A chat with the middle grade author duo Kati Bartkowski & Heidi Lang

I’m a huge fan of sequels, especially ones that get my heart pounding!  A Hint of Hydra, the follow up to last summer’s A Dash of Dragon, fits the bill. The series features Lailu, a monster cuisine chef with the best curses (‘What the spatula?’) and a extra serving of bravery.  The amazing world building from the first book holds steady in this tense, action packed story, which finds Lailu trying to prevent a war between the elves and the scientists. There is also a cute boy. What’s not to love??

(PS: When I first interviewed this sister writing duo, I just knew I wanted to hang out with them in real life. And it’s happening! Join us at Keplers Books in Meno Park on September 14th 6:00-8:00 for Mighty Middle Grade, a panel moderated by the amazing Jill Diamond. We are going to have fun and you want to be there. More details here.)

(Buy A Hint of Hydra: AmazonB&NIndieBound)

When you wrote A Dash of Dragon, did you know there would be a sequel? Will there be a book three?

KATI: We planned our story as a series, but since we’d heard it’s good to query your first book as “a standalone with series potential,” readers can stop after DASH and still have a complete story arc. But in our minds, that was never the end of Lailu’s story.

HEIDI: We told our agent we had several sequels planned when we signed with her, and she was able to negotiate a two-book deal for us when she sold our book. We didn’t know if we would get the chance to write the third book or not, but we really, really hoped we would because we still had more story to cover. And then earlier this year, we got the word that a third book was a go! We’re really excited that we’ll get to finish the trilogy we have planned.

I love the world building in this series, especially the mix of the familiar and the fantastical. How much did you hash out this world before you started writing? Or did it evolve as you went along?

HEIDI: Aww, thank you! We had a lot of fun imagining this world, and honestly it’s been sort of a mix of previously hashed out and also evolving on the go. Kati likes to plan things out, so she draws maps and writes lists and does all of that. I like to be spontaneous and just make things up when I feel like it. As you can imagine, Kati sure does love that!

KATI: Heh. Love. Interesting perspective there. Just like you love it when you go way off on a tangent and then I’m forced to cut it.

HEIDI: Kati can be a harsh writing partner… 🙂 But sometimes I do get a little carried away, and she’ll have to slice and dice my section like one of Mystic Cooking’s specials just to get us back on track.

KATI: Okay, that I actually like.

HEIDI: I thought you would. 😉

What does writing with a partner look like in practice? Do you work from a detailed outline?

KATI: As mentioned…one of us likes to work from a detailed outline.

HEIDI: Bet you can’t guess which one! ;*D I do try to stay on outline, but I’m a pantser at heart. Still, Kati and I do spend a lot of time discussing our story, both before we start writing, and also while we’re writing. We have a lot of back-and-forth phone calls where one of us will be like, “hey, I had an idea. What if we…”

KATI: For the actual writing itself, we trade off sections, but we also revise each other’s sections along the way. So I’ll write a few pages and send it to Heidi. She’ll make changes to my section and write hers, then send it to me, and I’ll do the same. That way, by the time we finish a draft, all of our writing is blended together.

 Who were your favorite authors as kids?

KATI: Tamora Pierce and Madeleine L’Engle.

HEIDI: Also Lloyd Alexander. I loved the Black Cauldron series.

What are you reading right now?

KATI: I actually just started reading POWER PLAY. 😉  [Wow – thank you!]

HEIDI: Ooh, you’re going to love it! I’m about to start NIGHT OF THE LIVING CUDDLE BUNNIES by Jonathan Rosen, so I can be all caught up when the sequel comes out later this month.

What are you writing right now?

KATI: A Pinch of Phoenix. 😉

HEIDI: I’m also working on a middle grade contemporary…which I’ll have to tell you more about later. Cue my own winky face. 🙂

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

KATI: Find us on our website, www.HeidiandKatiwrite.com (you can send us emails through that), or on twitter. I’m @ktbartkowski

HEIDI: And I’m @hidlang We love hearing from readers. We’re also both on Instagram, again as @ktbartkowski and @hidlang.