Author Interviews Kit Rosewater

Kate O’Shaughnessy interviews Kit Rosewater for THE DERBY DAREDEVILS

Headshot: Kit Rosewater

Kit Rosewater writes books for children. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her spouse and a border collie who takes up most of the bed. Before she was an author, Kit taught middle school theatre and high school English, then worked as a children’s bookseller. She has a master’s degree in Children’s Literature and a knack for finding her characters in clouds, ceiling plaster, and Cheetos. Books 1 & 2 of her debut series THE DERBY DAREDEVILS roll out in 2020 through Abrams.

Kate O’Shaughnessy: Hello, Kit! I’m thrilled to be interviewing you about THE DERBY DAREDEVILS—especially since this fantastic, fun, and fast-paced story is out TODAY. Congratulations and happy book birthday! How are you feeling?

Kit Rosewater: Thank you so much!!! I’m feeling overwhelmed in the best possible way. Publishing a book has been my dream ever since I was a little kid. It’s hard to believe it’s finally real!

KO: I know exactly what you mean! Congratulations again. In the very first scene, we learn that your main character Kenzie (aka “Kenzilla”) and her best friend, Shelly (aka “Bomb Shell”), love roller derby. When it’s announced that a junior league is being formed, the two girls immediately start forming a plan so they can skate together, and hijinks ensue from there. What led you to write a book about this sport? Were or are you on a roller derby team?

KR: I wish I were on a roller derby team! I trained in 2018 to become an official roller derby referee, but I had to pull out right before bout season began due to health issues. I fell in love with roller derby back when Drew Barrymore’s 2009 film Whip It came out, but became obsessed when I moved to Austin, Texas and found the local roller derby scene! Roller derby is such an inclusive and empowering sport. It challenges who gets to be considered strong or fast or athletic. I wish I had found roller derby as a kid!

KO: I love that—“roller derby is such an inclusive and empowering sport.” That definitely comes across in your book. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to write this story? Where did the idea come from? What was the writing process like? 

KR: Growing up, I loved ensemble casts like the kids from the movie The Sandlot, or from the TV show Hey Arnold! I was attending a derby bout in the fall of 2017 and I spotted a group of girls standing track-side, cheering the players on. When I saw those girls, I thought to myself: “I want to put a group of kids on the track and watch how they interact with each other.” It was my first time writing an ensemble cast, but I realized that the dialogue and combination of personalities allowed the story to basically tell itself. I mostly just follow the Daredevils around in my head and take notes!

KO: I thought your depiction of the complexity and the ups and downs of a team dynamic was really spot on. Did you draw from your own experiences playing sports as a kid? If not sports, were you on any other teams?

KR: Thank you so much! I did play some basketball on the YMCA, and I remember how various teammates would sort of fall into these roles and figure out how they added to the overall team dynamic. Everyone has to find a way to work together without stepping on each other’s toes. In the best-case scenario, everyone brings their A-game to the table. But that’s so much easier said than put into practice!

KO: No kidding! Personally, I relate most to Camila. (I wasn’t the sportiest kid, and I’m extremely risk averse when it comes to putting myself in even the smallest amount of physical danger.) Is there a member of the team that you relate to the most?

KR: I am SO glad to hear this, because there will always be a part of me that relates hard core to Camila. She knows and respects her own boundaries, which is a fantastic practice that everyone should develop. I relate to all six girls, but for this book, Kenzie is my closest connection. We’re both bossy at our worst and great leaders at our best. Also, we can both be nervous about changing friendship dynamics, especially when we think a close connection is threatened.  

KO: Your action scenes on the rink are so great! Does writing such engaging, fast-paced sporty action come naturally to you? Did you read any particular books with great sports action scenes as a reference while writing this?

KR: I think my childhood memories of playing basketball at the Y came most in handy during the actual jam scenes, when I was trying to stretch 60 seconds of real time into an entire chapter—which can be tough! So many sports books and films do this really well, but I think the two keys to writing fast-paced scenes come down to (1) being close to the main character’s internal thoughts and (2) using all the physical senses in a scene. I have a whole curriculum on this exact type of writing that I love to share during school visits!

KO: As a writer who finds action scenes hard to write, I wish I could be at one of your school visits. Can you talk a little about the illustrations? I loved them, and felt they added a lot of energy and fun to the story. Did you know it would be illustrated from the beginning, or was it a surprise?

KR: When my agent and I took The Daredevils on submission, we had no idea it would be illustrated. That was part of the offer from Abrams, and a big reason why we ultimately partnered with that publisher! My editor allowed me to be a very loud voice in the room when it came time to choose an illustrator, and I am over the moon about working with Sophie Escabasse. She sent me a little doodle for the holidays in 2018 and I framed it and put it up on my office wall—everything she does is absolutely brilliant.

KO: That’s amazing—what a wonderful surprise. I’ve heard some writers say that having a theatre background has helped them become better writers, because of theatre’s focus on character. Given your extensive theatre background, do you find the same is true for you? Is there anything else you’ve learned from theatre that you’ve applied to your writing?

KR: Ha! I think a theatrical habit I use when writing is that whenever I’m writing—or even reading—about a character making any sort of expression, I have to make the same expression. Sometimes I even repeat certain lines out loud, trying to say it in their voice so I can hear the tone alongside the language. I always want to be in every character’s head, and sometimes I get a little too animated while drafting, so I have to be careful when I’m writing out in public or else I’ll embarrass myself!

KO: I love that—and it’s so funny, now that you mention it, I realize I make faces when I draft, too! Now that I’ve read the first book, I am so excited the second one. As an author who’s only ever worked on standalone books, I’m so curious: what’s the process been like for working on a series? Do you think of the books as parts of an overall story arc, or do you plan and plot them separately?

KR: Thank you! I’m excited for the second book too! I do plot these books separately, which is easier to do since the protagonists rotate and I get to tell each girl’s story. But I have an overall timeline in mind. I want the team to spend some time bonding between each book, but not so much that the reader loses track of what they’re up to! Shelly’s story—the plot of Book Two—takes place a month after Kenzie’s story ends, as the Daredevils gear up for their first official roller derby tournament!

KO: Oh, I had no idea the protagonists were going to rotate! That makes me even more excited. Can you talk a little bit about your publishing journey?

KR: My publishing journey has everything to do with knowing when to keep reworking a story and knowing when to move on to the next project in the pipeline. I scored an agent only after I finally moved on past my first book, and didn’t get a book deal until I moved on past my second book. BUT I’ve also done a lot of revision on my work that has paid off, so it’s not just a game of trying one thing and then hopping to the next. I think I’m honing that feeling of knowing when a project is better for practice, versus when a project really has the juice to hit shelves and reach readers.

KO: If you were on a derby team, what would your roller derby name be? What about your signature move?

KR: I used to say my derby name was Kit Rose-Slaughter, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense outside the context of my full name. I was in a break-dancing crew in 2018 (I know) and my crew name was KitKat, so I’ll go with that name, and my derby motto would be “Break me off a piece!” My signature move would be the Flying Circle of Doom, a real move invented by my cousin that shows up in Book Two of the Daredevils series!

KO: So fantastic. Thanks so much, Kit(Kat)! I absolutely loved THE DERBY DAREDEVILS, and I’m so happy it’s out in the world today!

Congrats on the release of your debut novel, Kit! You can visit Kit’s website to learn more and follow her on Twitter and Instagram, as well as order THE DERBY DAREDEVILS on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound. And don’t forget to add it on Goodreads!

In addition, the second book in the Derby Daredevils series is set to publish on September 15, 2020. Visit Kit’s website to preorder and for more information!