About Katherine Kirkpatrick
I grew up in Stony Brook, New York, the youngest of three children. My mother instilled in us a love of reading. Perhaps that’s why my brother, my sister, and I all have careers in the fields of writing and book publishing. My sister worked for the National Geographic Society for many years and my brother is a best-selling author of biographies and true-crime mysteries.
In the sixth grade, a teacher praised me for a story I’d composed about vampire bats attacking a scientist. After that, I decided I wanted to be a writer. Throughout my school years, I contributed stories and articles to school publications.
In high school, at the Stony Brook School, I enjoyed both art and writing. A science teacher gave me independent learning credits for illustrating a newsletter about the natural history of Long Island. I learned quite a lot about birds and other subjects and was also thrilled to see my drawings in print.
Though I don’t aspire to be a professional illustrator, I occasionally contribute illustrations to my books. Escape Across the Wide Sea features 10 of my pen-and-ink sketches.
While a student at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, I worked at a women’s history archive located within the college library. Ever since then, sleuthing through history archives has remained one of my favorite pastimes.
After college, I lived in the New York City area for 12 years. There I held editorial and subsidiary rights positions in book publishing at E. P. Dutton, Henry Holt, Macmillan, and Scholastic. As a freelancer, I wrote articles and entries for encyclopedias, reference works, and National Geographic World Magazine.
During my time in New York, I was lucky to know the author Madeleine L’Engle. Madeleine encouraged me to write fiction. Through her writing workshops, I also met many of my closest friends. Several of us formed a writing group, which became an integral part of my life for nearly a decade.
I didn’t think I could ever come up with a plot for a novel. A plot came to me through my own experiences of living on City Island in a historic, nautical community. My friends helped me shape my writing into a book, Keeping the Good Light, which was published by Delacorte in 1995. I decided I liked writing young adult historical fiction and followed up with several more titles in that genre.
After marrying in 1999, I moved to Seattle, Washington. Soon after that, I became the busy mother of twins. I still made time for my writing, and completed several novels already in progress. In the next few years, while my children were in elementary school, I published two nonfiction titles, The Snow Baby and Mysterious Bones. Both nonfiction and fiction writing allow me the pleasure of researching topics I enjoy.
Like The Snow Baby, my latest young adult novel, Between Two Worlds, involves Arctic exploration. One of the most dramatic true-life incidents in The Snow Baby involves a ship called the Windward, which was locked in ice for nearly a year. In Between Two Worlds, I retell this incident, expanding it and recasting the historical accounts from the point of view of a 16-year-old Inuit girl, Billy Bah.
Those of you who are familiar with The Snow Baby will recall Billy Bah and the beautiful 1901 photograph of her in the book. The artist who created the jacket for Between Two Worlds used this photograph as his reference. Look closely and you will recognize the face.
Currently I’m working on a novel set in England and Egypt in 1922-23, during the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. While researching the book, I investigated secret compartments in Highclere Castle, the set of the hit TV series Downton Abbey, and flew over the Valley of the Kings in a hot air balloon.
Aside from reading, writing, history, and archaeology, some of my other interests include playing the harp, growing orchids, Chinese style ink painting (one is shown on this site), and bird watching. I also enjoy hiking, camping, and cross-country skiing with my husband and our two teenagers.
Fancy, my old, gray tabby cat, keeps me company while I work. All freelance writers should have pets.
Thanks for visiting my website.