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Meet Laura Anderson Kurk

Southern Grace

Never mind the shy smile; when Laura Kurk has something on her heart, she says what’s on her mind–right out–in that sweet Oklahoma accent with Texan touches. She writes like she talks, with southern grace. Her love of great literature shines in everything she writes, and her books prove that Young Adult fiction can rise to literary heights and still reach its intended audience. Her debut novel, Glass Girl, and its companion, Perfect Glass, are published by Playlist Young Adult Fiction. Laura is represented by Amanda Luedeke at MacGregor Literary.

Getting to Know Laura Kurk

How would you describe your writing style?
I write contemporary realistic fiction in the young adult category. That’s a technical way of saying I write about characters and situations that you might find in any high school hallway in the U.S. I don’t shy away from any topic, really. My style is more character-driven than many of the novels that populate YA aisles, which are overflowing with fantasy, dystopian, and paranormal.

I guess my rhythm is a bit slower and quieter than a lot of books out there because I take time to develop characters. Fans of Deb Caletti, Sara Zarr, and Sarah Ockler would feel comfortable with my books. I find it incredibly encouraging that editors in the big publishing houses are expressing “dystopian and fantasy fatigue.” They’re seeking more authors willing to write realistic, literary books. That’s good news for readers who prefer that style and the writers who write them.

Which book do you go back and reread time and time again? Why?
I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school and liked it. But I read it again in my twenties and loved it. Since then I’ve read it a dozen times. Each time I get to the end and wonder how in the world Lee was able to do what she did.

I’m funny about jumping on bandwagons of books that the whole world loves, but I’m unashamed about my fascination with TKAM. Ignore the hype. Ignore the papers you’ve written about it. Ignore the trite themes your high school teachers fed you about that book. Read it for what it is, without judgment, and you will just be glad that you get to share this planet with Harper Lee.

Laura A. Kurk

Laura A. Kurk

Laura Anderson Kurk is one of those lucky souls who gets to live in a college town. In fact, it’s her college town–College Station, Texas, where she drove in under cover of darkness when she was way too young and proceeded to set the place on fire. (Actually, she stayed in the library stacks for the majority of her tenure as a student at Texas A&M University, but in her imagination, she was stirring things up.)

She majored in English for the love of stories, and due to a massive crush on F. Scott Fitzgerald. She continued on to receive an advanced degree in literature. She writes contemporary books for young adults, a genre that gives her the freedom to be honest. Her debut novel Glass Girl is an unconventional and bittersweet love story, and its sequel Perfect Glass makes long-distance love look possible. She’s crazy about her husband and her two ginger-headed kids. Laura blogs at Writing for Young Adults (laurakurk.com). She is a featured columnist at Choose Now Ministries (choose-now.com). On twitter, she’s @laurakurk.

What was the most difficult decision you made about this book?
momsread.comI made a decision late in the process of publishing Glass Girl to cut a scene that had been incredibly important to me. The scene, in the original manuscript, was the climax of the story. It dealt with an issue that is particular to people of faith and my treatment of the issue was unabashedly tender and bruised—it was personal.

After many discussions with my agent and editor, I came to the conclusion that, although this scene between my two main characters was good and contained the kind of elevated feel that I strive for, it would be off putting to some readers. It would feel inaccessible to those who hadn’t dealt with a crisis of faith and subsequent redemption. From the book’s conception, I had adamantly told anyone who would listen that I wouldn’t budge on that scene. But I began to see that Glass Girl and Perfect Glass would have wider wingspans if I cut this scene loose, so I did.

The big surprise was that the story is better—stronger—without the element I thought had been crucial. It’s a funny thing how we as writers hold tightly to certain issues because we believe they are make or break ideas. Because I let that go, readers who would’ve overlooked this book have picked it up and, maybe, seen a glimmer of the hope I feel about life.

What was your favorite book when you were a young adult?
It’s a weird one, actually. I loved The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Conner. I absorbed everything she wrote, but that one was my obsession for a few years. I think it was the first time I thought about my faith independently and saw redemption through a young boy’s eyes. I saw that the mystery of it and all the ritual is actually quite strange and violent—the idea of the flesh and blood of communion and baptism being a death, burial and resurrection. These were words I’d heard and repeated thoughtlessly all my life. O’Conner turned them sideways and gave them back to me. I stopped people in hallways to talk about that book. I was wild about it.

What was the best piece of writing advice you’ve received to date?
“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Yes, you read that right, and, yes, it’s a verse from Proverbs. Another writer once told me that if you write emotionally-charged, realistic fiction, you’d do best to remember that verse. I could give you a thesis here on the connection to writing, but the short version is that writers have a bad habit of letting their characters be overwrought. They let them behave like soap opera actors who overact every scene. The wise writer knows how to use nuance and reticence and restraint to allow characters to slowly reveal truth.

What inspires you?
Kindness. I could say so many esoteric things here, but kindness does it for me every time. The human impulse to show each other mercy through simple kindness is, to me, the most beautiful thing we were given here on earth. It’s like this small little glimpse of our potential. A close runner-up would be the fine art portraits by the Masters. My heart stops beating for a bit too long when I sit on a bench in front of a wall-sized Sargent painting in a museum. I don’t cry easily, but Sargent makes me cry.

Two truths and a lie
First, thank you for this question. My son came home from drama class last week telling me the two truths and a lie from all his classmates. I immediately sat down to write a blog post called Two Truths and a Lie.

  1. I shook Ray Charles’s hand after a concert once when I was very young.
  2. In college, I drove onto the private property of a religious cult to spy on them but ended up busted and detained.
  3. I named my dog Carrie after the youngest sister in Little House on the Prairie.

What do you think? So as much as I wish I had, I never shook Ray’s hand. I wish we could have him back, though. Carrie was my first dog’s name, and I can offer advice to many curious college kids—don’t get yourself locked in on cult property. Escaping takes a lot of fast-talking and high-level critical thinking.

Does your education help you as a writer, or does it have any bearing at all?
My education made me a writer. Before that I was just a kid who called herself a writer because I dabbled and could string words together. I was fortunate enough to have parents who understood when I said I wanted to major in literature and obtain as many degrees in it as possible. I loved every single fiction class I took and I absorbed character development and story arc and narrative format and literary devices for as many years as I could fund myself in school. Even today, I’d go back to school and do it all over again in a heartbeat. I wish every person would get a degree in English because it connects us to our world in such critically important, relevant ways.

Passage from Glass Girl, Chapter 33

“Why, Henry?” I said.

“Why am I here for you?”

“Why would you volunteer for that? My life spins from one chaotic event to another. Sometimes the only thing keeping me breathing is the shock. You’re graduating and you’ve got this whole beautiful life to live. You need someone with less baggage.”

Henry was quiet. He turned and sat down, putting his arm around me, being gentle with my bruise. “For one, I think you’d do the same for me.”

I closed my eyes, feeling his steady heart beating against my side.

“Look,” he said. “I remember what it felt like to lose my granddad. I know that’s nothing like what you’ve been through, but it was hard for me. He was sick a long time and my parents were in and out of the hospital with him. My sisters and I had to take up the slack on the ranch. We had to ask for and accept a lot of help.”

I held his hand in mine. It was huge and rough with calluses. I wanted to hang onto it. “Go on,” I said.

“Here’s what I learned about life when we were going through that. We’re all human and mortal. We’re all going to suffer and die. But it’s how we are with each other during those times that proves God’s here with us.”

He turned his hand over in mine and entwined our fingers. “He comes in through people. People who love us anyway. They jump right into the chaos with us and try to help us make sense of it. That’s what mercy is … it’s choosing to help, or forgive, or love even when it goes against all logic.”

The last minute pardon by the governor, I thought. The kid who takes the blame for another and keeps his mouth shut. “Mercy,” I whispered. “I’ve asked for it a few times, but haven’t seen it come around yet.”

“Then let me be your mercy,” he said. “I’ll never be able to give you smart answers about why we suffer, but I can come into your world and try to be some kind of help to you.” He dragged a finger through the damp hair around my face, tucking it behind my ear. Then he touched one of my cuts. “I love you, Meg,” Henry whispered into my ear. “I’m not saying that now because I pity you or because I think it’ll make you feel better. I love you.” Say it again.

“You have the most tender heart of anyone I’ve ever known,” he said. “I’m not the only one who sees that, either. Thanet does and Tennyson does. And your parents.”

Henry’s words caused something to stir within me and it didn’t feel at all comfortable. It felt urgent and irresistible. I wanted it. I wanted to let go. I wanted to be unbreakable.

GLASS GIRL offers up a story of mercy as vast and unending as the Wyoming sky.–Darby Karchut, author of GRIFFIN RISING and FINN FINNEGAN

“The ice cold fear I’d felt, not knowing if Wyatt was alive, pressed into the wall with other girls and surrounded by guys who were unspeakably brave, hit my body again in a wave. This was trauma–the gift that keeps on giving.”

When Meg Kavanagh finds herself in the unthinkable role of grieving sister, she discovers some harsh truths–parents aren’t perfect, life’s not always sweet, and the dead don’t write back. Her famous artist mom grieves by slowly disappearing, and her dad copes by moving them to a small town in Wyoming. What she finds in Wyoming blindsides her.

His name is Henry, and he’s a rancher’s son who pulls Meg into his larger-than-life world and shows her that being sensitive is not an excuse to sit this one out. Meg learns that the best things in life–like falling in love and finding mercy–require uncommon courage. With the help of a strange set of friends, a locker room disaster, and a trip she’ll never forget, she finds that the things she thought would break her–school violence, loneliness, and separation–can be overcome. From YA author Laura Anderson Kurk comes a heartfelt story of first love and family ties.

Fans of Deb Caletti and Sara Zarr will appreciate Kurk’s authentically imperfect characters and emotional storytelling. From YA author Laura Anderson Kurk comes a heartfelt story of first love and family ties. Fans of Deb Caletti and Sara Zarr will appreciate Kurk’s authentically imperfect characters and emotional storytelling.

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About the Author

Kathrese McKee started life as a Systems Engineer at EDS, spent time in real estate, taught middle grade Reading and ESL in Texas, and settled down to blog and write speculative fiction for Young Adults.

As a teacher, she fell in love with books written for Teens and Young Adults. Her favorite books are “coming of age” stories about young people on the difficult road of self-discovery.

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