Katelyn Detweiler on the Inspiration Behind the Teen Author in The Undoing of Thistle Tate

Katelyn Detweiler on the Inspiration Behind the Teen Author in The Undoing of Thistle Tate

Katelyn Detweiler

Katelyn Detweiler’s latest YA novel, The Undoing of Thistle Tate, explores the consequences of telling a lie to protect someone you love. To the world, 17-year-old Thistle is the bestselling author of the Lemonade Skies series. No one knows her secret: She isn’t the one writing the books. Here, Detweiler shares the original inspiration for the story and how it was shaped by her years in publishing.

 

Spoilers Ahead: The identity of the writer Thistle is posing as is revealed below.

I’ve always been amazed by teen authors. I’m in awe of their talent and drive, bewildered by how they do it all, and maybe just a bit suspicious of them, too.

I was a hyper grade-obsessed teen. I spent most of my high school free time feverishly studying, writing essays, trying to memorize Latin conjugations and the periodic table, and generally worrying about my GPA. I can’t fathom when in the world I would have had the time to sharpen my pencil, crack my knuckles, and jot down an entire novel in my trusty black and white composition book. Not just a novel, but an actual good novel that people up in New York City would want to publish.

Once the question came to me–what if a teen lied about being an author?–approximately a zillion other questions came next: Why would someone lie about that? Who is the real author? What was the motive in creating a false figurehead in the first place? Why, why, WHY!?

I’ve been in publishing now for 11 years and I’ve never gotten a whiff of any particular teen author committing a heinous act of fraud. But still, I wondered, and when a writer wonders, there’s only one useful thing to do: turn that wondering into a story.

The characters came from there: a girl (Thistle) and her dad, an aspiring writer who was battling his demons and having no luck finding success on his own. Thistle’s dad desperately needed something good to happen for him and, by extension, for his daughter. So Thistle lied to help him, maybe even to save him. Was that so wrong? It was just meant to be one simple lie. One book. As if lies are ever that simple.

I’ve always been a sucker for a book about books, so it was inevitable that I’d need to write my own book-within-a-book story someday, and here it is. As a publishing veteran (first a marketing assistant and now an agent) I was delighted to put some real book world anecdotes into the story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Younger fan. Of all the TV and movies I’ve ever watched about publishing, Younger does it best but they still get a lot wrong. I wanted to give more of a true insider view, a glimpse of the not always so glamorous world of publishing.

This book is one answer to my wondering; an ode to the industry I love (and sometimes love to hate); an examination of the creative process; and a hypothetical question (my favorite kind of question). What would you do for someone you love? How far would you go? And, maybe most importantly: Is it sometimes okay to lie? I’m still not sure, even after writing a whole book about it. 

Katelyn Detweiler has written three novels (Transcendent, Immaculate, and The Undoing of Thistle Tate), and is a literary agent. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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