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An Interview with Author Kate Harrington

Author Kate Harrington channels her optimism for a hopeful future into her science fiction novels for young adults. Her most recent release is Planet Quest (March 2022), book two in her award-winning Pawn Quest trilogy that follows a group of teens marooned on a hostile planet. Look for Kate on her website at and on her Amazon author page.

Planet Quest is a finalist in the 2023 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. What else do you want readers to know about this second book in your trilogy?
Three teens, linked to a mystery back on Earth, land on a strange planet with ten others, but where are the people? Ran, the only teen not recovering from SpaceSleep, goes in search and ends up trapped. But nothing’s going to stop him from rejoining his friends. This is a young adult sci-fi adventure.

Who are your main characters, and what do they have to overcome in the story?
In Pawn Quest, book one, machine-empath Ran, researcher Pel, and impulsive Hallie each comes up against different aspects of a mystery of disappeared persons. The AI that holds answers propels them off Earth, but is it for their safety or to be rid of them? In Planet Quest, a hostile planet, an old alien shipwreck, and non-communicative adults challenge the teens to discover and use their inner strengths.

From inspiration to publication, how did Planet Quest come together?
Over more than half my lifetime, the story grew in the background of raising kids and pursuing a career. I was always revising and never finishing. A couple years before Covid (BC?) I got depressed. It seemed I had a choice: to quit altogether—or—to self-publish something still incomplete. Choosing to publish provided a huge sense of relief and the freedom to move forward.

Publication fell into place relatively quickly. Chatting with Lois Bradley at a conference gained me a wonderful jacket designer. A presentation at Bubonicon identified E. M. Tippetts for book formatting. A church friend added me to her copyediting clientele. I took Sarah Baker’s Continuing Ed class on self-publishing and Rob Spiegel’s blogging class — though I’m still not into self-promotion. My IT son sat shotgun while I uploaded various files online. And none of it would have happened without invaluable feedback over the years from critique groups and individuals.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for the Pawn Quest books? What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
The most difficult part of world building was staying ahead of the future; our world is changing so fast. Actually, my favorite part was writing the companion book Ty’s Choice (December 2020), also a New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards finalist. I wanted to know more about a ten-year-old boy who appears in Pawn Quest. With the background of future Dodge City already formulated, and keeping to a single point of view, the book came together much faster than anything else I’ve written.

What sparked the initial story idea for book one, Pawn Quest? When did you know the storyline or characters were strong enough to carry a series?
My heart was set on finding a library job when my boys reached school age. Instead, I found myself pregnant again and started writing to fill the gap. I had this view of teenagers on a strange planet, but no idea how they got there. About the same time, I read about a parent whose child had been unfairly taken from her. The strong emotion that article evoked got attached to those kids on that planet and kept me seeking answers.

I never intended more than a single volume, but the story ran away with itself. Pawn Quest answers who the teens are and how they arrive on the planet. Planet Quest covers their first ten days. In the final volume, Quantum Quest, they’ll have to overcome challenges related to that initial mystery back on Earth before they can return home.

Tell us about any challenges this work posed for you.
I wanted to publish on IngramSpark, but it was such a challenge I ended up with Amazon. I’ve since managed (with Rose Kern’s help) to load all three titles on IngramSpark.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? And when did you first consider yourself a writer?
I discovered both my loves—libraries and writing—in junior high school. I don’t think I dared call myself a writer until after retirement.

What topics or themes does your book touch on that would make it a good fit for the classroom?
I’ve jumped over a lot of present/future problems with AI and social media technologies. It’s easier to solve them in retrospect. An interesting discussion might be how to get from where we are to the more equitable (but flawed) society I describe, or to any other society the students might imagine.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What do you admire most about their writing?
I love Diana Wynne Jones for her humor, imagination, and ability to connect with children’s emotions. Space opera authors Lois McMaster Bujold and the team of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are great world builders and storytellers. And so many others…

What writing projects are you working on now?
While working on book three of the Pawn Quest trilogy, I’m also revising two verse novels — fairy tale retellings set in an ancient past — which I’d love to see published.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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