Katherine Marsh is an award-winning author of novels for middle-grade readers including The Lost Year (coming January 2023!); Nowhere Boy, winner of the Middle East Book Award; The Night Tourist, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery; Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, a New York Times Notable; and The Door By The Staircase, a Junior Library Guild selection.
Katherine grew up in Yonkers, New York in the home of her Ukrainian grandma who taught her to love stories and borscht. A former journalist and managing editor of The New Republic, Katherine lives in Washington, DC with her husband, two children and an astonishing array of pets.
I was born in Kingston, New York, a town on the Hudson River, on the same day as Leonardo DiCaprio (we’re Scorpios). My parents, an artist/videographer and a stay-at-home mom, didn’t have much money but we always had books; Mother Goose and the Little Bear stories with Maurice Sendak’s wonderful etchings were some of my favorites.
The summer before I turned five, my parents moved to my maternal grandmother’s house in Yonkers, New York, a suburb a half-hour by train to Grand Central Terminal. Growing up as an only child, I spent a lot of time listening to my grandmother’s stories about her childhood in Ukraine and the bar in the East Village she had run with my late grandfather, who was from Belarus. Three out of four of my grandparents were immigrants. My father’s side is Jewish, my mom’s side is Eastern Orthodox Christian, but they all came from Eastern Europe to escape war, oppression, poverty or a combination thereof. My maternal grandparents travelled to America alone; my grandfather was just seventeen at the time. My family history has given me a great appreciation for the stories of immigrants and refugees of all cultures and backgrounds.
I went to the same public elementary school for seven years. In kindergarten, my teacher refused to call me by the Slavic nickname I’d been called since birth, Katya, because she said we were in America so I became Kate but always kept this heritage close to my heart. In first grade, I started off in the lowest reading group, was small for my age, shy, and sometimes fell out of my chair. But in second grade, my teacher encouraged me to write poetry and I started to love school, especially reading and creative writing. When I was ten, my parents separated and later divorced. Books were my escape (they still are).
In seventh grade, my parents sent me to a private school in New York City. Middle school was predictably awful: I had big blue glasses, braces, and was still so tiny that on my first day a staff member tried to send me to the elementary school. But I had a great English teacher who introduced me to weird, wonderful writers like Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, and J.D. Salinger. For my last two years of high school, I switched to a boarding school so I could study Russian. I was even able to visit a famous Communist youth camp as an American exchange camper and spend a semester at a math and science high school in the Soviet Union (yes, I am that old).
After studying English at Yale, I spent a year as a high school English teacher before becoming a journalist. My first job was at Good Housekeeping where I kept the messiest desk in the history of the magazine. (I continue to be extremely messy.) Over the next decade, I worked for Rolling Stone, The Washington City Paper, and The New Republic, where I was managing editor, editing stories about politics and world affairs.
How did I become a children’s writer? On September 11, 2001, I was living in New York City; a few months later, my grandmother who helped raise me died. I found an outlet for my grief and anxiety in writing. My first book was never published. My second book became The Night Tourist, which won the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. Writing is a journey. It doesn’t always work out. The only thing under your control is your own perseverance.
Besides writing, I like to read, cook for friends and family, travel, correspond with friends, family and readers around the world, study languages (in addition to speaking some French and Russian, I’m learning Ukrainian), do puzzles, and visit off-beat museums. Most of all, I like to spend time with my family. My husband, two children and I live in Washington, DC with two cats, seven chickens, a rabbit, a bunch of fish, an axolotl, an anole lizard, and a crayfish named Cheeto Hog (in honor of Origami Yoda). Please do not give us any more pets!