YAuthor Talk: Katja Millay

February 25, 2014 2014, author interview, tonya 34

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YAuthor Talk is a monthly feature where we ask our favorite authors 5 random questions just for fun! Join us for bookish musings, crazy tangential conversations, and more. This month we’ve got the author of one of the two books all four of us Midnight Gardeners named as one of our Favorite Books of 2013: Katja Millay, who penned the heartbreaking and beautiful The Sea of Tranquility.


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1. If you could be any YA hero/heroine, who would you be and why?

There are so many YA heroines I respect and admire for one reason or another, but although I think it might be nice to be like them, I don’t think I could handle actually being them.  I’d love to lay claim to their skills and personality traits – and, yes, if I’m being completely honest, their love interests – but they’re often put through such a spectacular amount of hell or heartbreak, that I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to truly inhabit their worlds.

I admit I’d love to be as awesome as Hermione Granger.  She’s smart and loyal and witty and a badass in her own right.  She doesn’t quail or fold under pressure though she never ceases to be undeniably real.  Even though she has the insecurities and fears of any teenage girl, she doesn’t let them paralyze her.  Plus, she has a purse that can hold EVERYTHING.

I also wouldn’t mind being  a little like Darla from Ashfall by Mike Mullin.  She’s an absolute survivor and holds her own under some pretty hellish circumstances.  She deals with every blow that comes at her without falling apart but also without shutting down or losing her humanity which is something I admired.

2. Which book most recently made you think, “ugghhhh I wish I’d written this”?

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  There aren’t enough words that would do justice to the beauty of that book.  I could throw a lot of them out there – exquisite, evocative, lyrical, resonant, romantic, atmospheric, unique, enchanting – but I’d still want to use more.  Her characters are so heartbreaking in their emotional honesty.  She weaves spells with sentences.  I want to crawl inside her brain and live there, and I don’t even care how creepy that makes me sound.

Most recently, it would have to be Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles.  I just spent the past week ignoring my family and any other forms of responsibility while I tore through all three books in the series.  The language is breathtaking and the story is an intricately woven, beautifully layered one built around a cast of truly compelling characters.  For me, when I read a book, character is paramount.  It’s always been the aspect that I value the most because if I’m not invested in the characters, I won’t be invested in the story.  The characters Marchetta creates here are heartbreakingly authentic with all of their rightful complexities and flaws.  I was in awe.

 3. Which book are you most looking forward to?

I have to keep myself in check here because I could give you an unending list.  There are so, so many books I’m excited to read.  Quite a few of them are series installments I’m desperate to jump on as soon as they’re released – the next Raven Cycle book by Maggie Stiefvater as well as Ruin & Rising by Leigh Bardugo among others.  I’ve also been hearing amazing things about The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski over the last couple of months so I’m looking forward to checking that one out as well.

4. Which YA book do you wish had been around when you were a teenager?

I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t a very enthusiastic reader when I was a teenager, so any books probably would have been lost on me at that point even if they were in existence.  I was hell bent on film school so all of my time was spent holed up with movies and television as opposed to books.   If I were to encounter my teenage self today and hand her a book or two, I’d probably give her A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness  and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick mostly because I think everyone should read them but also because they’re the kind of books that don’t fade.  There’s a haunting quality about them and if I wasn’t going to read much, I’d want to read something that would linger and continue to speak to me over time.

5. Which book would be your main character’s favorite?

This one was tricky because it largely depends on which Nastya we’re discussing.  That said, I can’t help but believe that she has a battered, oft-read copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in her nightstand drawer or at the bottom of her backpack.  For as cynical as Nastya wants to convince herself she is, there’s still a young girl under there trying to make sense of the world.  I think she would find comfort in that story’s raw honesty and universal themes, especially its air of lost innocence and acceptance of the fact that bad things happen in the world, but there’s still a great deal of good to be found as well and that’s a hope I believe Nastya would want to cling to fiercely.


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About the Author

Katja Millay graduated with a degree in film and television production from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and has worked as a television producer and film studies & screenwriting teacher.  Her debut novel The Sea of Tranquility was a recipient of the American Library Association’s Alex Award and was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by the School Library Journal.  She currently resides in Florida with her senior prom date and their two children where she is pursuing her dream of someday bringing back Morton’s cinnamon sugar donuts.

Visit her online on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.


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I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.


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34 Responses to “YAuthor Talk: Katja Millay”

  1. Sam @ Realm of Fiction

    I LOVE Katja’s answers! The next Raven Cycle book and Ruin and Rising are two of my most anticipated books of the year too. They fall in my top three, along with Dreams of Gods and Monsters. The Scorpio Races and the Lumatere Chronicles were all fantastic reads for me, and I definitely wish I could have written them myself also, even though I’m not a writer. ;) Thanks for sharing!
    Sam @ Realm of Fiction recently posted…Signed Copy Giveaway: Half Bad by Sally Green

  2. Darith L.

    Great post! Who doesn’t want to be Hermione? Haha. I am also eagerly awaiting The Winner’s Curse! Oooh, hearing Katja praise Melinda Marchetta’s series makes me want to start it asap! :D

    • tonya

      You must, you must read the Lumatere Chronicles! It’s probably one of the best fantasy series I’ve read. Melina gives so much to her characters in every genre she writes, but I was shocked to see what she could do with world-building as well. She’s astounding.

  3. Susan T.

    I’m going to have to check out The Scorpio Races and Melina Marchetta!

    • tonya

      If getting more people to fall in love with Melina Marchetta is the one thing I accomplish in this life, I’ve lived well. DO ITTTT.

  4. Giselle

    Hermione is one of my fav book heroines too and I love Darla as well – Ashfall is one of my fav series! This post is reminding me of so many books I have yet to read and seriously want to! Like The Scorpio Races and A Monster Calls! The Winner’s Curse is also one I plan to start soon and the amazeballs reviews are making me so nervous of ending up the blackest of the sheep! hah
    Giselle recently posted…Review: The Cellar by Natasha Preston

    • tonya

      I’m half agony / half hope about The Winner’s Curse too. I hate being the odd man out at the love fest, but it seems to happen quite regularly. However, I’ve heard great things from my lovely co-bloggers, so I have faith. :)

    • tonya

      Oh yes, yes you do. Please read TSoT immediately. I’ll be waiting here with hugs and ice cream when you’re finished. It is gorgeous and emotional in just about every way possible. Also: SWOON.

  5. Lucy

    I was happy to see a favorite author featured here today! I was thinking about doing a re-read of TSOT actually. I’m not surprised to see Katja has such great taste in books!

    A Monster Calls & Leonard Peacock are good, timeless reads. And oh I can’t wait for The Winner’s Curse either, and Katja’s next book of course :)
    Lucy recently posted…The Movie Date Oscar Road Trip: Philomena/Nebraska

  6. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    Hermione and Darla are just AWESOME.

    Also, I wish I had written every Maggie Stiefvater, Melina Marchetta, Gayle Forman, and Megan Whalen Turner book. Every. Single. One. *sigh*

    I cannot wait for The Winner’s Curse and I already put in a request for Ruin & Rising – a little premature, but I neeeeed it!

    OH, I could have done with Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock even as early as three years ago and I definitely wish I’d discovered Marchetta back in my early teens as Saving Francesca would have saved me too.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is such a timeless classic. Who isn’t obsessed with that book? I’d have killed to have written that one too…

    Fantastic interview – I just LOVE this feature! :)
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Review: Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

    • tonya

      Every time I read Marchetta my mind turns inside out with sheer awe. HOW DOES SHE DO IT. No one should be able to write like that. It just isn’t fair. ;)

  7. Larissa

    I still haven’t read The Sea of Tranquility due to my TBR being comparable to a mountain. Yes, I’m feeling all of the shame for it [; This was a great interview, I enjoyed getting to know the author and more info about the book. Alike Katja I definitely admire Hermione. I’ve been her at least 4 times for Halloween haha.
    Larissa recently posted…Review: Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

    • tonya

      Hermione is probably the best answer we’re going to get for that question. ;) Please move TSoT up on your TBR. You deserve the feels.

  8. Leandra Wallace

    There were so many things I loved about this interview: Patrick Ness, The Scorpio Races, Mike Mullin(I’m doing an interview w/him at the end of March, and I loved his answers to my questions!) and last but not least, TSofT blurb. It sounds so good!
    Leandra Wallace recently posted…Office Reveal

    • tonya

      Wait wait wait… does that mean you haven’t yet read TSoT? GET TO IT! :)

  9. Wendy Darling

    I recently read ASHFALL and I like Katja’s choice of Darla! Though I would not like to have to be in those circumstances, hah. I love that there’s so much love for Maggie and Leigh in this post, as well as the thoughtful and somehow perfect choice of To Kill a Mockingbird for Nastya.

    And I can’t wait to hear what Katja thinks of THE WINNER’S CURSE! I know she was counting down the days, and I am counting down with her. ;)

    • tonya

      I still haven’t read the ASHFALL series–I’m afraid it will be one of those situations that seem entirely too possible and will leave me rocking in the corner, ha. I’m definitely intrigued by the buzz around The Winner’s Curse…

  10. Bethzaida (bookittyblog)

    Anytime I hear that someone likes a Marchetta book my heart fills with happiness. I wish more people knew how amazing her writing and characters are. I get even happier when an author I love likes MM!
    P.S. I think I need to reread The Scorpio Races. I don’t know why I couldn’t get into it. That was a few years ago. Maybe if I give it another try I will like it.
    Bethzaida (bookittyblog) recently posted…The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater Review

    • tonya

      I do too! I know any reader who loves her like I do is a kindred spirit. She’s so amazing. <3

      (I wasn't as smitten with the Scorpio Races as most everyone else was. It was lovely and atmospheric, but the characters fell flat for me.)

  11. lectus

    Love the questions! I’m tired of interviews that ask “how did you come with xxx character?” (In a dream!)

    Her book is one of my favorites. Now I have to reconsider reading The Scorpio Race since she thinks so highly of it.
    lectus recently posted…Do you want to read a negative review?

  12. Camilla

    Great answers (and fun questions)!

    I absolutely love “A Monster Calls” and agree that it’s timeless. And I can see that I really, really need to get with the programme and start reading some Maggie Stiefvater (no, I haven’t read a single one of hers yet…) Sigh…
    Camilla recently posted…Sixty-One Nails