Kate Castle - Teenage Girls Can Be Savage
Kate Castle is the author of the best-selling novella Born of the Sea. Her debut novel, Girl Island, is out now. Kate's books fall into the Young Adult and New Adult adventure and romance categories. Kate is passionate about representing young queer females in mainstream literature and writes stories about fierce, independent, fluid young women - the kind of characters she wished she could have read more about growing up. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Girl Island.
Please give us a short introduction to what Girl Island is about.
Girl Island is a young adult adventure novel about a group of girls who find themselves alone on a deserted island after their seaplane crashes. One of my early readers said it was like Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies, and I think that's probably better than any short introduction I could possibly think of! But it's also a story about female friendship and love. While it's dark in places, I think there's a big heart at its center.
What inspired you to write about six teenage girls on a deserted island?
William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies' was one of my favorite books growing up. I remember doubting my GCSE English teacher when she said similar events simply wouldn't happen if a group of girls or young women were left to their own devices on an island. Since then, I've read countless critics agreeing with her. A planned all-female movie remake was even shelved because of the backlash! But, after experiencing toxic femininity and bullying first-hand as a teenager, I decided to set out to show that teenage girls can be just as savage...albeit perhaps in a different way. What started out as a loose retelling of the classic book quickly turned into a standalone story with new, strong female characters and very different themes - such as grief, loneliness, female friendship and the different elements of a woman. But fans of Golding's masterpiece will notice several deliberate nods to the dystopian classic along the way.
What, would you say, makes teenage girls so scary?
Being a teenage girl is hard. Really hard. Toxic femininity can be rife at that age - characterised by passive-aggressiveness, manipulation, gossiping, verbal and physical attacks amongst other things - all things that confused and scared me when I was at school, and beyond. But the mean behaviour we've probably all experienced often stems from deep personal insecurities and/or a difficult home life, so - looking back - I feel sorry for the 'mean girls' I grew up with. At the time, though, it's pretty hard to feel sympathy for them. Girls at that age can be exceptionally cruel. The irony is I think most, if not all teenage girls have times when they feel lonely, unseen and unable to truly be themselves without fear of attack. Honestly, I think a lot of adult women probably feel the same way! So the sooner we all embrace our differences, come together and lift each other up - and, most importantly, teach our daughters to do the same - the better.
Tell us more about Ellery. What makes her tick?
Ellery personifies what I wish all young women had the courage to be: brave, honest, sympathetic, kind, caring and self-sufficient. She's not even slightly arrogant or proud. She also doesn't care at all what people think about her - she just is who she is. I set out to write what I thought was the perfect female teenage protagonist. I hope everyone else falls in love with her just as much as I did.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
Whitney was especially challenging. I had to go to a place where I could remember exactly what my personal mean girl(s) said to me and how they behaved and I modelled her on those memories. I'm forty-seven now so it was a challenge to revisit that time in my life and feel it again so viscerally. I was quite happy to put all that misery back in a tightly-sealed box, thank you very much!
Readers say the characters were very believable. How did you pull this off?
I've said it before and I'll say it again, but I really believe dialogue is the number one weapon a writer has in their arsenal to achieve great characterisation. A character is absolutely what they say; even more so than what they do. So working on each character's authentic voice is very important to me. I never want to be in a situation where my readers exclaim, "but Ellery would NEVER say that!". So getting to know your characters and reflecting them well in strong dialogue is absolutely imperative, in my humble opinion.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
I loved playing with the idea of the different elements of a woman and how these elements connect with each other; exploring the different chemistry of friendships. But I think the overriding message is we are all islands in the same ocean. And, whilst it's important to enjoy being alone and to love ourselves, we don't have to be lonely. We just have to have the courage to reach out. After all, we can invite people we connect with / have chemistry with onto our islands, too. Life is always better when it's shared with others.
What are you working on right now?
I have a major thing for modernising/retelling classic stories (witches and wizards, zombie apocalypse, alien invasions, time travel, pirates, westerns, etc) and populating them with strong female queer leads, so I'm busy working on my next one right now. I won't tell you which I've decided to go with yet! It'll be out later this year. Basically, I'm on a mission to write YA books full of characters that were never represented in books when I was a 17-year-old.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I also have an adventure novella out called 'Born of the Sea' - based on the true story of infamous 18th-century female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read - so readers can check that out. Even better, if you join my mailing list at www.kate-castle.com I will send you a copy of it absolutely free of charge! You can find out more about me on the website, too. I'm also on pretty much all social media @katecastlebooks. I absolutely love to hear from my readers, so please do get in touch!