Check out my review of ’89 WALLS here!
Thanks so much for agreeing to be with us today, Katie!
It’s fun to be here! And thanks for interviewing me about my book and not about quilting—I’m a disaster with a sewing needle.
LOL—not a problem!
What 5 things should readers know about you?
When I’m not writing, I return library books, make soup, and try to be cooler than I really am by hip-hopping at the YMCA. In a former life I campaigned for Dole and wore a fuchsia debutante’s dress. Now I freelance for social justice-oriented non-profits. I have two degrees in American History and my professional background is in public policy. I live with my family in Minneapolis.
As a Library Associate, I appreciate the fact that you return your library books. Sadly, so many people do not…
Tell us all about your main characters—who are they? What makes them tick? Most importantly, what one thing would they need to have with them if stranded on a desert isle?
World-weary Seth can’t escape his small Nebraska town. He carries around a love note for Quinn, a conservative Daddy’s girl and someone he considers both out of his league and beneath his dignity. Quinn thinks of Seth as that whiny-but-brilliant liberal guy in class. He makes her self-conscious about her untested, rule-following existence. Their passionate romance takes them both by surprise. They decide to keep it a secret: it’s too early to make plans and too late not to care. But it’s 1989. As politics suddenly get personal, they find themselves fighting bare-fisted for their beliefs and each other—in the clear light of day.
If stranded on a desert island, Seth would take duct tape. Quinn? Hmmm…she likes to eat. She’d probably stockpile sour cream and cheddar potato chips.
I was going to ask if sour cream and cheddar chips were around in 1989, but I remember my college roommate eating them just a few years later, so I guess so!
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I never planned to write a novel: I just like to read them. But a conversation with a friend in 2006 about the pros and cons of potentially attending my 20th high school reunion brought to mind the random people you run into at those things: old crushes, old “frenemies.” I suddenly had the idea for Seth and Quinn’s reluctant romance.
It wasn’t until I was half done that I realized that the story was also a partisan allegory. Seth is the Democratic Party in the late 80’s: reactive, angry, without a compass. Quinn’s father, Tom is the Republican Party: optimistic, smug, still grounded in a true small government philosophy and underestimating the rising Religious Right with its creepy fascination with people’s private lives. Mr. Levine, the teacher, is the moderator who allows two strong points of view to talk it out respectfully. Quinn is all of us, trying to find her way when tidy theories crash into reality.
My critics hate ’89 Walls in an interestingly passionate sort of way. They say I have an agenda. This cracks me up. Of course I have an agenda. As does everyone I’ve ever met. One of my characters says, “If you think you’re neutral, you’re kidding yourself.” The best thing about reading any book, in my opinion, is that you get to test your own understanding of the world (agenda) by trying on someone else’s. I’ve learned through this experience as a debut author that not everyone reads for the same reasons that I do.
I remember nodding my head in agreement when I read that line. It’s definitely true!
How long have you been writing, and what (or who) inspired you to start?
I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon. I had a wonderfully encouraging seventh grade English teacher. I staffed the high school yearbook and wrote a column for my college newspaper. In my office jobs I contrived to write whether or not it was in my job description as a fundraiser for the Nebraska Humanities Council or lobbyist for Planned Parenthood. I’ve written a bunch of political commentaries for the Minneapolis StarTribune and have an actual fan base for my annual holiday letter. But I didn’t claim writing as my vocation until I was in my thirties. Taking a memoir class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis motivated me to finally put “writer” on my business card.
What do you like best about being a writer? What is the most challenging part?
The best part is the schedule. I write for two hours. I put my youngest on the school bus. I work out at the YMCA at 9:00. After I shower I tell my dog, “Time to go to work, Maisy,” at which point she leaves my pillow to trot down the hall to the sofa in my office. I write for another two hours. I read a section of the Sunday New York Times while eating lunch. (It takes me a week to read the whole paper). Then I write for another two hours before ramping up for after-school craziness and the dinner hour. Is it me or does literally everyone call my house at 4:00? I work in my yoga pants and t-shirts, usually with my hair sticking up. I feel extremely lucky to be able to do daily this thing I love. I can’t stress enough how much it helps to be married to a great guy with a job and health insurance.
The worst part about being a writer is the isolation. I’m an introvert and love my solitude but it’s easy to get lost in my own crazy head. Once in a while my husband will joke, “You’re not going to pull a Sylvia Plath on me are you?” Going to the gym every day is crucial: my YMCA friends serve as my social life, colleagues, and therapy. And my daughters definitely ground me in daily reality.
What are you working on right now? What can readers look for from you in the next year?
I’m toying with a memoir of my family’s sabbatical year in London during the final year of the Bush administration. The working title is, “Acting Canadian.” I loved writing ’89 Walls and read as much YA as I do adult fiction. I would love for another idea for a YA novel to drop in my lap.
Sounds intriguing! I remember reading about the sabbatical year in your author notes…
What authors and/or books have inspired you?
Gwendolyn Brooks, Sarah Waters, and Selden Edwards are my favorite authors of historical fiction. I love Alice Munro’s short stories. Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety is like comfort food. Persuasion by Jane Austen is my favorite book of all time. Cheryl Mendelson is as close as it comes to a modern-day Jane Austen. My favorite YA authors are Chris Crutcher, John Green, Kathryn Erskine, E. Lockhart, Norma Klein and Paula Danziger. John Green is also my famous author boyfriend although I doubt he is aware of this having never met me.
A fellow PERSUASION fan–awesome!
I don’t have a famous author boyfriend in my collection yet…hmm, must find one… 😉
What are you currently reading? What are your thoughts about it so far?
I’m reading Emily Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a great coming of age story about a lesbian girl’s early experimentation and her church’s earnest but emotionally-abusive attempts to “fix” her.
Have you read The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, Becky? It’s set in 1850 Ohio and uses quilting as a detailed metaphor for the English protagonist’s adjustment to America. The research is brilliant. I think you’d really like it.
Adding it to my TBR right now—thanks! I really liked her GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING. And—quilts!
If you had to “sell” this book in a single Tweet, what would you say?
It’s about the choices we make in love, sex, family loyalties, politics and friendship. A fast-paced summer read for older teens and anyone who remembers the 1980s.
Thanks so much for having me, Becky!
Thank you so much for being here, Katie! It was lovely chatting with you 🙂
For More Information
Title: ’89 Walls
Author: Katie Pierson
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Genre: Young Adult
College is not in the cards for Seth. He spends his minimum wage on groceries and fakes happiness to distract his mom from the MS they both know will kill her. It’s agony to carry around a frayed love note for a girl who’s both out of his league and beneath his dignity.
Quinn’s finishing high school on top. But that cynical, liberal guy in her social studies class makes her doubt her old assumptions. Challenging the rules now, though, would a) squander her last summer at home, b) antagonize her conservative dad, and c) make her a hypocrite.
Seth and Quinn’s passionate new romance takes them both by surprise. They keep it a secret: it’s too early to make plans and too late not to care. But it’s 1989. As politics suddenly get personal, they find themselves fighting bare-fisted for their beliefs—and each other—in the clear light of day.