If you’re anything like me, you find inspiration in the people who are doing the things you’re doing…but doing them a lot better.
That is exactly how I came to know Kim Hooper. I aspire to one day be a great writer. She is exactly that. She is a great writer who just recently had her first book published. It’s called, “People Who Knew Me” and to sum it up, it’s about a woman who disappears and creates a completely new life for herself…and the story of her life before and after she made that decision. The characters in this story deal with some REALLY tough things…an ailing mother with Parkinson’s disease, an ongoing battle with breast cancer, and the good and bad decisions that impact those closest to you.
So here’s how this is going to go down. First I’m going to tell you a little about her (this is the part where I gush about her), and then we’re going to jump into the interview portion where I ask her questions about her book, and the writing process and even a little about her love of animals. And why is this awesome? Because I feel like I know someone famous. We are on an EMAIL basis here, people. And I swear, she doesn’t think I’m a stalker. Or at least that’s what she told me when I said I would stop emailing her if she thought I was being stalkerish. Okay, I digress. Let’s begin!
Kim Hooper is better than me, and I’m totally okay with that.
First off, you should know that Kim is modest. A quality I lack in many ways. In fact, I can just imagine her reading this and shuddering and saying, “Oh god. Please stop.” But I’m going to continue because I really want you to feel as invested in this author as I am.
Last year, I started following her blog. I found her because I was really interested in finding other writers who were trying to write a book, or in the process of editing, or who were experienced in the ways of publishing. She fit all of the criteria AND her blog posts were (and continue to be) so fascinating.
But it wasn’t just that. I follow a lot of blogs that are fascinating. When I read her blog, though, I have to do a double take most times because the things she writes about are so in tune with the thoughts rumbling around my own head. How does she know my own fears about writing? How can she find such joy in the little things that I love so much too? It just keeps sounding like something I would think or say…but a little more polished.
So when her book finally came out this spring, I knew I had to read it. I only just got around to reading it a couple weeks ago (ya know…some other things were preoccupying me at the time), and I feel like I had such a different lens reading this, knowing that I know how much of a labor of love it was for the author who wrote it.
And the feeling is that I’m just really proud of her. To see someone work so hard and finally have such a great finished product is so inspiring to me and I just feel…proud! That probably sounds really corny, but again, she’s doing the thing that I ALSO want to do, and I only want success for those pursuing their passion.
But it’s not just my own personal feelings towards the author’s success, it’s that this is actually a really good book. I promise I’m not being biased. Go check out her book’s rave reviews on Amazon or Goodreads!
The other reason I’m inspired by Kim is that she’s been through the ringer with publishers…all while still holding down a full time job. She talks about on her blog how she’s been writing for a long time, and got rejected for over five years before a publisher picked her up. That amount of failing and getting back up is so amazing to me. It gives me the courage to fail. It gives me the courage to put myself out there. It gives me the courage to stick with something all the way through to the finished product. This is a lesson that I learned a long time ago when I started running (another reason why I think she’s awesome – she also runs)…that sometimes success takes a lot of failure, but that when you do succeed, all of that failure is so worth it.
Okay – there’s a lot more I could go on about, but for fear of actually getting that “stalker” title, I’m going to stop here. But I hope this gives you an idea of the person behind this book. And now, on to some questions.
Not your typical interview, but I still got answers, so we’ll go with it.
Side note: Some of my questions have a back story, so I bolded the question, and Kim’s answers are in a dark red color.
You probably get this a lot, people wondering how much of this story is pulled from your life, but really I’m mostly interested in the cancer details. As someone now going through treatment, I was continually surprised at how vivid and correctly you described the process and the little details.
So my question is, did you do a shit ton of research to get your details just so or is this something you or a loved one has gone through before?
It’s a huge relief to hear that I portrayed it accurately. I read some great books (fiction and nonfiction) about patients with cancer, and I looked at message boards, but I still wondered if I was getting it “right.” The last thing you want to do as a writer is get it “wrong” and offend people in some way. I’m kind of a worrier, by nature, so even though I haven’t had close experience with cancer, I fear I will someday. I tend to research things and fold them into stories as a way to prepare myself mentally. That probably makes me sound crazy.
[SPOILER ALERT – IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW DETAILS AROUND THE ENDING, YOU SHOULD SKIP THIS QUESTION]
I’m always interested in how an author chooses where to end a story. Sometimes it’s a neat, tidy bow around the package of the story. Sometimes it’s open ended. Sometimes it’s out of left field. I don’t want you to give away spoilers, but…
Where you ended – was that always the spot where you intended to end it…or did it change throughout the editing process?
The ending changed in the editing process. I had a much longer, drawn-out ending and my editor suggested cutting it. I had no idea that people would be so invested in the characters and interested in the logistics of things. Someone emailed me asking, “But who gets guardian rights for Claire?” I was shocked, and also touched (because, like I said, that shows an investment in the characters and their futures). I think the ending is poetic (does that sound snobby?). The story comes full circle as Emily returns to New York and confronts her past to ensure a future for her daughter, Claire. I tend to like more open endings myself. Nothing bothers me more than an extra 100 pages tying up everything too perfectly. Endings are hard. Plain and simple.
What I loved most about this book was the refreshing honesty inside the character’s head. She wasn’t the girl she should be…she was the girl who has flaws and I loved seeing those flaws.
So my question is, was there ever a moment when you were detailing some of the more graphic moments or sick, twisted thoughts in her head where you had second thoughts knowing that others would be reading this…like family members?
I’m asking because that’s one of my own personal hang ups at current.
And then follow up – what helped you get over that to continue to write what felt right and true to that character?
I am still wondering if people are judging me because of the main character, Emily. I’ve had a few family members and friends who haven’t said a word to me about the book and I just assume they hate it and think I’m strange. It’s very hard to separate an author from a character. I’m guilty of that, too. After I read Gone Girl, I Googled Gillian Flynn to see if she was married because I was afraid for her husband. So, I understand.
What’s great about a debut is that when you write it, you don’t think it will get published. I’ve written a lot of books (six or seven of them) and I just assumed this would be another one in the drawer at home. That gave me a freedom to write what I wanted to write. When I got my book deal, my first thought was, “Uh oh.” The opinions on Emily are mixed. Some people love her honesty and her flaws; some people think she is terribly selfish and deplorable. I totally get it. She’s not an easy character. I suppose some of her thoughts are extremely dramatized versions of my own thoughts, but the similarities are few and far between.
From what I can see online, it looks like your book is getting pretty great reviews (Currently: 4.1 out of 5 stars on Goodreads and 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon). I’m sure that’s such a relief for you to have such great validation.
But when the reviews started coming in, how did that feel?
Follow up: Were there ever any comments that really rattled you or are you able to take them in and move on? Or do you just ignore reviews completely?
Reviews are scary. They really mess with your head. I must be a masochist because I fixate on the bad ones and just skim past the good ones. Overall, I am pleased that people seem to like the book. But, yes, I remember the bad reviews. One person said, “This book is about the most selfish person on the planet.” I tried to reply and a message popped up from Goodreads along the lines of, “Are you sure you want to do that?” Smart! It worked. I did not reply. I don’t check the reviews very often now. I realize I have zero control over them and it’s just easier to avoid them.
I know you’re a huge fan of the book, “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert…as am I! In one part, she talks about this idea of not putting the pressure on your creativity to provide for you financially. Which is an idea that I feel like she really flipped my perspective on. It seems so often people quit their jobs to pursue a full time career as a writer – thereby putting an extreme amount of pressure on their creativity to perform. As she puts it…
“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
Before hearing her thoughts, I was one of those that dreamed about doing this and now I feel like what she said makes so much sense, that I’m much more okay with the idea of just letting my writing be what it is and not worrying about if it makes me money or not (but all the while I would also still be working full time….because let’s be real, both my husband and I need to provide a solid income for this family).
I know you’ve talked about this on your blog also, but I wanted to know if any of that has changed since you published your book.
Is there a milestone you see yourself reaching before you could ever quit your full time job to focus solely on your writing?
That’s a great question! Like you, I used to fantasize about writing full-time, but Gilbert’s book did help me realize the problems with that. I really love financial security (and, much to the amazement of my co-workers who keep asking when I’ll be rich and quit my day job, publishing a book is not a winning lottery ticket). I would be way too stressed out to write anything good if I had no income. It is a struggle to find the balance though. Writing is what I love, but it requires so much time. I work 40-50 hours a week at my job, and I also try to be a good wife and friend and daughter and all that, so it’s tough. I don’t think I would ever quit my job (even if I was really successful with fiction writing). The ideal would be to work part-time—best of both worlds, perhaps.
My mom (who is currently reading your book) noticed that you mentioned on your author blurb that you have a lot of pets. At one point, my parents had five Labradors – one black lab mix and four pure-bred chocolate labs. As you can tell, we are avid dog lovers and my parents have even raised a couple litters (and as you can also tell, had trouble letting some of them go).
So for myself and for my mom – what kinds of pets do you have?
I am such an animal person. We would have 5 dogs if we had a bigger house and yard. Our house is only about 1,000 square feet. We have 2 dogs and 2 cats. There were 3 cats at one point, but my 16-year-old passed away. All of the animals, except for our one antisocial cat, sleep in bed with us. It’s great for romance.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The editing process was hard. I love the first drafts of things. I love just getting everything out. Going back and having to work with it is arduous. I’m always anxious to move on to the next idea. Editing feels like a ball and chain that way. It’s so necessary though. The first draft of this book was a mess, in retrospect.
What was your favorite part of the book to write?
In general, I like going back and forth in time, which I do in this book (and in most books I write). As I was writing, it was nice to get enmeshed in a chapter about her past, then jump to the future. It kept it fun. And if I ran into writer’s block in one section, I just worked on the other for a while. I love books that play with time, mostly because I think we switch between past, present, and future in our minds regularly. Thoughts are rarely linear.
What is your least favorite part of the publishing process?
The lack of control. People ask me if I designed the cover and I laugh because I had absolutely nothing to do with the cover. It’s beautiful and I love it, but I had nothing to do with it. When you sign with a big publisher, you trust them to make the decisions for you. That’s what they do. But, often, you have no idea what those decisions are or how they have you positioned in the book world or how much marketing they’re doing on your behalf. People keep asking how the book is doing and I say, “I have no idea.” Because I don’t. I’ve let go of that entirely, but I still get the questions that remind me how clueless I am.
What was your favorite part of the publishing process?
Signing the book contract. Most people may assume that the best part was the book coming out but, for me, the signing of the contract was more monumental. I’ve been trying to get published for years. I’ve had so much rejection. Finding a publisher—a great, big publisher—who believed in me and my book was the dream-coming-true moment for me. The release date was great, too, but I don’t have any control over the book’s reception, so there was more anxiety than anything. It was pretty awesome to see it at Barnes & Noble, though. People send me photos of the book at airports in Australia—that still makes my day.
So that’s it! You made it! Thanks for tuning into one my favorite topics and letting me gush about an amazing blogger/writer/ legitimate author. If you have any other questions for her, feel free to leave those in the comments or go post them on her own blog: blog.kimhooperwrites.com.
And to Kim – Thank you so much! Thank you for the interview, and thank you for continuing to inspire me and so many other writers out there!
p.s. I imagine a lot of you reading might be here to follow along with this crazy thing that I’m going through right now, but my biggest loves are writing and reading and running and those are things that are still constant, regardless of what else is happening in my life. And for my sanity, I think it’s important to keep talking about those things (and blogging about those things) because life does go on…and I certainly don’t want to miss it.