I'm pleased to welcome Katie Van Ark to Michigander Monday!
Debbie: Katie, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Katie: As a child, I never imagined I'd be a writer. I grew up in Michigan knowing I was going to be a teacher. I earned teaching degrees from Alma College and Grand Valley and spent twelve years working in public education. I mostly worked with inner city children, and I was always telling them that if they were willing to put in the work that they could be anything they wanted to be. So I decided I'd better practice what I was preaching and I learned to figure skate, something which had been a secret deep desire from my childhood. I worked my way up to attend the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships, where I got to skate a gold-medal winning interpretive program (like show style skating) on the 1980 Miracle rink in Lake Placid, NY. And it was actually my skating that inspired my first novel.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your book.
Katie: The Boy Next Door is a young adult figure skating romance. It's the story of two teens who have grown up being not only figure skating partners but also next door neighbors. When their coach tells them it's time for a more mature program, they have to decide if a romantic relationship is worth risking their partnership. It's a dual first-person point of view so readers get to hear both Maddy's and Gabe's sides of the story.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Katie: A companion book to The Boy Next Door is with my editor at the moment. (Happy dance!) I'm also working on a young adult fantasy novel for my creative thesis at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I'm finishing up an MFA in writing for children and young adults. It's inspired by Norse mythology and is sort of a Lord of the Rings legends meet the forbidden romance of Twilight mash-up.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Katie: I'll be joining fellow Michigan authors Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta at Schuler Books in Lansing on May 2, 2015 for a YA panel event. For those outside of Michigan, I'll also be on Macmillan's “Summer of Swoon” tour visiting Cincinnati, Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Saratoga Springs, NY, and New Brunswick, NJ in mid-May.
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?
Katie: I have to give a shout out to Reader's World and Herrick District Library, both in Holland. I love having a bookstore that I can walk to downtown and complimentary dog biscuits for canine walking companions are always good, too. I grew up across the street from Herrick and am forever indebted to the librarians for their summer reading programs – that was how I spent my summer vacation every year. Fortunately, I was never hit by a car crossing the street while reading!
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Katie: My whole family loves Ludington State Park. It's been a tradition since I was a child and one that my husband and I are now continuing with our daughters. The opportunities for hiking, canoeing, and swimming at this park are incredible - there's so many varied terrains. And downtown Ludington is perfect when we're ready for a break from roughing it or just craving some House of Flavors. Their children's museum is also fantastic.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Katie: Shameless promotion of my hometown here but I do so love Tulip Time. I earned my varsity letter in Dutch Dancing. (Not joking!) Come over to Holland the first week of May for wooden shoes and elephant ears. I am also a big fan of Art Prize in Grand Rapids.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Katie: Of course, as a skater, I'm extremely proud of the hot bed of skating talent in the Detroit area, including Olympic gold medalists in ice dance, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. As a former school teacher, I'd also like to thank my many Michigan colleagues who are continuing to give their best to our children. These aren't easy times for teachers but they keep making a difference one day at a time. And of course, be sure to check out fellow Michigan YA authors Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta. Cori's newest YA book, Breaking Sky, was hailed by Kirkus as “quite possibly the next Big Thing” and Amy's space opera books have been compared to TV's Firefly.
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Katie: The Great Lakes State has so much to offer beyond the great lakes – we residents might complain about snow drifts higher than our heads and humid summers but there's a reason we put up with them. Whether it's blueberry farms in summer, fall color tours, or skiing in winter, there's something to enjoy here any time of year.
Debbie: Very true! Last question: Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?
Katie: Michigander. :-)
Debbie: Katie, we'll add you to the Michigander column. Thank you very much for joining us today for Michigander Monday!