Monday, 28 November 2016

GUEST POST: What is Your Book About? - Kaitlyn S.C Hatch

Today I bring you a guest post from Kaitlyn S.C Hatch, author of Friends We Haven't Met


I’ve been a writer since I can remember, or, as I like to say, since before I could spell. Writing, to me, is like breathing. It’s necessary, essential, and I do it regardless of what else might be going on.

But going from simply writing a book to actually publishing it and sharing it with the world, is entirely different. When something we’ve written is put out there, it means we’re going to get asked questions. Of course, being asked questions is not a bad thing. Questions are incredibly valuable. They remind us to keep learning, they keep minds open, and an excellent question will lead to more questions.

I get asked questions about my method and how long it took to write my latest published book or where I got the idea for it, and most of them I’m totally prepared to respond to. But one question, the question I get asked most often, continues to stump and baffle me:
What is your book about?

You’d think this would be easy to answer, right? I wrote it. I came up with the characters and the plot, developed the tension, re-wrote chunks, edited it. I know it inside and out. It is my creation. How could I struggle to say what it’s about?

The thing about creativity is it does not happen in a vacuum. I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert describes it:
“… it's a collaboration between a human being's labours and the mysteries of inspiration. And that's the most interesting dance that I think you can be involved in. But you are very much an agent in that story. You're not just a passive receptacle. And also, it's not entirely in your hands.”

Part of being an agent for creativity, of creating anything, is that it changes once it is shared. Art, science, writing, film, performance — so much of what these things are or what they have become is as a result of the audiences, from the way it was experienced and understood by others.

It makes me think back to an experience I had in an English class when I was fourteen. We were studying The Raven and the teacher was going on about what Edgar Allan Poe meant with this line or that word or what he was trying to say. I put up my hand and asked where she was referencing this from. Where was Edgar Allen Poe’s book titled ‘What I Meant When I Wrote the Raven’? I was, admittedly, being a contrary teenager, but I’ve come to see the value in such a question as it reminds us that our interpretation is part of what gives meaning to the things we consume. 



So I could say, and often do, that Friends We Haven't Met is about a group of six people living on the same floor of an apartment building in Wimbledon. I could and do tell people, it’s about learning to relate, about understanding each other. I could and do tell people that it’s an invitation for us to see shared emotional experience, regardless of our very different embodiment's and identities. Or I explain it in the most clinical sense as a character based narrative of contemporary fiction. And it is all those things. But it will also be about something else to each person who reads it. In one of the reviews published about Friends We Haven't Met, the reviewer said they found it confusing because the characters aren’t named for the first few chapters, but once they were named, they found it much easier. Another reader said she absolutely loved how the characters weren’t named in the first few chapters because it forced her to get to know them by their emotional landscape, their internal dialogues and thoughts. It made her love them more because of it, and she found the book difficult to put down, but she didn’t want it to end either. 

I will say that the latter reflects the intention I had in writing it, but that doesn’t make the former less valid as a description. Initially, yes, the book is about unnamed strangers, even to us, the reader. How we take that is up to us. It could be uncomfortable. It could be confusing. It could just fall flat. Or it could inspire curiosity about the people we meet each day and the trials and tribulations they are going through, the things they are fearful of and what they hope and dream for.

The question: What is your book about? Freezes me in my tracks because I worry my response is either inadequate—it’s about people and relationships—or too complicated and wordy. Sometimes I don’t freeze, and my response is clear and leaves both the questioner and me satisfied. Ultimately, though, I am learning that it is a question that does not and never will have a definitive, singular answer, and that is not a problem.



I'd like to say a big thank you to Kaitlyn for stopping by! You can find out more about Kaitlyn through her website

Friends We Haven't Met is now available to purchase!

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