Friday, April 6, 2012

An Interview with Katey Hawthorne

With her latest book, Nobody’s Hero, selling like hotdogs from the vendor cart in front of Cleveland's Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, I sat down with friend and writercrush Katey Hawthorne, author of the Superpowered Love series, to talk about about cranky characters, superpowers, and the Mistake on the Lake.

Thank you for putting yourself in the hotseat, Katey.
A warm ass is a happy ass. Thank you for inviting me. <3

We recently discovered we’re both CWRU alumni. I still kind of can’t get over that. What do you think made Coventry, a prominent setting in Nobody’s Hero, so appealing to supercool artsypants Case students like ourselves?
Partly I think it was just the only place you could walk to and get food apart from Arabica. But also it just has a bunch of really quirky shit that fits our weird needs: used CD and book shops, Big Fun, awesome vegetarian food, artsy shit. And you get to walk by the graveyard on your way, which is always a nice place to hang out.

That sounded weirder than I meant it to. You know what I mean.

I truly do. Tommy’s is the best part of Coventry. Defy me. I dare you.
No, it really, really is -- and not just because it was the first place I ever ate that actually liked vegetarians. I have been telling my husband about Tommy's since we got together (over 6 years ago) and he never believed me that it could be SO AWESOME. Finally while I was editing Nobody's Hero I dragged him to Cleveland and made him eat there. He had to take it all back. So there.

Tommy's is still my favorite restaurant. I tell everyone this.

I’m glad you were able to convert him. God, the things I would do for that BBQ seitan…are things I can’t talk about, even on this blog. Anywho. Jamie and Kellan choose apartments based on their proximity to Big Fun. What is the biggest thing you’ve bought at Big Fun, and what is the funnest?
You know, I've never lived in Cleveland when I had money for anything big (oh wait, I still don't...), so I'm not sure. Mostly I just go for old X-Men action figures and ancient pulp books and junk toys. I did get a really super fun Quicksilver action figure last time I was there. He keeps me company while I write. Saying things like, "Oh my god, why is this taking you so long you scandalously incompetent wretch? I could've written this book in a quarter-second and it would've been five-thousand times better!"

... fun.

I particularly like that they give you a fortune-telling fish with every purchase, though. The fish never lies.

When I lived in Little Italy, someone took a crap on my neighbor’s porch. My friend Chris and I spent the next month trying to solve the Case of the Little Italy Pooper. What’s your favorite Cleveland story?
Oh, Little Italy, how we love you. Once I lived just across the Rapid tracks (aka the wrong side of the tracks) from Shaker Square and someone left a bullet shell casing on our porch.

I'm not sure if I'd prefer the poop, honestly. I didn't want to solve the bullet casing mystery, that's all I know.

Dear god. I’d take the poop. Have you seen the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism videos on YouTube?       
I had not until you just mentioned it, and oh my god, that is the best ad campaign ever. "We're not Detroit!"

“Our main export is crippling depression,” is one of the best things I’ve heard anyone say ever. Back to Nobody’s Hero, I am about a third of the way through, and I’m painfully in love with Kellan. I just want him to show up at my house and say accidental jerk things so I can forgive him over and over again, because he is just that adorable. What do you think is so appealing about crankypants characters finding love?
I think we all want to be loved for our bad parts, not in spite of them. And Kelly's accidental jerkery is pretty bad, but Jamie totally loves it. So if a crankypants jerkface like Kellan can find love, I mean, there's gotta be hope for the rest of us, right?

But also, when the cranky is defensively motivated, it can be awfully cute. And in Kellan's case, yeah. 

Defensive like whoa.

How long have Jamie and Kellan been stomping around your head, waiting to get out?
Mmm, I don't know, they were pretty adamant about getting out the second they appeared. Jamie's pretty demanding so it was one of those, "HEY I'M HERE NOW LET ME OUT AND GIVE ME THE HOT GEEK BOY."

Yes, he speaks in allcaps in my head. I don't know. It's a thing.

I love it. I think he should have spoken in all caps in the story as well, like Owen Meany.
I have a feeling Jamie likes John Irving -- or that book, anyhow. He would approve.

If laws, safety, and privacy were not issues, where in Cleveland would Jamie and Kellan most like to make out, and at what time of day?
Museum of Natural History, right in front of the stegosaurus in the lobby, probably around 10am since Kellan would want to get there right when they opened. Kelly would get all excited by dinosaurs and SCIENCE and be adorkable, so Jamie would have to jump him.

I believe it was Marvell who said, “There is nothing so sexy as dinosaur love.” Right?
Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was. I heard he was into that kind of thing. Pass it around.

There are many things that make writing the best job in the world—the erratic hours, the paralyzing insecurities, our parents’ desires to see us get “real” jobs. If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be doing?
Working an office admin job and writing all the time instead of doing my work. Or so every other job I've ever had leads me to believe. I'm glad I have this one though -- I'd hardly recognize myself without the paralyzing insecurities and constant patronizing "real job" suggestions. Amiright?

Yersoright. What is the first romance you ever read?
It's got to be a classic, something by Jane Austen or a Bronte. I still love Jane Austen but I'm not much of a Bronte fan. They're okay, but it's weird to take yourself that seriously all the time.

I never thought of it that way. But yeah. Brontes. They make romance into some heavy shit. I do have to ask everyone this: What makes a great romance?
Characters who don't suck. There are so many awesome ways to work a romance angle, but I seriously think the thing that makes a story great is a character I want to see win. With romance it's sort of double-important because it's so closely focused on the emotions of the people in question. If they're annoying--as in too perfect or too blah--I just want to throw things and stomp around.

Cleveland Museum of Art, Botanical Gardens, Museum of Natural History, or Mi Pueblo, the shitty Mexican restaurant on the corner of E. 115th that didn’t card?
Museum of Art is the best thing ever. I spent many a happy hour there in classes, oh yes. Unfortunately it's torn all to shit now and the gorgeous Asian galleries that lured me to CWRU in the first place are closed... but all so they can be super awesome again soon, I guess.

I can't believe I left Mi Pueblo out of the book, though. Oh god, we were always so sure we'd end up sick for days after, but they'd give us margaritas.

When I steal things from my family to use in books, I usually tell them about it. I don’t know if I’m being cruel or kind. When you base things in your books off your family, do you derive any pleasure from being like, “Hey, your weird asses just got PUBLISHED.”
I feel that. I get downright gleeful about it. I was making my mom read part of the scene with Kellan's family, the one where two of his brothers are arguing with him about marriage, and I was like, "Haha, look familiar?" I sent a copy to my aunt, her sister, and was like, "So, now our family weird is immortalized. Enjoy."

Mom was a little iffy, but laughed -- Aunt Trish is down with the romance and drew my Honeyed Fox beer logo.

Haha, yay Aunt Trish! Okay, so we are independent women who don’t need to be rescued by anyone. But if you were in a situation you really couldn’t get out of yourself, which superhero would you want to be rescued by and why?
Well, if I had to go all damsel in distress, I think I'd choose Spider-Man because he'd make it funny. His one-liners are amazeballs.

Full disclosure: I may be biased since I have been in love with him since I was like six years old. And have a Spider-Man tattoo.

Have you been on the Spider-Man ride at Universal Studios? It’s like a Best of the Spidey One-liners Tour.
I haven't, which is tragic. Amusement park rides (roller coasters FTW) and an endless track of Spidey dork!snark. That's pretty much my idea of heaven.

Yes, I know that's sad. I'm okay with it.

One of my favorite things about the Superpowered Love series is that the people with superpowers are just people. With superpowers. They’re not necessarily heroes. Was that something you intended from the get go? A series of books about people trying to coexist with the power inside them, as opposed to trying to save the world? Or did that idea evolve as you wrote?
Yes, that was definitely my intention. I read so many comics (oh god, help, I'm going broke), and though they're made more interesting by the interpersonal stuff, they definitely focus on the larger picture of superheroing and general badassery.

There have been many superheroes who've just tried to give it up for a while (Iceman comes to mind -- love you, Bobby!), though, and I always liked those storylines. I like the idea that not everyone wants to or should be a hero. I want to play with the weird little every day stuff. And if they occasionally end up accidentally saving someone, cool, but you know.

So far in your books I’ve seen fire, ice, and electricity. Any more superpowers I can anticipate in the future?
Not from this series, but definitely from others. I've got a bunch of weird elemental things planned where the powers are similarly -- actually even more subverted, and I've got one for each of the four main elements, so that's kinda fun and different.

Oh and my vampires -- the ones my evil half KV Taylor writes -- have superpowers. There's a mindfucker, a prescient, a pyromancer, a necromancer, an enchanter, and a telekinetic, just for starters. Good times.

I want to meet them all. True story: When I lived in Cleveland I had a job as a standardized patient at a medical center. On my first day of work they strapped a robotic vagina over my shorts so a med student could practice doing a pap exam. If the student was too rough, a laptop screen only I and the observers could see would flash red, which meant I should say “Ouch” or “Easy there, tiger.” I’ve been to both Vegas and Cleveland, and there’s a lot more stuff that happened in Cleveland that I hope stays there. Which city that you’ve visited do you spend the most time trying to forget?
That is so much weirder than any job I had there. Also, extremely awesome. Robotic vag ftw.

I'd probably have to go with Cleveland too, though. There was that time we were stuck in a Rapid train car with a dude offering to shoot us all. (Hey, yeah, so Jamie's nightmare thing is totally based on actual Cleveland Experience too -- awesome!) And that night I puked off the balcony because I was clueless enough to try one of each shot the frat upstairs was offering all comers. Or the time we got high by Wade Lagoon and it turned out my friend's brother had given her weed with PCP in it. I was trying to pull my soul back into my body the whole walk back to the dorms, and once I got there I melted into the wall. I found this vaguely inconvenient but interesting at the time and horrifying once I came down.

Don't do drugs, kids. Even if there's not much else to do in Cleveland.

There are definitely certain moments that make me wish I had selective brain bleach, though. But I don't want to forget the city because I actually love it, so don't let this fool you.

That is beautiful. And I feel you. Cleveland, whatever I say about you, the subtext is heartz.

Romance Bestsellers Madlib

I’m going to give you the blanks for this madlib. When the interview is published, I'll insert your answers into the madlib story.

1.     Letter of the Alphabet __X___
2.      Letter of the Alphabet ___K___
3.      Weather phenomenon __a rain of frogs__
4.      Possessive pronoun __their__
5.      Adjective __comely___
6.      Civil service job __sanitation engineer___
7.      BDSM-related gerund __collaring___
8.      Adjective __languid__
9.      Word related to light __golden__
10.  Your favorite season ___fall___
11.  Quantifying adjective __ALL THE...(Things)___
12.  Adjective __hirsute__
13.  BDSM implement __flogger___
14.  Name of an award __Darwin___
15.  Type of flower __tiger lily__
16.  Street name __Baker St.___
17.  Adverb __nobly__
18.  Gerund __sucking__
19.  Douchiest name you can think of __Blair__
20.  Type of eReader __iPad___
21.  Location __the sea of tranquility__
22.  Letter of the alphabet __Z___
23.  Gender ambiguous name __Lee__
24.  Ivy league school __University of Pennsylvania___

Romance Bestsellers Madlib

X. K. Rain-of-Frogs’s novel Their Comely Sanitation Engineer is
(letter) (letter) (weather phenomenon) (possessive pronoun) (adverb) (civil service job)

collaring the bestseller list this month. Critics say this languid tale
(BDSM related gerund)                                                                                 (adjective)                             

is even better than Golden Fall’s All the Hirsute Floggers, which won the
                            (word related to light) (fav season) (quantifying adj) (adj) (BDSM implement)

Darwin Award last year.

Meanwhile, Tiger Lily Baker’s whirlwind multicultural romance Nobly
(flower)       (Street)                                                                             (adv)      

Sucking Blair is burning up the iPad of every passenger on every bus in
(gerund) (douchiest name you can think of) (type of eReader)                                                 

The Sea of Tranquility. Baker’s work has been compared to that of Z. Lee
(location)                                                                               (letter) (gender ambiguous name)

University of Pennsylvania—who I think we can all agree is the greatest
(ivy league school)
romance writer of our time.

Thank you so much for doing this interview. I am so excited to read the rest of Nobody’s Hero, and I wish it many, many sales!
Thank you, superawesome J.A. Rock! And may I say you have superior taste in colleges and universities~

As do you.


  1. OMG. First you mess with my music (Thank you for that, btw!) then you remind me of the, like, three things I actually MISS about Cleveland! Damnit! We used to go to the Natural History Museum all the time b/c we were broke & my brother was at *that* age & we'd climb all over this stegasaurus on the lawn. And we made it to the symphony a lot b/c one of Mom's coworkers took pity on her and kept giving her cheap tickets. And there was this museum in an old mansion -- one side was all cars and the other was all "this is how Rich People lived" and Oh how I loved that side!

    *stops for breath*

    We never did a lot of fun stuff, though, we were too young & Mom was doing post-doctoral research. There was this amazing restaurant (Italian? Greek? I don't remember) in the suburb where we lived.

    And Dad worked at the candle factory down in Medina. I loved that place SO MUCH.

    1. OMG Steggy <3

      I only went to the symphony once or twice, and I could only afford it because I had a roommate who was a music major and so she got discounts. I remember crying over Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony :( So good though!

      I wonder which restaurant that was. I am not really a connoisseur of the suburb stuff because I definitely couldn't afford a car, but I wonder if it's still there.

      And you even have a Medina connection. Wow. Freaky-awesome!

      Awww I want another Cleveland visit now.

    2. I know, right?! It's almost like we were separated at birth!

      I want to say that the restaurant was called The Mad Greek, and it would have been in Cleveland Heights or possibly Shaker Heights (we lived in Cleveland Heights just one block away from the line between the two.) But I could be wrong about that because I was only 10 or 11 at the time. I do remember there was a Baskin Robbins and a little candy store in the same little strip of stores. Not that that's helpful, seeing as how that would have been more than 20 years ago now....*blink*

      Yeah, I have this inexplicable urge to go back, too. I think my boys would love to see the dinosaurs. And the cars. :D

    3. Just one more reason Kelly should be your friend and make you mixed CDs, Tracy.

      OMG THE MAD GREEK! I totally went there and it was the best thing ever!

      Guys. ROAD TRIP.

    4. Kelly can come visit me any time. ANY time. Or send me CDs; that works, too. I'm easy. And I cook.

      I wanna road trip. I wanna go to GRL. But life hates me and I can only do things that involve my kids and my dogs. *pout*

    5. Next time, Tracy. We shall MAKE IT SO. <3

  2. Ooh I love Mad Greek! And I have probably more pictures than is healthy of me posing with Steggy.

    Never went to the symphony. How lame am I?

    1. Who could afford the symphony, seriously? But OMG when we ROAD TRIP it is ON. Like, uh... a thing that's on. Right.

      Thank you for having me, JA. So fun! <3

    2. It is ridiculously expensive, that is true. Part of my oldest's (11YO currently) annual Christmas present is me scraping together for the cheapest seats I can get to the cheapest local performance of the Nutcracker I can find for the two of us. This year, it's gonna expand to the boys -- they'll be 9 & 7 & that's old enough to sit still and get some damn culture. If it kills me. :D

  3. OOooooh, shame on you! The symphony is more than merely educational, it's *CULTURAL*!!

    LOL -- the only reason I enjoyed it is that I'd spent the first 10 years of my life listening to nothing but classical & big band music, thanks to my grandmother. I was indoctrinated, brainwashed, *predisposed* even, to enjoy it. And, ok, the 1812 Overture, outside, with Actual Cannons and Laser Light Show was pretty awesome! :D

    1. Meee too. The one I'm writing now has a hero who's addicted to Mozart. They actually go to the opera in it. You'll appreciate him, at least!

      OMG I remember the laser light show symphony things! Ha! Good times.

  4. OHMYGODYES ROAD TRIP. I have a minivan. Time to make up for my symphony-less years.

    I actually am going to try to go to Cleve in May...and if not May, definitely July.

    Who's in?

  5. Think of me as there in spirit. In May my kids are still in school and in July we're visiting my parents. My DH in in Iraq, so I'm kinda stuck with them right now. ;)

  6. I used to buy buy coffee for that exact hot dog vendor. I'd see him on my way into the BRB cafeteria to eat lunch, and bring him coffee on my way out, because on cold, rainy days he'd look so miserable selling his little hotdogs in the Cleveland gloom. Seriously, who really needs a hotdog that much?

    1. As someone who always needs a hotdog that much, I salute him.

    2. That is awesome.

      I used to work in the BRB in the photolab and I don't remember him... I think I must be too old. He might be a new addition. But I salute him too!