Our very own Katryn Bury is now a published author!
Drew Leclair Gets a Clue (from Clarion Books, a HarperCollins imprint) is available now at AC Library.
We sat down with Katryn to talk about her debut novel and her writing process.
- Katryn, thanks for joining us. How did you get into writing?
I wrote my first mystery at six (it was very well-received by my family, not so much by the group at show and tell) and my first novel at twelve. As an early reader, I devoured books by the day. I would sometimes check out a stack of twenty (or more!) from my local library. When I finally read them all and complained to my mother that I was “out of books,” she told me I’d better write my own!
- Where did the inspiration for Drew Leclair Gets a Clue come from?
From two places: books, and my own personal history! As for the first, I absolutely adored Harriet the Spy and Nancy Drew. I wanted to write an update on Harriet the Spy in our modern social media age, with that classic girl detective feel. In addition to this, I also drew a lot from my own life. My father and I would have “murder and mayhem” nights just like Drew Leclair and her father, Sam. Even though other kids thought I was a little creepy, I loved to learn about crime and even ended up getting my degree with an emphasis on criminology. I was also bullied as a kid, like Drew, for being sick. A lot of the themes of identity, from disability to LGBTQIA+ issues are true to my own life.
- In addition to being an author, you work for Alameda County Library. How has working at a library impacted your writing?
Well, the best way to get better at writing (in my opinion) is to read. The more you read the books you’d like to see in the world, the better you’ll be at finding your own voice and telling that story. While I don’t frequently read while I’m on the job, there’s no better access to a world of wonderful stories than you get working in a library! Also, as a library tech working a lot with kids and families, I’m lucky enough to get a sense of what they want to read. I found that a lot of kids were disappointed that there weren’t enough mysteries for them to read. Seeing that enthusiasm definitely gave me the confidence to write a mystery and seek publication.
- How do you feel seeing your book on the shelf where you work?
It’s a dream for sure! When I was a kid, I was frequently sick and was very lonely. A lot of my world was in books. Because of this, the public library became a sanctuary for me. When I went there, I didn’t have to think about school, or my treatments, or anything else. I was able to fully escape into another world. Seeing my book on library shelves makes me feel like I can reach a kid like I was—a kid who wants to feel like they are part of the stories they read.
Can you talk about how working in libraries affected your views on representation in books?
Working in both school and public libraries, I’ve had the honor of seeing firsthand how representation matters. When you put a book in someone’s hand that has characters who look like them, or who share something meaningful, it connects them more fully to the world of books. While libraries are frequently thought of as only a place for books, I like to think of them as a place to engage our communities. There’s no better way to engage readers than to make them feel like they are the hero in their own story. This is especially true when authors are writing from their own authentic viewpoint. It’s powerful for kids to see themselves in characters, but also in the authors who write these stories.
- Have you always worked in libraries?
I actually started as a bookseller, at Barnes & Noble stores all over California. Working in a place where I was surrounded by books made me want to hold onto that feeling. But libraries, I realized when I started here, are about more than books. I feel as though I’m connected to knowledge, which makes me very happy as a lifelong learner.
- The school library plays an important role in your book. Why?
As a school librarian, I saw how important the school library is as the center of a school. Time and again, I have seen data that supports the importance of having a functional school library with a librarian in grade school. Teachers may focus on reading levels, but a school librarian’s job is to promote reading for pleasure. In my opinion, a kid who reads for pleasure is going to be a good reader—no matter what they read! My main character, Drew, feels safe in her own school library. I believe all kids should feel the same.
- How are public libraries important to promote equitable access for all?
As I said, I used libraries a lot when I was in school. For me, that safe space was the public library rather than our school library. The librarian at my Catholic school library was very concerned with kids' reading anything she deemed to be “inappropriate.” I was an advanced reader, and she would not allow me to check out books at my reading level. There’s no better time, in this unfortunate resurgence of banning books, to have this conversation. Authors of children’s literature (as well as teachers, librarians, and publishers) are very careful about how we broach conversations with children. Prohibiting a child from reading a book will do two things. At best, it will have the reverse effect and the child will find a way to read it anyway. At worst, the child will have no access to read and learn about something that they have questions about. No matter which outcome, kids will internalize that they need to feel shame about whatever they wanted to read about. The shame I felt when books on LGBTQIA+ issues were banished from my school library stayed with me. I don’t want that for any child.
- What resources can aspiring authors find at the library?
There are so many resources I used over the years in my journey to get my book published. I actually made a booklist on a blog I did for National Novel Writing Month, including books (available from the AC Library) that help writers hone their craft and get published. This page on the AC Library website is a great one-stop shop for writing resources. Also, while I decided to go the traditional publishing route, a lot of authors (ones that have much better self-promotional skills than I do!) do very well with self-publishing. AC Library has great resources for that too!
- Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Katryn.
Happy to help. Keep reading, everyone!
Katryn also created a Booklist for anyone interested in some of the books that inspired her.
Books that served as an inspiration for the new middle grade mystery series, starting with Drew Leclair Gets a Clue