YA Debut Authors Bash – an interview with Kathryn Holmes

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Today’s 2015 Debut Author’s Bash post is focused on an incredible debut by Kathryn Holmes, The Distance Between Lost and Found. Before we get to the interview, let me say this: I. Love. This. Book.

And the crazy thing is, I didn’t think I would. I was intrigued by the blurb and by a character named Hallelujah, but I am so uncomfortable in outdoorsy situations that I thought this would be torture for me. It so wasn’t, though. I loved the writing and the storytelling and the character building. I was even surprised at my investment in the characters without a first person POV, which I tend to favor.

The best part for me, though, is that this book so openly and honestly depicts teenagers in real, hands-on faith struggles without being anti-religion. Holmes has my sincere respect for that – it was so refreshing.  This story is hopeful and strong and sweet and inspirational, and I hope it’s wildly successful.

As usual, make sure you read to the bottom of the interview for a chance to win some good stuff!


An interview with Kathryn Holmes, author of The Distance Between Lost and Found:

  • For those who haven’t read The Distance Between Lost and Found yet, can you give a brief synopsis?

Hallelujah “Hallie” Calhoun has been a bullied outcast since the incident with the preacher’s son, Luke Willis, six months ago. Now, on a youth group hiking trip with all of the people who have been making her life miserable, Hallie manages to get lost in the Smoky Mountains. With her: former friend Jonah, who abandoned her when everything went down with Luke, and new girl Rachel, who doesn’t know anything about the incident. Hallie has felt lost and powerless for months, but wandering in the wilderness without enough food or supplies changes everything. As the days pass with no sign of the trail or of rescue, she’ll have to learn to trust Jonah and Rachel if the three of them want to have any hope of making it home in one piece.


  • Please share one quote from the book that would give potential readers a good feel for it:

THIS IS SO HARD! Here’s what I settled on:

The rain starts: sharp, hard drops that sting Hallelujah’s arms. It feels like an attack. Like they let their guard down, and now nature is back with a vengeance.

But Hallelujah breathes in deep. Limps along. Tries to think of her skin as armor. The rain can’t pierce her. It can’t break her. She’s not the same person she was two days ago. That girl ran from rain, fell down mountainsides, scrambled in the mud, blind and gasping and scared.

This girl, this new Hallelujah, is still scared, but she watches her footing, and she holds on to Jonah and Rachel instead of pushing them away. She watches the rocks grow closer. For once, she knows where she’s going.



  • What’s your favorite thing about your debut? Why? It could be a part of the book, or a part of the publishing process, or anything.

My favorite thing about the debut experience has been hearing from readers. It’s amazing that this story that spent so long as a document on my computer is now out in the world. Every time I hear that Hallie’s journey has resonated with someone, I am so grateful. Now that my second book is available in ARC form, I’m excited to begin the process of connecting with readers all over again!


  • The main character’s name is Hallelujah, which drew me in but also made me afraid that I was in for something cheesy (but it wasn’t cheesy). How did you decide on Hallelujah for a name?

Hallie is named after a real person! When two of my friends gave their baby Hallelujah as a middle name, I couldn’t get it out of my head. What if that were someone’s first name, the name everyone called her? How would a girl live up to—or fail to live up to—a name like that? The entire story came from that one germ of inspiration: a teenage girl saddled (burdened? blessed?) with the name Hallelujah.


  • Personally, I typically connect better to books with a first person POV. The Distance Between Lost and Found is probably one of the 3rd person narratives I’ve connected with the best. Why did you choose to write in 3rd person? What do you think we gain as an audience from that choice?

The short answer is that from the very first draft, I heard Hallie’s voice in my head in third person. But I also realized, as I wrote, that I wanted Hallie to keep the reader at a little bit of a distance, especially at the start of the book. She’s put up this wall around herself in response to being bullied and humiliated. She doesn’t want to reveal her heart or her guts to anyone. Thus, first person POV almost felt too close. The challenge, of course, was to show Hallie opening up over the course of the book and to let the reader in bit by bit as the pages turned. I’m so glad to hear that it worked for you!


  • What I love most about The Distance Between Lost and Found is the power and healing that come from the troubled “lost” times, and how the characters are really only able to move beyond those times when they open up, discuss, evaluate, and communicate. I can see there being a huge potential in this book to reach readers that have gone through difficult circumstances, but the dialogue and internal struggles couldn’t have been easy to write. Can you give us some insight into your writing process for this? Was there specific inspiration for these difficult situations?

You’re definitely correct that Hallie’s internal journey was a lot harder to write than her external journey! For that reason, the first couple drafts really focused on getting the “lost in the woods” plot right. Once I felt confident in the unfolding of physical events as things went from bad to worse for Hallie, Jonah, and Rachel, I was able to weave in their difficult conversations and chart Hallie’s internal growth. The emotional arc mirrors the physical arc in so many ways, and I needed every intense conversation or painful argument or character revelation to feel like it couldn’t have happened at any other moment along the physical journey.

One of the themes of the book is the importance of finding your voice. Hallie didn’t speak up for herself when it mattered, and she regrets that intensely. The story starts with her having closed herself off and mostly silenced herself as a form of protection. I had to let the ordeal in the mountains crack her open and peel back her layers, revealing the anger and sadness and ultimately the strength and hope that were hidden underneath.

Luckily, none of the events in this book were inspired by actual events in my life. I’ve never been lost in the mountains, and I made it through high school without facing the intense bullying that Hallie experiences. But I was a shy, introverted teen who would let things fester inside me rather than opening up to anyone about how I was feeling. Certain passages in this book (as well as in my next book, HOW IT FEELS TO FLY) were written both by and for that version of myself that tends to hold in pain and anxiety rather than letting it out.


  • Finally, how does it feel to be a published author, and what has surprised you most since The Distance Between Lost and Found’s publication?

It feels amazing to be a published author! :) Having a book on the shelves is something I’ve always dreamed of and yet for a long time couldn’t quite see happening—and I am so proud to have made it happen. Even more than that, having written something that resonates with people I’ve never met is just such a cool feeling.

What has surprised me most since DISTANCE came out in February wasn’t really a surprise at all. I have been so amazed by the generosity and kindness of the kidlit community over the past year. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by fellow YA and MG authors, debut and veteran alike, who are so welcoming and so passionate about this work we all do. And beyond that, I’m thankful for the bloggers and readers who care so much about all of our books. It’s a great community to be part of, and I hope to get to be part of it for many years and many books to come. :)

NOW – enter for a chance to win a copy of THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND: a Rafflecopter giveaway

…AND enter for a chance to win a copy of Kathryn’s next book (due out in June 2016), HOW IT FEELS TO FLY: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurry! BOTH contests end on December 20th, so get all your entries in now!


3 thoughts on “YA Debut Authors Bash – an interview with Kathryn Holmes

  1. Eileen says:

    I’ve been reading everyone’s Top 10 lists and feel I have so much to read. I am looking forward to reading Illuminae. I don’t usually read this type of book. But have heard such good things about it.

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