Now that the whirling debut dust has settled, Fran Price invites Katherine Kettle to talk about one thing she's learnt since becoming a published author.

You’d be surprised how hard I’ve found it to even sit down and write this article. It’s more than a year since my YA debut, The Boy I Am, came out with Little Tiger, and to a large degree it still seems unreal. That may be partly due to publishing in the middle of the third lockdown, it may be due to the fact that when the book finally joined the shelves, I was eight months through maternity leave with my first-born twins in a global pandemic, it may be because it will always feel like a dream. I suspect the latter.


Looking back on the time since publication, I was asked what ‘one thing I’ve learnt’ since publication. Stick with me, I’ll get to it shortly…

Cover of The Boy I Am

When I got my book deal I started planning a launch – there would be a dance, wine, cupcakes, possibly a band! In the end my wonderful launch was virtual, and perfect. I was interviewed by the amazing Dr Leah Phillips and everyone wore masks (a key part of my book) to raise a toast. I wore the spangliest of dresses, and drank a lot of wine, and a great many people listened to me waffle. Would I rather have hidden in the back of a bookshop and snaffled canapes? Maybe, because no author really likes being the centre of attention (or at least, we pretend we hate it, when actually it’s nice feeling like a Hollywood star for a short while).

'Everyone wore masks (a key part of my book) to raise a toast'

My book trailer (which I created and LOVE) garnered a lot of interest, and the book was included in book boxes and championed by the brilliant ReadingZone. After, there were lots of amazing reviews and blogs coming out, and interviews which I still go back and read when I want an ego boost.


Sadly, it wasn’t until three months after publication that I had the incredible joy of seeing my book on a bookshelf in my local Waterstones. I sat and had a cry on a bench, and because I had recently got into tiktok, I recorded it.


It remains one of my most popular videos on the platform, and one I go back to watch myself, grateful that I captured the moment for my own memory, with such vulnerability.

Book trailer on YouTube

Since then, highlights have included being part of the 2021 Book Fairy drop, as well as being honoured to be a guest at YALC which I have been an audience member of for several years in a row. I remember sitting in the audience behind Liz Flanagan many a moon ago, listening to Juno Dawson up on the main stage and wondering, ‘Will that ever be me? One day. One day.’ And then it was me, but the interview was virtual again! Still, I got to be on a panel with incredible people I’m honoured to be even considered a peer of: Veronica Roth, Johnathan Stroud, Lauren James, Femi Fadugba and Micaiah Johnson. You can check out that interview here


The hardest part of all these virtual gatherings was that I was yet to meet a reader. It was the part of YALC I was so looking forward to, had it been in-person.

One day, I thought… One day.


The months that followed included some incredibly difficult moments – trying to shape book 2 while juggling mental health challenges, the loneliness of home working, multiple responsibilities and challenges. I had started a fab interview series to help authors celebrate each other, called The Book Chain Project and it remains a great source of comfort to listen to the candid chats, and be inspired by the incredible talent in the UK kid lit community.


A tough few months was lifted by a dream coming true: the day I was told that The Boy I Am had been nominated for the 2022 Carnegie awards.


Cue me breaking down in tears again, and immediately calling my SCBWI mental support group to scream at them over the video phone technology we’ve spent so much of this year celebrating/commiserating/procrastinating over.


The Boy I Am book trailer on YouTube 

So, shall we get to that lesson? The one thing I’ve learned? It starts with a sad observation, because I don’t want this article to just feel like trumpet blowing: so much of my debut year feels like a love bomb. 

There are moments where the commitment to continuing to write feels hard: when getting up from bad reviews (which you shouldn’t read, but you will!) feels like dragging your body from quicksand; when finding the time and motivation to write, to promote, to enthuse seems impossible, and when exhaustion takes hold, but that flood of love and interest and attention and wonder that being a debut brings is still there, holding me fast to the dream. 

Launching, virtual or otherwise, is incredible. I can’t wait to do it again! To have the outpouring of genuine love and excitement for your work, to have amazing people interested in you and dear friends support you, and book bloggers talk about your book, to hit repeated 5 stars on Goodreads and Amazon, to be able to say to people ‘I’m an author’, and see their surprise when you can prove it! …. Nothing beats it. But here’s the punch, the compare and despair kicks in fast. And I’ll be honest the biggest thing I’ve learned this year, as hard as that lesson is, is that there’s one thing that makes EVERYTHING worth it…


There is simply nothing more wonderful than seeing the excitement of a young person who meets you, and wants to talk about your work. I finally got to meet my readers, early this year at my first in person school event!


Awards, blogs, reviews, recognition, it all pales in comparison to the unique feeling of meeting a reader, and being seen, for a minute second, as their hero.

There are moments where the commitment to continuing to write feels hard: when getting up from bad reviews (which you shouldn’t read, but you will!) feels like dragging your body from quicksand

So here’s my lesson: don’t expect the dream to always feel like a dream, it is work, but strive for it anyway, because there is nothing better in the whole world than meeting a young person who has read your book, and loved it. And in the days when you feel like giving up, be you published, or on the brink, or just starting, hold onto that knowledge, that the reader in you, the person who one day thought ‘I can do this’ will one day meet the reader you once were in someone else’s eyes. One day.


One day.


Thank you to everyone who has been there for me this year, and continues to support me, and thanks to the members of SCBWI for also shortlisting The Boy I Am for this year’s Crystal Kite.
Now, on to book 2.

*Header illustration by Shannon Ell


Made in Birmingham, Kathryn Kettle (she/her) now lives, works and writes in London. The opening of her debut YA novel, The Boy I Am, was shortlisted for Undiscovered Voices 2018. She has won competitions and been highly commended for her flash fiction, including being longlisted as part of the 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award. Her debut has been nominated and shortlisted for multiple book awards, including a nomination for the 2022 Carnegie.
Twitter: @klkettle


Shannon Ell is a non-binary illustrator, animator and designer based in Edinburgh. Instagram:@shannon.illustrates


Fran Price is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact her at

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