TLC Book Tours Presents: Interview with Kathryn Maughan by Bethany Canfield (of B&b es libris) enjoy:
How did the idea of Did I Expect Angels? come about?
This is a long story, actually. I got so many different ideas from so many sources. The most notable is September 11, as I’ve written about. There was so much grief and death all around us, and I couldn’t help but think about what the rest of these families’ lives would be...how long people would tolerate their grief before feeling uncomfortable and telling them to “get over it”...what holidays would look like from now on. I got the inspiration for Henry from a Cuban man. He and his family came to the US from Cuba in the sixties and had some of the same struggles Henry did, though his path turned out very differently. He told me of the three jobs he worked to support his family, how tired he was, how hard he worked; and he said over and over again, “But we had children. What else was I going to do?” I was so impressed by his determination and stoicism and willingness to do whatever he needed to keep going, and I wondered if I could directly contrast him with a main character. The character of Diego I got from my friend Marisol, whose family came from Puerto Rico in the fifties. Her father acted as a beachhead to his friends and family, doing what Diego did for Henry: getting him established, taking care of his needs, paying his bills. I asked her why he would do that, and she said, “It’s family. That’s just what you do.” Wow.
Of course, the most direct inspiration for the book was my dad. He and I were talking one day and he told me that, for my own good, I needed to get myself together and write a book. I told him that, for his own good, he needed to get himself together and join Weight Watchers. He said that if I’d write a book, he’d join Weight Watchers. Well, I wrote a book...and he didn’t join. So he still needs to fulfill his part of the bargain.
Besides writing books, what are some of your other favourite things to do?
I love most "artsy" things -- theater, movies, opera. There's a lot of this in New York, and I have to ration myself or I'd go broke, but I really enjoy the occasional Broadway play or musical and the opera. I took voice lessons for about 10 years, and while I'll never be a professional singer I do love to sing. I was in a semi-professional choir for a few years, and now I have to content myself with a church choir and the occasional amateur solo performance. However, when I sing karaoke, I kill.
I'm also a really good cook and baker, if I do say so myself. Cooking and baking are the perfect antidote to being a writer: you have an immediate finished product, and no one ever turns it away!
What is a typical day for you? Have you had many of these since you wrote and published your book?
I still have a day job; I'm finding out firsthand just how difficult it is to make a living as a writer, published or not! So my alarm goes off at 7:45 and I hit snooze until 8:10 or so (that is, if I consciously register that my alarm is going off, and don't dream I'm turning off an alarm over and over and just can't figure out why it won't quit blaring) and then go to work. At work, I set up meetings most of the day: phone meetings, in-person meetings, out-of-town meetings, travel arrangements. I do fit in some time to look at manuscripts now and again, but I can't really address the writing full-on until I get home at night. I always try to make time to go running or go to the gym, after a day sitting at a desk, and then it's time to write. I usually don't get into a groove until 10 p.m. or so, and I try to get to bed by midnight, so I have to be really focused during those hours.
Of course, sometimes I just turn on the TV. :)
Is being a published author different than you expected? In what ways?
I think most people who get into the arts believe that it's going to be easier than it is. Sure, everyone says it's hard, and sure, you know they're right...but you don't know HOW right they are. With most projects -- with most PEOPLE -- nobody wants you until everybody wants you. The trick is sticking with it to get past the initial phase and make everybody want you. I'll let you know how to do that...once I figure it out.
For anybody just starting out, I can't emphasize enough the importance of stability. For me, this means having a solid job (and benefits) that I fit my writing around. It might be different for some people, but you're not doing yourself any favors by not having a job and not having insurance and desperately hoping you don't get sick and your book hits the big time soon. Everything goes much more slowly than you'd like it to, even when it's "hot," and desperation is no fun.
What would your perfect day look like?
I’m such a night person...I get my best sleep AFTER 7 a.m. So I’d love to sleep until 10 a.m. or so, get up and have a run or a class at the gym, do some errands, see some friends, work on new hobbies (a new language, learning to paint, etc) and then start writing. Write until late, late, late (3 a.m. or later) and then go to bed. Sigh. I don’t have many of these days.
I am guessing you can relate to many characteristics of the different characters in your book, but who do you relate to the most?
Jennifer polarizes people; they either really relate or they think she's terribly irresponsible and selfish. I have to say, I really relate to her. She is real to me, and her struggles are real. She's being very honest -- a little TOO honest -- with her pain, and dwelling on it to the point that she can't focus on anything else. People want her (need her) to step up to the plate and deal, and all she can say is, "I hurt." She was on one particular journey with her husband, and that journey was wrenched away in the worst way possible, and she doesn't want to take the new journey that she's suddenly been put on. I can relate to that, too. That said, I've learned so much from other people and the way they deal with their own pain; I’ve figured out a bit more how to “step up” and be stronger than you sometimes feel like being. Susan is an inspiration to me. Initially I had thought that Susan would be a prototypical awful, overbearing mother-in-law, but immediately she spoke to me; she practically told me that no, she was an example and she would step in.
Do you have ideas for your next book? Have you started writing your second book? What can you tell us about it?
I started writing the second book a while ago...a long while ago. And I know a lot of what happens, but I don’t know what happens to the main character. I feel like I don’t know her yet. And meanwhile I’ve been working really hard on a screenplay, so I haven’t had time to delve into her character and what she would do. But I can tell you that it is very, very loosely inspired by a true event that rocked my little Utah community back in 1982, so I have to do a lot of research on (and try to remember) my growing-up years. I have also made friends with a now-retired policeman, who is my go-to source for legal research. These are the only hints I can give you. :)
What would you say to any budding authors out there who are interested in taking on the adventure of writing their own book?
First, I’d say that you just have to write. A lot of people want to write a book; very few people (comparatively speaking) actually do. You’ll never get it done if you don’t start. You’ll always find reasons not to start, to criticize yourself, to feel like you can’t do it. Give yourself permission to write—even to write badly!—and just write. Natural talent will always come out.
Once you’ve written...there are other things to remember. One is that it is an adventure, and you have to savor the small victories along the way. Managed to write for two hours today? That is a victory. Managed to finish a chapter? Ditto. Managed to finish an entire book? You rule. Take a moment and realize, you did something that so many people want to do and very few people actually do. There’s a musical by Stephen Sondheim called Sunday in the Park with George, and the painter, Georges Seurat, sings, “Look, I made a hat where there never was a hat.” It is an achievement. There are plenty of roadblocks and difficulties along the way (Rejection! Rejection! Rejection! Bad reviews! No sales! No one shows to your reading! More rejection!) but you have to say, yes, I made a hat where there never was a hat. And that means something.
What do you think of book bloggers??? :)
Ha ha, I’ve addressed this question already. See a guest blog I did:
Thank you Kathryn for the interview!!!
The TLC Book tour stops for Did I Expect Angels?:
Tuesday, September 2nd: Booking Mama
Friday, September 5th: The Friendly Book Nook
Tuesday, September 9th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, September 11th: Mabel’s House
Friday, September 12th: A Patchwork of Books
Tuesday, September 16th: Bookfoolery and Babble
Friday, September 19th: dontcallmebecky
Thursday, September 25th: B&b ex libris
Friday, September 26th: MollyCoddle
Saturday, September 27th: Catholic Bibliophagist
Monday, September 29th: Blue Yonder
Tuesday, September 30th: Boston Bibliophile
Date to be determined: Bobbi’s Book Nook