Monday, September 15, 2014

BLOGOVERSARY DAY 4: Kate Bassett










We're already more than halfway through! I can't believe it! Today, on the blog, we have Kate Bassett, who has the talent to weave strong emotions into words. Even the title of her debut book, hints at it. Words and Their Meanings!

1. Have you always wanted to be a writer? 


When I was little, I tended to stretch the truth. A lot. Eventually my mom suggested I try writing stories (instead of walking around telling people I had a twin who lived in London, or had managed to sell my brother for a dollar, etc.).  The first "book" I wrote was about a girl who really, really loved her neighbors' golden retriever. The neighbors ended up giving the girl the dog...This was also my first taste of rejection, since I didn't, uh, end up with a new dog. 

Despite this early brush with rejection, I never really thought I'd end up doing anything else.  There were brief stints when other career ideas popped into my head-- at age nine I wanted to be a veterinarian, until my Godfather let me watch a dog's c-section surgery; when I was in high school I thought I should put my arguing skills to work as a lawyer-- but I always returned to writing.  In college, I went through a slew of majors, only to return to Creative Writing. 

My first "real" job after graduating from college was working as a reporter for my town's weekly newspaper, The Harbor Light. Almost 15 years later, I'm the editor there.  So I guess the answer is yes-- writing is the only ambition I've worked hard enough to pursue. 

2. What was the most challenging obstacle when it came to publishing Words and Their Meanings?

Being a debut author is never easy, and I think being a debut author who writes "quiet" and "literary" contemporary stories is especially tough. My agent, Sarah Davies, did an excellent job of forcing me to look at the heart of the story I wanted to tell, and then asked me questions to help build a little element of mystery in before we went on submission. That round of revisions we did together was really difficult, but I don't know that we would have sold the book without it. 

3. What sparked your idea for your Words and Their Meanings?

Bits and pieces of both Anna and Mateo had been floating around my brain for a very long time.  When I started writing Words though, it was a very different book. There were runaways. And guns. And a lot of blue Slurpees.  Sometime between drafts three and five, I started to find the story I wanted to tell.  I knew I wanted to write about grief and art and the creative heart. I just didn't have a darn clue how to get from point A to point B until I'd put almost 250,000 words onto the page (and then deleted every single one of them).

I also had to let go of my strong desire to write about my hometown, Saginaw. I found myself trying to prove the place I grew up-- a place almost broken by the changing auto industry-- could have a fresh start. I actually renamed the town in the book (Grey Iron is an ode to the Grey Iron factory there) to give myself some distance.  Still, I think there is an overarching theme of loss and paralysis and, eventually, hope, that remained in the novel. I think the seed came from Saginaw. 

4. Do you think the contemporary genre has a widespread effect on everyone? If yes, why?

Stories about real life-- little moments, big moments, all the stuff in between-- always hit me the hardest.  That being said, some readers find great science fiction or dystopian novels (or any other genre they love) speak deeper truths than any other kind of book.  It's the great thing about writing and reading, isn't it? Knowing we can all find characters and stories to connect with, words on a page that shift our views and emotions, or simply give us the right dose of escape from reality.

The one thing I will say about contemporary fiction is that it never goes out of style. There might be "mini trends" in the genre, but the heart of what it means to right contemporary is a steady beat throughout the history of books.  I'm glad to believe that will never change.

5. What is the most essential ingredient in writing a good contemporary?

Voice.  To me, that's what it takes to write a standout contemporary novel.  The voice drives the story, and for quiet contemporary especially, it often drives the plot.  There are so many new books that hit bookstore shelves everyday. I always like to skim the first pages and listen for a voice I haven't heard before, or at the very least a voice I know will be interesting and fresh and real enough to keep me reading.

6.  If you had the chance to co-write a book with an author, who would it be and what would it be about?

Well, funny you should ask! My critique partner and dear friend, Alison DeCamp (whose brilliant and hysterical middle grade debut, My Near Death Adventures (99 % true!) coming out in February 2015) have talked about writing a book together for quite some time now.  I'm not sure if it will be middle grade or young adult (probably YA), but we have been tossing ideas around and I would bet we may start putting something on paper sometime in 2015.  Alison's writing is so funny and smart. Her books also have a big heart, so whatever storyline we end up deciding upon, I'd expect a lot of quirky characters and some sort of strange adventure!

7. Why did you choose Patti Smith as someone that Anna would follow in Words and Their Meanings? 

There was something missing about Anna, something I couldn't quite figure out no matter how much I thought about her character.  She needed an anchor. Something or someone to latch onto during this really dark period in her life.  I'd recently read Patti Smith's memoir, Just Kids, and there was something about it...something about the lens through which Patti sees her life and all the losses (and love) she's experienced along the way that just wouldn't quite leave me. 

Fast forward a few weeks. We don't have a television at my house (but believe me, we get plenty of screen time thanks to Netflix and Hulu), and I got sucked into a morning program while visiting with my mom one day. One of the segments had Patti Smith in it; she was revisiting the Chelsea Hotel for the first time since living there with Robert Mapplethorpe.   All of a sudden, I couldn't stop thinking of Patti and Anna together. I loved the idea of Anna grabbing onto a warped image of Patti, who doesn't exactly look like an eternal optimist. We do this in life a lot, I think. As we grow and change, learning to discover someone's full story, trying to understand a whole is made of a sum of all a story or person's parts, it makes a huge difference it the way one perceives the world.

In the end, it just seemed like a great fit. Patti Smith is a true artist. She's talented-- and hit the world stage at a pretty young age-- and she's had a lot of really, really heartbreaking moments in her life. Through all of the loss and pain, she manages to also find beauty and light. I wanted an adult like that to become important to Anna, but also, to be someone who helps her understand the importance of finding her own voice, and her own words.

8. If you could be a character in Words and Their Meanings, who would it be and why?

Selfishly, Mateo all the way!  He's smart and honest. He's talented but not broken by his talents.  He has a stable, loving family and extended family-- that kind of closeness is such a gift-- and has a safety net that helps him understand life and its challenges/responsibilities in a pretty mature way.  Plus, he cooks! 

9. Will you venture into any other genres like fantasy or historical fiction in the future?

I'm pretty grounded in contemporary, realistic fiction. I like reading fantasy, but I think I'll leave the writing to folks who do it really well.  My new manuscript is set in the mid-1990s, although that doesn't exactly count as historical!  

Of course, you never know where some characters or story ideas may lead....So I won't rule anything out as a definite no.  I can say the next two projects I want to work on are both contemporary YA.

10. Why did you pick origami as one of the central themes in Words and Their Meanings?

Art is present in various forms throughout the book, and I wanted Anna's grandfather to have a way to connect to the creative people in his family. As the only very practical, engineer-minded person in his circle of loved ones, origami made perfect sense.  It's an art form that's delicate and strong, very precise, but also, magical.  The idea of one thing-- a sheet of paper-- becoming something else also speaks to me.  The folds of origami have a connotation of keeping, or making, secrets. 

Kate's YA contemporary novel, Words and Their Meanings, released on the 11th of September. To find out more about the author and her books, you can check out her website: http://katebassettbooks.com

Also, you can check out my review for Words and Their Meanings HERE.

And finally, the giveaway! May the odds be in your favour! The giveaway is INTERNATIONAL.

P.S. The next two interviews will be after my blogging hiatus! So sorry for the inconvenience!


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