Interview with Kaitlyn Hatch, creative polymath and author of Friends We Haven't Met, which is available for purchase from November 9th, 2016.
Tell us about your writing process.
That’s a funny one. *laughs* It implies that I have a plan, or structure to how I write! Honestly, it depends on what I’m writing.
For blog posts and essay-style stuff, I keep a running list of ideas on the notepad app on my phone. It’s mostly point-form notes, single sentences pointing at an idea I want to explore or a topic I think would make an interesting post. When it comes to actually writing something, I scroll through this list and see what catches my fancy.
Sometimes I’ll have deep inspiration, though, which is the best, and how a lot of my fiction has come about. I’ll just have this flood of words—an opening paragraph or even just the first few lines—bouncing around in my head and I have to get them down. As soon as I start, it’s like a floodgate has opened. I barely even think about it, I just write.
I make sure to create space for my writing. I didn’t always do this. I used to leave it up to chance, just take spare moments when I had them. At the moment, thanks to the financial support of my wife and free room and board from my parents, I’m doing this full-time, so I structure my entire day around it. I find having a routine super helpful. Every morning I meditate for twenty minutes, eat breakfast, make a pot of tea and then I settle in for an hour writing, minimum.
It’s a good habit to get into as no matter what else comes up in the day, I know I’ve done at least an hour of writing. And in an hour I can get quite a lot down. I don’t stick to just one project. Sometimes I’ll start a blog and hit a snag, so I switch to some fiction I’m working on or maybe go look at a different blog idea I’ve been working on and actually finish writing that piece instead. Flexibility is important. If I force myself to write, my writing becomes really wooden.
And rewrites are good. While working with an editor on Friends We Haven’t Met, I learned a lot about the importance of letting go of that first draft. It improves the finished product, and my writing overall, but also helps me relax and take myself less seriously. When I was younger, I thought my writing had to be perfect right off the bat. I’d beat myself up a lot when I read something I’d written that really wasn’t very good. Now I see second and third, and maybe even fourth drafts, as part of the process, and time well spent.
What was your inspiration for Friends We Haven’t Met?
When I was younger, I wrote because I came up with a character and I wanted to give them a story. That, or I read a book with an interesting idea at the centre of it, but what I saw as poor execution, so I went about writing it in my own way.
In my mid-twenties, I changed my approach by setting challenges. One is the challenge of what I want to say, what I want readers to ‘get’ from the book. The other is a technical challenge. I am not a perfect writer and never will be. I can always get better. So I pick areas of my writing that I want to strengthen and make that a key focus.
In the case of Friends We Haven’t Met I wanted to write about empathy and compassion, about how we relate, or don’t. That was the challenge of what I wanted to say, and say by showing, not telling. I didn’t want it to be a moral story. It’s a really human story. I wanted it to be about emotions and interbeing and the realisation that what we do matters.
My technical challenge was to work on tension. I tend not to leave a lot of mystery to my plots and characters. I lay it all out. But I know how much better it is to read something with a lot of tension in it, how it carries a reader through a narrative.
So these were two essential ingredients and sources of inspiration I came back to again and again while writing Friends We Haven’t Met. I wrote it during National Novel Writing Month so having these goals really helped keep my momentum up—otherwise I don't think I could have finished an entire novel in just a month.
What’s some advice you would give to someone who wants to become an author?
I talk to a lot of people who, when they find out I'm a writer, tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book, or that they have an idea for one. Everyone seems to have a book inside them. I have many. But more importantly, I have a lot of books outside of me. Friends We Haven’t Met was the sixth manuscript I finished. I have another four manuscripts that are unfinished but at least 30,000 words long, not to mention dozens of character descriptions, short-story experiments and false starts that petered out after a page or two.
If you want to be an author, to get published, you have to write. You can’t just think about your ideas. You have to put them down on paper, or more accurately these days, on your computer.
Also, money is a poor motivator. This is a tough career if your key goal is to make a lot of money or even some money. This is my second published book, and I have yet to generate an income from doing this. It would be amazing to make my living from writing, and if I eventually do, that will be a bonus. I write because I’m driven to do it. I put time and effort into publishing my work because I would rather share it with the world than not. In the case of Friends We Haven’t Met I got enough backers through a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of having it printed. And I’m happy, because at least my writing is out there, being enjoyed, and not in some exclusive private collection on my hard drive.
To see more of Kaitlyn's work visit her website: www.kaitlynschatch.com
About the Book
This is a tale of six strangers living in a London apartment building, their lives & struggles unnoticed between them until they begin to intertwine.
A young man grieves, a new mother finds herself abandoned by her husband, a middle-aged menman lives in fear, an elderly woman longs to tell her son the truth, a student from Canada carries around guilt that she tried to run from by moving to London and an aging Italian immigrant feels abandoned after the death of his wife. Depression, fear, anxiety, loneliness, guilt and grief – all human experiences that can either divide or unite us.
Each chapter is broken into six narratives of the occupants of a single floor of an apartment building in London. In the first chapter we don’t know the names of any of the characters, just as they don’t know the names of one another, we are only introduced to their personal worlds.
As each narrative continues, the details of the personal trials of each character come to light and the characters begin to reach out to each other in various ways. Ultimately, even the most cold and distant character is met with compassion.
This book explores how we are interconnected through the characterization of six strangers who, on the surface, think they have an apartment block in common and nothing else.