Author Spotlight: Katey Howes



We present picture book author Katey Howes, author of her debut picture book, GRANDMOTHER THORN, illustrated by Rebecca Hahn (Ripple Grove Press, Aug. 2017) and the upcoming picture book MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE, illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti (Sterling Children's Books, forthcoming 2018).

She is giving away both books. Be one of two winners! GRANDMOTHER THORN will be autographed by both Katey Howes and the illustrator, Rebecca Hahn. MAGNOLIA MUDD will be an advanced copy mailed in October.





Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

It’s possible I spent my whole life preparing to write for children, and just didn’t realize it. I was the kid who checked out so many books at the library, I had to pull them home in a wagon. I made up plays and acted out stories with friends. I spent summer nights at Girl Scout camp, reading Nancy Drew or The Phantom Tollbooth by flashlight, and I spent my college summers as a camp counselor, fascinating and horrifying kids around the campfire with funny songs and creepy stories of my own devising. I entertained my own children with tales of their calm-by-day/adventurous-by-night guinea pig, Cutie Pie. There was always this thought in the back of my mind that I’d write a book… “Someday.”

You know that “Someday,” right? The one that sort of nebulously floats in the future, sometime after winning the lottery, or retiring to a cottage on a lake? I was lucky, blessed and happy that my Someday came a little sooner than I expected. And doubly blessed that my husband and family have been so supportive of my decision to switch careers from physical therapy to writing for children.    

I still have a lot to learn about both writing and the business of publication – but I can’t imagine a better time to be learning it! Our world needs thoughtful, beautiful, compassionate and challenging books – as well as a good laugh – more than ever. At the same time, the accessibility of information and the ability to connect with other writers, illustrators and publishing professionals via the internet is at a historic high point.  It’s a very good time to be part of the KidLit community.

Congrats on your debut picture book, GRANDMOTHER THORN. Tell us about it and what inspired you.


Thank you so much! It's so exciting to see my first book out in the world. GRANDMOTHER THORN was inspired in part by an unruly berry bush that tried to take over my backyard, but even more so by my realization that I spent a lot of time and energy trying to control things, and that, when I let go of control, I discovered unexpected joys. I felt like that was a message that many people, of many ages, would connect to.  

Luckily, Rob and Amanda Broder at Ripple Grove Press agreed with me -- and found the perfect artist to bring the story to life. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Rebecca Hahn for her breathtaking art, and also to my critique partners, agent, friends and family who encouraged me not to give up on this story.

And then you have MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE coming out in early 2018. Tell us about that book. 


Thank you so much! I’m very excited about MAGNOLIA MUDD! The book releases on January 2, 2018 from Sterling Children’s Books. It’s been a joy working with the Sterling team, and with illustrator Valerio Fabbretti. I have to give a big shout-out of thanks to my agent, Essie White, for helping me shape and revise Magnolia’s story many times, and for somehow knowing (in that magical way that agents have) that Sterling would be the right home for it.

Magnolia herself (Mags to her friends), came into being when I noticed that popular culture lacked relatable female role models for girls in the areas of math and science. As a lifelong student of science, and the mother of three bright girls, the idea of creating an enduring character who not only loves but excels at science, who is charming and funny without being a stereotypical “nerd” or “dork,” really appealed to me. I blended a number of my own and my daughters’ interests and personality traits into the character of Magnolia Mudd, hoping she would serve as inspiration for other girls. STEM opportunities are growing faster than any other industry, and our girls need to grow up seeing themselves as capable innovators. I believe the books they read shape their self-image, and Magnolia will help them imagine themselves inventive and brilliant.

In MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE, Magnolia finds out that her favorite inventing partner, her Uncle Jamie, is getting married. Worst of all, his fancy fiancĂ©e wants Mags to be a flower girl. Magnolia’s love for her uncle and family wars with her dislike of all things frilly, and she decides to “invent” a more Mudd-powered way to be a part of the wedding.

Along the way, Magnolia learns about wedding traditions around the world, plus a little bit about judging a book by its cover (or, I should say, a bride by her fashion sense.)   

Valerio’s design for Magnolia, from her pink hair to her slouching socks, makes my heart happy every time I see it. The ever-present lab coat says this is clearly a girl who likes science. Everything else says this is a girl who does things her own way and embraces herself just the way she is.     

What do you think is the most interesting thing about your journey to publication? Is it what you expected? 

I don’t think I knew what to expect, honestly. I kind of fell into the world of children’s writing with my heart and mind wide open, took the opportunities that presented themselves to me, and hoped to grow and learn as quickly as I could. I did NOT think I’d have two books coming out in the same 6-month period, that’s for sure! (My debut book, GRANDMOTHER THORN, was released by Ripple Grove Press in August 2017.) And I had no idea how much marketing and promotion was involved in writing. I really did think (and hope!) that I’d get to stay in my little, quiet office surrounded by books and Post-it notes and coffee forever.

What is the easiest part of writing picture books? What is the hardest?

For me, at least, ideas are the easiest part. I get ideas constantly – from my kids, from nature, from current events or history or science. But the hard part is turning those ideas into compact, compelling stories. I tend to be wordy, and I have a very hard time cutting phrases or words I’m fond of. I get wrapped up in the lyricism of the words, often to the detriment of the plot. (Remember that terrible poetry I wrote in high school? I’m still at it.) My critique partners have the patience of saints and the instincts of assassins – they encourage me to “kill my darlings” mercilessly.

What projects are you working on now?

A lot of my time right now is tied up promoting and supporting my first two book releases. I’m setting up story times and signings and school visits for GRANDMOTHER THORN and preparing to do the same for MAGNOLIA MUDD. I’m also a team member at All the Wonders, and am creating new content for the website there. I have secret news, too. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more about it soon – but I will say that it rhymes, so maybe writing all that bad poetry paid off. 

What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same you would give to aspiring authors?

I would love to tell younger Katey not to pigeon-hole herself. I spent so long thinking I had to be one thing or the other – a scientist OR an artist, family-oriented OR career-oriented – and it’s just not true. Now that I’m older, I’m finding that there’s a big difference between “trying to have it all” and “giving everything its time.” 

You can overwhelm yourself trying to do too much, but you can stifle yourself if you don’t explore all your interests and talents.
For aspiring authors, I’d say the same. I think if you are making time and emotional space to write, and to take your art seriously, then you are on the right track.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I attended high school at a magnet school for students gifted in math and science (shout out to the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center!) which other kids sometimes referred to as “Nerd School.” The teachers there inspired in me a lifelong love of learning and curiosity about the inner workings of the natural world. KAMSC was way ahead of the curve in supporting and encouraging young women to pursue STEM careers. The brilliant men and women of KAMSC have gone on to accomplish some pretty amazing things! I owe the school, faculty, and my classmates a huge debt of gratitude for all they did to shape my worldview and self-image. 

Where can people find you online?

My author website is kateyhowes.com, and I’m a team member at All the Wonders. I’m also a founding member of Picture the Books, a gallery of debut picture book talent. You can like my Facebook author page, follow me on Twitter @kateywrites, or catch up with me on Instagram @kidlitlove, where I post lots of pictures of my kids reading and of books we love with the hashtag #raisingreaders. 

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Katey Howes is a proud geek and mother to three innovative girls. She loves physics and biology, reads everything from classic children’s lit to modern neuroscience, and has strong opinions about commas. A former physical therapist specializing in brain injury rehabilitation, Katey now divides her time between writing and raising kids with a love of books. Katey is a Girl Scout leader, an avid traveler, and a darn good swing dancer. You can often find her in her basement, where there is a small office, a large castle, and a medium-sized trebuchet. Or find her online at kateyhowes.com.    

15 comments:

  1. No matter how much you know about friends, you can always learn something new...so thrilled for you, Katey!!!!! And can't wait to host you on my blog!

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    1. Thank you, Vivian! I can't wait to share my delicious recipe on your blog.

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  2. Fantastic post and interview! Your books look great. Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you so much. It's been a joy to share my story here on KidLit411.

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  3. Loved hearing about your journey. Congrats to you and continued success! Can't wait to read your book.

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    1. That's so kind of you, Mary. Thank you!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your writing journey!

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  5. Both books look excellent in their very, very different ways!

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  6. Congratulations Katey! Wonderful to see these coming out!

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  7. Terrific interview! I'm always amazed how much I learn about the author & the writing process from these posts - even though I've met you, Katey, at conferences, I now feel like I know you so much better & can't wait to get my hands on both of these books. Congratulations on your success!

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  8. Fabulous! Love both the books and your success story. Congratulations!

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  9. Thanks for the interview. I think Mags sounds fun to get to know and I'll have to check out all your books at the library. It's great to see you publishing in different age groups. I spends lots of time at the library and have since I was a kid. I also stayed up way too late reading Nancy Drew and would start and finish a book in one night, so I needed my library's resources. I love that you went to a school that promoted STEM.

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  10. Congrats, Katey, on your double debut. I really like your advice on "giving everything its time."

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  11. Not only do these books look great....but your joy in debuting them is a joy to read. Many congratulations! I hope you have many more book birthdays.

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  12. Thank you for sharing so many details about your journey, inspiration, and creative process!

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