Celebrating Debutantes, FEATURES, Giveaways, Interviews

Celebrating Debutantes 2017: The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Today I’m featuring new author Katherine Locke and her historical fantasy novel, The Girl with the Red Balloon as part of Celebrating Debutantes 2017 blog event. The Girl with the Red Balloon is one of my most anticipated novels of 2017. Not only I am curious with how the author mixed different genres in this novel, but also excited to meet the diverse cast of characters. Though it is not uncommon for Jewish characters to be represented in fiction, I still feel like we don’t have enough especially in young adult shelves.

The Girl with the Red Balloon releases in few weeks, don’t forget to pre-order your copies.

Following the author interview is Katherine Locke’s author bio along with places where to find her online. Then there’s also the book description and where to buy copies of The Girl with the Red Balloon. And if you are in the US and would like the chance to win a copy of the book, Katherine is giving away a signed hardcover copy below. Just enter the rafflecopter form a bit further down in this post to be enter on the giveaway.

Interview with Katherine Locke

What was it like to make the transition from writing new adult romance fictions to young adult historical fantasy fiction?
I actually wrote the first draft of The Girl with the Red Balloon before I wrote Second Position. Historical fantasy is much more my norm, while new adult romance was the departure for me. I’m not sure that writing Turning Pointe, Second Position and Finding Center was a fluke as much as at that time, that was the story I wanted to tell and that’s how that story wanted to be told. And most of the stories I’m interested in telling end up being historical fiction. The only difference in writing historical fantasy and new adult romance, for me at least, is that a lot more people die in my historical fantasy.

The Girl with the Red Balloon is a mix of historical fiction, time travel, mystery, and magical realism. Did you intend to write the story with all these? Or it just happen while you are writing the book?
That’s a good question! The time travel and the magic has always been part of it, but everything else kind of grew out of revisions and figuring out the heart of the story. The first draft was entirely Ellie’s point of view, and was less of a mystery than a thriller, I think. The timeline of Benno, the boy in the ghetto in 1941-1942, came later in the second draft, and Kai’s point of view added a whole new element too. I did a lot of weaving of certain elements, like Ellie’s doves, much later in the editing process.

What draws you to historical events as the backdrop of the novel? And why 1988 East Berlin?
This is complicated, and I keep trying to answer this without getting wonky and failing.
Essentially, it’s this: I’m really interested in how history shapes us as individual people, and I also think history is way more interesting than my standard K-12 education made it seem (for the most part: I had a couple of really great teachers who opened my eyes.) There are some really amazing things in history that we should be talking about and reading about, that have made us as individuals alive in the 21st century the way we are, even if we aren’t aware of them. So that’s why I’m a big fan of writing historical fiction. There’s just a ton of material there! I just really like adding magic into that mix.

The Girl with the Red Balloon is written in three different perspectives, giving readers a much-appreciated peek of each narratives. What kind of preparation did you do putting yourself in the mindset of three different characters, especially since they have a mixed backgrounds? Who’s easier to write, Ellie, Kai, or Benno? And why?
I wrote each character in a separate word document and then copy pasted to a master document, which is something I just repeated for Balloonmakers #2. It helps me maintain the voice of each character the best I can. For Benno’s chapters, which are tonally very different from the rest of the book, I wrote that at the very end, and inserted those chapters later. So it was a bit of a tricky writing process, but I think it worked out well in this case. I did a lot of research into slang and thought about the different ways Kai and Ellie would move through 1988 East Berlin. She walks more hesitantly, but talks less carefully, versus he’s very deliberate and takes up space in how he moves and thinks, but exceedingly cautious about what he says outside the house (as would be typical for someone in East Germany.)

Do you have a particular approach to research and writing?
I do a lot of it? I think that’s my approach. I usually read a book or two, read some blogs, and get some basic sense of the historical framework for a book, and then I do some research while writing it. I do additional research after I’m done a first draft, and then start inserting those details, like food, slang, music, clothing, street names, in the next draft. It’s the little things that help make a book feel real—I’ve never done ballet, and I’ve never been to Berlin (or anywhere in Germany)—but I know how to research and look for those things that make books feel real.

After the release of The Girl with the Red Balloon, what can we expect from you in the future? Anything you can tell about the sequel?
Sure! The second book is more of a companion than a sequel—it takes place 45 years earlier. Same balloon magic, new cast of main characters. You’ll see one familiar face there! It’s about a sister and a brother who are both recruited to use balloon magic on different parts of the Manhattan Project (the secret project to build the first atom bomb), and they each discover a spy in their midst.

As for what else you can expect from me in the future, I’m in an upcoming anthology called PILGRIM PLAYWRIGHT GENIE GUARD, edited by the amazing Marieke Nijkamp. I wrote a short story there about a girl with panic disorder and agoraphobia who needs to save her city which has come under attack.

And I’m busy working on future books! One’s another YA historical fantasy, and the other is a middle grade fantasy. When I can share more, I will!

And lastly before we end this interview, can you please share a snippet from The Girl with the Red Balloon to intrigue and tantalize us before the book hit the shelves in few weeks.
Sure! This is from an early chapter. Ellie snuck out of the safehouse, against Kai’s orders, and tried to go back to the park where she thinks she came from. She brought the balloon with her, hoping it’d just know to take her home, but she ran into both Kai and Ashasher, whom she calls the raven man for the raven feathers that circle his head continuously. Ashasher is one of the two people in charge of the magical balloons in East Berlin, and Kai is a Runner—he takes the balloon from the balloonmaker to the person trying to escape. Ellie just wants to go home.

“Have other Runners reported this?” the raven man asked Kai. “Other missing balloons? Missing Passengers?”
“You’re sure?”
“I am sure.” The heaviness in Kai’s voice carried the same edge as the heaviness on my chest, the knife at my hip, the churning of my stomach. Everything that had happened—the tug, the place around me so unlike the Berlin I’d seen, the balloon, the Wall… It was like seeing an accident about to happen. I flinched and looked away.
But my heart was a betrayer. “So it’s real,” I found myself saying. Kai and the raven man turned toward me, curious and confused. I clarified. “Balloons. Magic.”
Kai looked at the raven man, who lifted his face to the sky. His nod was tentative and tenuous. “Yes.”
I nodded slowly because I didn’t know what else to do. All those stories Saba had told…and where I was now. My ribs felt like they had closed with a cold, hard grip around my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. I let the balloon escape from my arms. I wrapped my bare hand around the string and whispered, “Then why won’t it take me home?”
“Balloons are not—” the raven man said in German, the last word unknown to me. I frowned at him, and he repeated in English, “Balloons are not omnidirectional.”
I pressed my lips together and forced myself to keep my tone even. “Obviously.”
The corner of Kai’s mouth twitched, and his gaze shot to his shoes again. I thought that was the closest he’d ever get to a smile, and it felt like a victory. The raven man said calmly, unaffected by my rancor, “What would you like the balloon to do? It brought you here. It did its duty as far as it is concerned.”
“You speak like it is sentient.”
He shook his head, the feathers spinning so fast I could no longer see his eyes. Kai clarified, translating my sentence from English into German. The feathers slowed, and the raven man’s eyes were dark but clear. “The magic may as well make it as such. It knew you somehow. You are meant to be here.”
Kai scowled. “She isn’t. She can’t be.” He sighed and added in German, “She is from a different time.”
I blinked. Exhaled. Inhaled. My vision tunneled down on a stray feather on the path. It was strange, wasn’t it, that no one walked by us. From a different time. In my mind, I saw the old- fashioned cars on the street. I thought about the Wall and the people with me. I’d known. I just hadn’t wanted it to be true. I had seen without believing. It’s impossible. Balloons just go over walls. But here I was.
Ashasher said, “Zeitreisende.”
“What?” I asked. “What did you call me?”
“Time traveler,” Kai said, his voice soaked with regret. “He called you a time traveler.”


Katherine Locke lives and writes in a very small town outside of Philadelphia, where she’s ruled by her feline overlords and her addiction to chai lattes. She writes about that which she cannot do: ballet, time travel, and magic. When she’s not writing, she’s probably tweeting. She not-so-secretly believes most stories are fairy tales in disguise. Her Young Adult debut, THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON, arrives Fall 2017 from Albert Whitman & Company!

Find Katherine

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


Book Details:

Title: The Girl with the Red Balloon
Author: Katherine Locke
Series: The Balloonmakers
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Publication Date: September 01, 2017
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

Book Links

Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | IndieBound | iBooks


What’s up for Grab?

  • Signed copy of The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

The Rules:

  • Open to US
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced by rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends September 4th, 2017
  • Prize will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2017 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each feature post or check out twitter and facebook using #CelebratingDebutantes2017.

5 thoughts on “Celebrating Debutantes 2017: The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (Author Interview + Giveaway)”

  1. I already had this book on my TBR because I love time travel stories. My roots are in Germany, so I will enjoy this story even more because of the setting. I also love the promised mystery and suspense. This book is going to be so much fun to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This book sounds incredible and that cover is amazing! I am pretty sure I tried to request this one on Netgalley only to not get it… either that or I had too many netgalley books on my plate to be able to request it at the time. Either way this is a book I would love to read!


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