I’m so excited to welcome fellow debut author and fantastic human being Katherine Forbes Riley to the Ball this week!
Aside from being an incredibly adept wizard with words, Katherine is also a computational linguist in Vermont. Katherine’s creative writing appears in the Wigleaf 2018 top 50 list, as well as numerous other literary journals, including Buffalo Almanack, from whom she received the Inkslinger’s Award for Creative Excellence. She received her BA from Dartmouth College and her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, and has published many scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. She finished her debut novel, The Bobcat, while a fellow traveler at the American Academy in Rome; her husband, painter Enrico Riley, was a Rome Prize recipient.
You can find Katherine online at:
Keep reading for a delightful and fun interview with Katherine, for more about her literary & lyrical debut novel, The Bobcat, and to find out how you can win a copy!
1. What’s one book in the last five years that has made an impact on you?
Only one?? Oh how to choose? I’m the kind of person who reads everything with words, from cereal boxes to tiny signs on walls. I am a book devourer. And there are so many, many good ones. But if I have to pick one that’s made a deep personal impact, I’d say THE FRIEND, by Sigrid Nunez. To be fair, I only read it a few months ago. But it’s such a paradoxical book, one that affirms my love of writing even while putting forth some pretty irrefutable reasons for why I shouldn’t be writing. It’s also got a dog, a big tough old dog. And it’s written by a smart older woman, and that voice feels good to me.
2. Okay I have to know: how did you come up with those amazing descriptions of Laurelie’s drawings? They’re so specifically, visually perfect. Did you have to draw them out yourself?
No, I can barely draw a stick figure. But my husband is an artist, and we’ve been together a long time. We talk about art a lot, and about the similarities and differences between it and writing. Also writers live in their heads mostly. I find by now I can do a lot of things in my head that I can’t really do in real life. Like a back flip. I can picture doing one in my head perfectly. But no way would I get up again if I actually tried to do one.
3. What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
Hmm. Cooking funnel cake, probably. I worked at these local summer city festivals as a teenager shooting funnel cake batter into a vat of steaming oil, turning out six at a time fast, sort of like a gunslinger. The slightly older managers would be blasting music behind me, Grateful Dead or something like that, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes (or something like that) and doing really nothing at all except watching the rest of us work, and so it was all very trippy,
4. The Hiker and Laurelie both clearly have physical spaces where they feel most alive. Where do you feel most alive, or at least enjoy being?
Outside in the wild. Among the waters and plants, I guess. I’m very much like the hiker and Laurelie in that respect. I find it very grounding out there. Very reinforcing. I was thinking about it the other day, how it’s really impossible to lie and cheat and steal from nature. Those concepts just don’t make sense. But then again, there are those birds that hide their eggs in other birds’ nests. And there are weeds that will cross half an acre of shade to strangle the competition. So maybe the concepts do make sense. But if so, I still find that grounding.
5. Last, but definitely not least: what’s one thing that’s making you happy right now?
Only one again!! Okay okay: my kids.
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Haunting and lyrical, The Bobcat is Katherine Forbes Riley’s magical debut novel in which Laurelie, a young art student who suffers in the aftermath of a sexual assault, has grown progressively more isolated and fearful. She transfers from her busy city university to a small college in rural Vermont, where she retreats into her vivid imagination, experiencing the world through her art. Most comfortable in the company of the child for whom she babysits, and most at ease in the woods, Laurelie has shunned any connection with her peers.
One day, while exploring the woods, she and her young charge encounter an injured pregnant bobcat – and the hiker who has been following it for hundreds of miles. In the hiker and his feline companion Laurelie recognizes someone as reclusive and wary as herself. The hiker, too, finds human companionship painful to endure, yet he is drawn to wounded Laurelie the way he is drawn to the bobcat. As Laurelie moves toward recovery and reconnection she also finds her voice as an artist, and a sense of purpose, maybe even a future, comes into sight. Then the child goes missing in the woods, threatening the bobcat, the hiker, and the fragile peace Laurelie has constructed.
With the hypnotic intensity of Emily Fridlund’s The History of Wolves and Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest, Riley has created a mesmerizing love story, in lush, gorgeous prose, that examines art, science, and the magic of human chemistry.