The Big Idea: Laura Kat Young
Posted on September 27, 2022 Posted by Athena Scalzi 4 Comments
Laura Kat Young was determined to write a story that she wanted to read, even if at first it was difficult to find a place for it amongst the shelves. Read on to see how The Butcher came to be.
LAURA KAT YOUNG:
An Eye for an Eye
A horrible crime had just shocked the nation, and my friend and I sat in the square of an idyllic British town discussing what the courts were doing with the assailant. Like the many around us who held in their hands newspapers, phones, glossy magazines highlighting the case, we were hypnotized by the leniency shown towards the criminal. I asked my friend: what if it had been your loved one? What justice could be served to make it, well, even? My friend went down a rabbit hole. I followed, nodding yes, and at each and every turn. It was fun to think of ways to make the bad people pay–isn’t that what a hero does in the end, after all? Or is that an anti-hero? Perhaps my characters are a bit of both–I’ll let the reader be the judge.
No Way Out
Toni Morrison, one of my favorite authors of all time, said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I want stories of terrible societies, speculative and dystopian worlds and inescapable situations. In The Giver, there was the next town. In Lord of the Flies, they were rescued before everyone killed each other. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Canada is their safe haven. But what if there wasn’t an out? What if there was nowhere to go? Or what if you did escape, but you had to go back?
It was also important to me to write a book in which there was a strong female lead whose storyline was not contingent upon seeking out a romantic relationship. Growing up I read books in which women had two choices: get married and have kids or die alone. I wanted to give my lead a story that I don’t frequently see on the page (still): that a woman’s livelihood is connected not to who desires her but what she desires for herself. All books should live up to the Bechdel test.
The idea of radical self-love and forgiveness is an important theme in my work. Sometimes people do terrible things, but what does it say about us if we cannot forgive them? And if a person should misstep, how can they work to forgive themselves? The systems in which we are trapped contribute to our own oppression. We should all work towards dismantling them, towards fighting those that seek to subjugate us. As a high school teacher, I focus heavily on said systems, exploring the dysconsciousness and subsequent perceptions and attitudes that bind us to the very thing we should be trying to escape.
Finding a Home
The Butcher had a difficult time finding a home. Too gruesome, not gruesome enough; where would this title sit in a bookstore? I kept at it, though, and entered Twitter pitch contests and went to agent panels at conferences. I was chosen for #Pitchwars, a mentoring program that matches published authors, editors, or industry interns with an unpublished writer. I did a deep revision, landed an agent (after many, many queries), and on the eve of the pandemic, Friday, March 13, 2020, my novel went on submission.
A Final Word
I think that if I can impart any wisdom, it’s that it’s never too late. I’m a forty-five year old woman who doesn’t hold an MFA. I have two lovely children and teach high school English full-time. It’s possible. But even if this book had never found a home, the fact is that I wrote one. Sometimes we can be the hero of our own story.
The Butcher: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Powell’s
Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.
I’m reading this book at the moment, reviewing for the British Fantasy Society. I’m about halfway through. It’s completely gripping. The tension is quite extraordinary. It’s not the sort of book I would normally pick up, and I can see how it might have been a challenge to find a home for it. But I’m completely unsurprised you did. TBH, I’m not surely I’ll read this piece until I’m finished the book!
vigilante ==> a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.
I’m hoping the author will clarify how far off target I am…
book seems just a little too vigilante this day given how GQP/MAGA/fascists are gaining ground and how they just love their guns ‘n ropes… given developments in Italy I am freaking out about fascists in USA suddenly LARPing themselves as wannabe vigilantes in the mode of Batman (or those worse wacko vigilantes such as The Punisher)
arsewipes see themselves ass the last best hope for white power — yes I did indeed deliberately lump GQP in with KKK — so today I am asking myself why read a book about such people?
Same reason you read The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange; same reason you watch Rollerball, Soylent Green, Brazil: the story is not about fascists, it’s about what if good people do nothing, it’s about this could happen if we don’t do something.
Laura: “what if it had been your loved one? What justice could be served to make it, well, even?”
This is terrifying. Asking the victim how we should punish the perpetrator is not how to create justice, its how to create vengeance. Justice isnt about keeping score. An eye for an eye results in a world that is blind, not a world that is just.
Duncan: “Its about what if good people do nothing,”
But thats a different question than “how would i punish someone who perpetrated a crime and I was the victim?”
Good people do nothing because one person standing up against a systemic injustice mob usually can effect little change but may suffer greatly for that little effect, death threats, stalking, violence. And they see it as not worth it.
Thats an economic decision: what is best for me? And economically, this is a high cost for little benefit. The solution for this is to try to turn it into a moral choice for individuals: what is best for everyone.
Turning it into a moral choice can get good people to do something about some social injustice that does not affect them personally. It doesnt mean they win, but the question was what if good people do nothing.