This Rebel Heart: A Q&A with Katherine Locke

We’re always on the lookout for historical novels with a good twist and Katherine Locke has definitely delivered with This Rebel Heart. We asked Katherine a few questions about their writing process, scroll down for their answers!

Q&A with Katherine Locke

Tell us a bit about This Rebel Heart, what inspired you?

I was inspired by the revolution itself. It was so powerful to read about a bottom-up revolution, one led by the average person, regular citizens. This is the story of students who gathered to right historical wrongs and changed the world in the process. They united people from all factions of life in Hungary: urban and rural, student and factory worker. And even though the revolution was not successful, it was hugely important. I could talk about this revolution for hours and writing this book was one way of paying homage to the revolutionaries who laid the path for so many movements in the Eastern Bloc that came after them.

At what point in the writing process did you decide to introduce a fantasy angle?

I knew from the beginning I wanted a fantasy angle. The river was always magical. There were always whispers from the river to Csilla and from Csilla to the river. But Azriel and the golem appeared in the second or third drafts, and they really completed the book for me.

How much research did you have to do into the Hungarian revolution? How well are you finding it’s known in North America?

It’s not very well known, unfortunately. At some point, we decided that unsuccessful meant unimportant when that’s absolutely not true. So we don’t teach it. But we should teach it. It was an incredible moment in history which was somewhat overshadowed by the Suez Crisis. I did a lot of research into the revolution and there were so many incredible stories that spun out from the revolution that I couldn’t fit into the book. I hope that reading This Rebel Heart kicks off readers’ interest in that moment in history!

Your previous YA duology was also historical fiction, what about that genre intrigues you? Are there other genres you’d like to dip into in the future?

I love diving into parts of history that I think are overlooked, or not taught well – especially in North American education, in particular. I think there’s so much to learn in history that’s not centered on huge historical figures, battles, dates, and capitals. I like delving into the stories of average, ordinary people in these incredible moments and seeing those moments through their eyes. I do think that I’d like to write a secondary world fantasy in the near future! Really test out my world-building chops.

Without spoiling anything, can you tell us about the queer representation in This Rebel Heart?

This Rebel Heart is quite queer. There’s a central, romantic relationship between three characters, and there are past same-sex relationships that are talked about between other characters. Queerness is inherent to the story.

What was your favorite relationship to explore?

I really love Csilla’s relationship with Márton, a mentor-figure, and her aunt Ilona. Those two were particularly special to me and they brought so much to the story.

What are some historical fiction (or historical fantasy, if that’s not too specific) novels that you love?

I’m about halfway through the audiobook of I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys, and I absolutely love it! I also really adore The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros for a queer historical fantasy/horror novel that just blew me away last year.

What’s your number one piece of writing advice (either that you give people or that you’ve received)?

Learn to finish drafts! Writing is hard and sometimes there are sections you just have to slog through, but learning to finish drafts is absolutely essential. It’ll also give you that confidence for the next one. When I hit a hard spot in my drafts, I get to remind myself, “But you’ve done this before and you can do it again.”

What are you working on next?

I’m working on my next YA which is queer, Jewish, historical fantasy again. But this one’s very different than my previous books and I can’t wait to share this with everyone. Hopefully I can share more next year!

Pandemic question: What’s the one thing you just can’t live without these days?

I got a horse during the pandemic, returning to a sport and world that I’d spent all of my teens and early twenties in. It’s been an enormous privilege to have a safe, outdoor-focused sport and space over the last two years. And it’s such a gift to go to the barn and disconnect from my phone and just be present with him. I can’t imagine my life without him, even when he’s racking up vet bills and being naughty.

Thanks for joining us, Katherine! This Rebel Heart is available now, make sure you pick it up from your favorite bookstore. 

This Rebel Heart
By Katherine Locke
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593381243 | Knopf BFYR
In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most – safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things about her father’s legacy that she wishes she could forget. Now Csilla keeps her head down, planning her escape from this country that has never loved her the way she loves it. But her carefully laid plans fall to pieces when her parents are unexpectedly, publicly exonerated. As the protests in other countries spur talk of a larger revolution in Hungary, Csilla must decide if she believes in the promise and magic of her deeply flawed country enough to risk her life to help save it, or if she should let it burn to the ground. With queer representation, fabulist elements, and a pivotal but little-known historical moment, This Rebel Heart is Katherine Locke’s tour de force.

Also featuring Katherine Locke:

It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories
Edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman
Foreword by Mayim Bialik
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525646167 | Knopf BFYR
A Jewish boy falls in love with a fellow counselor at summer camp. A group of Jewish friends take the trip of a lifetime. A girl meets her new boyfriend’s family over Shabbat dinner. Two best friends put their friendship to the test over the course of a Friday night. A Jewish girl feels pressure to date the only Jewish boy in her grade. Hilarious pranks and disaster ensue at a crush’s Hanukkah party. From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It’s a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. You will fall in love with this insightful, funny, and romantic Jewish anthology from a collection of diverse Jewish authors.

This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us
Edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303948 | Knopf BFYR
A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true – but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out. From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories.

Katherine Locke: website | twitter | instagram

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