Author Spotlight: Kurt Kirchmeier

May 6, 2020

We are excited to feature author Kurt Kirchmeier and his middle grade mystery-thriller, THE ABSENCE OF SPARROWSLittle, Brown Books for Young Readers (2019) with a new paperback release (May 5, 2020).

Enter to win a copy of the paperback!

Cover design by Jenny Kimura; illustration byLeo Nickolls

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

I was born and raised on the Canadian prairies, and currently reside in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where I split my time between writing speculative fiction and photographing nature (primarily wildlife and birds). 

I started writing about children long before I actually started writing for them. Most of the protagonists in my early short stories were kids, but since the stories often dealt with mature themes, they ultimately found homes in magazines and anthologies meant for an adult audience. It wasn’t until I started reading middle grade books and began the query process that I realized mature themes have a place in middle grade literature, too, and that I might just fit here as an author.

Instability in a small-town setting is kind of the story of my own childhood, and so that tends to be the foundation for many of my stories, including THE ABSENCE OF SPARROWS. I’m particularly drawn to coming-of-age narratives that explore those moments when childhood innocence begins to slip away. 

Congrats on your MG mystery-thriller, THE ABSENCE OF SPARROWS. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

Thanks! THE ABSENCE OF SPARROWS is the story of how an eleven-year-old boy named Ben Cameron struggles to cope when a plague that turns adults to glass hits his town and threatens his family. The book was inspired first by a dream I had about my own father spontaneously turning to glass, and second by my love for birds, which I passed along to my young MC. Through the course of the book, Ben uses the nature of birds as a lens through which to better understand the nature of humankind, which can be troubling at times, especially in the face of a global plague. I think the book explores feelings that a lot of today’s young readers will be able to relate to, given the unfortunate circumstances we now find ourselves in.  

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

It has definitely been a long and winding road for me. Although I started writing with the dream of becoming a novelist (as most of us do), I didn’t actually begin to focus on novels until after I’d spent several years working on short stories. I thought short fiction would provide me with a great opportunity to explore lots of different genres and ideas and play with various modes of storytelling and narration, all while honing my wordcraft. I had a blast in those early years and I’m glad I chose to go that route with my writing, but of course it made for a marathon journey to becoming a published novelist. My first short story was published in December of 2005, but it wasn’t until May of 2019 (by this time I was with my second agent and on my third book) that my first novel finally hit the shelves.     

What projects are you working on now? Are you able to concentrate?

I was struggling to find focus and motivation in the second half of March and the first half of April, not only because of the global situation, but also because I was dealing with illness myself, but as my health has improved and I’ve become more adjusted to our new reality (as much as one can adjust to it), the words have started flowing again. 

I just finished putting the final touches on a collection of strange and fantastical short stories for middle grade readers. In a lot of ways I felt like I was returning to my roots as a writer while working on this project, and I’m very happy with how it came out. I think there’s a gap in the market when it comes to this kind of literature for young readers and I’m hoping my collection can go some small way towards helping to fill it. 

I’ve also begun work on a new YA horror novel about cults and pandemics and higher dimensional entities trying to make their way into our world. I haven’t worked on a true horror novel since THE ABSENCE OF SPARROWS, so this project also feels a little like coming home again. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Slow down and have fun. Embrace the time you get to spend learning your craft. Worrying about agents and editors and book deals when you’re just getting started is like worrying about marriage and children when you’re on your first date. Don’t spoil it for yourself, and whatever you do, don’t ever model your own timeline after someone else’s. Every journey is unique.  

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

Most people don’t know that my dream growing up was to be an artist rather than a writer. I wanted to create and draw comic book characters. This old dream of mine was largely the inspiration for a middle grade book that my agent currently has on submission, wherein two best friends who are aspiring comic artists are trying to solve a supernatural mystery. One of my favorite things about writing this book was creating the five superheroes who exist in the background of the story. I haven’t attempted to draw any of them yet, but I think it might be fun to channel my eleven-year-old self and give it a try.  

Where can people find you online?

People can find me online at, and also on Twitter at and Instagram at

Kurt Kirchmeier is a Canada-based author who writes strange and fantastical stories for readers of all ages. His fiction and poems have appeared in Abyss & Apex, Murky Depths, Weird Tales, Shimmer, Space and Time, Tesseracts #15 and #22, and elsewhere. When he isn't writing stories or photographing birds, he enjoys hiking and listening to podcasts. He also fancies a good cup of tea and shoots a mean game of pool. Kurt lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with his wife and a screwball cat. 

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  1. I'd love to have a copy of Kurt's book. I'm fascinated by the storyline and think my middle grade students would love it. I follow Kurt on Instagram and so admire his photography. Thanks for the interview.

  2. A gripping tale like this sounds like fun!

  3. Thank you for the advice to remember to have fun. This is exactly what I needed to hear right now.

    1. You're very welcome. It's advice I still have to give myself sometimes too!

  4. Sounds fantastic. Great artwork.

  5. I have many horror fans so I know they will love your book!

  6. Great interview! I'm happy to say my words are flowing again too, after a long period of mind fog. Congrats on the new book!

    1. Thanks, Melissa! Glad your words are flowing again, too!

  7. I wonder if he uses his photography to inspire is writing/illustrations. Mystery and creepy... a hit with my middle schoolers.

    1. Hi Andrea! Yes, my photography most definitely inspires my writing. :) Glad to hear your middle schoolers are into the creepy mysteries!

  8. I know many of my middle grade readers would love this book. They are way less scared than I am when it comes to spooky books!

  9. Though I do not usually gravitate toward creepy stories (aka horror), this one does intrigue me...and I know just the fellow 'fantastical/creepiness' writer to whom I'd pass it on!

  10. This sounds like a great read! Thanks for the interview and the opportunity to win a copy!

  11. Glad you are feeling better! Congratulations on your book! Sounds like a great read!


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