Virtual Book Tour Guest: Kate Blackwell, author of 'You Won't Remember This'

KATE BLACKWELL worked as a journalist and editor before turning full-time to fiction. Her first collection, YOU WON’T REMEMBER THIS, was published in hardback in 2007 by Southern Methodist University Press.  Her stories have appeared in numerous journals, including Agni, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Carve, The Literary Review, The Greensboro Review, Sojourner, and So To Speak. She lives in Washington, DC.

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About the Book:

Title: You Won’t Remember This
Author: Kate Blackwell
Publisher: Bacon Press Books
Pages: 232
Genre: Short Stories/Southern Fiction

The twelve stories in Kate Blackwell’s debut collection illuminate the lives of men and women who appear as unremarkable as your next-door-neighbor until their lives explode quietly on the page. Her wry, often darkly funny voice describes the repressed underside of a range of middle-class characters living in the South. Blackwell’s focus is elemental—on marriage, birth, death, and the entanglements of love at all ages—but her gift is to shine a light on these universal situations with such lucidity, it is as if one has never seen them before.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

A: Since You Won’t Remember This is a collection of stories, I don’t have a short answer to this question. I began to write stories twenty years ago, initially as a way to learn how to write a novel. But the strategies of the short form were seductive. I kept writing stories until I had enough for a collection. As for my ideas for individual stories, they usually begin as a memory, something I don’t understand and can’t forget: an offhand remark of my mother’s, a murder case I read about in the newspaper, a wedding I attended when I was twelve. I suppose I write to make sense of something.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

A: The hard part of writing this book was the time it took. Short stories aren’t easy to get right; sometimes I linger over one for several years before I understand what it’s about and am able to find the ending. One thing that keeps me going is the chance to publish single stories on the way to a book. Ten of the twelve stories in this collection first appeared in literary magazines.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

A: Fiction writers generally need an agent to publish with one of the larger publishing houses, but there are many fine smaller presses that read manuscripts submitted by authors. I decided to go that route and send out my collection myself. I chose four publishers, based on their lists that included story collections I liked, and sent a query letter along with two or three stories. In 2007, the collection was published in hardback by Southern Methodist University Press.

In the relatively short time since then, the publishing world has virtually re-invented itself. My initial idea was to wait until I published a novel and then try to have the stories re-issued in paperback and online. But the novel wasn’t cooperating and I realized I didn’t have to wait. I found Bacon Press Books, a small independent press in Washington D.C. that specializes in just what I wanted. Luckily, they wanted me too! On May 1, 2015, You Won’t Remember This was released in paperback and eBook.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

A: I was surprised at how good it felt to connect with readers. I had no idea how moved I would be by people’s reactions to my stories, their curiosity about the characters, their enthusiasm for their favorite story, and the questions they asked about those that troubled them. The conversations I’ve had with readers have been amazingly affirming.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

A: I have three novels at various stages of incompletion. I have no idea when any of them will be finished. I wish I did.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

A: Stories allow us entry to a character’s deepest feelings and most secret desires; what  we find is rarely what we expect. In this way, reading fiction helps us develop empathy with our fellows on the planet, including those who may initially repel us. All my stories reflect what I find endlessly fascinating: the hidden surprises in the outwardly  unremarkable. This is what I hope readers find as well.

 Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

A:  Just to offer appreciation to the readers of the world for their curiosity, their passion, and their openness to what imagination creates between the covers of books.

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