The Debutante Ball Welcomes Kathryn Burak

Kate Burak grew up in the middle of coal-mining country, in the center of Pennsylvania.  She started out as an Art major in college but switched to English when she  noticed that her sketchbooks had more poems and stories than pictures.  Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things was inspired during the years she lived across the street from Emily Dickinson’s grave, in Amherst, Massachusetts.  She teaches writing at Boston University.

Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things is a story about a girl who looks for hope in the most unlikely place:  a dead poet’s house.  As I was writing the book, the main character kept surprising me by doing unexpected things.  It was like she had a life of her own and was whispering in my ear.

Sounds very intriguing, Kate! And now for the interview:

Share one quirk you have that most people don’t know about.

I have developed a fear of drawbridges.  I regularly have to drive over a giant drawbridge that lets big ships get into the shipyard for repair, and every time I do, my overactive imagination develops some pretty scary scenes involving me dangling from the bridge after I squeeze out the car window somehow, my Subaru precariously tipped off the edge.

Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel — something that’s not even in your book. 

Here’s a really big secret:  When I sold my novel, there was a vampire subplot.  The main character was writing a story about how Emily Dickinson was a vampire—that would explain why Emily Dickinson never aged (there is only one photo of her at age 17, so who knows if she ever got older?), never went out in daylight (she was reclusive and used to drop cookies to children from her bedroom window), and wouldn’t meet visitors face-to-face (she would speak with people from another room, with a wall separating them).  The subplot was cut, but I offer glimpses of that story on my website.  My main character Claire is going to finish that story someday soon.

Share something that’s always guaranteed to make you laugh.

McSweeny’s website always makes me laugh.  What I like most is that they don’t need pictures or lots of words to get the really funny stuff across.  It’s instant.

What’s your next big thing? 

My new project is a YA novel about a girl who is a filmmaker and possible arsonist.  The reader has to figure out if she’s telling the truth.

Has anyone ever thought a character you wrote was based on them?

I always tell people that I sometimes use real people as “models” for my characters, particularly my students or my children’s friends.  There is one character in Emily’s Dress who is based on a real person—hint:  I thank this person in the acknowledgments—but I probably shouldn’t say any more about this!  I did have a novelist friend who used my husband’s name and my names for the couple in his book.  He says he just used our names, but you always wonder when you have writer friends.

Thanks very much, Kate!

To find more about Kate and her book, check her out online at:


Facebook:  Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things (page)

Or follow her on Twitter:  @DressWriter

And for one of our lucky commenters, Kate has offered up a pre-order of Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things (U.S. Only, please). To be entered, just leave a comment telling us about one of YOUR quirks.

14 Replies to “The Debutante Ball Welcomes Kathryn Burak”

  1. Hi Kate! Thank you for coming to the dance this week. EMILY’S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS sounds great–I’ve always been fascinated by the reclusive Miss Dickinson. And, gee, the whole vampire theory sounds reasonable to me, even if it didn’t make the cut to be included in the book. 😉

  2. Good morning, Kate! Thanks so much for coming over to the Ball today! EMILY’S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS sounds fabulous (and I love the Amherst connection–I am an alum of Hampshire College so I know the Happy Valley area well!)

    I love learning things about the iterations of drafts so thank you for sharing that piece of yours! It always blows my mind to look back on my books and see how far they’ve come and how plots I was SO attached to and couldn’t imagine the novel without have been changed.

    1. Moments Photography just perfectly (and I can say that since I got to meet her and phogotraph her maternity session back in January!). I don’t normally like to do logos with more than a couple colors, but the

  3. Hi Kate! Thanks so much for being with us today and can I tell you how much I LOVE that there was a vampire subplot in your book? It’s so much fun hearing behind-the-scenes stuff like that.

  4. One of my quirks? I have so many it’s hard to choose but one. Well, I guess I’ll go with something minor and less likely to make people judge me. I don’t like to listen to my television in any volume that’s not a multiple of five. This is sometimes inconvenient. I used to do the same with my stereo, but it’s degrees are way too different and I had to give up. This basically means I try to avoid looking at the volume on the stereo for fear of seeing a number that’s not a multiple of five. Why is this? I DON’T KNOW.

  5. Kate’s book sounds so good! And so does her next project!!! Can’t wait to read both.
    One of my quirks is, or at least used to be, being in a room with the door closed. I’m a bit claustrophobic, and I really don’t like being in a small room with the door closed.

    1. I have to say that I’m a little more than dnisppoiated with other people’s lack of enthusiasm for the video/single. There seems to be so much unnecessary hostility towards it, and I truly cannot understand why. Did people expect to see Kate rolling around on the floor for six and a half minutes? That’s the impression that I’m getting with some comments. Whether the video was “rushed” or not, or whether it’s part of an even greater picture, I’m sure it’s what Kate intended otherwise it wouldn’t have been released. Some fans seem to forget that Kate does like to mix things up a bit with each new project, which is something I have always personally liked. It keeps things fresh, in my opinion, and you aren’t getting the same repetitive thing over and over again. I think the biggest problem is that people are comparing Director’s Cut too much to the tracks from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, when they should be treating them as different entities altogether. If people can get past the comparing thing, they may enjoy what’s coming a lot better. I’ve been a fan for a very long time and I’m very excited about Director’s Cut coming out. I feel like a young teenager again discovering Kate’s music for the first time. I just wish more people felt that way as well!

  6. I can relate. I, too, have a deep and crippling fear of drawbridges. I once came across a documentary about the Magere Brug on TV, and it took me three days to recover.

  7. I’m late to this Debutante Ball. I took the very scenic route through the YA Muses post on the Class of 2k12 website then because I’d never heard of this book I clicked on the FB page and clicked on this link. And days later (not really) I’m here. I will definitely have to add this to my review list.

    A quirk I have- I had one and then I asked my husband if I had one and he said the same one so its that I rub my feet together under the covers to fall asleep. I also have to have everything grouped into uneven numbers.

    A vampire subplot…that’s very unique!

  8. Here’s my quirk ( one of many): I make up songs about things. For example, if I know I’m going to the store, I might sing, “I’m going to the store..who’s going? Me!” My boyfriend thinks I’m odd. I know I am! lol

    Drawbridges don’t really bother me, but then again, there are not any really where I live.

    1. Im SOOO excited for passoin to come out i read both fallen and torment in a week and cant wait for the next one to come out. ive been waiting since like last year. i wish the release date could have been closer weve still got to wait like what 4 months??? thats too long!!! anyway i hope lauren kate carries on writing; her series are sooooo good!!! xx

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