Author Spotlight: Katryn Bury
Feb. 25, 2022
We are thrilled to feature Katryn Bury and her debut Middle Grade novel, DREW LECLAIR GETS A CLUE (Clarion, formerly HMH Books and Media), an imprint of Harper Collins) coming March 1.
Enter to win a copy!
|cover art by Alba Filella|
Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.
I was an early reader, and fell in love with it from the start. By the time I wrote my first mystery story at the age of six, I was already reading in most of my spare time. Growing up as a sick kid, stories were my escape. I could have adventures with Nancy Drew, imagine myself as a member of The Baby-Sitters Club, and track down a villain on Fear Street. Even though I wasn’t able to participate in the same way that other kids could, I felt as though I was truly living through those stories.
One day, I ran out of books. I’d been home for a few weeks, and even the long-running series books were running out at my local library. When I bemoaned this to my mother, she told me I should write my own! I wrote my first full length novel at the age of twelve. I think that doing this really solidified my love for children’s literature. I wrote characters who were like me—the kind I didn’t see in books.
As an adult, I found my passion as a library technician working with children. Ultimately, that’s what brought me back to writing. Putting the perfect book in students’ hands fueled my desire to come back to my own stories, and that’s exactly what I did!
Congratulations on your middle grade debut, Drew Leclair Gets a Clue! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Thank you! Drew Leclair Gets a Clue is in many ways a modern take on Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy. Drew is at her heart a scientist and an observer. She has trouble relating to other kids, and wants to understand what makes them tick. When a cyberbully strikes, Drew uses her true crime knowledge to profile the bullies at her school and find the culprit.
While I’ve never solved a mystery outside of books, a lot of my inspiration came from my own life. My father and I were always fans of true crime, just like Drew and Sam Leclair. Other kids thought I was a bit creepy, but I found that studying crime and psychology helped me understand the villains in my own life. I wanted to write a character that stood up to her bullies, and Drew really does that.
Was your journey to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Definitely long and winding. Like I said, I wrote a novel at twelve. I printed out my manuscript on a dot matrix printer, spiral bound it, and sent it to publishers. While I didn’t sell that book, I’m proud of how confident I was about my writing at such a young age. I’m not sure the publishers agreed. To them, I might have come off as too precocious.
I wrote eight more books over two decades, and learned a lot about publishing along the way. Following groups like Kidlit 411 really helped me learn the industry in a way that I didn’t a few years ago. Once I dedicated myself to figuring out how to write a good query, it took me three books and a little under three years to break through.
What are some of your favorite classic MGs? recent ones?
My favorite classic middle grade books are Nancy Drew mysteries (I still read every new book to this day!) and James Howe’s Bunnicula series. I love anything with a healthy dose of humor, so I’m also a big Louis Sachar fan. Recently, I adored Tae Keller’s The Science of Breakable Things, Jerry Craft’s New Kid graphic novel series, Julie Murphy’s Dear Sweet Pea, and Janae Marks’ From the Desk of Zoe Washington.
What projects are you working on now?
That’s classified (wink!). I will say that I still have mysteries on the brain.
What advice would you give your younger self? Is this the same you'd give to aspiring authors?
Don’t give up, little me! I had nearly decided to call it quits on my publishing journey when I gave it one more try with Drew Leclair Gets a Clue. Just one month before starting to write that book, I was telling myself and my family that I was done with writing. I hope that this story will inspire writers who are close to calling it quits. I was so close and I didn’t even know!
In addition to this, I would also tell aspiring authors to flip the script when people say you have to have a “thick skin.” Your sensitivity is your strength! Rejections aren’t fun, and you don’t have to pretend they are. As long as you don’t let rejections keep you from writing, it’s okay to feel your feelings.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Before starting my career in libraries, I actually wanted to be a criminal profiler, like Drew Leclair! In college, I studied sociology and criminology. I even did some guest lecturing on the topic of serial murder at the high school level. Although, I’m now realizing that many people will know that about me after reading this book, and publishing my bio! So…here’s another tidbit: I have a deep and abiding love of swimming pools.
Where can people find you online?
Katryn Bury works with middle grade readers as a youth library technician. A lifelong true crime nerd, she has a bachelor's degree in sociology and criminology. Her short and serialized fiction can be found in Suspense Magazine and The Sleuth. She lives in Oakland, California with her family and a vast collection of Nancy Drew mysteries.
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