The book with the eye that sat on my desk (on my to-read pile), always seeming to be keeping an hard eye on me while I worked on other projects, I finally picked up and read. Yes, Abigail told me in so many stares I had better read her, and I did, and really enjoyed the story. And so now I am very pleased to be honored with an interview from the author, Kathryn White.
I call Being Abigail the perfect idling read because I read it at a time when I needed something not so intense, or dramatic to read. This book was truly that book; a very comfortably paced story about a young woman blogging to sort out her relationship with the charming Samuel, centered around one near perfect Chastity MacKenzie and her (almost) mother-in-law, a woman who I came to look forward to encounters with her in the scene. And, of course too, let's not leave out Abigail. After all, she is only the star!
My plea to all writers after reading Being Abigail,... please keep the comfortably paced works coming. Jumpy and heart-trending is fine on occasions, but there too are readers out here who, at intervals, truly rely on charming tales where we can root for one, or all of the characters. We need perfect idling reads.
Thank you Kathryn for consenting to this Q&A interview.
Kathryn is an aspiring novelist who has yet to hit the best-seller lists but is still trying. She hails from Australia and blogs at Kathryn's Inbox.
Interviewed by OEBooks/RYCJ July 2012
OEB: How long have you been writing, before blogging?
KW: Sixteen years, so more than half of my life. I started writing when I was fifteen. I was a very shy, quiet girl. Writing was a way that I could easily express myself. My first published article appeared in a tourism magazine when I was seventeen. I graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in English Literature. From a technical perspective, I don't think my writing is that great. I think my talent lies somewhere in creating complex characters. I'm often told that I have an ear for authentic dialogue and that my characters seem to 'talk' to the reader.
Fans of Being Abigail or the blog may be surprised to learn that the lead character has existed for a very long time—I came up with initial idea for the character shortly before my eighteenth birthday. My first novel-length manuscript was about Abigail—in that story a much younger version ran away from her hometown and hitchhiked to Sydney after discovering that her uncle and guardian has a dark secret. The manuscript remains unpublished for two reasons. First, I lost half of it when my computer crashed. Second, what remains of the manuscript needs a considerable amount of editing. But, maybe one day.
OEB: It seems like you really had a lot of fun while writing Being Abigail. What was the transition like; going from blog writing to novel writing?
KW: I started the blog in November 2008 and began the first draft of Being Abigail in mid 2009. The transition was a strange one—the first draft was terrible! On the blog, there is often a lot of information packed into a few short paragraphs and some of the supporting characters are not as well formed as they could be. When I started the second draft of I rewrote a number of key scenes by hand (thus avoiding the temptation to cut and paste straight into a word document,) and it became easier to see some of the problems. This time I allowed myself to be more descriptive in my writing and fleshed out a lot of the characters and situations. The character that underwent the most changes was Chastity—I tried to make her a more sympathetic character... and probably failed.
I definitely enjoyed writing some of the comical elements to the story. I like to take ordinary situations and then think of the most awkward, inappropriate or embarrassing thing that could happen to anyone at that time. And then I imagine what would happen if they completely mishandled the situation. I think Abigail is the perfect character for this—she does not always know the right thing to say or do in public and often gets it wrong. There is also a lovely sense of honesty about the character. She is very willing to admit to her mistakes and weaknesses.
OEB: Do you have plans to write a sequel, to reveal Abigail?
KW: At the moment I have an outline and lot of notes for a sequel. The working title is Getting Older. I'm hoping to use parts of the blog following on from Being Abigail as the starting point for a sequel in which Abigail reconciles with her long-lost mother. I always felt that subject was mishandled on the blog and would love the chance to redeem myself.
OEB: I also feel Abigail indeed would have committed suicide, had things worked against her favor. But now I'm curious. What was the emotion you hoped to invoke in that scene?
KW: The opening scene was incredibly difficult to write, given the comical element verses the level of emotional distress that was being experienced by Abigail. On the one hand, we have a young woman who knows that her relationship is in trouble. The rational part of her mind has simply shut down and her actions are ruled by her emotions. On the other hand, her words and actions are so over-the-top that it is difficult to take her seriously.
I'm not sure how I expected readers to take her attempted suicide, or if they would even take Abigail seriously, but I certainly wanted to present them with a heroine who was by no means perfect, made mistakes and who, although she had supposedly attained the middle class dream of a good education, a beautiful home by the beach and a wealthy fiancée was still unhappy.
I have received praise and criticism for opening a blog and, later, the novel with a suicide note in equal measures. Ultimately, I think my aim was to use comedy to discuss a serious subject. I believe that laughter can be used as a way of broaching serious topics without frightening people away.
OEB: Just reading into Abigail's story, you seem to be a romantic at heart. So then I must ask, is there another genre outside of romance that you would consider writing?
KW: Thank you. I've tried my hand at various genres over the years, including an unsuccessful attempt at publishing a children's picture book, but chick-lit seems to come the most naturally to me.
That said there is a part of me that has always secretly wanted to write a comic speculative fiction novel—something similar to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. So far I have not been able to come up with a decent plot …
OEB: Is there any subject you feel is off-limits to write about?
KW: I don't know about off-limits, but I shy away from writing about or commenting on social or cultural issues that I am ignorant of. It is not that I don't care about the suffering of others—I care quite deeply, more so than what others realise at times. I think that my compassion is put to better use by supporting and empowering the writers out there who do have firsthand knowledge of a topic to express their views.
OEB: What's the best/and worst writing advice you've ever received?
KW: The best advice I ever received was, "Write honestly what you think about humankind." A much older writer from Western Australia gave me this advice when I was about to start university. It has served me well.
The worst advice? A lot of well-intentioned people advised me against rewriting my blog and self-publishing it as a novel. I was told that it would never sell, that no one would ever review it and that I would never see a copy inside a bookstore. They were wrong on all three counts. My advice to anyone contemplating self-publishing is to do it if you truly believe in your work and can see a place in the market for it.
OEB: Congratulations on the above! How do you feel about censorship?
KW: I feel that everyone has the right to use art (whether it be visual art, writing or music or any other medium,) or their voices to express their views on any topic without censorship, so long as they don't infringe on the rights of others. That said, as human beings we all have the right to agree, disagree or not to listen to another's viewpoint.
OEB: What's the most recent book you've read?
KW: Addie Pray by Joe David Brown, which inspired the wonderful film Paper Moon. It is a beautiful story of a girl traveling through America during the depression with Moses a man who may or may not be her father. Moses is an interesting character. He's a semi-professional con artist, but he often uses the money he makes to help others. I loathed and loved him at the same time.
OEB: Do you have any book events scheduled? Don't forget to include any online activities as well ways readers can read more about your work.
KW: At the moment, I'm giving away free copies of a novella titled Best Forgotten on Smashwords. Best Forgotten is a strange tale about a young woman with amnesia who may have murdered her ex-boyfriend.
Otherwise, my writing life is a bit head down, tail up at the moment. I'm trying to hawk a manuscript for a young adult novel titled Behind the Scenes to various Australian publishers and agents. I have outlines for two novels and hope to have a complete first draft of each within the next few months.
Congratulations Kathryn. I look forward to reading more about your success.