Today is the release day of How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras. How to Be Brave is an emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.
Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.
This book really hit me in the heart. Kottaras touches on some really deep (sometimes dark) subjects, ranging from death to drugs. Georgia is not your typical run-of-the-mill narrator. She very clearly has her own personality and goals in life and, while momentarily sidetracked, she is trying to find her place in the world after her mother’s death. While reading, I really liked that we saw how Georgia made her decisions when completing items on her bucket list: we’re shown firsthand the fear and discomfort she’s grappling with and that makes her a very relatable main character. The memories of her mother’s life and death are very emotional and touching. This is not a light read but it does a great job exploring the concepts of loss, love, life, and finding yourself.
As part of the blog tour, author E. Katherine Kottaras took a few minutes to answer some questions. Check out our Q&A and enter for a chance to win your own copy below:
What’s currently on your bucket list?
Here are a few things on my Do Everything Be Brave List:
Here are a few brave things I’ve done:
Flown down the largest zip-line in the continental U.S. despite my fear of heights. (and gave my eight-year old permission to do so as well.)
Paddle-boarded during high-wind season in Hawaii.
Fallen in love and stayed there for more than twenty years.
Become a writer. I tell my students everyday: it’s the scariest thing in the world.
How did the idea for HOW TO BE BRAVE first come about?
Though the story is not autobiographical, much of HOW TO BE BRAVE is “true” in the sense that it was written after a difficult period of my life. After my mother passed away when my daughter was ten months old, I found myself sandwiched between the death of my best friend and the presence of this new life. It was a dark and confusing time – I wanted to drown in my grief but also knew I had to keep myself afloat for the sake of my new baby. I started writing with this in mind – I was looking forward to the life of my own daughter, thinking about what I want for her.
That’s when I turned to writing. On my darkest days, my husband would tell me to take time for myself – to go for walks, yoga, etc. – but more often than not, I would find myself at the library, writing. The act of writing was a way for me to work through my own grief and to also find new purpose my life.
You are also a yoga instructor and practitioner. How has this influenced your writing?
I am in my head, a lot. My yoga practice grounds me like nothing else. One definition of yoga is the linking of body and breath to focus the mind. I find that when I’m not doing my practice, I can’t focus and I become easily overwhelmed by my fears and my anxiety – and as a result, I can’t write. When I am doing my practice, I’m able to deal with those fears and those anxieties in a way that is healthy.
Of Georgia’s tasks, are there any you don’t think you could complete yourself? Are you up for the challenge?
The only one I’m really afraid of is skydiving. My husband went skydiving ten years ago, but he didn’t tell me until AFTER the day was over. (And I was incredibly grateful for this choice.) But I don’t know…maybe one day…
What advice can you provide aspiring authors?
READ. A lot. Both in the genre/style you want to publish in and ABOUT writing – all aspects – the writing process, the publishing process, etc. There are hundreds of blog posts about the writing life, etc. and I read them obsessively to understand what I had to do to get published.
Also, WRITE a lot, of course. Just keep writing, no matter what, even if it’s a journal for yourself where you write a little bit everyday. And keep submitting – the rejections are difficult at first, but it gets easier.
Writing is hard and fun and frustrating and exhilirating. I can’t imagine not writing. And if you write, you understand this strange demand – it’s not a desire; it’s a necessity. Follow that call, whatever it is inside you that asks you to write – and keep writing, no matter what.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, but now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and teaches writing and literature at Pasadena City College. She is at her happiest when she is either 1) at the playground with her husband and daughter and their wonderful community of friends, 2) breathing deeply in a full handstand, or 3) writing. She now lives in Los Angeles where she’s hard at work on her next book.
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