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:
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.