Plain Kate

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade" – a dangerous nick- name in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square. For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times.

Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.


Erin Bow

Erin Bow was born in Des Moines and raised in Omaha. She studied particle physics in college, eventually working at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. She then decided to leave science in order to concentrate on her love of writing. She has since written two books of poetry and a memoir. Her poetry has won the CBC Canadian Literary Award, whose previous winners include Michael Ondaatje and Carol Shields, as well as several other awards. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario. This is her first novel.

Q&A with author Erin Bow

Q: PLAIN KATE reads very much like a traditional, though much fleshed-out, folktale. Did any folktale traditions or mythic cycles especially inspire you to write this novel?

A: Right before I started Plain Kate, I read this huge collection of Russian fairy tales. I love fairy tales and I thought I knew them, but the Russian ones blew me away. They are like dark chocolate - very dark chocolate. They’re full of white nights and strange transformations, villains that read as tragic heroes, doomed heroes that still stand tall.

Plain Kate ended up with a setting that’s more Eastern European than anything, but that book of Russian tales cast the spell under which I wrote it. I know I got their weather and the garlic and a minor character named Niki. I hope I got some of their sad triumph, too.

Q: Your story begins “a long time ago”” but it seems to take place in another, more magical world. Do you envision Plain Kate’s world as a different one, or, just as in fairy tales and folklore, our world viewed differently?

A: I think Kate's world of “a long time ago” is the same world as “once upon a time.” It’s not our world, in the same way “the king of that country” is never one of the ones on the list from school. But it’s not really a world I invented either; it’s one I inherited and explored a little.


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