Spotlight: Katherine Reay -- Writing every day

 
 


Katherine Reay is the award-winning author of DEAR MR. KNIGHTLY, LIZZY AND JANE and THE BRONTE PLOT, an ALA Notable Book Award Finalist.
 
Her latest novel, A PORTRAIT OF EMILY PRICE, released in November 2016 and received Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and a Romantic Times TOP PICK! 
 
Katherine is also a rehabbing runner, former marketer and avid chocolate consumer – who happily resides in Lake Forest, IL.

 

"It’s an exciting yet anticlimactic experience any time a book comes out really--you work so hard to 'launch' it that when it finally goes you wonder how it hasn’t happened earlier because you've been so deep within it."

 

Where are you writing right now? Send us a picture!

Here is my office. I recently got a desk that moves from standing to sitting. It’s at standing height in the picture and I love it! The exercise ball I sometimes sit on is lurking underneath it.

 
 

 

You have a book, A PORTRAIT OF EMILY PRICE, that came out last fall. What does it feel like to have a book go out into the world? Has the feeling changed from when your first book was published?

It’s an exciting yet anticlimactic experience any time a book comes out really. You work so hard to “launch” it that when it finally goes you wonder how it hasn’t happened earlier because you've been so deep within it. But it is fun–especially when you see it for the first time on a bookstore shelf. 

Is it different now that Emily Price is my fourth? Yes, I’m not as surprised now to see it out and about. I really do expect it to happen. :)

I've just completed edits (last night) on my fifth book, and it will release in November this year. So I'll go through all these feelings yet again. 


What project are you currently working on?

Well, I just finished edits on THE AUSTEN ESCAPE... so I guess I'm not working on that anymore. Yippee!

I have two new books I am writing. I have never tackled two at once, so we'll how that goes.

One is another novel and the other is an extraordinary nonfiction story about a woman and what she did when faced with the unimaginable. It's not my story, but I get to write it!
 

What were the highlights of your attendance at the BONI workshop? 

I loved digging into story and looking at the finer points of construction with others on the same page. 

How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory? 

I know BONI helped me become a stronger writer. I believe I see story weakness faster now. 


What advice do you have for writers in seeking out workshops that best suit their needs? 

I think I’d say look at the level of writing.

If you are a beginner, start there because you’ll feel comfortable to share and can digest all that’s imparted to you.

If you’re more advanced and ready for that next step, you’ll need a different type of workshop/course.

Be honest with where you are and what you want and you’ll get the most benefit.
 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that's helped you as a writer?

Writers write. It sounds trite, but it’s true.

If you want to be a writer, you have to get to the job of simply writing.

There is so much to learn about the craft, but if you aren’t writing each and every day, all the craft books in the world won’t help you find your story, refine your voice, stretch you to your limits.

 

". . . if you aren’t writing each and every day, all the craft books in the world won’t help you find your story, refine your voice, stretch you to your limits."

 

Where do you hope to be as a writer in ten years? 

Still writing… I honestly hope I can continue to create stories that connect with readers for years to come.

 

FAST FACTS

  • Currently reading: 
    I just finished TRULY MADLY GUILTY and am moving onto FRENCH RHAPSODY– then DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY is next.  
     
  • If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?
    C.S. Lewis’s Narnia after THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE battle, but before the Pevensie children leave.
     
  • Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence?
    Silence. 
     
  • Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing?
    Nuun… Hydration tablets in water, hot or cold, and chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.

You can find out more about Katherine at her website, www.katherinereay.com. All of her books are there as are her social media links. There are even cute buying tabs! 

Spotlight: Bren McClain - The Twenty-Seven-Year-Overnight Success

 
 

Bren McClain grew up on a beef cattle and grain farm in Anderson, South Carolina where at the age of three, her two loves were born: writing and animals. These two loves would eventually be the foundation of her literary career, but it would take decades to get there. 

In the meantime, she had a life to live. She has a degree in English from Furman University. She taught high school English for a year, became a journalist, worked as a radio reporter, a television reporter and anchor, before switching into corporate America. During this time she became desperate to be creative and picked up a legal pad and started writing. 

She wrote two failed novels, got a literary agent and lost a literary agent. It wasn't until she returned to her two loves–writing and animals–that her literary career changed.

Bren's story is one of perseverance and determination. She calls herself a "twenty-seven-year-overnight success."

It's been a long road to publication, but she's here now. Her debut novel, ONE GOOD MAMA BONE, the third novel she's written, was published February 14, 2017.

 

"I gave it as much love as I could, and now it’s on its way out there in the world."

 

As a debut novelist, what does it feel like to send your first book out into the world?

It feels like I’ve given birth. Truly. I see my book now as a separate, living, breathing being. ONE GOOD MAMA BONE is apart from me. I gave it as much love as I could, and now it’s on its way out there in the world.

Fly, sweet Mama Bone, fly!

 

Tell us about your current project. 

It's a novel I am calling TOOK, which I am over-the-moon excited about it.

Honestly, I didn’t know if I could fall in love with characters as deeply as I did with the ones in ONE GOOD MAMA BONE. But I did–and it was an easy love.

The novel is inspired by the real life Eula Bates, a woman who held a shotgun on a bulldozer that tried to come through her farm to build a road into the Savannah River Hydrogen Bomb Plant in 1951. The cops came and hauled her off to the SC Insane Asylum and kept her for 16 years. Eula’s story is the prism through which I am telling the whole story. Eula’s story, in real life, didn’t turn out so well. This is why I’m writing it as a novel, to give Eula something good.

I love to approach material from a journalist’s perspective, so I conducted interviews with more than 30 people who were thrown off their land in SC when the Savannah River Plant came in 1950. Six thousand people in seven small farming communities. I had no idea what to do with the information, so I put it away for five years and wrote ONE GOOD MAMA BONE. When I was ready to return to the material, I thought about reading through notebook after notebook of research, but my gut told me to just get quiet and see what information had stayed with me.

I knew immediately. It was Eula Bates, her story.

It feels like it has wings already. TOOK was just named the gold medal winner of the William Faulkner – William Wisdom award for Novel-in-Progress.

 

"I wanted it to happen with my first novel, but it didn’t."

 

If you could go back 10, 20, 30 years and give your future writing-self one piece of advice, what would it be?

That the words often told to me–trust the process–are absolutely true.

Never in my wildest mind would I have said, “I think it would be good to keep my butt in the chair writing for 27 years before I publish.” 

Are you kidding me?  I wanted it to happen with my first novel, but it didn’t.

Nor did it happen with my second.

It took the third one, ONE GOOD MAMA BONE, to launch me on the publishing scene.

And, boy, am I glad.

Because this one is part of my life’s work. I couldn’t have said that about the first two.

Pat Conroy’s new fiction imprint, Story River Books, is my publisher. To be escorted into the publishing world via Pat’s enormous heart is literary nirvana. It all happened just right. 

 

"If my book had to be placed on a scale of 1 to 10, it was sitting at 2 when Lorin read my pages prior to our developmental meeting in Tampa."

 

What are the highlights of working with Free Expressions? How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory? 

If my book had to be placed on a scale of 1 to 10, it was sitting at 2 when Lorin read my pages prior to our developmental meeting in Tampa.

After leaving that meeting and doing the work she suggested, she moved it waaaay on up the line. Not that I am saying I could even write a “10” book, but in my eyes, she helped place it there.

How? Lorin gave me an incredible piece of feedback, paraphrased here: 

"We see your main character, Sarah, limping along with her feelings of inadequacy. That gets old. Readers would rather see her magnificence. Bring us her magnificence. In fact, begin with it. Trust me, her inadequacy will rise up through it."  

Lorin knocked it out of the park with this advice.

I took the limp-along opening scene and recast Sarah showing strength – and not weakness.

From that new opening, the entire rest of the novel spilled forth.

I have received countless comments from readers about Sarah, every one of them talking about how they loved Sarah. One wrote that she didn’t want the book to end, because she wanted to stay in Sarah’s heart. 

THANKS, LORIN!

 

On your website, you quote Albert Camus, “A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened” and how you write not what you know or want to know, but you write what opens your heart.

Can you talk about this a little more, and what advice you would give writers about writing what opens their hearts? 

To paraphrase another writer, Rilke–He advised writers to show to the world what they think is beautiful. Not another soul on earth may think it so but you, but hold this beauty in your hands and show it to us. I did that in my current novel with cows, their maternal love which is more awesome than awesome.

That opened my heart, made me want to love, love, love. 

At times, in the writing of my novel, I would imagine a cow in my cupped hands and would actually lift them high, as if saying, “This is what I think is beautiful.”  

 

"Loving animals opens my heart, and that’s exactly the state I want to be in when I open myself for writing."

 

What outside hobbies or interests feed your writing?

My work with and love for animals, especially farm animals. I’ve just been named to the board for Indraloka Animal Sanctuary in Meehoopany, PA, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Loving animals opens my heart, and that’s exactly the state I want to be in when I open myself for writing. 

 

FAST FACTS

  • Currently reading: 
    CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD, by Caroline Leavitt
     
  • If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?
    THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, by Carson McCuller.
     
  • Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence?
    I write to instrumental music, mostly soundtracks, on headphones.
     
  • Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing?
    Coffee first thing in the morning!

You can find out more about Bren and ONE GOOD MAMA BONE at her website, www.brenmcclain.com

She's on Twitter, @BrenMcClain, and also on Facebook, and Instagram where you can follow the adventures of The Mama Bone Barnstorm Book Tour

ONE GOOD MAMA BONE is available at Amazon.

 

SPRING WRITING INSPIRATION GIVEAWAY

Enter the SPRING WRITING INSPIRATION GIVEAWAY for a chance to win great prizes and a one-on-one story development session with Lorin Oberweger!

TWO GRAND PRIZE WINNERS WILL RECEIVE:

  • A 25 minute one-on-one story development session with Story Guru Lorin Oberweger
  • A copy of Donald Maass' new book, THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION
  • A package of five high quality highlighter pens for editing
  • An inspirational mug for your writing fuel of choice
  • A writing journal for all your brilliant thoughts

Total prize package value: $150

THREE FIRST PRIZE WINNERS WILL RECEIVE:

  • A 25 minute one-on-one story development session with Story Guru Lorin Oberweger

Total prize package value: $100

The more questions on the Giveaway you answer, the more entries you get to win the prizes! 

The giveaway starts on Wednesday March 8, 2017 at 12:00PM PST and ends Wednesday March 22, 2017 at 12:00PM PST . 

We'll choose winners at random and announce them here and on social media. 

GOOD LUCK!