The paperback of “How We Fall”, a Silver Falchion Best Young Adult Novel finalist, has just been released. The novel follows teen Jackie who moves back to her uncle’s sleepy farming town. Ever since her arrival, she flirts way too much–and with her own cousin, Marcus. Her friendship with him turns into something she can’t control, and he’s the reason Jackie looses track of her best friend, Ellie, who left for…no one knows where. As the police search for Ellie, Jackie decides that she and Marcus should see other people. But when Marcus starts dating someone new, Jackie wonders if this new girlfriend might be involved in Ellie’s disappearance.
We sat down with author Kate Brauning to chat about her intriguing new novel.
Rektok Ross: So we have to ask, why did you write a cousins romance? Isn’t that kind of a taboo topic?
Kate Brauning : I didn’t write it in a political effort to support cousin marriage specifically, or because I ever had a relationship with my cousin. I didn’t, and neither did any of my siblings or cousins. I also didn’t write it intending to be particularly controversial. So, why did I write about first cousins? I love best friend romances. I think they’re sweet, and deep, and full of little tensions. There’s not much like discovering the person who knows you best is the one you want to share your life with. To me, “How We Fall” is primarily a best friend romance, even though it’s a taboo one. I liked the idea of writing a sort of extreme best friend love story, and the cousin dynamic seemed like a fascinating one to use.
RR: Are there other examples of cousins in literature or entertainment that you thought about with your book?
KB: Yeah, I mean, people do write about this. We have a history full of famous cousin marriages, as well as a number of famous novels, including “Mansfield Park” and “Wuthering Heights”, where a cousin relationship is part of the story. Also, hey, if you haven’t seen “Arrested Development”, you really should. Clever, hilarious, great fun– poor George Michael and his eternal crush on Maeby. If you’ve read “How I Live Now”, “Flowers in the Attic”, or “Forbidden”, you know these kinds of love take a toll on people. The romance in my story isn’t tragic, though, and the relationship isn’t an abusive one. It’s a flawed one, and a difficult one. But most relationships are flawed and difficult.
RR: Okay, so getting past the taboo aspect, are there other concerns with cousin marriage that you thought about while writing this book?
KB: There are some safety issues, similar to other forms of nontraditional relationships, and yes, there are genetic issues, but the genetic issues with children from first cousin marriages are widely exaggerated. The risk of birth defects for children of first cousins is only 2% higher than for the general population. Your own personal genetic history plays a bigger role in your children’s birth defects than marrying your first cousin. Author John Green actually created a very interesting video about cousin marriage. Skip to about minute 7 for his comments on genetic and ethical issues.
RR: Can you talk about broader themes explored in “How We Fall”?
KB: This is a book dealing with prejudices. The deeper the struggle, the more fascinating the story, right? We’ve seen that with other prejudices– biracial, cross-cultural, and same-gender relationships, relationships crossing political, religious, and status lines, and just about any other boundary we put up between people. When the conflict is an immoveable fact with deep-rooted prejudices and potential to harm your family, that’s a significant and difficult struggle. The problems with cousin relationships are a huge part of why I wanted to write about it.
RR: What else should we know about “How We Fall”?
KB: Despite all we’ve said on the topic so far, it’s not really about cousins. That’s the fabric, sure. But to me, “How We Fall” is about self. About finding out what you really want for your life, and being brave enough to go after it. It’s about emotional dishonesty, and courage, and roots, and missed opportunities changing who you become. And really, I hope it’s a fun read, too. There’s humor, produce farming, and “Casablanca” quotes, and flirting, friendship, and sisters. It’s about parents, and being uprooted, and sneaking off in the dark, and Hitchcock movies. It’s about a girl and her family, and the guy she can’t/won’t/desperately wants to go after.
Kate Brauning grew up in rural Missouri and fell in love with young adult books in college. She now works in publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling stories she’d want to read. You can visit her online at www.katebrauning.com or on Twitter at @KateBrauning.
“How We Fall” is available through:
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