Katie O'Rourke's novel Monsoon Season, is out this week, published by Canvas Books, who first spotted her on author showcase site Authonomy. Monsoon Season was one of the first books I "backed" when I joined the site, so it's exciting for me to see it come full circle.
The book tells the story of Riley Thomas, whose first foray into adulthood hasn't worked out quite as she planned. A year after her college graduation, she's back at home with her parents in Massachusetts, escaping a dysfunctional relationship and other secret mistakes from her year in Arizona.
We see what Riley has learned about love from the people closest to her, how she has grown into the person she is, and how she attempts to chagne. When she's forced to accept help, Riley realises that being independent doesn't have to mean being alone. Monsoon Season explores how well we know the people we claim to love and how much every personwe choose to let into our lives shape who we become.
I caught up with Katie - sadly not over coffee, since distance prevented that - and asked her a little about life as one of that rare and venerated breed, a Published Writer.
In three words, can you describe...
Yourself? introspective, quirky, optimistic Your book? connection, growth, strength Writing, as an experience? personal, satisfying, vulnerable
You say you've been writing "seriously" for about a decade. What does "seriously" look like to you?
For me, ‘seriously’ means with an eye toward publication, a concept of an audience. I’ve always written, but when I was younger, I kept my writing private. Writing ‘seriously’ means getting comfortable being read, throwing yourself into the critique process and developing a thick skin.
How does it feel to finally be published?
It doesn’t feel real yet. I don’t know when it will. I had a little book party to celebrate with friends and I did a reading. I’m loving that people are finally reading it and I’m getting feedback. I check my amazon reviews daily. And also, my extended family is reading it and I’m getting responses trickling in. That’s really rewarding.
Are you able to give us any sneak peaks into the other two novels that are to be published?
The next one is about cousins who reunite as adults after a long separation during childhood. They were close as children but have lived very different lives after the divorce of one set of parents and the ramifications of that. It’s another book that alternates narration and it includes the perspective of their grandmother. It deals with the repetition of family history and issues of identity. Like, how much of who we are is already determined when we’re ten years old? What can a decade of separation do to change who we are?
The third book has a single narrator. Jenna is a people-pleaser dealing with the death of a parent when she unearths a family secret.
Are there recurring themes in your fiction - dysfunctional relationships, families, longing for home, something else?
Absolutely. For me, family dynamics are fascinating. Patterns that get repeated through generations, often unconsciously. I also like strong female characters who are more interested in finding their path in life than finding Mr. Right.
What advice would you have for people who are just beginning to write?
Get comfortable being read. It can take years to figure out which feedback to take on and when to go with your gut. It’s a tricky balance. To a certain extent we write for ourselves, but there comes a point when you have to concern yourself with your reader.
And how about for writers who are discouraged because they can't find a publisher?
I think it’s really hard. I think there is no shortage of writing talent, which makes the competition fierce. Plenty of crap gets published, promoted and purchased. And good writing that doesn’t get into the right hands will never see the light of day. It’s discouraging. I think you have to be really persistent.
The other thing is that you should really examine your motivations. Do you want the credibility of getting published? Fame and fortune? Readers? These are actually different things and there are different routes to get there.
Do you have a writing "routine", a favourite time and place?
I tend to write in the evening with music playing.
What are you working on now?
I have a trio of characters percolating in my head. They’re unlikely friends- like two of them only know each other because of the third person. I think we all have people like that in our life- people we might not be friends with if it weren’t for the fact that they’re family or they married in or they helped us through a really tough time in life and we’re loyal to that. It broadens our world view. I haven’t figured out what their story is yet. I’m still getting to know them.