Author Takeover: Katherine Catmull on Her New Book, “The Radiant Road”

Today we are very excited to be a part of the blog tour promoting Katherine Catmull’s latest novel, The Radiant Road! We absolutely loved this book – you can read our review here – and for our portion of the blog tour, Katherine will be sharing with us a little bit about The Radiant Road‘s development and journey to publication. We already know you love magic (or else what are you doing on our site?), and Catmull’s imaginative world of fairy-magic is guaranteed to captivate you. These are NOT the Cornish Pixies of Chamber of Secrets – they are something much better. Read on to learn more!


The writing of this book was a long and twisty road! While I was waiting for my first book, Summer and Bird, to come out, I got a bit obsessed with the art of Andy Goldsworthy. I got interested in the idea of creatures who entered our world to make Goldsworthy-style art from the natural world. I was also interested in the idea of a little girl who had dreamed of fairies every night, until she reached adolescence, and put all that away. It felt like a good image for everything we put away at puberty.

And thinking of fairies, of course, I thought of Ireland. So the research process began splendidly with a two-week trip there, during which I drove all over that gorgeous, curious country looking for inspiring spots. Driving down the wrong side of skinny shoulderless roads was not the fun part, but when not in the car I found pretty much nothing but inspiration. Newgrange, the 5,000-year-old passage tomb whose stone windows are aligned with the solstice sun, inspired Clare’s rather grander stone home. I spent a long afternoon on a low hill overlooking a shining gray lake where I later placed the island that is the heart of the Strange. I got wind-battered at the Cliffs of Moher; I had a curious experience at St Brigid’s Well that made it into my description of Her of the Cliffs. I took a walk through fields of sheep to a low, rocky cliff overlooking the Atlantic and ended up placing Clare’s house there.

Then I came back to Austin, got halfway through a draft in first person—and realized it wasn’t working. So I had to rewrite in third person, which is kind of a huge change. I was also fretting about having fairies in it at all—fairies have filled so many, many books over the years, many brilliant ones and many that have gone horribly wrong. It’s a tricky subject to do right, avoiding twee and bad imitations of Tolkien.

Honestly, like my heroine Clare, I am just uncomfortable with the word “fairy.” So it’s a bit hilarious and inexplicable that I felt compelled to write a book featuring them.

Despite it all, I finished the first draft rather quickly (for me—about ten months). Then my editor—the brilliant Julie Strauss-Gabel, whom you’ve probably seen John Green rightfully singing the praises of—came back with some great revisions. So I spent seven months madly fixing it, liking it more and more as I went along.

I am most grateful for that intensive revision period, because it allowed me to develop the most interesting part of the book, to me—the part about creating or making, which in my book is the fairies’ life and breath. It’s easy to make (draw, write, invent, make music—all kinds of making) when we’re children. But something happens in adolescence for many of us that shuts that down. In many ways, The Radiant Road is about learning how to reclaim our making, and that makes me happy.