I am so excited to welcome Katherine Reay to the blog today! I recently read her debut novel Dear Mr. Knightley and was very impressed and impacted!
My interview is a little late, as I wasn't feeling too well this past weekend, but Ms. Reay was totally understanding and encouraging, and so here we are at last! :D A huge warm welcome to you, Katherine! :)
Tell us a little about yourself:
I am a wife, a mom, a runner, a tennis player, an avid chocolate consumer, a compulsive reader, an aspiring chef and mediocre housecleaner… and I think I have the best job in the world.
You definitely sound very productive! :) And yes- you have the best job!
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always written, but it’s what I write that has changed. I wrote a lot in college and graduate school and even in my work as a marketer, but Dear Mr. Knightleywas my first foray into fiction and I love it!
Well, I'm really glad you stuck with it and worked yourself to this level of genius. :)
What was your inspiration for Dear Mr. Knightley?
Dear Mr. Knightley started during my recovery from an injury. Many of the ways I defined myself were removed for a time – tennis, running, tae kwon do, cleaning the house, driving carpool, volunteering, even standing in the kitchen cooking…. I was housebound for several months recovering, praying, reading and, eventually, writing. I started reading the classics, beginning with Jane Austen, and spread from there. When I got to Jean Webster’s Daddy Long Legs, I found context for the character already developing in my head. It all rolled from there...
I read Daddy Long Legs a year or two ago and I really liked it- it's one of my favorite classics!! :D That's one of the reasons I got super excited about Dear Mr. Knightley- and I wasn't disappointed. You captured a great modern view on the story. :)
What is your favorite quote from Dear Mr. Knightley?
There are a lot of lines I love and my favorites change. Sam’s voice is different from mine and I liked what popped out of her… she frustrated me too. But at the moment, my favorite line is from Professor Muir:
“I won’t tell, Sam. It’s your past – your story to share. But remember: it doesn’t define you.”
He concludes with “Never let something so unworthy define you.”
I love that because that is a theme of the book and our lives – we can determine what defines us and we should choose wisely. I also like that he doesn't direct Sam, but rather gives her only as much as she can absorb and the credit for being able to weigh her choices and find good answers.
I really liked Professor Muir and his wife, and their relationship with Sam! There were so many quotes I stopped to write down while reading your book.
In writing Dear Mr. Knightley, what were you hoping to accomplish the most through it? What was the main message/theme you wanted to convey to your readers?
DMK is in many ways a “coming of age” story, but I think those moments of redefinition can occur at any time and repeatedly in life. I wanted readers to see a search for self-definition, a search for place and forgiveness and a search for Christ worked out in a woman who knew nothing about any of that and one who didn't necessarily find all the answers by page 340.
I liked that by the end, Sam- with so many questions unanswered- was still able to find peace and fulfillment in God and where He had her, and with whom. It was really sweet.
You did a great job at conveying your theme! :)
How does your faith affect your writing?
My faith constitutes a meta-theme to all my writing – can’t really separate them. It plays out more concretely within certain characters, but – so far – not the main character in a firm or committed manner. Sam, our heroine in Dear Mr. Knightley is not even seeking God at the beginning. The idea of a loving father is new to her and, only at the end, is she beginning to understand the questions, much less the answers. But we are all like that in many respects – our faith changes, develops and grows with each experience and with time spent with God.
Are you currently working on a writing project? If so, would you tell us a little about it?
Lizzy and Jane is next and it’s in the final editing process right now. It will be out in October and I’m so excited. Lizzy had more humor and confidence available to her than Sam did. But she’s got some struggles ahead of her as well – can’t make life too easy on her.
This story has all the big guns: sisters, conflict, food, Jane Austen, Hemingway (threw you there, didn’t I?), love, and breast cancer. I know that last one is a bummer, but it’s a reality that so many of us experience either personally or walking the journey with family and friends.
Basically Lizzy and Jane is the story of a young chef, Lizzy, who has excised love from her life and, as she helps her sister through chemotherapy, she starts to put it back in – in all its wonderful and varied forms.
Eek! I can't wait to read it!! :D Come on, October! ;)
What is your favorite book and/or author (and why)?
That is so tough because I go to so many books for so many different reasons. If I picked one author, I would say Jane Austen. She’s impeccable and I never stop learning from her and I enjoy the process each time. :)
I picked this version of her novels to display because I have a few of them I absolutely adore them! They feel so cool. ;) I agree- you just can't get tired of her. :)
(Here are mine... and I've actually had DMK there since I read it, so that's pretty convenient. ;))
If you were stranded on an island, what three things would your life be a blank without?
Chocolate, a Bible and pen&paper. I figure if I deleted the spaces between the last two items, maybe you’d count them as one.
Haha! I'll count them as one. ;) Very nice choices, btw.
Which is your favorite Period Drama?
That’s really hard. I am loving Downtown Abbey… aren’t we all?
I love the costumes. Why can't we dress like this today? :)
Do you prefer coffee, or tea?
You are going to think I am such a waffler (is that a word?)… I like them both. I only drink one latte in the morning, but it is a ritual I adore and would feel lost without. It’s really hot coffee ice cream the way I prepare it and it is the perfect start to my day. After that, I only drink tea. I never have even a second cup of coffee. By the end of the day, I’m settling into chamomile tea, most likely, and feeling very content.
I am the same way- I love both! I love the way ice cream makes coffee so fluffy... does that sound super weird? lol And yes- chamomile tea is a great way to end the day! :)
And, last but not least, what surroundings do you like to have when you're writing?
Here is my desk. This is where I will always write if I have the chance. I think it has something to do with the polka-dotted-pig-in-a-boa lamp, but that’s just my opinion.
It is definitely the polka-dotted-pig-in-a-boa-lamp...mhmm...
Thank you, again, SO much for joining me, Katherine!! :D I've really enjoyed getting to know you some through our chat. :)
Everybody be sure and check out Dear Mr. Knightley, and keep your eyes open for more info on Lizzy and Jane as we get closer to Autumn! :D