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February 2, 2016

Badass Ladies You Should Know: Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart
In October 2011, then-aspiring author Kaitlin Ward CC'd me on an email.
"I keep having random thoughts that go with my idea where the earth is bleeding. I still don't think it makes sense, but I think I might try writing it (not right now, obv, but when I'm done with my current projects) and see if it...becomes something."
Obviously, we encouraged this idea. And by the end of November, we had this exchange:
Kaitlin: "You guys, this story is getting more disgusting. {scene redacted}"
Kate: "OMG. You should see my face dude. It is like O_O times a zillion. *barfs but in a delighted way*"

This has basically been our friendship for six years now. It's also a good illustration of why you should read her debut, Bleeding Earth, releasing a week from today from Adaptive Books. Come for the gore and blood, stay for the lesbian characters just trying to survive the disgustingness!

Kate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Kaitlin: Currently, I work at a company that sells coins, though I just recently gave notice, so that part of my career will be over soon. Getting the job I had there was really led by random chance, but I enjoyed a lot of things about my time there, and I got to see and learn about some really amazing coins. Ancient coins, particularly, are so historically fascinating. Sometimes the only way we know a place existed, or when it existed, is because of their coins. And my other career, the one I'll be focusing on from now on, is being an author. My debut novel, Bleeding Earth, is out February 9, 2016. It is YA horror about an apocalypse in which the earth starts bleeding human blood, and it is about a teenage girl who is not at all prepared to deal with this (as I don't think any of us would be). I'm an author cliché and I have been writing since basically as long as I can remember. I was an early reader, and the urge to create stories of my own followed soon after. I think I will probably keep on doing it forever, too, because I'm not sure what else I'd do with myself if I didn't.

A gift for fellow Badass
Lady Michelle Schusterman
Kate: Do you have any creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?

Kaitlin: Writing is my main creative outlet. However, I do also like to create horrible drawings - or as I like to more kindly refer to them, childlike drawings. I am really horrible at drawing, and I think there's something relaxing about doing something that you're never going to be amazing at. I have no expectations of myself to create an attractive piece of art, so there is zero pressure.

Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Kaitlin: I guess I would have to say that my biggest challenge is self-expectations. I have a completely unrealistic expectation of what I should be able to accomplish in a given day. And as a human being without superpowers, there is only so much I am capable of. I think this is something a lot of people struggle with. And it doesn't sound like much, but it can really wear down how you feel about yourself when you perpetually feel like you are not doing all you should be. It is something I have been working on.

Kate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Kaitlin: I'm not sure this technically counts as a 'failure', but the thing that comes immediately to mind is last January when Egmont USA closed. Bleeding Earth was supposed to come out from Egmont last August, and I had already gotten ARCs. I got my first Goodreads review - and it was a bad one - on the day my editor called to tell me the bad news (sidenote: it really takes the sting out of bad reviews when you learn your debut novel may not come out after all). I struggled, even after Bleeding Earth was bought by Adaptive Books. It was hard to feel the same sort of excitement about things that I had at first, because I had never imagined you could get that far in the publishing process and have it taken away. I felt very jaded, and I didn't like feeling that way. It took some time, but I do feel like I've bounced back from it now, and can look back and see that I survived one of the worst professional setbacks I could have envisioned, and I can feel good about how I handled it.

Young Kaitlin on her parents' dairy farm
Kate: Tell us something that makes you proud.

Kaitlin: When I think about things that make me proud, the thing that makes me the most proud is how I'm doing at parenting my son. Like all parents, I am not perfect, but there is something truly special about watching the human you created grow into a thoughtful, interesting person and know that you are providing the guidance to help him be his best.

Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Kaitlin: It took me a long time to come around to the label 'feminist'. People hear the word feminist and they paint a picture of you in their head that is often unflattering, and I didn't want that. But at some point in my mid-twenties, I realized I no longer cared. I think I needed to just age into it, and out of that feeling like you want to be perceived as 'cool' so you don't want to do anything that makes men find you annoying. I have a couple of coin 'fun facts' taped up in my cubicle at work, one of which is about Susan B. Anthony being the first actual woman to be honored on a US coin. Multiple times, male coworkers have asked why I don't have a fact about someone else instead - like John F. Kennedy. It's such a small thing but to me, it's so indicative of why feminism is necessary. Feminism does inform my work for sure. I want the words I'm putting out into the world to be ones I'm proud of. If not perfect, I want to at least know that I always am trying my best.

Kate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Kaitlin: I think the best way is to listen to each other. To try to understand each other's experiences and struggles, and to not alienate each other when we are trying our best. And also to accept it when we're wrong, and to try to do better the next time.

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Kaitlin: Be true to yourself. If you're doing that, odds are, you're already a badass.


Kaitlin Ward grew up on a dairy farm in tiny Monroe, New Hampshire, the same town where she lives now with her husband and son. Before settling back in her hometown, Kaitlin studied animal science at Cornell University. She co-founded the well-known blog, YA Highway. Bleeding Earth is her debut novel.

Find Kaitlin at:  //  //  @kaitlin_ward
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