My biography doesn't take very long to tell. I was born in Detroit, second of two sisters, and grew up in an east-side suburb. I've been writing since I was a very young girl -- it's not just what I do, it's who I am, the way I see the world, and the way I try to make sense of what I see.
Writing straydog, my first book for young people, ushered me into a world I knew already as a reader. Many of the characters I love best in fiction—Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet, J. D. Salinger’s Holden and Franny and Zooey, Francesca Lia Block’s Witch Baby—are people who struggle with hard ideas, say what they think, show their bewilderments, love with all their hearts. They are exasperating, funny, intense people. Young people.
I’m a strong supporter of animal rights, so I’m especially proud that straydog was honored by both the ASPCA and the Humane Society. I believe that you can learn everything you need to know about a person by watching the way s/he acts with animals and little kids: the ones without power. Which is what Buddha Boy is mostly about: power. Who has it, who abuses it, and what it’s really for.
Writing fiction is a discipline not only of words, but of vision: I have to see a thing clearly in my mind’s eye—a character, a situation—before I can begin to write about it. The Blue Mirror is about vision, what can happen when we finally open our eyes.
Talk is all about freedom—the freedom to think and act and choose for yourself, to live the reality of who you are inside—and about freedom’s greatest enemy, fear. Going Under explores the boundaries of trust and of loyalty: how far into the darkness can you—should you—go, even for someone you love?
Kissing the Bee examines the power of growth and inevitable change, how to reach for what you want without betraying who you are. And the novel that follows (still untitled as I write this) looks at social class and aspirations, and what “having it all” might mean for two very different girls.
People who say that writing for kids is easy (and some people do say it) are pretty deeply misinformed. What I've found is that young people are far more demanding readers than adults, and they're very honest about what they like and don't like in fiction. But I do believe in reading lots of books, even bad ones, because they can teach you why the good ones are so good. I can't remember all the crappy books I read, or started reading, as a kid, but I remember all the ones I finished and loved.
I still live in the Detroit area, with my husband, the artist and illustrator Rick Lieder, my son the art school student, and our three shelter-rescued cats. I work at home, and in my very small office are shelves full of books, CDs full of music, a bulletin board covered with torn-out magazine pictures, and some really beautiful snapshots of the cats.
Kathe Koja's Writing About Writing Blog
Hoping to escape from himself for awhile, Kit auditions for a controversial school play and discovers his talent for acting, struggles with coming out, and both he and his costar face crises in their view of themselves and in their close relationships.