Gotham Ghostwriters Craft Interviews highlight the extraordinary talent of our writer community. Each month, L. M. Archer interviews a member of our network about one of their books, delving into their inspiration and creative process.
This month, Archer asks writer Kate Rounds all about her new book, Catboat Road.
You have a new book out now. When was it published, and what was the impetus for writing it?
My novel Catboat Road was published by Bywater Books on September 6th and is currently available on Amazon.
Impetus is an interesting word in this context. I’ve been wanting to write a novel since I was in my twenties. In the early years, I didn’t know how to write it, and in the later years, I didn’t know how to sell it.
How long did the process of writing the book take, from start to finish?
I started writing it on December 15, 2015, but it didn’t take seven years to write. It took seven years to catch the eye of a developmental editor, and to query 67 agents and a score of publishers until I found an agent who landed a small publisher.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered while writing it?
Conflict—one of the requisites of the writers’ workshop—and plot are not in my wheelhouse.
Any unexpected lessons learned while writing the book?
If dialogue is character, then character is plot. Sometimes these characters will tell you where to go next.
Any favorite chapter(s) and/or section(s)? If so, which one(s) and why?
Ace Ragsdale, the 18-year-old lesbian protagonist of the novel, has fallen in love with Mrs. Forest, her mother’s best friend. When Mom and daughter set out to buy a birthday present for Ace’s dad, Ace steers them toward Victoria’s Secret. “Maybe this lingerie will remind us of something Dad really needs like an axe or something,” Ace says.
The “aura of satin and S&M” in the place brings the mother’s own feelings for her best friend to the surface. There is no gay shaming in this family. Ace’s infatuation with Mrs. Forest is manifest, while her mother’s complex connection to her best friend weaves a tapestry of love, lust, and loss. “I’ve sucked butterscotch off her finger!” Ace’s mother wails, sensing her friend slipping away.
How has your affiliation with Gotham Ghostwriters (GG) helped inform your writing life?
For five years, I was speechwriter to the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. This is my primary relationship to ghostwriting and GG. I remember standing in the back of the darkened auditorium or banquet hall, one foot planted on the wall, arms crossed, listening for the punch lines, the fun openers, and emotional closers, and always being disappointed. I, of course, thought I’d placed pearls in her mouth, when out thudded cinderblocks.
Lesson learned? In baseball, there’s a saying, “Play within yourself.” In speechwriting, you’re not playing within yourself, you’re playing within herself. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true of fictional characters. They are always you, even if you are a 90-pound lesbian, and they are a 250-pound powerlifter. The novelist and journalist Emmanuel Carrère talks about “Accepting the fact of your subjectivity.” I think something of that subjectivity helps give depth to both speeches and novels.
Where may readers obtain a copy of your book?
Bywater Books, Amazon, and let’s hope other places unrevealed to me at this juncture.
Anything else that you think is important for GG readers to know about your new book?
Early readers flatteringly pronounced Catboat Road sexy, funny, and smart. Of these, I love funny best. Our world is brutal, and if readers laugh out loud, as one blurbist did, that would make me happy.
As a consumer of art, I myself am open and forgiving, for I know how hard it is to make it. We make art because we can’t help ourselves, and failing at any art, be it songwriting or speechwriting, is not a criminal offense; it’s just the human condition, and I would hope there would be more generosity of spirit as we nudge our best efforts out into the world.