Q&A With Author Kathryn Craft
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Did you always want to be a writer or did you fall into the profession?
The groundwork had been laid growing up: I read novels all the time, my school track required writing a lot of papers, and storytelling was a highly regarded family activity. Yet, I fell. It wasn’t until my first husband committed suicide that I first wrote fiction. A dance critic for fifteen years at the time, I knew that writing could create order from my frightening jumble of thoughts. Story allowed me to burrow deep into the dark events of my life and retrieve hope—and publishing became a calling.
Are there any essential elements that must be present for you to write?
With my first two published novels I’ve needed:
• a true event that gets me wondering (surviving a 14-story fall; the suicide standoff)
• two other concepts or elements to get my brain arcing between them (body image issues plus a friendship with someone who has cystic fibrosis; a 12-hour structure plus the mothers’ lifelong friendship)
• a protagonist who must empower herself to embrace change
• five or more emotional turning points that will push her along her arc
• a cast orchestrated around a premise (relationship to body/food; ways of dealing with despair)
• an emotionally satisfying ending to shoot for
Which do you find harder to write: the beginning or conclusion?
I aim for a known ending, but at first I’m not sure where the story truly opens. Yet one must start, so I do, although agonizingly. It would be lovely to know I’m building on a strong foundation—but to orient the reader the opening must contain the genes of the story’s entirety, which I won’t have a thorough sense of until after the second draft. But once I do, the opening becomes just as easy to write as the ending.
Do you imagine the world you’re going to write about before you write it? Or does it come to you through the story?
I use setting to push conflict in the story so the details definitely emerge while writing. Philadelphia can support almost any kind of story, but in The Art of Falling the subset of elements I chose—the Avenue of the Arts, an historic cobbled street that opens onto a whimsically decorated apartment, a modern high-rise that measures my character’s success yet whose sweet foundation was overlooked—are specific to Penny’s world. In The Far End of Happy, the featureless social hall in which the three women await word about the standoff invites the decoration of individual memory.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced while writing?
It’s a repetitive challenge all writers share: the occasional crisis of faith. That it is taking too long to learn the craft. That you may be unequal to the task of telling the story born of your imagination. That your ideas may run out or become unmarketable. I consider myself fortunate to have been a choreographer, because this part of the creative life is the same among all the arts: we must learn to live with the discomfort of not knowing, even while stepping out in faith that we will arrive at the answer.
Kathryn Craft is a freelance developmental editor and the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she hosts writing retreats for women, leads workshops, and speaks often about writing.
What essential elements must be present for you to write?