Kate DiCamillo on September/October Kids' Indie Next List Top Pick "The Beatryce Prophecy"

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Indie booksellers across the country have chosen The Beatryce Prophecy (Candlewick) as their top pick for the September/October Kids’ Indie Next List.

The Beatryce Prophecy begins when Brother Edik, a monk, discovers a girl, Beatryce, curled up and holding the ear of Answelica the Goat. As Brother Edik nurses her back to health, he discovers that she is at the center of a prophecy he penned himself — she is the girl who will unseat the king and change the world.Kate DiCamillo, author of The Beatryce Prophecy

“Kate DiCamillo weaves a medieval tale that reads like a classic fable,” said Julie Jarema of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia. “This ode to stories will leave readers feeling comforted, like they are securely holding onto the ear of a beloved goat.”

Here, Bookselling This Week talks building a fantasy world with Kate DiCamillo.

Bookselling This Week: Where did the idea for The Beatryce Prophecy come from?

Kate DiCamillo: I’ve dug through old notebooks in an attempt to answer this question. What I found (right around the time I started the story [in 2009!]) is not terribly satisfying, I’m afraid.  There are some notes about a goat. And a monk. And a moon. How I got here from there is mysterious and miraculous to me. I guess it’s what happens when you sit down without an outline and with a lot of hope and fear and a goat.

BTW: Beatryce is a powerful young girl growing up in a world that seeks to destroy her. How did you come up with her character?

KD: The story started with the goat and the monk. Beatryce was a surprise. When she shows up in the barn, holding onto the goat’s ear, I was just as amazed (and worried) as Brother Edik. Beatryce’s love of stories, her strength, her ability to trust, her certainty of who she is — all these things are an inspiration to me. Her courage gave me courage.

BTW: And what was it like to build this world? What were your inspirations?

KD: It was magical for me, to watch this world take shape — the dark woods and Cannoc’s tree, the mermaid and the seahorse, the illuminated letters and the stories. I didn’t have to imagine it. I just squinted and it was there. And then, there was the wonder of Sophie’s illustrations, bringing the world to life again, making it even more magical.

BTW: Do you approach writing fantasy differently from writing realistic fiction? Can you talk about your process?

KD: I never think about genre when I’m writing. I just think about trying to tell the story as well and true as I am able. The process is always the same: tons and tons of drafts, working, listening, trying — always — to get out of my own way, and let the story tell me.

BTW:  One thing I noticed while reading is that, while this book is completely different from Raymie Nightingale, both stories center children who are lonely and hurt finding friendship in each other. What keeps you returning to that theme?

KD: Maybe because it so closely mirrors my own experience? I was a kid who found solace and comfort in friendships. I’m an adult who does the same. I can’t get over the wonder of it, the gift of it — having those friendships.

BTW: Answelica the Goat has such a wonderful personality. She’s like an acerbic cat mixed with a guard dog. Did you draw on any real life animal inspiration when writing her?

KD: I love that description of her. I am happy to tell you that she arrived on the page as herself — fully formed and formidable. I’ve never known a goat like her.

BTW: The power of storytelling is also an important part of The Beatryce Prophecy. Do you have any advice for aspiring storytellers?

KD: Yes. Read. Read read read read read read. And write. And rewrite rewrite rewrite. And then rewrite again. Keep a notebook. Pay attention to everything. Stare at people. Eavesdrop. Listen. Wonder. Imagine. The world is your business.

BTW: Is there any one thing you’d hope readers take away from this book?

KD: I’d like it if they closed the book and thought: I feel less alone in the world.

BTW: What role do independent bookstores play in your life?

KD: When I am asked to define myself, the first word that pops into my head is “reader.” I am first and foremost a reader. And to go into an independent bookstore and find myself among books and other readers — I feel like I have come home. Thank you — to everyone who puts a book into a reader’s hands. It’s an act of connection, love. It matters. It helps us all to find our way home.