An Interview with Katie O’Rourke, author of Monsoon Season.
I met Katie on Authonomy.com, a writer’s website we both frequent. I recently interviewed her, and here’s what she had to say.
When did you realize you were going to become a writer?
I guess it depends on how you define it. I’ve been a writer my whole life. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write and it’s so much a part of who I am and how I process things that to a certain extent, it confuses me that some people don’t write.
It wasn’t until college that I started calling myself a writer and it’s only since I became published that I answer the question at parties of what do you do with: “I’m a writer.”
So, in a personal sense, I always knew I’d be a writer, but in a professional sense, I didn’t know until I had the signed literary contract in front of me. I’m still pinching myself.
Your book, Monsoon Season, is set partly in Arizona. What made you choose this setting? Do you live in Arizona yourself?
Like the main character in Monsoon Season, I grew up on the east coast and moved to Tucson after college. I think a sense of place is important to making a story feel true and I never write about a place I haven’t lived. Luckily for me, I’ve moved around a bit so I have a few places to draw inspiration from.
Your novel is considered to be Literary Fiction. Did you make a choice to write in the LitFic genre or did you decide that after you wrote it?
I think genre debates can be exhausting. Many people think you only use the litfic label if you think you’re writing some high brow award winner. That’s not what I mean. Many people define my writing as women’s fiction, and ultimately I’m fine with that, but it does make me bristle. My writing is character driven and focuses on the internal growth of the main character. It’s about family and relationships. When men write about these things, it’s not called women’s fiction.
In what ways does Literary Fiction differ from Commercial Fiction?
All commercial fiction really is, when you come right down to it, is fiction that sells. Whatever the genre, when it’s successful, it is commercial fiction. Fifty Shades of Gray might have been erotica before it started selling. Now it’s commercial. There’s overlap in every genre. Certainly, if you want some kind of commercial success, you hope you’re writing commercial fiction.
Do you feel Monsoon Season appeals primarily to women?
No. Which is why I resist the label. There aren’t a lot of men who seek out “women’s fiction”. I really think it’s because, at least in the US, the required reading is heavily male dominated- male writers, male MCs. The way that translates into our adult reading habits is that women are much more able to find universality in books by and about men whereas men have much less experience doing the opposite. When my work was posted on authonomy.com, half of my “backers” were men. I don’t like the idea that half of the reading population might be alienated by a marketing label.
Are your characters based on people you know? Do you worry some of your friends may see themselves in your work?
Every character I create has bits of the people I know in them. They’re also all a little bit me. I don’t know how you get around that. We are our experiences. I would worry if the depiction was an unflattering one. Interestingly, I find people much less likely to notice themselves in the flaws. For instance, the person in my life who most relates to the abusive character in Monsoon Season has never suspected there’s a connection.
Your blog (http://katieorourke.blogspot.com) features many articles about reading and writing. Where do you get the inspiration for blogging?
Blogging does not come naturally to me. I’m much more comfortable writing about people I make up than writing about myself. It feels weird when I check my blog traffic report and it’s more than just my mom, my boyfriend and my three best friends. Mostly, I do book reviews, since I’m reading anyway. They’re honest, but they’re never really, really bad unless it’s a writer who has hit the best seller’s list and I’m pretty sure a review from me isn’t going to affect their ability to pay their bills. I keep the stinkers to myself- I’m also very aware that a book I don’t enjoy is a different thing from a bad book
Are there any other things you’d like to mention?
I’m about to start edits on my next book, A Long Thaw, which should be out this summer!
Katie’s book can be found on Amazon here: