Friday, January 17, 2014

Feature Friday: Kathleen Hale

Kathleen Hale was born and raised in Wisconsin, and graduated from Harvard in 2010. No One Else Can Have You is her first novel. The sequel will be published in 2015.

You can find her on Tumblr and Twitter, or on her website NoOneElseCanHaveYou.com


To read more of Kathleen's work, click here.
Interview:

A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Kathleen:
Write every day, and find a reader you trust.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Kathleen:
I have so many! But if I had to choose one, Cruddy by Lynda Barry was really formative for me.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for No One Else Can Have You?

Kathleen:
Twin Peaks taught me that starting with the beautiful corpse of a teenage girl is a pretty great hook. Fargo illustrated that northern accents and a friendly demeanor throw dark inclinations into sharp relief.

But overall, growing up in the Midwest and having my first falling out with a BFF were the two things that inspired me most. I wanted to explore the process of growing apart from someone I'd been previously codependent with, and the most exciting and high stakes way of approaching that seemed to be through the lens of murder. *shrugs*

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing No One Else Can Have You?  What were they and how did you fix them?



Kathleen: 
Absolutely! Keeping the killer a mystery was the hardest part. I feel like I might be spoiling it for people by describing the process by which I "fixed" this snag...but let's just say it was a fine balance between making the character sympathetic while still capable of murder. I struggled a lot with that while writing and throughout the editing process, which is why I'm so thrilled whenever people say they didn't see it coming.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in No One Else Can Have You is your favorite and why?

Kathleen:
I love them all. But I probably laughed the hardest while writing Dom and Miss Rosa.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Kathleen: 
Sure! I started writing as a little kid. But I stepped away from it as a teenager to really throw myself full force into academics, which was intense. I've never worked as hard as I did in high school and there wasn't time for anything else.

I started writing again in college. My freshman year I took a creative writing class and it just uncapped this volcano inside of me. (That's a terrible metaphor but you get the idea.) All of a sudden, I knew I wanted to be a writer because writing was all I wanted to do besides go out with friends and eat candy, and stuff. Sentences were constantly running through my head, and if I didn't sit down and write fiction every day, I'd end up writing these extremely long emails, or telling exaggerated stories (lies, basically) in the dining hall. Writing became a compulsion. Something that felt vaguely unhealthy, and that I couldn't quit.

I took as many writing classes as my schedule would allow and started winning prizes and getting invited to workshops and retreats. I published some short stories in small literary magazines. I think the college application process, and the sorts of classes and extracurricular activities it seemed to valued, unfortunately taught me to discredit creative pursuits as fluffy or unproductive. So the support and encouragement I received from my college professors and peers - all of whom I viewed as successful humans - was incredibly important to my beginning to take myself (and my writing) seriously. Eventually, one of my mentors, a professor at an MFA program, invited me to join his ranks. So I did.

All my stories were written from the point of view of young people. A lot of my classmates and a few of my professors didn't love that because it wasn't considered literary. I'd gone to grad school because I thought it would help me hone my writing skills--I thought the classes would be about plotting novels, or writing sex scenes that don't feel totally forced and bizarre. But instead I started to feel like I was back in college English classes. I felt like I was learning how to be a critic, not a writer. So I became pretty unhappy there.

Then the opportunity arose to write this Young Adult book. It hadn't occurred to me that my natural narrative voice could fit into a marketable groove. I started studying "commercial" fiction--what makes it entertaining, what makes it readable. I kept attending and teaching classes, but in my spare time I would sneak out to my car and write in the driver's seat. Then I dropped out of Grad school. And then I sold the book.

I've been writing full time ever since.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Kathleen: 
I just finished the sequel to No One Else Can Have You, so I'm editing that now, and working on a new project that I'm still wrapping my head around.

A.L.:
Did you, at any point writing No One Else Can Have You, ever wonder if you were going too far or going beyond the age limit of your book?

Kathleen:
After seeing MTV's show Awkward? No.

I think that being a teenager is a really exciting and emotional time, and I think that young people crave stories that take their own struggles and triumphs seriously by putting them in a high stakes environment.

I also don't think that people give teens enough credit, and I feel like people who complain about the age-appropriateness of certain books for teenagers are not often teenagers.
Teenagers can handle it.

I once read a New York Times piece that basically begged the question, "Where is all this violence and sex in YA fiction coming from?" The tone of it was very much, "KIDS THESE DAYS!" which I think is something every older generation says in one way or another, as a way of grappling with their own aging process and self-perceived obsolescence. The so-called "inappropriateness" of certain forms of entertainment says more about the people calling it that than it does about the audiences who choose to partake in it. I would take it VERY seriously if a teenager came to me and said, "Your book felt inappropriate to me," but I'm probably not going to sweat if someone older than that says my book is too sexy or violent for teens.

A.L.:
You're a resident of Wisconsin writing a novel set in small-town Wisconsin.  Was there a particular message you tried to relay about your state or did you just write Wisconsin because you know it?

Kathleen:
For me it always takes experiences a little while to percolate, and when I wrote the book, Wisconsin was the place that I knew best and loved anyway. I'd been away from home long enough that my experiences there had sort of settled in my heart and brain, and become knowable. The book isn't meant to be scathing. If anything I see it as a love letter to the people and place that first formed me.

Where I grew up, friendliness and modesty were hailed above all other forms of social interaction. I often felt like a crazy person for craving heart-to-hearts. So I guess if anything I was trying to communicate that feeling, and to point out that politeness can often be worn as a mask. No One Else Can Have You is about murder, sure, but it's also about learning by heart the fault lines of a place, and the personalities therein, and loving them anyway.

A.L.:
What's your favorite place in all of Wisconsin?

Kathleen: 
Ho boy. That's hard. I grew up on the Milwaukee River and will always have soft spot for the muddy brown water, and the sight of dead Christmas trees that people chucked out floating down it every spring.

Minocqua is glorious and fun in the summers - it's about five hours north of where I'm from, and people there talk like the people in my book.

But if you want weird, stunning, and a little overwhelming, go to the Wisconsin Dells. Bonus points if you go during off-season. It's a tourist town full of roller coasters and go-kart tracks that has five million visitors during the summer, but a full time population of about 2000, so when the sky starts dumping snow, it's a very small town. Being there when it's cold and deserted, and seeing the closed water slides and darkened fun houses, and the giant Paul Bunyan statues indicating parking lot entrances--all of which are covered in a fine layer of snow...it's like something out of a dream.

The Giveaway:
The first five people to order No One Else Can Have You will receive limited edition No One Else Can Have You trucker hats. (Unfortunately, this only applies to readers in the United States.)
After that, anyone who orders No One Else Can Have You will receive a drawing and handwritten note from the author (these can be mailed ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD!)
This offer lasts until Valentine's Day.

Just email your proof of purchase and preferred mailing address to Kathleeeeeeeeeen@gmail.com

No One Else Can Have You:  Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 689 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.

Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.




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