Klepto

Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006 (YALSA)

“Best Books for Kids & Teens” – Canadian Children’s Book Centre 2005

Klepto was the first book I published, so of course it means a great deal to me. I’ll never forget the day the editor from James Lorimer called to say that they wanted to publish Klepto. It was a sunny day in August and I was on my way to the tennis tournament at Jarry Park. That entire afternoon, I sat way up in the nose-blood section watching pro tennis players wack the ball
back and forth across the net, a huge smile plastered across my face, feeling as though I was soaring somewhere way above the stadium, in the clouds. I don’t think I had ever smiled so much in one day, to the point where my cheeks were actually sore. Don’t even ask me who won the matches.

I wanted Klepto to be a book about what happens to the good sister, the one who is growing up in the wake of the bad one. Lots of book have been written about troubled kids, but I have always been just as interested in the siblings of those kids. To a certain extent, their lives are just as troubled because they are often ignored and confused about how to act. How do you carry on studying and getting good grades, or following the rules, when your older brother or sister is on a downward spiral. So this book is the good sister’s story. How does she (Kat) cope with living in her house after her delinquent sister has been sent to a group home. Even then, the attention
doesn’t refocus on her; rather, the sister’s absence becomes an even bigger presence in the home. Stealing is the way that Kat deals with this loss of attention and tries to draw attention to herself.

I did some research on kleptomania for the book, but not much. I don’t do a lot of research generally, just enough so that I know I’m not way off track. I wanted the book to be more about Kat than her kleptomania. The book isn’t about stealing; it’s about Kat and why she does it.

What surprised me after writing the book was how many images of small animals I used. It’s always fun to discover imagery patterns in one’s own writing. When students ask me if this was intentional, I have to say not on a conscious level. Of course, when you think about it, the animals (birds mostly) are a perfect symbol for both Kat and her sister Hannah, especially
since Hannah’s parents build her a nice “cage” to come home to.

The book was revised, as most books are, several times, to get the story and tone just right. It started off in quite a different form, with journal entries and a third-person narrative. My editor thought a first-person approach would work better and I have to say she’s right. I had to work hard on getting the resolution right at the end. The last thing I wanted was a Hollywood
ending, where everyone kisses and makes up. Without giving the ending away, let’s just say I was willing to offer at least a suggestion of closure, in some ways. This is always a tricky thing.

The cover was revised a few times too. The first one was of a CD cover inside a pair of fingers, with a picture of the girl on it. The second one had the girl holding out her hand, almost like a claw, as if she was getting ready to snatch. The third is the one that was used. People often want to know who the girl is. I have no idea, but she does look like a Kat to me.

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