I first read Fans of The Impossible Life around April-May. I loved it when I read it. I had the idea to interview Kate who so graciously accepted and answered my interview questions! I’ll share the summary for Fans then show the interview. My side comments will be in blue.
A captivating and profound debut novel about complicated love and the friendships that have the power to transform you forever, perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.
Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with mischief glinting in his eye.
Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.
As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.
Fans of The Impossible Life is slightly based on Brideshead Revisited, what about that story made you want to write a sort of modern inspired piece?
I first read “Brideshead” back in my mid twenties, and I was really taken with Evelyn Waugh’s character Sebastian. For a book published in 1945 to present a flamboyant gay man as the object of everyone’s adoration was unfathomably radical, and it really blew my mind when I read it. Although Sebastian definitely has inner demons, they are not about his gayness, or at least it’s not that simple, and this felt very real to me in a way that many modern queer stories do not (for example, the 2008 movie adaptation of “Brideshead” changed the plot to make Sebastian’s queerness more of a factor in his eventual downward spiral.) So it was really Sebastian who stayed with me, and seemed to be asking something more of me. I created Sebby as a tribute, and the rest of “Fans” took off from that starting point. I would forget about “Brideshead” for a long time while I was working on “Fans,” and then something would bring me back to it. So “Brideshead” and Sebastian just kind of infected me in a way that I don’t think I fully understood until I was done with Fans. (I still really need to read Brideshead. And watch the movie adaption.)
I thought it was really interesting that Jeremy, Mira and Sebby, were written in different point of views. Why did you decide to do that?
This came out of rewriting this book every which way possible – all third person, first person with Mira narrating, some second person sections. When I was revising I would literally spend days just changing pronouns. At the time it felt really frustrating. I seemed to be circling around this idea of how to present these characters in the way that they wanted to be presented. But going through this process of trying every way possible to tell this story gave me an appreciation for the power of the different kinds of narrative voices. And once I was able to really examine that, I saw that each of these characters was demanding a different relationship with the reader.
It’s also very important to me that we get to see each of these characters in private moments, that they show things to us as readers that they don’t show to each other, so we can see why they make the decisions that they do, and understand why they sometimes have to protect themselves before they can protect each other. (I love that last line.)
Who was favorite your character to write?
Mira and I have the most in common. And she was the hardest for me to write for a long time, because I think I was avoiding facing what I was really meant to face with her. But all three of them definitely have parts of me in them. (I have such a soft spot for Mira especially. And Sebastian. But I really love Mira.)
If Fans and/or the characters had theme songs, what would they be?
The unofficial theme song for the whole book is “Closer” by Tegan and Sara. “You & Me” by Diamond Rings is another one. Then Mira’s theme song would be “Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple. Jeremy gets “Hot Knife” also by Fiona Apple. And I would give Sebby “Something Else” by Diamond Rings. (I approve of everything Tegan and Sara<3)
Is there a scene you wish you had expanded on or an interesting scene you decided to cut?
Reading the book again now, I have to say I feel really satisfied with what’s in there. I have a totally brilliant editor, Alessandra Balzer at Balzer+Bray, and she was always right about what wasn’t working and what needed to be changed. I can’t stress enough how essential that relationship with your editor is. And I feel like I learned a ton as a writer by going through that process with her. (Aw, it’s so great to get such lovely editors and have a good relationship with them for your work.)
I read that you write plays and have two questions regarding that: 1. What is your favorite play and 2. What is the favorite play that you’ve written?
My favorite play is “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” by Tony Kushner. My favorite play that I’ve written is called “The Mouse Plays,” and it’s inspired by my time performing in the eight hour long marathon production “Gatz.” (I’m so intrigued by The Mouse Plays)
I know that you spent around eight years performing Gatz, could you tell us what drew you to that show?
I started working with New York experimental theater company Elevator Repair Service in 2002, and “Gatz” was the first show that I helped make with them and ended up performing in. The idea to use the entire text of “The Great Gatsby” to perform a piece of marathon theater originated from our artistic director John Collins and some other company members. The company specializes in taking something that shouldn’t work on stage and figuring out how to make it work. And we did end up performing that show on and off, in New York and on tour around the world, for eight years. (This show sounds great, I can’t imagine The Great Gatsby on stage with the entire text.)
It says on your website that you write and edited a lot of Fans while you were touring with the show, how did that influence and impact your writing? Was it difficult to write traveling?
I would actually write while I was onstage. The setting of the show was a dingy Long Island office. A scruffy office worker would come in to his paper-pushing job one morning, find that his ancient computer wouldn’t turn on, pull out a copy of “The Great Gatsby” and start reading it out loud. I played the secretary in the office, and for most of the show I sat in a cubicle where I could only be seen by the audience from the shoulders up. For the first few years, still nervous about making sure I got all of my cues right, I would sit and do “fake work,” pretending to edit the piles of scrap paper that found their way to our set from the offices of the many theaters we visited around the world. As I got more comfortable with the show, I started reading magazines, making sure to stop a moment before I was needed on stage to deliver a line. And then for the last two years I got a tiny laptop, and I sat on stage in my cubicle and wrote and edited “Fans.” This became a kind of coping mechanism to deal with the ways in which the repetition started to wear on all of us over the years. “Fans” became a little safe haven for me to escape into my own story, because as much as I loved Gatsby, there were days when I thought I would go crazy if I had to hear it again. (Okay, writing on stage is about the coolest thing I’ve ever read before in my life. That is so awesome! Oh my goodness, amazing!)
Where was your favorite place to travel with the show?
We went to so many amazing places that I never even dreamed I would get a chance to visit, like Norway, Singapore, Zurich. We did a run at the Sydney Opera House and on the West End in London. So it’s difficult to pick. But my favorite city of all time is Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve gotten to go there with three different shows and it’s always magic. They make their coffee really strong there too. (I could never drink super strong coffee. Sydney sounds amazing! So does the West End. ❤ My dream is to visit.)
I loved how each the main characters has these secrets about themselves that the others don’t immediately know, what was the hardest part about writing these characters with their own struggles?
So much of these characters was only revealed to me during the many drafts of this book, so I would say it was difficult to be patient and let Mira, Sebby, and Jeremy emerge organically. There was so much that I didn’t know about them and their histories when I started, and there was no way that I could have known until I wrote my way to it. I really felt like these three characters made me work for it. They weren’t going to tell me everything right away.
Are you currently writing anything new that you hope to be published? Please say yes.
I am! It’s another YA and all I can tell you right now is that it’s my feminist manifesto. (I’m so beyond excited!)
What has been your favorite part of publishing Fans?
It may sound cheesy, but getting to chat with people like you! Publishing in the age of the internet is a pretty remarkable thing. It’s a given that you’ll be able to communicate with readers in a way that has never been possible before. To have total strangers writing to me, telling me they were excited about my book, even back last fall when I was still in re-writes, that was pretty cool. (Isn’t she the sweetest! I love interviewing authors like this too! <3)
Thank you so much for the amazing answers, Kate! This was so fantastic.
If you’d like to see more of Kate, you can follow her on Twitter. You can check out her website as well.