© Benjamin Turner

We had the pleasure of talking to Katya Balen who is going to be attending internationales literaturfestival berlin for the first time this year reading in the section International Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Katya Balen was born 1989 in London and dealt with the effect texts have on the behavior of autistic children in her Masters studies. She also worked at various special schools and is a co-founder of Mainspring Arts, a charity that uses creativity to work with autistic people. Balen’s first novel »The Space We’re In« (2019) processes her own experiences in this area. Her debut novel is about ten-year-old Frank, whose little brother is autistic. Her second novel is due to be published in 2020. 

How many ideas for potential works do you have in your head? 

At the moment? Three, which is loads for me! I'm actually not very good at big sparky ideas, and I certainly don't have lots of them at once usually. I tend to have one very small idea that grows and grows quite quietly in my brain until I start writing.

When working on a new project, how do you sift through competing ideas in order to move forward?

I don't often have competing ideas! But I do dismiss single ideas just by thinking them through and whether I could actually make them work. When I settle on an idea that I think might have legs,  I chat to my agent and my editor. They're both brilliant at telling me whether something has potential.

What writing habit do you have that you feel is impossible to shift? (That could be a particular snack, writing hours, location, caffeine consumption etc.)

I have to write in my house! I just don't feel comfortable anywhere else - I get self-conscious that people might see what I'm writing. I also have to start the day with two cups of black coffee or I'm entirely useless.

The international literature festival berlin (ilb) has become an essential part of the literary calendar of Berlin. What do you connect with the city?

I love Berlin. I have some good friends here and have had some amazing trips to see them, so I associate the city with a real freedom and sense of adventure. I love how steeped in history it is, and how there is something interesting around every corner. It's a writer's dream!

©Bloomsbury, Carlsen, Katya Balen