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Author Spotlight: Katrina Leno talks Summer of Salt

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I'm elated to be hosting author, Katrina Leno, on the blog today! In addition to writing, Katrina is also an accomplished photographer and a musician. Her fourth published novel, SUMMER OF SALT, released just last week from HarperTeen to starred reviews, including this one from Kirkus which describes it as “Equal parts fantasy, romance, and mystery, this book shimmers with an irresistible energy.”


Pitched as Practical Magic meets Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls and Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap, SUMMER OF SALT is one of my most-anticipated reads of 2018!


And now, here's my chat with Katrina!


Hi, Katrina! Welcome and congrats on the release of Summer of Salt. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?

Hi! Thank you! So Summer of Salt is about a rainy little island called By-the-Sea, that just happens to be the home of twin sisters Georgina and Mary Fernweh. The Fernwehs have had magic in their blood for hundreds and hundreds of years—but so far, almost-18-year-old Georgina has yet to show the slightest smidge of magical ability.


That’s where our story starts, and things escalate pretty quickly from there…


I really wanted to write about sisters, and specifically about twins, and so my story really started there—with the relationship between Georgina and Mary.


What do you love most about Georgina and Mary?


Their relationship was very important to me, because they couldn’t be more different as people, but they’re also twins, and they’re very, very close. They banter and argue and pick at each other constantly, but there’s never a question that they love each other to death and they would do anything for each other. So that’s what I love most about them, because I think that relationship really came through the way I wanted it to.


I think it’s easy for new fantasy writers to default into writing epic fantasy, when magical realism can be just as enchanting. What are your tips for those looking to weave a more practical style of magic into a contemporary setting?


I would say to read the type of books you want to write—to read a lot, and to read widely, and see how other authors are managing the types of themes and stories you want to write about. To me, the magic in my books always has a point and a thematical purpose to it, so I would say to make sure that your own magical elements are serving a very specific reason. Start slowly and add little touches of magic, making sure that everything feels organic and real as you do so.


What was your inspiration for the island of By-the-Sea?


I had such a clear, developed image of this dreary, grey island. I modeled it a little bit after Martha’s Vineyard, if Martha’s Vineyard had the most unpredictable weather known to man. And if it was just a little bit magical, too.


In addition to writing, you’re also a photographer and a musician (which are both forms of storytelling!). Do your passions ever influence each other?


Oh, absolutely. I’ve taken photographs before that, when I see them developed afterward, inspire their own unique stories. And I’ve written books that have inspired their own songs after. I approach any sort of creativity as if it’s all linked together—and it is, because it’s all coming out of me and being made by me, so of course there is going to be overlap. And often, if I’m just not getting anywhere with writing on a given day, I’ll pick up my camera or my guitar and I’ll really focus on a different output of creativity. It’s all helpful for me; it all comes from that same creative well.


What are you reading, or otherwise currently infatuated with?


I’m in the early stages of writing a novel right now, and my main character is a girl who is in love with Agatha Christie. I had only read one Agatha Christie novel in my life, and that was back in high school, so I’ve started collecting all these little vintage paperbacks, and I’m absolutely devouring them—it’s this really interesting thing where art is imitating life, and vice versa. I’m becoming just as in love with these books as my character is, and the line between us is blurring in this really interesting way. So that’s been really fun to explore!


And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?


Learning when to compromise and when to not compromise has been huge for me. There are a lot of people involved in publishing a book, and every decision is not going to be solely yours to make. So there’s a little give and take, naturally, but it’s also important not to let that give and take compromise what you’ve made. I had an editor who always used to tell me “This is your book; don’t do anything that changes that.” And I think that’s incredibly important to remember.


Many thanks go out to Katrina for taking the time to tell us more about SUMMER OF SALT, the relationship between Georgina and Mary, and the importance of making sure the magical elements in your story also serve a thematical purpose. Be sure to add Katrina's atmospheric book to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from retail sites such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Or you can always request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!.


For more, be sure to follow Katrina on Twitter and visit her full author website at katrinaleno.com.

And, as always,

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