's warmth against the cold: it always has been, for them.

And since the main setting is a brothel, there's a necessarily provocative atmosphere, bawdy and flaunting, even if the walls are falling in and the spangles are shopworn and everyone really knows that what's for sale is only for rent, and fleeting and false at that -- the girls and Laddie know it. And Miss Decca certainly does!

Here's a question for you guys: What did you think of Miss Decca? She tends to stir strong feelings, either for or against.

message 36: by Lori, Super Mod (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori (tnbbc) | 10110 comments Mod
When I reviewed the book, I likened Decca's style of managing the Poppy to Miss Hannigan's style of running the orphanage in Little Orphan Annie.

Decca saw the brothel as a business and took her job way too seriously but only because I felt as though she felt she had to... to overcompensate for Rupert's lackadaisical ways. She was the strong hand because someone had to be. She kept the girls in line because if she didn't, no one would.

I felt she was who she was because of her situation, not because she chose to be, and I don't think she liked who she had become, if that makes sense.

message 37: by Allison (new)

Allison (golfingrrl) | 4 comments It's only been in the past year or so that I have fallen in love with historical fiction and was very excited when I saw the opportunity to read this.

This has been such an interesting read, but to be honest, I had a difficult time with the first section. I pushed through because all the online reviews I read raved about UtP. I'm glad I listened and I can understand the reasoning behind the first section as it gives a look into the characters and the playfulness versus the business side of the brothel. You have a way of playing with the words that have pulled me into the book and your style intrigues me.

The only question that I have so far comes more from my interest in writing a novel. One of my lifetime goals is to write a novel, but I question everything about what I write to the point that I chicken out when it comes to committing to a novel-size project, let alone bravely starting with a big bang.

Were you were ever hesitant to put the first section in its current spot in the book? I see it as an important introduction and for insight into the characters now that I have read beyond it, but it could be a deterrent for some potential fans who won't read past the first few pages (their loss IMO!). At what point do you confidently say "This is it and it's amazing!"

Megan (megan_d) | 1 comments Hi Kathe! I joined this group to join in this discussion, I just wanted to say that Under the Poppy is one one of my all time favourite books. What I love most is the dialogue and how it's so effortlessly witty rife with double meanings. I also loved The Mercury Waltz, (perhaps even more than Poppy!) and I've had the Bastard's Paradise waiting on my ereader since its release. I'm saving it because I know once it's gone, that's it, and I can't bring myself to say goodbye! One day when life has me really down I'll turn to it then, but for now I savour the anticipation.

I do wonder if you always intended for Istvan and Rupert's story to form a trilogy? Under the Poppy felt like such a perfectly contained story to me, did you know then that there was still more to tell? (And maybe could you reassure me that The Bastards' Paradise has a happy ending?)

message 39: by Angel (new) - added it

Angel (gbelladauna) | 14 comments I am the opposite of the poster above and the other reviewers. I loved the first part of the book and all of the voices and backgrounds and shifting perspectives. I'm about halfway through now and having a little trouble, some of the introspection and descriptions are just too much. But I do agree, the vocabulary and word usage is just magical.

message 40: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Lori, that's a generous interpretation of Decca's situation and behavior - and she's one of the most energetically unhappy characters ever.

It's been pointed out that she and her brother are very much alike, though neither one of them seems to think so!

message 41: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Hi Angel! I'm glad the POPPY's speaking to you, even if the voices sometimes overlap . . . The experience is something like that party, that crowded room where we glimpse things, and catch half-conversations, and start a thought but find it interrupted then let go in the chatter and swirl. We are present to everything, but our receptors are still at work taking it all in.

message 42: by Angel (new) - added it

Angel (gbelladauna) | 14 comments "Energetically unhappy". This!

Yes, that's a great description, and I really like that way of looking at it. I guess at this point, the party is over now that we're in the midst of war.

message 43: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Hi Allison! The best way to write a novel, or anything else, is to write it, which sounds facile but is really the only way. You don't think about what readers might potentially think, you don't think about other writers, or whether or not you ought to be writing a novel, or if it's going to be a big bestseller, or of ANYTHING outside the story itself. You write and keep writing and rewrite if you need to, keeping true to that story all the way through: and you finish it, and it's done.

Writing the POPPY was a real joy for me - the story started where it started, and kept going, and I kept following . . .

message 44: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments . . . which brings me to Megan's question - hi, Megan!

I absolutely did not know that the POPPY was going to be a trilogy - I would have been completely freaked out. Never having written anything that long, or that complex, it might have seemed like an impossible idea even to attempt.

But since I didn't know, I wrote the first book, then realized, hey, there's a LOT more going on with these guys, their friends and enemies, their world, it needs to go on. And when I was writing the second book, I knew there would be a third, and it was OK, not daunting anymore. I trusted the story's momentum and its energy, and I just kept on going until the story found its way home.

Very happy to hear that the POPPY books are favorites of yours! And as far as THE BASTARDS' PARADISE, I won't spoil the end of the story, but I will say that as ever, with the gentlemen of the road, love conquers all.

message 45: by Rhonda (new) - added it

Rhonda Lomazow Hi Kathe wow what a wild ride of a book every subject touched seems fraught with danger brothels life in brothels puppets sex all taboo subjects handlesd in a way that made me hate to put the book down.
T what did you do to take a break a day away from writing this trilogy,also what are you favorite genres.What books new authors have you read that you can recommend.

message 46: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Hi Rhonda! To be honest I didn't take too many writing breaks that weren't enforced by the outside world - I don't like intermissions onstage, and I don't like them in my work. It tends to dissipate the energy, the project's and my own.

I don't have favorite genres so much as favorite writers - I'm always delighted by strong voices, original voices, who have strong and original things to say, and the more muscular and glorious the language, the better. Lately I've been loving Maryse Meijer's HEARTBREAKER story collection, and Christopher Marlowe's last play, EDWARD II.

Marika | 4 comments Kathe, this is a book that I won't be giving to friends as I want to keep for myself. As a librarian, I am a lover of a well-turned sentence. It took me longer to read this as I kept rereading certain sentences that were just poetry. (to lack a better term) When writing when do you know that you've written a sentence or verse that is magic? Does that happen to you and other authors?

message 48: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments Marika, thank you! I'll gladly take "poetry" as the term of art.

That flow of words is always, I think, mysterious, never under any writer's full command: you're piloting the boat, not controlling the river. And all writers have those moments where you know that a high water mark has been hit - it's a gift, to the writer and to the reader. Does one do a happy dance? Yes. :)

Marika | 4 comments Interesting. So, were ever *surprised* by anything that Decca and Rupert did and/or thought? I've read that some writers truly don't know and they are sometimes surprised. Still trying to wrap my head around that one as I think that most readers believe that authors have every little detail/nuance nailed down before writing.
Loved, loved the book.

message 50: by Kathe (new)

Kathe Koja | 25 comments I was surprised more than once by things ALL of them did, and the way certain events fell together - and the endings are always a surprise. I never know how any of my books will end when I begin them, which is part of the fun, to watch the story take its own path and find its own way. I have a general idea of what will happen in the story, and I have trust in the process and the momentum. And it always get to The End in the end.

And I'm so glad to hear the POPPY spoke to you!

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