Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Interview with author Katherine Center on Writing, Publishing and Success.

So one day I´m at the library, looking for an entertaining read to pull me away from the non-fiction I´m reading to research for my next book. By chance I pick up an appealing title: Everyone is Beautiful, by Katherine Center. The opening line is: "The morning I decided to change my life, I was wearing sweatpants and an old oxford of Peter’s with a coffee stain down the front." Ok, I can relate ... Let´s check it out!
I snuggle up in bed that night, and find myself turning the pages until it´s literally 4 am and I close the book! I really needed to know what happened to the woman who told an acquaintance, that yes, she was pregnant in response to her indiscreet question, when in reality she was just hanging on to the baby fat after her third pregnancy! I remembered being asked that question once!
The next day I went back to the library and checked out The Bright Side of Disaster, also by Center, and the result was another sleepless night in Florida.
I looked up the author on the Internet, wrote to her and following is the interesting result of our exchange! Thank you, Katherine, for making the world more interesting by creating alternative realities that are in fact a melting pot of what many of us women go through at some point, and for your honest answers to my questions. I wanna be like you when I grow up (even though I´m older!).

LCL.- What does success mean in Katherine Center´s world?

KC.- Success is doing the right thing for who you are. It’s living a life that matches and supports you.

LCL.- Do you feel you´ve made it as an author? As a woman? As a mom? What do you feel (if anything) you still need to do in life?

KC.- I always try to be careful with my definitions of success—because if success is too far out on the horizon, you’ll never get there. Our culture often defines success with things like big mansions. But I don’t think that’s right. I think the stress of getting those things cancels out the pleasures.

My goal is to try to be as happy as I can, going through every day just as it is.

Do I get to do work that I love and that makes me feel proud? Every day. Do I have amazing kids who crack me up? Yep! Does my husband have a fantastic mustache? Yes, he does! That’s how I think about success: using internal measures more than external ones. I know who I am and what matters to me, and I stay close to those things. I have people in my life who make me laugh all the time. I get to do the work I love. It’s better than I ever could have hoped for.

But it’s not perfect. The cat wakes me up in the middle of the night. Our upstairs bathtub overflowed and now there’s a water stain on the living room ceiling. I never have enough hours in the day. It’s a normal life with ups and downs. But it’s the perfect life for me.

LCL.- What did you feel when you saw (and felt) your first book in print? Do you get the same feeling with every book since?

KC.- Seeing my first book in print was bliss. It blew my mind. I didn’t even know what to do with all the excitement. We found a box from the publisher on the doorstep one evening, and I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning reading! I was like, “This thing’s a page-turner!”

It’s not exactly the same feeling with later books. It’s a good feeling—a very good one—like, “Oh, hello, little book! I’ve been waiting to see you!” But it’s not quite as mind-blowing once you’ve done it before. Because after the first one, it’s not a surprise anymore. But it’s still totally awesome.

LCL.- What would you tell aspiring authors who do not believe they can make it? And what would you tell those who believe it is all a question of luck?

KC.- I would say that if you like to write stories and you’re finding a way to do that in your life, then you’ve already made it. And it took me a long time to figure that out. Just write them. Write them and show them to your mom or your best friend. Write them, and put together a writing group to read each other’s work. Publishing, marketing—those things have their charms. But they cannot touch the joy of just bringing the stories to life on the page. That’s what makes everything worth it.

As for the question of luck, I often think luck is all about how you see things. If you feel lucky, then you are. I’m not trying to be coy about this. The vast majority of people never get rich or famous off their writing. But what they do get, if they really do love to write, is the euphoria that comes from telling the stories themselves.

LCL.- Why do you write? (Ha, not very original of course!) Do you see yourself ever NOT writing?

KC.- I write because I love it. I write because doing it gives me a crazy thrill. On days that I’ve written something, I walk around with butterflies. I keep hearing this quote about how writers don’t like to write—they like to have written. But I completely disagree. The writing is the one thing about being a writer that’s pure joy. Other things—the selling, the marketing, the schmoozing—come and go. They can either make you happy or miserable, depending on the day. But the writing should be a constant source of pleasure. And if it’s not, then don’t do it. Do something that is!

LCL.- What was your toughest hurdle in life and how did you overcome it?

KC.- Seventh grade was the toughest, I think. Though it’s a tough call. But that year, my grandmother, who was like a second mom, died. And my parents got divorced about 6 weeks later. And my two best friends found other best friends right around that time. I felt really alone, and I didn’t know who I was or how to live a good life, and let’s just say puberty was kicking me up and down the block. So I started a journal. And when I filled it up, I started another. And did that for ten solid years—all the way through college. It’s where I learned how to write.

LCL.- Do you ever reread your books? Why? And why should other women read them?

KC.- I do re-read them! Sometimes I’ll be looking for a passage, and I’ll just get caught up in it and have to go to the end. Or sometimes I’ll hear a comment or read a review that makes me want to go back and take another look. It is fun to go back and read them.

And why should women read them? Well, they’re kind of heroine’s journeys. They’re comic and bittersweet stories of women learning to rise above circumstances and become the best versions of themselves. They have authentic, flawed, lovable characters who make mistakes and fumble around. But the novels have wisdom in them, too. They use comic situations to look at truths about women’s lives.

LCL.- Your words of wisdom for other women … (One sentence please!)

KC.- One sentence! Okay, here’s something I tell myself a lot: Try to look for the beauty in your life and be as grateful as you can.

Katherine Center is the author of three bittersweet comic novels about love and family—The Bright Side of Disaster, Everyone Is Beautiful, and Get Lucky (on sale now!)—and has another on the way. Her books and essays have appeared in Redbook, People, USA Today, Vanity Fair, Real Simple, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle, as well as the anthology Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers on the Mother-Daughter Bond (courtesy of Katherine Center´s website).

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