Kate Brauning Has Fallen into the Cold…But She’s Got Hot Cocoa
YA author extraordinaire and a damn fine editor, too.
In her debut novel, How We Fall, Kate drives us through the scenic routes of a small town, focusing her keen eye on its passions, its friendships and the secrets that could burn it to the ground. She sees the subtleties that the rest of us often miss; the gradations of emotional color that can be so elusive to writer and reader alike. And she gets on a gut level the swollen, hammering hearts of the young, because her own heart continues to beat with the same relentlessness.
And given Kate’s background, it’s no wonder.
Kate Brauning grew up in the 2nd poorest county in Missouri; the same region in which How We Fall is set. A homeschooled pastor’s daughter, and one of five kids, her young life was lived in the tempest of a big, crazy household.
For her, real life happened as much in the books she borrowed from the library as it did on the twenty acres where her family raised purebred Siberian Huskies and German Shepherds. She loved YA books, primarily. Those stories lived in tandem with movie nights at the Brauning house – the bonzai optimism of 1950s musicals and broken-mirror storytelling of Alfred Hitchcock.
Her mother believed that no good movies were made after 1960, so Kate and her siblings didn’t watch them.
Grown-up Kate Brauning could spend all day at a zoo or a good aquarium and come back the next. She loves making three-tiered cakes and has a serious weakness for pie.
She’s wanted to be a writer since she was twelve years-old, and that dream, or rather, destiny, has come to pass.
But instead of giving you a synopsis of How We Fall (which I will do, but way down there) and bragging to you about what Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal has said about her work (which I’ll also do), I thought I’d present Cold readers with a chance to experience Kate in her own words, thinking on her feet.
I asked her to select three images that evoke the mood or storyline of How We Fall and then asked if she would write to those images. And if you don’t want to order her novel after taking a look at what she’s got to offer us here, then I’m afraid your heart is no longer young. You need to go carve your initials into a tree, write a love letter, make a cup of Kate’s hot cocoa (recipe below), and come back and try again, for Pete’s sake.
HOW WE FALL
This image says so much about How We Fall, to me. The story is very much a best friends romance, and there’s something terrifying and wonderful about falling for someone you never wanted or expect to love. The teens here are close, comfortable with each other—it’s clear just from their body language. They’re not even doing anything particularly romantic, but you can see their relationship anyway. I love writing stories like that, because the romance tests the friendship. The more invested the people are in the friendship, the higher the stakes are when things start to change.
Bravery is a major theme in the story. The difference between bravery and recklessness, especially. Even though she’s a bit of a brash character, Jackie’s afraid of the social stigma and potential consequences of being with her cousin. When someone consumes you, the freefall of that relationship can change everything—and not always in positive ways. Bravery was a struggle for me as a teen, and I think a lot of young people struggle with it, too. I wanted to be bold and confident, but so many little—and some bigger—fears held me back. I think a lot of it comes down to what we’re willing to fight for, and how hard we’re willing to fight.
Jackie’s missing friend, Ellie, becomes a catalyst in her relationship with Marcus. Obsession becomes a factor in both conflicts—not being able to see past someone is a dangerous place to be. I particularly love writing teens into these situations. So many teens are hitting these serious adult issues for the first time, but they’re having to go through those issues without the experience and often without the resources of older adults. Most teens don’t have easy, black-and-white lives, and How We Fall explores some of those darker struggles. I saw and experienced a lot of dark things myself as a teen, and a lot of it would leave me floundering and having to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew. It’s a tough, challenging stage in life with a lot of heartache and a lot of battles. Because of those heartaches and battles, though, there’s also a lot of persistence and vibrancy and truth.
HOW WE FALL By Kate Brauning
Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle’s sleepy farming town, she’s been flirting way too much-and with her own cousin, Marcus.
Her friendship with him has turned into something she can’t control, and he’s the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie, who left for…no one knows where. Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn’t right about this stranger, and Jackie’s suspicions about the new girl’s secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus-and deepens Jackie’s despair.
Then Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else’s lies as the mystery around Ellie’s disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?
A Note from the author:
The hot chocolate Marcus makes in How We Fall is significant to me. I’ve always had a minor war going on with cocoa mixes. They’re always too sweet and not dark enough for me, and I don’t like marshmallows (please don’t hate me). I started altering mixes, adding more cocoa, but soon gave that up and just figured out how to make my own. I make it strong, dark, and bittersweet– and nothing tastes more like fall to me. Marcus teaches Jackie how to make it and I want to teach Cold readers, too. Everyone deserves a great cup of cocoa, after all. – Love, Kate
Marcus’s Hot Chocolate:
Warm 1 ½ cups milk in a sauce pan on medium-high heat. (Use 2% or whole milk for richer hot chocolate.) When the milk starts to steam, whisk in 2 tablespoons dark cocoa and 1 tablespoon sugar. Turn the heat down to medium so the milk doesn’t scorch, and whisk constantly for about three minutes, until it looks smooth and not silty on a spoon. Makes 1 serving.
Kate is an author of young adult fiction. As a child, she spent a lot of time in her local library, wandering the shelves and discovering all kinds of stories about all kinds of people. She grew up in the hills of Missouri on twenty acres with a big pear tree, cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, and bottle calves. An incurable love for seeing real life through the pages of a book drew her to writing fiction, and at fifteen she decided she wanted someone to find her own books by searching through the shelves of a library. She’s been writing ever since, and she’s not going to stop until she can no longer put one word after another.
Kate has taught high school English and fiction workshops at her library, and has worked with both a literary agency and publishing houses. She loves attending writing conferences and book fairs, and is an associate editor at Entangled Publishing, where she works with young adult fiction. She’s also an advocate for domestic abuse victims and poverty eradication, and she volunteers with a grassroots nonprofit, One Body One Hope, which creates community-to-community relationships in Monrovia, Liberia, for infrastructure redevelopment and education.
Currently Kate lives in Iowa with her husband and their Siberian husky. They do a lot of traveling to visit her husband’s family in the Dominican Republic, and to visit Kate’s family and friends, which against her advice, scattered all over the U.S. In her spare time, she makes three-tier cakes, hunts down new music, and reads just about everything.
Kate loves unusual people, good whiskey, dark chocolate, everything about autumn, bright colors, red maple trees, superstitions, ghost stories, anything Harry Potter, night skies, pie, and talking about books. She’s working hard on her next few novels, and if you see her, say hello, because she’d love to take you out for coffee and ask you what you’re reading.
Kirkus Reviews: “Debut novelist Brauning tells a touching story of young, star-crossed lovers caught in a drama they have tried hard to avoid…. A sweetly written mix of mystery and romantic turmoil.”
School Library Journal: “Heartbreaking and well-paced, this mystery novel challenges readers to look past preconceptions and get to the know characters, rather than focus on an uncomfortable taboo. Brauning’s characters are well developed and their story engrossing. An intriguing thriller… this title will raise eyebrows and capture the interest of teens.”
How We Fall is available through:
Barnes & Noble Indie Bound Walmart.com Book-A-Million Book
Amazon.com Amazon.ca Amazon.co.uk
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