Book People: Kate Gordon
Kate Gordon’s writing in ‘Aster’s Good, Right Things’ is at times so authentic that it makes you wince with the pain and anguish of it all but ultimately wraps you up in immense beauty and goodness. This is one of my favourite middle grade reads in a long time and I’m recommending it to all readers 10+.
Aster attends a school for gifted kids, but she doesn’t think she’s special at all. If she was, her mother wouldn’t have left. And if she isn’t careful, everyone else will leave her too. Each day Aster must do a good, right thing – a challenge she sets herself, to make someone else’s life better. Nobody can know about her ‘things’, because then they won’t count. And if she doesn’t do them, she knows everything will go wrong. Then she meets Xavier. He wears princess pajamas and has his own kind of special missions to make life better. When they do these missions together, Aster feels free…but if she stops doing her good, right things will everything fall apart?
Aster and Xavier are the kind of characters who will stay with you long after you have finished their story and authors who do character so well deserve all the accolades. Aster is all heart and good intention – she feels deeply, listens quietly and takes it all in. She is an observer and it is a privilege to observe the world through her eyes for a time. Xavier is the kind of friend we all need. The one who just sits alongside us as we cry, not trying to solve anything, just holding space for us. He makes Aster feel safe, seen and free.
‘Aster’s Good, Right Things’ is the most beautiful examination of friendship and being true to yourself. Though it is weighty on issues – Kate Gordon does a remarkable job of handling tough topics gently and with sensitivity. I simply had to ask her for an interview.
Thank you for joining us Kate!
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TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT Kate Gordon
1. Tell us about your latest book.
‘Aster’s Good, Right Things’ is a book that’s very close to my heart. I had horrible, debilitating anxiety as a child (and now), and engaged in compulsive behaviours around “goodness” as a way of trying to prove my worth in the world.
So much of this book stems from my personal experience. Aster does a “good, right thing” every day; after a family trauma; as a coping mechanism; and because she believes if she doesn’t, everyone she loves will leave her.
Through the gentle love of the people around her, and a new, tentative friendship, she begins to learn that her value doesn’t lie in her altruistic deeds, and that sometimes doing the “good, right thing” can mean being kind to yourself and finding your own joy. I hope it’s a helpful book for other kids who feel like Aster.
2. How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve always written, for my own enjoyment. I began writing “properly” while I was a teacher librarian – I did a university course to learn more about children’s and YA literature and started writing my own as part of that.
I had a very lucky introduction into the industry, after winning a fellowship and being found by a beautiful angel of an agent (who has since retired – but my new one is just as marvellous). So many people have been so kind to me over my writing career, even while I took four years off to be a full-time mum. I’m so grateful to everyone who has fostered and guided me along the way.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
I mean, in 2020? It’s been … far from typical! But now that we’re in a phase of relative ‘normal’, my typical working day is structured around my daughter’s school day and activities. I work usually between around 9:30am and 1:30pm, with a 25 minute break for a mindless lunch in front of the TV!
After pickup and at weekends, I’m in ‘mum mode’. These years go by far too quickly, and time with her fuels my imagination!
4. Can you describe your workspace for us?
It’s not at all fancy! I work at our dining table – often with an eight-year-old wearing a dog costume nattering to me while I do it!
5. Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Writing can be a super tough job and is really hard for people with a thin skin. Rejection is an almost daily thing, on some level. If you want to do this- if it really fires your heart – there’s no better job, either, but your mental health should always come first.
Take time to look after yourself, mentally and physically; surround yourself with good people; don’t buy into the notion you have to write every day or suffer in a garret to do this. Life is the thing. You are important. Writing should always come second to taking care of yourself. Also, listen to the guidance and advice of mentors and elders. They know their stuff.
6. Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?
Mildred Hubble, from ‘The Worst Witch’, is my favourite ever. As a kid, her adventures gave me hope that even ‘the worst witch’ could be loved, could succeed and deserved to take up space in the world. I loved how she picked herself back up after every mistake. I loved how her friends still loved her when she messed up. I loved how she was messy and silly and brave. I wanted to be her and I still do.
7. If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
A full-time mum to my kid! But she’s growing up so quickly, she barely needs me anymore. So, my second choice would be going back to librarianship. I really loved that job and I miss hanging out with young people every day!
8. What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
1) Biscuits. I am all about biscuits.
2) Josh Ritter – an indie folk musician, from the US. I am low-key obsessed with him. But if I’m drafting, I can’t listen to music with lyrics, so lately I’ve got really into Mongolian folk metal. There is throat singing and it is wonderful.
9. How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
Oh, there is so much of me in all my books, especially in Aster and Wonder Quinn, my latest two protagonists. I always said if anyone really wants to know me, they should read my books, and these two prove this truer than ever.
10. If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
Just more kindness. More understanding and acceptance of difference. Everyone has value and a place in this world.
MORE BOOKS BY KATE GORDON
‘The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn’
‘Bird on a Wire’
‘Girl Running, Boy Falling’