Katie Rose Guest Pryal Explains Why Writing is the Worst Job + Giveaway

ENTANGLEMENT front coverI met Katie Rose Guest Pryal almost four years ago at a pitch workshop in New York City. She introduced me to the yumminess of chicken kebabs with srircha sauce and taught me some tricks to hailing a cab when you have a suitcase. Four years laster, we both launched our novels into the world and are members of a fantastic group of women writers, the Tall Poppies. She’s smart, strong, and a vocal advocate for those who need to be heard. 

Her novel, ENTANGLEMENT, tells the story of awkward, 21-year-old Greta Donovan, the fiercely intelligent daughter of a philandering physics professor. She doesn’t relate to people nearly as well as she relates to facts and figures. While Greta gets quarks and string theory, she hasn’t a clue where men are concerned.

Which is exactly why she doesn’t see it coming when someone tries to kill her.

This book is visceral, heart breaking, and sometimes hard to read because Katie isn’t afraid to explore the difficult topics, but it’s worth taking the journey with these complicated and real characters.

Katie stopped by to share her thoughts on making it as a writer. Make sure to comment on her post to be included in a giveaway for her book. Details are below. 

Writing is the worst job in the world. Because I write for a living, I’m scared I won’t be able to buy diapers for my kids. Because I write for a living, we eat too many hot dogs and too much macaroni and cheese, especially in November, the month before my royalty checks arrive.

But come January, writing is the most amazing job in the world. I’m delighted that writing can feed my family, can pay my mortgage.

Writers (well, most writers) live from royalty check to royalty check. But we also live from idea to idea. We have to grab our ideas from the air, whenever and wherever they manifest.

I write while I walk or drive, dictating ideas into my phone’s voice transcriber. Later, when I pull up the words, they often come out a little garbled. But no matter, the juice is there, enough juice for me to start writing when I arrive at my workplace of choice.

My workplace of choice: the place brewing the best coffee, with the best art on the walls that month, or with the best air conditioning in this, the hottest June in recorded history. I live in North Carolina after all, and it’s hard to write well when it’s so hot you feel like the weather is trying to crush your brain. (Hear that Mother Nature? Let up a little bit.)

Sometimes I walk to my writing spot, and I read while I’m walking. My neighbors think I’m eccentric, walking around with my face in books. But aren’t I a little young to be considered eccentric? I understand where they’re coming from, though. I’m new to the neighborhood, and I have small kids, so I don’t go to the wine tastings (for the love of egg salad, no) or the other things that people go to who don’t have to shell out their retirement fund for babysitters. So my neighbors don’t know me well. They don’t know that I read because I have no choice. And that I have important things to do in the evenings.

In the evenings, I teach two small children how to brush their teeth. How to zip up their sleep suits. How to read. How to fall asleep. I didn’t even know that sleeping was a thing you had to teach before I had kids.

And then, once my babies’ lashes touch their cheeks, I write again. This second shift is the best shift. I sit in bed with my laptop. My husband putters downstairs. The sound of his activities echoing up the stairwell creates comfort while I delve into human depravity, into the hard things that people can do to one another.

“Why don’t you write happy books?” my mother asks. I think, What on Earth is a happy book? I write books about real people, the things they fear, the pain they suffer—and their joys. Every single feeling my characters have felt is a feeling I’ve felt.

These are questions about Entanglement I always get from readers. I think they explain a lot about what it means to write for a living, to write for real.

  • Is this book about your life? Yes, but not in the way that you think.
  • Are the characters based on people you know? Yes, they are all based on one person I know.
  • How did you learn so much about Greta’s strange line of work? Because I did Greta’s strange work, once.
  • How did you depict what it was like to be an outsider so well? Because, for most of my life, I was an outsider. Sometimes, I still am. (Eccentric, remember?)
  • How did you know how to write about Daphne’s childhood suffering? How did I, indeed.
  • How can people who’ve known such loss still find joy? Because they must.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by Noon (EST) on Friday, August 7th to win one a copy of ENTANGLEMENT (U.S. only). Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!

Pryal Color Portrait 2014-12Katie is a novelist and freelance journalist living in Chapel Hill, N.C. She’s the author of the novel ENTANGLEMENT and the novella LOVE AND ENTROPY, both available now from Velvet Morning Press. Katie contributes regularly to THE HUFFINGTON POST, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE and other national venues. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship, and her doctorate in rhetoric from UNC-Greensboro. Katie has published five books on writing, the most recent with Oxford University Press. You can find Katie on her website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Contently.

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Amy Reichert

Amy E. Reichert is the author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, July 21 2015), about food, love, and second chances, and where serendipity comes in the form of a delicious coconut cake. Find out more at amyereichert.com.

10 thoughts on “Katie Rose Guest Pryal Explains Why Writing is the Worst Job + Giveaway

  1. I really enjoyed the interview and learning more about the author. She is very honest, straight forward, and real. I can’t wait to read Love Entropy and Entanglement.

    I follow both through Facebook and Twitter.

  2. I have always wished I could write but realized at a young age that I don’t have the determination and drive like Katie talks about in her interview. So I just sit back and read the results and keep writers on the pedestal that they deserve. Also, as a fellow North Carolinan, Mother Nature hasn’t listened to any of us yet this summer. Weather in our part of the state ( I am near Greensboro) is still too hot. Good news – fall is getting closer! Thanks for a great interview

  3. Great to have the true story about being a writer. I’ve been trying to do it for awhile and it’s tough and discouraging. Look forward to reading the book. Thank you for the chance.

  4. I follow through Facebook and Twitter, too! I loved reading this interview. I went to undergrad in Chapel Hill and am originally from Greensboro, so nice to see that connection. This book sounds very interesting, and I have added it to my to-read list. Thanks for the opportunity!

  5. Lovely job, Amy and Katie Rose! As to the question (How do you know how to write such suffering?) and the answer (How do you know, indeed.) it reminds me of my mother, reading the draft of my novel LANDFALL, picking out little pieces of the various characters and saying, “That’s you!” Then she came to the attack scene, and said, “Well at least nothing like *that* ever happened to you,” and I just sat there, silent, staring back at her, hoping she was finally ready for all she needed to know.. As you said, Katie Rose: we write because we have to.

    But thank you for showing all the joy there, too. All the beauty that persists in the face of suffering. All the laughter, eccentricity; all the zipping up of little ones’ sleepers and teaching them to sleep. It is a true blessing, that.

  6. “hot dogs & macachee”; I gasped in horror, but not for the reason most people would think of.
    My bro’s foster kids lived off hd&m&c, or they went hungry. Why? Are their parents writers? No, they’re drug addicts & thence, petty criminals. Horrifying to think that writers are in the same economic stratum as those folks.

  7. Katie,

    Perhaps just knowing that joy and sorrow co-exist, that loss is part of life, but joy is essential to going forward, I get that! I hear you say writing about hard stuff is not easy, but so real. I get writers block just trying to write reviews for books by authors I have read! Thanks for your take on writing, it makes me appreciate all the more the anticipation of soon reading your book Entanglement!

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