Born October 16, 1951, in Alplaus, NY; daughter of Fred Henry (a mechanical engineer) and Catherine (a homemaker; maiden name, Quinlan) Kindl; married Paul Fredrick Roediger (a mechanical designer), October 16, 1976; children: Alexander. Education: Attended Webster College, 1969-70. Politics: Democrat. Religion: "None." Hobbies and other interests: Raising monkeys.
Home—116 Middlefort Rd., Middleburgh, NY 12122.
Writer. Worked with Helping Hands, a program which raises and trains monkeys to aid the disabled, 1990-2001.
Golden Kite honor book for fiction, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 1993, Notable Book and Book for Reluctant Readers, both American Library Association (ALA), School Library Journal best book, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books blue ribbon, and Book for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, all for Owl in Love; Best Book selection, ALA, Book for the Teen Age selection and 100 Best Children's Books, both New York Public Library, and Austrian Children's and Juveniles' Honor Book Award, 1999, all for The Woman in the Wall; Books for the Teen Age selection and Books to Read and Share, New York Public Library, 10 Best Youth Romances and 10 Best Fantasies, Booklist, and Best Fantasy, Voice of Youth Advocates, all for Goose Chase; Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, for Lost in the Labyrinth.
Owl in Love (young adult fantasy), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1993.
The Woman in the Wall (young adult fantasy), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1997.
Goose Chase (novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.
Lost in the Labyrinth (young adult fantasy), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.
"No one understands [the] particular quagmire of adolescence so well as the quirky (to understate it) heroines of young adult author Patrice Kindl," declared Jeannette Hulick in a profile of the author in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Online. Hulick went on to call Kindl a "master of characterization" in the creation of a cast of young female protagonists who are "likeable, smart, witty, touching, and honest." Kindl lets her imagination roam freely in her young adult novels Owl in Love, The Woman in the Wall, Goose Chase, and Lost in the Labyrinth. These novels feature young heroines "on their fantastical but entirely believable journeys toward adulthood," according to Hulick. There is Owl from Kindl's debut novel, a shapeshifter—adolescent student by day, owl by night—spying on her favorite teacher and hunting small prey. Anna, too shy to go to school, literally crawls into the walls of her family's enormous old house in The Woman in the Wall, there to be forgotten for another seven years, until—reaching puberty—she is drawn out of her self-imposed captivity by a mysterious message. Then there is the heroine of Goose Chase, Alexandria, an orphaned goose girl, who is transformed into a gorgeous young woman whose tears turn to diamonds and who has gold dust in her hair. So beautiful is she that suitors imprison her, and she must use her faithful geese to escape. And in Lost in the Labyrinth, Kindl retells the story of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur from Greek mythology as part of the coming-of-age story of young Xenodice, a princess. "All my characters are made up," Kindl noted on her Web site. "However, the only way I know how to make up a character is by observing other people, as well as reading books written by others. So my characters have tiny bits of lots of people in them."
A New York Upbringing
Born and raised in Alplaus, New York, Kindl is the youngest of four daughters. Kindl once commented: "When I was three years old my family moved to a Victorian house on a hill. To me it was a small country in itself. It had a cupola full of sunlight and dead flies, enormous attics suitable for imprisoning mad relatives, a butler's pantry, a grand staircase for grand entrances, and a secret, winding stair in a closet. There were miles of corridors and empty rooms, and the cellars were as dark and deep as the Minotaur's maze." This house, in fact, inspired in Kindl "a taste for the Gothic. We lived there for five years. When I was eight we moved to a brand-new split level. I spent the next decade sulking."
One positive thing about this new house, however, was the forest behind it. "In the forest was a half-built log cabin," Kindl further noted. "It had no door, windows, or roof, but it was some consolation for my lost kingdom. I spent hours at a time there reading, drawing, writing poetry, and eating too many apples." Reading, in fact, along with a love for animals, became a childhood obsession for Kindl. She would always keep an open book tucked under desk at school, ready to read a few pages when the teacher was not looking. During the summers, her family vacationed at a cabin on Lake George; their next-door neighbors also had daughters, so during the summers it was an all-female society that Kindl enjoyed. "As a result of this background I feel I understand girls better than boys, which is why I write primarily for girls," Kindl commented on her author Web site.
Graduating from high school, Kindl attended Webster College in St. Louis, Missouri, determined to become an actor. However, after a year and a half of academia, she thought she would prefer the school of life, and left for New York City. There she found work on a few television commercials and also did some modeling, as well as the requisite stint as a waitress—the apprenticeship for most actors. Yet her acting career went no further than this, and after three or four years she realized, as she said on her Web site, "I was going nowhere fast." She returned to her upstate home and took a secretarial job at her father's engineering company, where she met her future husband. Married, she had one son and continued to work as a secretary part time. "As a result," Kindl noted on her Web site, "I am an excellent touch typist today, which is handy for a writer."
Writing books came relatively late for Kindl. Her love of books eventually led her to putting down her own stories, but there was no tradition in her family—which has a long history of engineers—which led her to take up a pen or to clack the keyboard for creative purposes. "If you had asked me when I was a kid if I'd like to be a writer when I grew up, I'd have said, 'Of course!,'" Kindl further noted on her Web site. "But I wasn't sure I could do it." She did write poetry as a youngster, but never stories or an attempt at a novel. "As an adult I fiddled around with some picture book manuscripts. Finally, when I was in my late thirties I decided to try writing seriously."
With her first book, and subsequent titles, Kindl employed an unorthodox approach to writing. Instead of mapping out her storyline, or sketching in scenes in outline form, she simply sat down and started writing—anything. "I don't know how to write a novel," Kindl told Lisa K. Winkler in the ALAN Review. "Writing a novel is like living a life. There are as many ways to do it as any other." Her approach to writing is organic; she sits in front of her computer and writes down what comes into her head. She will do this over and over, hundreds of times, until she gets a couple of thoughts that connect. She lets these thoughts, these incidents or characters, develop without direction as long as possible, not knowing where they are taking here until well into the novel. "This is incredibly stupid and painfully slow," she told Winkler. Yet it works admirably well for Kindl.
Of Owls and Agoraphobics
In her debut, Owl in Love, Kindl explores the theme of adolescent alienation by recounting the story of Owl Tycho, a wereowl or shapeshifter, who takes on the form of an owl at night. During the day, however, she is a normal looking fourteen-year-old girl. Such a condition comes as no surprise to her family, for her parents are witches. Alternating between the first-person narration of both the owl and the girl, the novel centers on Owl's crush on her science teacher, Mr. Lindstrom who is twenty-six and married. This fact does not stop Owl, however, from keeping a watch on him, and during her nocturnal vigils she spies someone else on the prowl in the woods—a wild looking boy near Mr. Lindstrom's home. She fears that this boy means harm to the man she is so fond of. At other times, Owl sees a male barn owl hovering about the same place. Soon she discovers that the other owl and the wild looking boy are one and the same, and, learning the boy's sorrowful secret, she sets about reuniting him with his lost family (Mr. Lindstrom), in this "romantic fantasy written with wit and page-turning appeal," as Winkler described the book. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Owl in Love is a "highly original" debut novel that is "tautly plotted," and "touching." Similarly, in School Library Journal, Margaret A. Chang found the novel "an entertaining romp through serious themes," and further commented that "Owl's adventures should win flocks of readers." And reviewing the same title in Book Report, Kathryn Rowan felt it was "fast-paced" and "darkly humorous."
Perhaps inspired by the Victorian house in which she lived for a time as a child, Kindl's second novel, The Woman in the Wall, revolves around a reclusive young girl named Anna, who disappears metaphorically and figuratively into the walls of her family's twenty-two-room home. Transformed into a mythic figure by her family, Anna remains hidden until forced to surface due to the threat posed by her family's move to a new house and the growing emotions caused by her crush on one of the friends visiting her older sister. Calling The Woman in the Wall a "challenging read," Martha A. Parravano, writing in Horn Book, nonetheless decided that the "wit and craft of Kindl's prose keep pulling you back in." Further praise came from Booklist's Hazel Rochman, who felt that "the authority of Ann's quirky, vulnerable narrative voice" makes the reader "suspend disbelief."
Employs Fairy Tales and Greek Myths
Goose Chase, Kindl's third novel, is also in the fairy tale vein—adapted from a story by the Brothers Grimm—for it revolves around an orphaned Goose Girl, who happens upon a mysterious woman. In return for the girl's kindness, the old woman gives the girl three gifts. When these gifts result in her newfound beauty and wealth, the Goose Girl finds herself pursued by both a young prince and an evil king. Reviewing the novel in Horn Book, a reviewer noted the "appropriately archaic" first-person narration by Alexandria (a.k.a. Goose Girl), and the complex plot. In School Library Journal, Connie Tyrrell Burns praised the humor, imagery, alliteration, and nonsense words that "add to the fun," while Booklist reviewer Anne O'Malley described the novel as "a delightful, witty fairy-tale spoof," adding that the author's "humor, the strong characterizations, and vibrant action give the story wings."
For her fourth novel, Lost in the Labyrinth, Kindl turned to the Greek myths, including the legend of Theseus and Icarus, as well as Ariadne and the labyrinth under the palace of Knossos in Crete. A contributor for Publishers Weekly noted that Kindl's tale "up-ends tradition," playing on the original in which Ariadne helps Theseus to slay the terrible Minotaur. Instead, Kindl posits a rather ruthless Ariadne; her younger sister, Princess Xenodice, the narrator, is the kind and gentle one. Her stepbrother, Asterius, is not the monster Minotaur of legend, and Xenodice is fearful for him, especially so when she learns of a plot by Ariadne and Theseus to kill him. Soon, however, it is not only Asterius who is in danger; the princess and her friends Daedalus and Icarus may also be in harms' way.
Reviewers responded warmly to this novel. The Publishers Weekly critic went on to note that Kindl "nimbly reweaves classical motifs while vividly conjuring an ancient world" and that would be of interest to those "with a grounding in mythology" as well as "cloak-and-dagger buffs." Writing in Kliatt, Paula Rohrlick found Kindl's prose "terse and poetic, with a wry humor and a deep understanding of character," and Horn Book's Anita L. Burkam also commended the manner in which Kindl, "attentive to both archaeological detail and emotional probity, … fleshes out the Minotaur myth's bare bones and brings it to life." And Booklist's Gillian Engberg dubbed the novel an "intriguing mix of history, myth, and bloody Greek tragedy."
Kindl has, in the space of a decade, become a well-respected author of young adult novels, plumbing themes from alienation to sibling rivalry and coming-of-age in fanciful yet oddly realistic storylines. "I now own a house with all the romance of my childhood home," Kindl once commented. "Built in 1830, it possesses massive Greek pillars, mysterious little rooms with no obvious purpose, and a giant crypt in the basement." She has also been the caretaker of two capuchin monkeys who have the run of one of the parlors in the house: they generally join her in her writing endeavors, perched on a shoulder or curled up on her lap. They are part of a project known as Helping Hands, in which the monkeys are trained to help with the disabled. "Now that I am grown up I write for children because I am still a child at heart," explained Kindl, "fond of reading, animals, and solitude. I wouldn't know how to write a book for grown-ups. I wouldn't know what to say."
Kindl finds her job as a children's writer to be enjoyable. "I can read as much as I want to and call it research," she once commented. "People pay me money for the things that I write—sometimes, anyway." "This isn't an easy profession," she concluded on her author Web site. "But if you can do it, there is no better job."
Biographical and Critical Sources
ALAN Review, Volume 26, number 2, 1999, Lisa K. Winkler, "An Interview with Young Adult Author Patrice Kindl."
Booklist, September 1, 1993, Jeanne Triner, review of Owl in Love, p. 51; March 15, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of The Woman in the Wall, p. 1236; April 15, 2001, Anne O'Malley, review of Goose Chase, p. 1554; November 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Lost in the Labyrinth, pp. 484-485; January 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of Lost in the Labyrinth, p. 871.
Book Report, May-June, 1994, Kathryn Rowan, review of Owl in Love, p. 44; September-October, 1997, Christina H. Dorr, review of The Woman in the Wall, p. 37.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1993.
Christian Science Monitor, December 31, 2002, April Austin, "Greek Myths Speak to Kids' Desires," p. 19.
Horn Book, July-August, 1997, Martha A. Parravano, review of The Woman in the Wall, pp. 458-459; July, 2001, review of Goose Chase, p. 454; November-December, 2002, Anita L. Burkam, review of Lost in the Labyrinth, pp. 760-761.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1993, p. 1276; August 1, 2002, review of Lost in the Labyrinth, p. 1134.
Kliatt, September, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Lost in the Labyrinth, p. 10.
Publishers Weekly, September 6, 1993, review of Owl in Love, p. 98; February 17, 1997, review of The Woman in the Wall, p. 220; March 19, 2001, review of Goose Chase, p. 99; July 22, 2002, review of Lost in the Labyrinth, pp. 178-179
School Library Journal, August, 1993, Margaret A. Chang, review of Owl in Love, p. 186; April, 1997, Cindy Darling Codell, review of The Woman in the Wall, p. 138; April, 2001, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Goose Chase, p. 144; November, 2002, Steven Engelfried, review of Lost in the Labyrinth, p. 170.
If you enjoy the works of Patrice Kindl, you might want to check out the following books:
Suzanne Fisher Staples, Dangerous Skies, 1996.
Annette Curtis Klause, Blood and Chocolate, 1997.
Norma Howe's "Blue Avenger" series.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Online,http://alexia.lis.uiuc.edu/ (June, 2002), Jeannette Hulick, "Rising Star: Patrice Kindl."
Patrice Kindl, Children's Author,http://www.patricekindl.com/ (September 15, 2003).*