Katherine Owen: Thank you for hosting me at Weekinrewind.com.
Here’s a little about me. I’ve had a circuitous journey in becoming a writer. I graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications, majored in editorial journalism, and promptly went into a high tech sales career because a girlfriend of mine convinced me it would be fun. And, it was; I enjoyed much success, especially during the boom of the dot com era, but I always wanted to write. When the situation presented itself, during a downturn at my company where I was unceremoniously laid off because I was the last hired in the global accounts sales group, I decided it was now or never, so I began pursing my dream of writing a novel. For the past two years, I’ve been writing full-time and taking classes with The Writers Studio, perfecting my craft. Last July, I won the Zola Award and First Place with the Pacific Northwest Writers Association for one of my novels, Seeing Julia. Most recently, I published Seeing Julia and another novel called Not To Us in the genre of women’s fiction.
WR: Please tell us about the book you’d like to discuss. What’s it about?
KO: I’d like to tell you a little bit about Seeing Julia. This novel has a wide appeal to women from the ages of 18 and up as part of the genre of women’s fiction, although men have enjoyed this novel as well. Seeing Julia is the story of Julia Hamilton who at the age of 27 has experienced tremendous loss. The book begins with Julia surrounded by her inner circle of best friends at her husband Evan’s funeral where she’s questioning her ability to start over again, when she meets Evan’s mysterious best friend, Jake Winston, leading to a connection neither one seems prepared for. In the following months, Julia battles the grief over Evan and the guilt over her unexplainable attraction to Jake while she attempts to put her life back together again. The book explores the themes of grief, loss, and starting over. It’s a little dark, a little edgy, and a little bit funny when levity is most needed. The story explores the dynamics of friendships and relationships and how these connections can help a person through the darkest of times. As one reader stated in her review, Seeing Julia is a “compelling” story.
WR: Where did you get the inspiration or idea for this book?
KO: Seeing Julia is the final result of earlier renditions of a novel that I wrote more than two years ago. The essence of the story comes from my own experience in dealing with the death of my father, nine years ago, and my personal journey in learning to cope with grief and the discovery of how loss can change you in terms of what you once considered to be important and how you reset your expectations and priorities. Julia came about as a character because I ended up writing a novel that dealt with these themes: grief, loss, and starting over.
WR: How did the title of your book come about?
The title from this novel came about fairly early on after forming the basic premise of Julia. The underlying theme is Julia’s personal quest to be seen and understood by the people she is closest to.
WR: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
KO: I suppose the main theme of the book is that we cannot be more than who we are. Julia embarks on journey of self-discovery after a harrowing revelation and must confront her own failings, her own imperfections in order to find closure within herself. Thus, Seeing Julia really begins with Julia seeing herself first, before she is capable of seeing others.
WR: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
KO: I’m probably most like Julia because she feels things so deeply and the loss she has suffered does seem to define her and almost hold her back. Julia is much more level-headed and less spontaneous than her best friend Kimberley. I probably have one of Kimberley tendencies—her outrageous ability in expressing her opinion. Kimberley was very fun to write. She’s promiscuous and outspoken and does what she wants. Kimberley’s the polar opposite to our heroine Julia; yet, she is Julia’s biggest supporter throughout the story.
WR: Which of your characters are the easiest and/or the most difficult to write about and why?<
KO: Julia was the hardest character to write. I had to be careful and avoid making her too dark and gloomy and since the story is told from her point of view that was a challenge! I wanted the readers to be sympathetic, even empathetic, and develop a clear understanding as to what has happened to this girl and why Julia is the way she is. I hope I’ve shown readers enough to explain why she reacts to Jake the way she does. This is a woman who has suffered so much and it’s eventually revealed how fearful she is of losing anyone else. I think that readers come away loving Julia’s character and want life to work out for her. At least, that’s what I hope for when people read Seeing Julia.
WR: Can you share one of your favorite excerpts from the book, Seeing Julia?
KO: This is from Chapter 4 of Seeing Julia, where Julia is describing the Evan’s accident to her psychiatrist:
“The thing was, I knew, even then, I was saying goodbye to happiness. I felt it seeping away from me. Gone forever. Just this feeling of suspended disbelief. Suspended disbelief. You know; the feeling you get, after you’ve cut yourself, a silly accident where the carving knife goes astray. You’re cutting tomatoes and then, you’ve cut yourself. It’s stupid, really. And, you stare down at your finger and before the pain starts, you watch the hint of blood ooze from sliced skin. Then, in the next instant, it’s everywhere. The horror…spurting blood that can’t be stopped… the horror takes hold. And then, the pain comes.” I pause, take another deep breath, and glance over at the good doctor. He just regards me with those grey eyes of his, too much like Evan’s, takes notes, and watches me.
“I said to the officer. “It won’t be stopped. Will it? The happiness is really gone forever. This pain is never going to go away. Is it?”
“You should sit down,” he’d said back to me and asked me my name.”
“I’m Julia Hamilton,” I answered. I remember the sparks flying as one of the fireman wielded another saw and cut through the metal from the other direction. All the firemen exhibited this desperation; their faces contorted with stress and recognizable fear. And, I kept wondering; does mine?”
WR: What books would you say have made the biggest impression on you, especially starting out?
KO: I’m a big fan of Audrey Niffenegger’s novel, The Time Travelers Wife. This is just an amazing story and the author pretty much breaks all the rules in terms of switching back and forth between time periods and point of view. Yet, above all, it’s a story about love and two people who struggle to be together. I read it last year and it catapulted to the top of my list of favorite books. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is another favorite as well as The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. All share the theme of the epic love story and I suppose that has had a strong influence upon the novels that I write and enjoy reading.
WR: What are you currently reading?
KO: I just finished One Day and recently discovered Elisa Lorello’s work and raced through Faking It and Ordinary World. I have her third book, Why I Love Singlehood, but I’m saving it for another week or two.
WR: What is your favorite book, who is your favorite author, what is your favorite genre–and why?
KO: I enjoy a variety of different genres. I suppose my favorite genre is women’s fiction because that is what I write. My favorite author is Audrey Niffenegger for the reasons I shared before and The Time Traveler’s Wife remains one of my all-time favorite books.
WR: What is the next or current book/project you are working on? When can we expect it?
KO: I have a few projects going on right now. The first one is When I See You about a young widow, Jordan Holloway, who is starting her life over after her husband Ethan is killed during a firefight in Afghanistan. Months later, she discovers a letter from Ethan that directs her to seek out his sniper partner, Brock Wainwright; Jordan has secretly been blaming him for her husband’s death. The ties they both share for Ethan lead to the discovery that their lives may be different, but far from over.
The second book I’m working on is Saving Valentines which is about a surgeon, Colonel John McDaniel, who returns from the war in Afghanistan expecting to resume his life in Chicago with his wife and daughter only to discover that everything has changed, perhaps, himself, most of all.
I’m also working on a young adult novel tentatively titled: Finding Amy which is the story of Tally, who at 15, grieves the recent loss of her mother and consequently lies about who she is when she meets Damon, a college boy home for the holidays; they share one night together which leads to a life of searching for both of them: he, to find her; she, to stay lost.
WR: What would you like people to know about you that we probably don’t know?
KO: I’m a perfectionist, but my understanding is this is a part of an Aquarian’s nature.
WR: If you’re a self-published author, can you talk about your experience with self-publishing today and why it appeals to you? Are there any frustrations with self-publishing? Would you ever consider traditional publishing? If not, why?
KO: I am a self-published author. Many of my readers are somewhat surprised by this, but it’s true. For a year and a half, I did the massive querying with agents, experienced multiple requests for the full manuscript and came close with a few highly reputable agents. It’s only been in the last six months that I changed my path and began to focus on self-publishing. This change came about largely because of the encouragement of blogs by J.A. Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith. Both of these authors recognize the opportunities that exist with self-publishing. Four months ago, I came close to getting an offer of representation from a reputable agent out of New York, but by then I’d already made up my mind to pursue the publishing of my novels myself. The truth is: I like control. I believe in my writing and I want the books to be published my way.
Self-publishing is not easy. It’s a challenge to do it well. I’ve had to learn all kinds of new software programs, including Adobe InDesign (for both print versions as well as e-publication) and Photoshop (in order to design book covers). The various online publishing distributors (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords) all require different formats. I also tackled Print On Demand (POD) with Lightning Source because I knew the women’s fiction demographic was not made up exclusively of e-book readers and some of these readers would want to be able to buy the printed version in trade paperback. As I stated earlier, self-publishing is not easy. It takes perseverance and hard work to do it right, to do it well.
I would never say never to traditional publishing, but the offer would have to incredibly good. I truly enjoy all the aspects that come with self-publishing my novels: from writing the story to choosing the fonts to creating the book covers.
WR: You’ve written two books. Which is your favorite?
KO: They are very different stories, but I love them both. Seeing Julia has garnered me the most attention from the publishing world, but I love Not To Us because it is a story that came together fairly quickly and one readers seem to really enjoy as much as Seeing Julia.
Here’s a short description of Not To Us: Ellie’s perfect world unravels, but she soon discovers she can’t outrun heartbreak and that revealing her secrets and trusting the ones that count, begins with herself, and may be the only way to keep her one and only wish.
WR: What is your advice to anyone, including young people, who want to be writers?
KO: Practice your craft by writing whenever you can. Read. Read a variety of books and study writers’ techniques. Read as a writer. It takes time to learn to read like this, but it will enhance your own work. Take classes. I highly recommend The Writer’s Studio where students study successful authors’ writing as well as their techniques.
WR: Where can we find you online?
KO: I love connecting with readers. Please visit my blog at: http://www.katherineclareowen.com or my author page at Facebook: www.facebook.com/katherineowenauthor and/or my Twitter account at @KatherineOwen01.