Saturday, May 2, 2020

Cat Patrick

Cat Patrick and her family live near Seattle but spend as much time as possible four hours west setting marshmallows on fire and tangling kites in the curious town of Long Beach. There, Tornado Brain was born.

Patrick is the author of several books for young adults including Summer 2011 Kids Indie Next List pick Forgotten, which sold in 23 countries; ALA 2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers selection Revived; and others. Tornado Brain is her middle grade debut.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Tornado Brain was always Tornado Brain. The title does double duty in that it relates to an important scene in the book as well as tells readers quite a bit about the main character, Frankie. Diagnosed with autism spectrum, attention deficit and sensory processing disorders, the way Frankie acts sometimes can be like a tornado ripping through a small town. Her brain twists and turns in ways that can be frustrating to her—but a gift, as well.

What's in a name?

I obsess over character names almost as much as I did about my kids’ names—but Frankie was Frankie from the start. Short for Frances—but don’t call her that—the internet tells me Frankie means “truthful,” which is very fitting. Frankie tells the truth, even when people might not want to hear it.

Colette, Frankie’s missing friend, had a different name for several drafts of the book. I changed it because it wasn’t sitting right, but I still call Colette the wrong name occasionally…kind of like how I call my kids the cat’s name sometimes.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My teenage reader self might be a little surprised that I didn’t write a dystopian novel (I had a thing for Ray Bradbury) but likely not shocked that Tornado Brain is about embracing what makes you different in order to do hard things. The first book I wrote (and horribly illustrated), Dolly the Purple Spotted Dolphin, had a similar message—my third-grade self was proud.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Endings are usually harder for me, but I knew where this book was headed. Still, at one point, I considered changing the ending. I’m glad I didn’t.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I can relate to the mom in Tornado Brain as a mother of twin daughters who loves Long Beach, but I certainly didn’t write myself onto the page. That would have made for a very boring book.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Knowing and loving people with diagnoses similar to Frankie’s certainly influenced my character building in Tornado Brain. Activities like socializing and making and keeping friends can be challenging for kids and adults with autism spectrum and other disorders. I wanted to create a realistic character who may struggle sometimes, but who also has the unique ability to see things no one else is seeing—because of the way she’s wired, not in spite of it.
Visit Cat Patrick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue