Katryn Bury works with middle-grade readers as a youth library technician. A lifelong true crime nerd, she has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminology. Her short and serialized fiction can be found in Suspense Magazine and The Sleuth. She lives in Oakland, California, with her family and a vast collection of Nancy Drew mysteries.
I had the opportunity to interview Katryn, which you can read below.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Thanks for having me! I’m a middle grade writer and a library tech working with youth here in the San Francisco Bay Area. My debut, DREW LECLAIR GETS A CLUE, is set in Oakland, where I live with my husband and irrepressible six-year-old daughter.
Where did the inspiration for Drew Leclair Gets a Clue come from? Did any stories or media inspire the book while you were writing?
Books that I read as a kid, such as Harriet the Spy, and the Nancy Drew series, were definitely early inspirations. I have always loved a good girl detective. For this book, however, my primary inspiration was reading I’ll be Gone in the Dark. I remember reading it and thinking: “wow, I wish I had this kind of hero growing up.” In the book, Drew has a criminal profiler hero, Lita Miyamoto, who was very much inspired by Michelle McNamera.
How would you describe your writing process for this book? What was the querying process like?
My writing process is somewhere between plotter and pantser (plantser?) so I wrote my first draft in a month. Then, I spent several more months revising an idea into an actual story. As for submitting, this book was unlike any other I’ve queried. I got responses that ran the gamut of: “I love this idea!” to “You can’t talk about true crime in a middle grade book; what are you thinking?” I had a lot of interest, but the manuscript really took off thanks to Beth Phelan and the team at #DVpit. After that contest, I got five offers within just a few weeks and signed with my superstar agent, Chelsea Eberly.
Drew Leclair Gets a Clue deals with a subject that gets mixed reactions, true crime. What is the appeal of true crime to you as a fan of the genre?
Like any topic of interest, I think there’s a line between being into true crime and being too into true crime. My interest started, like Drew, when I was just a kid—bonding with my dad and trying to solve Jack the Ripper. Studying the psychology of criminals helped me deal with the “villains” in my own life, from scary strangers, to not-quite-friends, to bullies. That being said, there is another end of the true crime spectrum, including those who have a genuine affection for serial killers and publicly speculate about open cases in a way that I believe can cause harm. For my dad and me, and for so many people who call themselves “murderinos,” true crime isn’t about that. It’s about understanding the mind of a killer in order to feel safe. That sense of security, however false, is compelling.
How did you get into writing, and what drew you to middle grade fiction specifically?
I wrote my first mystery at six (it was very well-received…by my parents) and my first novel at twelve. If I’m being honest, I don’t remember a time in which I wasn’t writing stories. As an early reader, I would frequently run out of books to read. My mother suggested I write more for myself! I have always been drawn to the middle grade space because I adore coming-of-age books. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I remember that time so well.
From your bio and previous interviews, it would appear you have quite a lot in common with your protagonist, from interest in true crime, to both being bisexual and dealing with chronic illness. Was it intentional making this story so personal?
I always set out to write the book of my heart, so everything I write is at least a little personal. The combination of carbohydrates and true crime in this book is a direct homage to my relationship with my father, who passed away in 2017. As for the rest, it comes down to this: as a sick and anxious kid, I read many characters I aspired to be, but none that made me feel seen. The same goes for my coming out as bisexual. That part of me was hidden for a long time because I didn’t see it in the world around me. Media representations were either grim or played for laughs—a big part of why I didn’t come out until later in life. I wanted to write a book that makes kids who are queer, sick, or neurodiverse (or all three!) feel seen. It can be truly life changing to see yourself in what you read.
What advice would you have for aspiring writers?
Everyone tells you to develop a thick skin, but I believe in being yourself. You can be sensitive, as long as you don’t give up.
Aside from writing, what are some things you like to do in your free time?
I can often be found swimming (or just being in the water, really), and I’m a big movie and television watcher. Stories in all forms calm me down. I’ll watch anything with Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn. I also love reading, as you can imagine, and I still read every new Nancy Drew book.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?
I wish you’d ask what the best Christmas movie of all time is, at which point I could finally tell everyone about the best holiday movie they’ve never seen, Fitzwilly. It stars Dick Van Dyke as a thieving butler who has to pull off a Christmas Eve heist. I promise you; you will not be sorry.
Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?
Oh, dear. I am working on several and I’m not at liberty to speak about any of them yet. But, stay tuned!
What queer books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
I’m can’t wait to get my hands on the many upcoming queer kidlit debuts in 2022. As for what’s out now, in the middle grade space, I adore Kacen Callender, A.J. Sass, and Nicole Melleby (especially In the Role of Brie Hutchens). In YA, I love Becky Albertalli, Leah Johnson, and just finished the amazing Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson.