Interview with Katherine Center, Author of Everyone is Beautiful

Katherine Center’s second novel, Everyone Is Beautiful, is featured in the March issue of Redbook. Kirkus Reviews likens it to the 1950s motherhood classic Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and says, "Center’s breezy style invites the reader to commiserate, laughing all the way." Booklist calls it "a superbly written novel filled with unique and resonant characters." Katherine's first novel, The Bright Side of Disaster, was featured in People Magazine, USA Today, Vanity Fair, the Houston Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. BookPage named Katherine one of seven new writers to watch, and the paperback of Bright Side was a Breakout Title at Target. Katherine recently published an essay in Real Simple Family and has another forthcoming in Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers on the Mother-Daughter Bond this April. She has just turned in her third novel, Get Lucky, and is starting on a fourth. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at www.katherinecenter.com.

About the Book:

Lanie Coates’ life is spinning out of control. She’s piled everything she owns into a U-Haul and driven with her husband, Peter, and their three little boys from their cozy Texas home to a multiflight walkup in the Northeast. She’s left behind family, friends, and a comfortable life–all so her husband can realize his dream of becoming a professional musician. But somewhere in the eye of her personal hurricane, it hits Lanie that she once had dreams too. If only she could remember what they were.

These days, Lanie always seems to rank herself dead last–and when another mom accidentally criticizes her appearance, it’s the final straw. Fifteen years, three babies, and more pounds than she’s willing to count since the day she said “I do,” Lanie longs desperately to feel like her old self again. It’s time to rise up, fish her moxie out of the diaper pail, and find the woman she was before motherhood capsized her entire existence.

Lanie sets change in motion–joining a gym, signing up for photography classes, and finding a new best friend. But she also creates waves that come to threaten her whole life. In the end, Lanie must figure out once and for all how to find herself without losing everything else in the process.

Katherine Center’s Everyone Is Beautiful is a hugely entertaining, poignant, and charming new novel about what happens after happily ever after: how a woman learns to fall in love with her husband–and her entire life–all over again.


Welcome to The Writer's Life, Katherine. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Forever. I’ve been writing ever since I could write! I wrote my first poem (about heartbreak) in Kindergarten. I can still recite it verbatim.

I wrote my first novel in sixth grade (about how all the members of Duran Duran fell in love with me). I’ve kept journals, written essays, lettered poetry onto metal signs.

I went on to get a Bachelor’s in English from Vassar College, where I won the Vassar College Fiction Prize, and then a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Houston’s writing program.

I’m also married to a great—and very funny—guy, and we have two little kids. We live in Texas.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?


I wanted to write a love story about married people. And I wanted to write a story about a woman with little kids who decides to get her groove back.

My tagline for the book is: “What happens after happily ever after.” Though another I love is: “Love. Marriage. Chocolate cake.”

It’s a romantic comedy, which is my favorite genre. I love stories that find humor in day-to-day life. But it’s also kind of bittersweet, because my stories always wind up touching on how sadness and joy get tangled up together. I love stories that make you laugh and break your heart a little at the same time.

What kind of research was involved in writing Everyone is Beautiful?

My whole life is research! I am always paying attention to the comedy and tragedy of daily life—life with kids, husbands, responsibilities. These stories are not about me, exactly, but they come out of careful attention to all those little details.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

Ballantine sent me three ideas for covers, and there wasn’t even a question. The minute I saw that cupcake with that pinup girl on top, I said, “That’s it!” I never say no to cupcakes.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Both!

Getting published is not easy, and I’ve gotten discouraged and Quit Writing Forever many times. For most of my 20s, I didn’t think I’d ever really make it happen. But I kept writing anyway because I just couldn’t stop. And then one day, my sister dared me to write a book. And I took the dare. And before I knew it, I’d written a novel—the best writing I’d ever done. And then I ran into a woman at the park who was a novelist, and she offered to send the first three chapters to her agent, and before I knew it, there was a bidding war for the book! It was crazy—and very lucky. In the end, it was a Cinderella story. But I scrubbed a lot of floors for a long time before my fairy godmother showed up.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Two and a half years. Because this was the second in a two-book deal. So the first one came out first!

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

To sell a book, you need an agent. But you don’t need an agent to write! For writers out there who don’t have an agent, I’d say keep working on your writing. Write your essays or your stories and work on your craft. And then, at the same time, start blogging. Blogging is a great way to meet people and hook up with a writing community.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes! I have another two-book deal with Ballantine. I’ve just turned in my third novel, called Get Lucky, about a woman who offers to have a baby for her sister. And I’m about to start on my fourth.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I’m a carpool-line writer. Or a crayon-on-a-paper-towel-while-making-kids’-lunches writer. I’m definitely not a morning writer, because in the morning we are racing around getting my two little ones ready for school. And at night, I often fall asleep in my clothes.

A few times a year, my husband takes the kids for me and I go to a hotel—and it’s astonishing how much I can get done when it’s just me and the story.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A housekeeper! And a cook! And a grocery-store shopper!! So that all I had to do was write and blog and hang out with my kids and my husband. So that all the busywork of life was taken care of and I could concentrate on what really matters. I think blogging is a great way to promote your work. But it takes time. And I’m always working with a deficit of time. I’d love to outsource the errands.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Self-promotion is vital. People are busy. They’ve got kids and dogs and jobs. You have to believe in what you’re doing, and be brave, and get out there!

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

I think there are only two reasons to write: If it makes you happy, or if it makes you miserable but you can’t seem to stop. (Both have been true for me.)

Either way, the best thing you can do is read a lot, take workshops, and work on your craft. That’s what you can control: the words on the page. You have to make sure that you’re doing your best work—even better than your best—before you start trying to publish. Otherwise, it’s backwards.

Thank you for coming, Katherine! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My website is http://www.katherinecenter.com
My blog is http://katherinecenter.wordpress.com
And you can find Everyone Is Beautiful at Amazon or right out on the front tables at Borders and Barnes & Noble!




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