Interview with Kate DiCamillo about THE BEATRYCE PROPHECY

Hi Kate! Thank you so much for joining us here at the MG Book Village to talk about your newest book, The Beatryce Prophecy.

Would you care to start things off by sharing what the novel is about?

The Beatryce Prophecy is a story about kings and queens, and prophecies and mermaids, and seahorses and goats.  Mostly, it’s the story of a girl named Beatryce who can read and write in a time and place when it is against the law for a girl to do either of those things.  It’s the story of how Beatryce claims who she is and finds her way home.

Before we get more into the story, I feel I need to ask about one character in particular. Answelica! In your work, you’ve created dozens of unforgettable animal characters, but this menacing, fiercely loyal goat might be the most memorable for me. I certainly won’t forget her for a long time! Was there a real life inspiration behind Answelica?

Oh, Answelica.  I love her, too.  And I don’t know where she came from!  She was one of those characters who just showed up–fully formed and full of surprises.  I loved her (and her hard head and big teeth and powers of discernment) from the minute she arrived, and I miss her still.

In an author’s note, you mention that this story has been with you, kicking around in your imagination, for decades. Why do you think it finally decided to come out now? 

What happened was this: I started the story in the summer of 2009 and I worked on it for awhile and then forgot about it.  I mean, I truly forgot about.  Entirely.  And then in 2017, I cleaned out a closet and found the beginning pages and I was like: oh, this.  This goat!  This girl!  I have to tell this story.  And so I started working on it again.

While you never state precisely when this story takes place, it seems to occur in a medieval time and space. Does this sort of world hold any particular appeal for you as a writer? As a reader? Why did you choose to Beatryce’s story there and then?

You’re right!  I never do say when and where it takes place, and part of the reason is because I’m not sure myself (I tip my hand about that uncertianity at the end of the book).  When the story arrived, when I started telling it, I knew that I was in a different place and time from this one.  And that’s all I knew.  I just followed the characters through that world, their world.

So many of us, adults especially, take for granted that reading is a human right, and so many of us, in this community especially, work so hard to ensure that every child learn to read so they can exercise that right. Among other things, The Beatryce Prophecy reminds us how precious, important, and powerful the act of reading – and writing – is. Would you care to share any of your thoughts and feelings about all of that?

Yes, so much of this story for me is about the empowerment that comes through reading and writing. The book is dedicated to my mother who gave me the gift of words.  I struggled to learn to read.  And when I could finally do it, I remember very clearly thinking: all things are possible now.

You have worked with a number of remarkable illustrators. Is there anything you especially enjoy about having a visual artist depict the characters and settings that you create with words?

It’s one of the great gifts of writing books for kids–watching someone take the characters in your imagination and bring them to life through art.  With Sophie it was so, so moving to watch her do this.  She and I both had the feeling that instead of creating the words and the art for this story, we were insteading remembering something we already knew.

The Beatryce Prophecy is illustrated by the fabulous Sophie Blackall. What was the experience like working with her?

Well, see above.  It was truly miraculous.  I wept a lot.  She makes so much light with this art.  Every line of it is a gift.

What do you hope your readers – the young ones, in particular – take away from The Beatryce Prophecy?

I hope that they feel less alone when they finish the book.  

I hope that they feel empowered.

When can readers get their hands on The Beatryce Prophecy, and are there any events or appearances you’d like to let us know about?

September 28th is when the girl and the goat go out into the world!

Go to your local bookstore to find their story!