Friday, April 8, 2011

Interview: Katie Kacvinsky

I'm super excited today to welcome author Katie Kacvinsky to the blog to answer just a few questions about her young adult dystopian novel, Awaken (read my review HERE). This one has a fascinating concept and an all-too possible depiction of a completely digital future, and will release from Houghton Mifflin on May 23rd. Hope you enjoy the interview!

Much like Maddie in the beginning of Awaken, I often feel naked and cut off from the world without access to the internet or anything digital, are you the same way or do you embrace those times when you can be “ unplugged” ?

This is a tough question. I realize there are so many benefits to technology—the internet is the most powerful resource that exists. I’d be a hypocrite to say I don’t use it. But, I do embrace being unplugged. I don’t need to be connected to everyone, every second of the day. What bothers me is if you try to go unplugged for very long, you become a social outcast. We not only use computers for information, we also use them for jobs, entertainment, shopping, socializing, even dating. It’s the fact that computers are taking over every facet of our lives that is creeping me out.

In order to calm Maddie down from a panic attack at being away from the constant stimulation of her digital world, Justin tells her to picture her utopia. What would your utopia look and sound like?

My utopia is Bayfield, Wisconsin. It’s a small harbor town on the edge of Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin. When I go up there, I feel like time slows down. I love walking down the piers, crammed full with sailboats. I love hearing the ferryboat coming to and from Madeline Island (I actually named my character, Maddie, after Madeline Island). It’s also a great place to people watch—full of kayakers and tourists that fill the downtown streets and pubs. It’s one of those places where all my negative energy drifts away.

If you could say anything embarrassing, or gushing, or brutally honest to one person knowing you had the ability to delete all traces of it after it was said, who would you unburden yourself to?

I would tell Stephen Colbert that he has stolen my heart and soul and that I love his pointy little ears.

Did you write Awaken straight through from beginning to end or did you write the events out of order? If you wrote out of order and it’ s not a spoiler, can you tell us where you started and why there?

I wrote Awaken in order (I know, boring). Usually when I write books I skip around, but this one spilled out of me so quickly it practically wrote itself.

If Maddie or Justin could pick a literary world outside their own to live in, which fictional worlds might each of them choose and what would they find so appealing about them?

That’s a good question. I think Maddie still needs to figure this out—I don’t think you know where you belong until you leave your comfort zone and try out other places. But I can see Justin living on the coast, in San Francisco or Portland. Somewhere with people, but also close to hiking and nature.

If you could reach through the pages and pluck one character out to live in the real world with you, who would it be?

Probably Justin. It’s refreshing to meet people that question the norm. I think it’s inspiring to challenge the rules; it’s the only way change happens.

Maddie is pretty disastrous in the kitchen, her first and second attempts at making a sandwich rather unfortunate in their flavor combinations, are you more gifted in the art of cooking?

Haha, yeah, I had some fun with that scene. I figured, if she never cooks and eats protein bars for most of her meals, how would she even understand what flavor is? As for myself, I am inventive in the kitchen. I rarely follow a recipe and try to invent my own casseroles which can be pretty disastrous. I leave most of the cooking to my husband.

If you lived in the world of Awaken but were like Maddie’ s mom who remembers what it was like before synthetic vegetation and digital schooling, what one element of the previous world would you miss most?

One thing I already miss is sitting around with a group of people that aren’t distracted with their cell phones. It’s really rare these days. Usually when I go out to dinner with friends or family, everyone has their phones out on the table and their eyes are constantly wandering to their screens and I feel like I’m competing for everyone’s attention. I get distracted because everyone else is distracted. I miss the intimacy of hanging out for a night and just turning all of that off and being in the moment. I would go back to that.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Katie! And thank you to the Cornucopia of Dystopia Blog Tour for providing me with a copy of the book and making this interview possible.

AWAKEN (from Goodreads)

Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.


  1. Great interview Jenny. Katie's utopia sounds like a really beautiful and peaceful place :)

  2. What an awesome interview. Your questions were extremely insightful and I adored Katie's answers. While I am certain;y attached to my computer, I have not embraced the cell phone as an extension of my life, but only as a means to and end and I really hate the way some people feel they must have it in their hands at all time.

  3. Love the Colbert answer! Good questions and answers! I'm looking forward to reading Awaken! :) Oh, and my utopia would have to be anywhere with a beach, haha.

  4. ooh wow, I could not live on protein bars!Great interview.

  5. Great questions Jenny! I'm hoping to pick up this book soon!

  6. Great interview! Our dependence on computers creeps me out too. I can't imagine a day without my laptop!

  7. I adored this debut! I also agree with you on feeling "naked" without technology - but maybe that's because I grew up surrounded by it. Great interview!

  8. I miss those days without the distraction of a cell phone too! You do feel like you are competing for attention. It feels so awkward when a person would rather tweet that they are hanging out with you than to actually spend time hanging out with you.

    Great interview!

  9. Nic - Thanks!

    Jan - Thanks so much:) I haven't gotten addicted to my cell phone either. Computer? Yes. Cell phone? No. I actually like being away from my email sometimes, I don't want access to it on my phone!

    Jacinda - Me too, the pointy ears made me giggle:)

    Nina - Me either. I would waste away!

    Savy - Can't wait to see what you think:)

    Misha - Thanks! And I can't function without my computer. The power goes out and I kind of just stare blankly at the wall waiting for it to come back on:)

    Lissa - I definitely feel naked without it. I don't have to use technology all the time, but I do like to know it's there waiting for me:)

    Missie - Definitely. Nothing irritates me more than when the hubs is texting or writing an email on his phone while I'm trying to talk to him!

  10. What would we do without cell phones? Geez I remember in highschool nobody had cell phones and everyone was just fine!!!

    Fun interview!

  11. Great interview questions! This sounds like such a good book, especially since I can't live without my phone/internet for a day! :)

  12. Tina - I remember that too! Or when we just had an enormous car phone attached to the console:)

    Cindy - I have to have internet. I need it. Like air:)

  13. Awesome questions, Jenny. There are many days where I wished I had a delete button. ;)

  14. Good Interview Jenny! I loved the questions you asked.


  15. Nice interview :)
    And I liked your utopia

  16. Okay... you sold me on the cooking scene. That is so me. Wait... I think I can make a PB&J sammich, but I'm not promising anything else. ;D

  17. Rummanah - Me too! Wouldn't that be nice?

    Heather - Thank you!

    Blodeuedd - Thanks, I like her utopia as well:)

    Melissa - Sometimes the ability to make PB&J escapes me. I'm kitchen challenged.

  18. Very interesting, the possibilities of the future are interesting but there are definitely things I would never want to disappear.

  19. That utopia scene was my very favorite scene of the book. I loved how it went and how Justin finally seems to drop his guard. Great interview Jenny!

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  20. Cathy - There are definitely things I wouldn't want to disappear either:)

    Jen - It was one of mine too! I almost started clapping when Justin let that guard down, I thought for sure he never would:)

  21. Lol, the comment about Stephen Colbert made me giggle. Great interview, Jenny! You always ask interesting questions.

  22. Thanks for the interview! I am 100% on board with Katie's last answer re: cell phones. I miss that, too.