Writing What You Know—and Don’t…

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By Katherine Locke, author of SECOND POSITION

People are always shocked that I don’t dance when Second Position, my debut novel, is all about ballet dancers. ‘Aren’t you supposed to write what you know?’ I’m frequently asked.

Well, yes. You should definitely write what you know. And prior to writing Second Position, I didn’t know Odette from Odile (spoiler alert for the White Swan/Black Swan Princesses in Swan Lake). But I did know a little bit about the shape of grief, falling in love with best friends, and recovering from mental illness. And all of those pieces came together in the book.

But the best part of writing a dance book when I myself am not a dancer? The research. I gained so much respect for dancers as both athletes and artists. They push their bodies to the max, every single day, and they retain an immeasurable curiosity for the way our bodies and music can say things words cannot. Also, the research was visually appealing, no matter which way you swing. Dancers are gorgeous. I’ve never had so much fun on Pinterest!

Beyond just looking at pictures of gorgeous dancers, I watched documentaries like First Position, Ballerina, and the wonderful AOL Originals series on youtube city.ballet about the New York City Ballet. I also interviewed former and current ballet dancers at all levels, watched classes, and lurked in the ballet communities online, including Tumblr and Facebook.

All the while, I wanted to make sure that Second Position was accessible to the non-dancer. While I hope dancers enjoy the book, I also hope that even if you’ve never seen a ballet, you like and enjoy the book. Dance is about telling a story and all dancers will tell you that the audience is not just witnessing the story, they are also a part of it.

And so is the reader when they read the book. The book itself without a reader is just a bunch of data floating around. With a reader, a book takes on a life and with each reader, its life and its telling is slightly different.

Some readers might relate to different plot points than others, for instance. In the book, Zed is no longer dancing and he needed to find something else he loved as much as he loved ballet and Aly. What new hobbies, sports, or adventures have you started ‘later in life’?

Happy reading!

Katherine Locke lives and writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she’s ruled by her feline overlords and her addiction to chai lattes. Her dayjobs always vary, but in the past she’s worked in nuclear weapons abolition activism, lead poisoning prevention and education, and food safety programs at a mushroom farm. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, and when she’s not reading, she’s tweeting about reading and writing. She secretly believes most books are fairytales in disguise. Her debut novel, SECOND POSITION, arrives in April 2015 from Carina Press.

You can find her online at @bibliogato on Twitter and KatherineLockeBooks.com

9781426899706Four years ago, a car accident ended Zedekiah Harrow’s ballet career and sent Philadelphia Ballet principal dancer Alyona Miller spinning toward the breakdown that suspended her own. What they lost on the side of the road that day can never be replaced, and grief is always harshest under a spotlight.

Now twenty-three, Zed teaches music and theatre at a private school in Washington, D.C. and regularly attends AA meetings to keep the pain at bay. Aly has returned to D.C. to live with her mother while trying to recover from the mental and physical breakdown that forced her to take a leave of absence from the ballet world, and her adoring fans.

When Zed and Aly run into each other in a coffee shop, it’s as if no time has passed at all. But without the buffer and escape of dance—and with so much lust, anger and heartbreak hanging between them—their renewed connection will either allow them to build the together they never had…or destroy the fragile recoveries they’ve only started to make.

Book One of the District Ballet Company

71,000 words
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