Rummanah Aasi
   I am very excited and fortunate to bring you all an interview I conducted with Brian Katcher. Brian Katcher is the author of Playing with Matches and Almost Perfect. Almost Perfect is in the ALA's Best Books for Young Adults list in 2010, A Capitol Choice Noteworthy Book for 2010, and A Lamda Award nominee in 2010. I first came across Brian's book as an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy), while I was attending the ALA conference in Chicago. I was first drawn to the title and cover of the book. The book synopsis piqued my interest and it quickly became one of the best books I read last year.

Description of Almost Perfect: Logan Whitherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. Since then–much to his friends’ dismay–he has been despressed, pessimistic, and obessed with this ex, Brenda. But things start to look up for Logan when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Tall, unconventionally pretty, and a bit awkward, Sage Hendricks somehow appeals to Logan even at a time when he trusts no one. As Logan learns more about Sage, he realizes that she needs a friend as much as he does, if not more. She has been homeschooled for several years, and her parents have forbidden her to date, but she won’t tell Logan why. The mystery of Sage’s past and the oddities of her personality intrigue Logan, and one day, he acts on his growing attraction and kisses her. Moments later, however, he wishes he hadn’t. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Now Logan must decide what kind of relationship, if any, he wants to have with Sage.

Please welcome Brian to my blog.

Rummanah: Brian, welcome and thank you for stopping by. I came across your book first as an Advanced Readers Copy at an ALA conference in Chicago last year. I was first drawn to the title and then the cover. I was a bit disappointed about the huge spoiler on the blurb of the book, but I still loved your book and finished it in one evening. Did you wanted your reader to know Sage’s secret ahead of time or was that the publisher’s decision?

Brian: It’s funny, but the whole time I was editing my story, my editor kept warning me not to give away Sage’s secret. She kept warning me to let the readers be surprised, to not give hints, to take out a lot of references about Sage’s husky voice, broad shoulders and big hands. Then, when I get the sample cover, I realize that the big secret is printed right there! The publishers’ thought was that people who are interested in transgendered themed books need to know that this book it out there. I have to agree, though people who read this book without looking at the cover have told me they were utterly surprised when they got to page 99. My wife, when reading the first draft, shouted “SHE’S A GUY?” Personally, I would have left the secret a secret and let word of mouth do its thing. 

Rummanah: I would have preferred the secret too, yet  I was more curious as to how Sage would break the news to Logan. Speaking of Sage, I absolutely adored her and was cheering her on throughout the entire book. How did you come up with her character?

Brian: Through interviewing lots and lots of transgendered women online. I talked to people who transitioned almost right out of high school, people who transitioned late in life, and people who were still living as the ‘wrong’ gender. Sage was the kind of girl a lot of my correspondents wished they could be: A full time girl who could easily pass as female, someone whose family, while not accepting, didn’t force her to deny who she was. 

Rummanah: It is so easy to lump Almost Perfect into a YA GLBT and realistic fiction, but I think the book is so much more complex. How would you describe your book?

Brian: Well, it clearly is a GLBT book, but I’d like to think the plot isn’t so much about Sage’s gender identity as Logan’s relationship with Sage, how he grows up, and how he both supports and fails to support Sage. After all is said and done, Almost Perfect is a love story.

Rummanah: Now that you mention Logan and Sage's relationship, it reminds me of one my favorites parts of your book, where Sage writes a letter to Logan.Your book could have easily ended on a sad note, but I’m thrilled that it didn’t. What made you decide to write a “happy ending”?

Brian: It’s funny, but I don’t consider the ending a happy one. I was rewriting that ending even after the ARC came out, and I’m happy how it turned out. But I think Sage is destined to have a happy life as a woman, and that’s a happy ending in itself.

Rummanah: Young Adult books that generally deal with the subject of GLBT books are frequently challenged in public and school libraries. Were you worried that your book would be controversial and did you find that you were censoring yourself while writing the book?

Brian: Well, when I tackled this subject, I knew some people weren’t going to appreciate it, and braced myself for the negative feedback. Strangely, I haven’t heard of anyone who had a problem with the topic, directly or indirectly, though that may just be because not enough people have read it.. There’s been plenty of criticism, but it’s about the book itself: It’s too long, Logan was too whiney, the situations were contrived. There’s nothing worse than legitimate criticism. Sheesh, what’s a guy got to do to get his book burned in this town?  

Rummanah: What was your writing and revision process like? 

Brian: Sit down, drink a lot of coffee, bang on the keyboard, dislike what I've written, start over, and repeat.

Rummanah: Did you always want to be a writer and write for young adults? If so, why?

Brian: Nope. Growing up, it never once occurred to me that I’d enjoy writing for fun. It wasn’t until I was 25, down and out in Mexico, did I decide to crank out a novel to pass the time. They say write what you know, so I wrote about being awkward and dateless in high school. That story eventually turned into ‘Playing With Matches.’ I think I was more surprised than anyone when it was published.

Rummanah: Are there any writers that inspire you?

Brian: John Green, Brent Hartinger, and Patrick Ryan are some great YA novelists. I wish I could write like those guys. Holly Schindler and Antony John are a couple of up and comers (like myself) that are worth watching. I really enjoy the writing style of H.P. Lovecraft, though I’d prefer to be less racist and less dead. I don’t read a lot of Stephen King, though I’m always inspired by how rich he is. 

Rummanah: You've held lots of different jobs in your lifetime. What inspired you to become a school librarian?

Brian: I was a classroom teacher for five years, which I enjoyed. I kind of just stumbled into the library when there was an opening and discovered that I loved it. There’s nothing like inspiring little kids to read, plus I get to do the funny voices during story time. 

Rummanah: In addition to being a school librarian, you are also a parent of a little one. How do you find time out of your busy schedule to write?

Brian: Well, being a librarian I have less take home work than most teachers. Also, I have the whole summer off, which is when I do most of my writing. Finally, I have a very understanding wife who watches our daughter when I write. I couldn’t do this without her.

Rummanah: I'm always looking for the next great read, what is your favorite book that you've read this year?

Brian: I have to recommend Happenstance Found by P.W. Catanese. It’s a fantasy book, maybe geared more for upper elementary/junior high, though I couldn’t put it down. As for YA, A Blue so Dark by Holly Schindler was amazing. It’s about a girl dealing with her mother’s mental illness.

Rummanah: I'll definitely add those to my ever growing list of books to read! On a serious note,
I know you have a soft spot for Wayne’s World. Do you have a favorite quote from the movie?

Brian: Ah, Wayne’s World. That movie kind of defined high school for me. Seeing that film was the first time I ever called in sick from work (McDonalds) to hang out with my friends. No real quote from the movie, though I remember that most of my friends were huge Queen fans at a time when Queen wasn’t popular with teens. The scene where everyone started singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, they were squealing like girls at a boy band concert.

Rummanah: Are your working on a new book at the moment? If so, can you tell us something about it and when we can expect it to come out?

Brian: I have a book with my editor, and I’m biting my nails to see what she thinks. It’s called ‘Mysterious Ways.’

Katrina Aiden has a rough life. Her parents mock her attempts to become an artist, and have driven her older brother out of the house. Her closest friend, Darren, is the biggest nerd ever to hurl a ten sided dice. So why is she so suddenly jealous when he starts dating someone else? When Katrina meets a boy named Jonah, she’s turned off by his arrogance. Jonah believes that the internet doesn’t report the news, it controls it. People believe whatever they read, and by posting false news stories and starting rumors, Jonah is able to change the public’s perception of events. Katrina finds herself lured by Jonah’s strong personality. Too late does she realize he has an agenda of his own. He’s out for revenge, and Katrina will help him, whether she wants to or not.

Rummanah: I'm sure it'll be great. It's already in my "looking foward to reading it" list. Brian, thank you so much for taking the time and speaking to us.

Brian: Thanks for interviewing me.

To learn more about Brian and his books, please visit his website. If you haven't read, Almost Perfect, you're missing out on a great story about identity, acceptance, and the complexities of relationships.  
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