San Francisco resident Katie Coyle grew up in Fair Haven, New Jersey, and has an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in One Story, the Southeast Review, Cobalt, and Critical Quarterly. This is her first novel.
Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed "Rapture," all that's left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn't know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn't looking for a savior. She's looking for the truth.
1. What was your inspiration for writing Vivian Apple at the End of the World?
I was really fascinated by Harold Camping’s Rapture/Apocalypse prediction in 2011, and had read an article about a family split along similar lines as Vivian’s—the parents were devout believers, and the teenage children were very much not. That tension was extremely interesting to me. I was also looking to write something about a girl taking control of her own destiny, which is pretty much the only thing I ever read. The two threads seemed to work together, and lo, Vivian Apple was born.
2. Vivian’s parents are devout believers. What kind of religious upbringing did you have?
I was raised Catholic but am not Catholic anymore.
3. Following the apocalypse (or rapture) Vivian comes home to find her parents gone and holes in the roof of her house. Would you react in the same way Vivian does? If not, how would you react?
I think I’m a lot more prone to pure panic than Vivian is. She essentially goes into a state of shock, but is all-business by the time she comes out of it. If the people I loved disappeared in a Rapture-like event, I would probably do a lot more screaming and running around in circles.
4. How much research did you end up doing for Vivian Apple?
Not a whole lot! I did some very cursory reading on cults when I first started exploring the idea of the story (and specifically the powerful religion Vivian’s parents belong to), and I read Lawrence Wright’s excellent book Going Clear, about Scientology, during revision.
5. Are there specific genres or authors you tend to avoid reading while you’re working on something new? Are there any authors or novels that have inspired your writing?
I tend to avoid the specific genre I’m writing in—I’d read (and loved) a ton of YA dystopias before starting Vivian Apple, but once I was working on it I stayed away, just for the sake of keeping my own vision clear. Vivian Apple doesn’t have any direct literary inspiration, but there are of course many writers who have helped me hone in on the kind of writer I want to be. Some of my favorites are J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, George Saunders, Kelly Link, and Aimee Bender.
6. If your book were turned into a movie, who would you like to see cast?
This is my very favorite question! I love the young actress Hailee Steinfeld, who appeared in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit a few years ago—she has a very natural intelligence and toughness that I think would serve Vivian well. Harry Styles from One Direction should play Peter, because they are both very dreamy. When I was writing the novel, I couldn’t stop picturing Amy Poehler as Vivian’s beloved teacher Wambaugh—I think she’d be great in that role, and I also like to imagine that we’d start a lifelong friendship on set.
7. If you weren’t an author, what would be your ideal career?
I would be a Hollywood casting agent. See above answer for my credentials.
8. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I plot extensively when I’m writing something novel-length, because my brain is usually very scattered and if I don’t tell myself that today I am writing this particular scene in which these particular things happen, everything tends to go off the rails. But I do like to play it a little looser with short fiction—I tend to start with a general premise and then watch it come together in a weird, haphazard way. The first method is more effective, but the second’s a little more fun.
9. Coffee or tea?
10. Favorite movie? TV show? Band?
The Philadelphia Story. Doctor Who. The Monkees. (I contain multitudes.)
Head to Books Inc. Opera Plaza on January 6th and meet Katie in person to ask her all the questions we didn't answer here!