2K18 Member Spotlight: Katie Henry
BOOK TITLE: Heretics Anonymous
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins
RELEASE DATE: August 7, 2018
About HERETICS ANONYMOUS
Put an atheist in a strict Catholic school? Expect comedy, chaos, and an Inquisition. The Breakfast Club meets Saved! in debut author Katie Henry’s hilarious novel about a band of misfits who set out to challenge their school, one nun at a time. Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Robyn Schneider.
When Michael walks through the doors of Catholic school, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow atheist at that. Only this girl, Lucy, isn’t just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.
Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism.
Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies one stunt at a time. But when Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.
Katie Henry is a New York-based author and playwright. She grew up in Berkeley, California, a city with good weather, great food, and passionate politics. In addition to novels, Katie writes plays for young audiences and received her BFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR BOOK?
I wrote HERETICS ANONYMOUS in an attempt to figure out what religion meant to me. How I could be a maybe-believer in something that was alternately so beautiful and so hurtful. How I could fit the person I'd be born as into an institutionally hostile space. How to make change inside a religion and out of it.
BEST ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Nothing you write is wasted. Every single half-finished story, book outline that goes nowhere, anything written in a different medium, it all counts. Every single thing you write makes you better, regardless of what it is, what you do with it, or whether it’s “successful.” My background is in playwriting, not fiction, and while switching mediums was full of new challenges (why do I have to describe a room? The set designer can take care of that!) everything I’d written before this book—good plays, bad plays, some really bad plays—helped prepare me for that challenge.
On that note—never delete anything. You never know when you’ll want to resurrect an old line.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FURRY WRITING SIDEKICK.
Sadly, I don't have any pets. But I like to think my spiritual writing sidekick is St. Guinefort, the 13th century French dog venerated as a folk saint despite the strenuous objections of the Catholic Church.
WHAT DOES FEARLESS MEAN TO YOU?
As a person with an almost comically long list of fears (including fire, cockroaches, and the theological concept of predestination), “fearless” can’t simply mean “without fear.” For me, being fearless is continuing onward despite fear, owning the fear, and probably making lots of self-deprecating jokes about the fear.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE AS A TEEN?
To describe myself as a teenager, I'm going to tell three stories.
Story #1: When I was thirteen, my math teacher got so frustrated with our class she threw up her arms and asked (obviously rhetorically), "When did you all stop listening to me?!"
I replied, "Around November."
It was March. I was a nightmare.
Story #2: When I was sixteen, I was a teen editor for The Best American Nonrequired Reading and had to write my first personal bio. In it, I described myself as a proud member of the SPCA—the Society for the Prevention of Comma Abuse.
I genuinely thought this was funny. It was not.
Story #3: When I was seventeen, an alumni interviewer from Penn asked me to describe myself in five words. I stared at him for ten silent, uninterrupted seconds before saying, with the approximate tonal quality of a Criminal Minds serial killer: "I'm...intense."
He did not ask any follow-up questions. I did not get into Penn.
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
Too many things to list, though I once told my family that my three biggest fears were heights, death by drowning, and being more than ten miles away from the nearest hospital.
We were on a five-day whitewater river rafting trip at the time.
HOW DO YOU APPROACH FEAR IN THE WRITING PROCESS?
I don’t try to eliminate it, because that’s not going to happen. I also don’t fully reject my (many, many, oh God so many) writing fears. What I try to do is acknowledge the kernel of truth in my fear and then add an all-important “but.”
“What if everyone hates my book?” becomes “Some people will inevitably hate my book, but some people will inevitably find it meaningful, and that matters.”
“What if my next book sucks?” becomes “The first draft of my next book might suck, but I have a wonderful agent and a wonderful editor on my side, and together we’ll figure out how to make it better.”
My fears aren’t going anywhere. And rather than pretend they don’t exist or aren’t valid, I do my best to reframe and live with them.