This week’s interview is with Kelly Duran, whose book CAN’T TAKE IT BACK tells the interconnected stories of four women over the course of a kindergarten school year. Read below about Kelly’s transformative trip through Europe, her hope for connecting with readers through her books, and her recognition of writing as an integral and necessary part of her life that enhances all her other roles.
Kelly Duran writes contemporary women’s fiction and her debut novel—CAN’T TAKE IT BACK— released in April 2020, as an Audible Original. Kelly lives in Vancouver, BC and when not writing or reading, can be found spending time with her husband and two daughters with—depending on the time of day—either a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in her hand.
Do you have a regular first reader? If so, who is it and why?
My first reader is always my mum. We have a very close relationship and I know I can trust her to be truthful yet kind when she reads a first draft. I’m not looking to her to evaluate the plot or tell me if the stakes aren’t high enough (that’s what my CPs are for) but she will always tell me what is or isn’t working. Sometimes it’s something simple like a name that doesn’t feel right or sometimes it’s bigger. Either way I know she will always tell me she is proud of me and thinks it’s wonderful. And what better way is there to kick off the serious editing and revising process that I know lies ahead of me?
Have you ever traveled to do research for your writing? Where did you go?
In 2018 I took a two week trip to Europe on my own. It wasn’t research exactly but it was all about finding a creative spark. I had never been away from my family for that long and traveling solo was WAY out of my comfort zone, which made every word I wrote during the trip special. I found inspiration everywhere, especially on the trains, and the manuscript I’m working on now features a lot of the same cities I went to. It was a transformative but lonely trip and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do it.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?
Oh man, I don’t think there was ever a time I wasn’t reading. I remember getting caught with a book hidden under my covers that I planned to read after lights out. My mum discovered it when she leaned down to kiss me goodnight and the library wrapping crinkled under her hand. It was a picture book so that’s a good indication of how old I was. I pretty much read anything and everything. I loved the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High books like all my friends, but I also loved Joan Aiken and Judy Blume and Kit Pearson. I was always the kid with the highest stack of books on my desk on book order day.
If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
It’s hard to answer a question like this without thinking of my own regrets. Because the worst thing I ever did when I was younger was decide to stop writing. I had kids and a job and a husband and taking time to write just seemed selfish to me so I stopped. Nobody asked me to, nobody told me to, I just stopped. And honestly a part of me died when I did. So I’d love to go back in time and tell my younger self that writing isn’t selfish, writing is a part of you that needs to be nurtured. So go forth young Kelly and write. I didn’t realize I could be a mother and still write. In fact, giving myself permission to write made me a better mother.
What does literary success look like to you?
I just want my books to connect with people. I want them to feel something when they read them. I want to provide an escape. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d love to add “Best-selling author” next to my name but in a world as competitive as this, just getting published is a major accomplishment. Maybe one day someone will say my book changed their life or another writer will say my work impacted them. What a lovely dream.
MORE ABOUT THE BOOK
A perfect next listen for fans of Abbi Waxman and Katherine Center, Can’t Take It Back is a fast-paced and relatable debut telling the interconnected stories of four women over the course of a kindergarten school year.
Huddled on their favorite park bench in a quiet Seattle suburb, Holly, Avery, Zoe, and Sasha might look like they’ve got it all figured out – but there’s more to their stories than meets the eye. When Avery’s husband Carter suggests they open up their marriage, she’s shocked and appalled – but could this new arrangement be the breath of fresh air she never knew she needed? Zoe and Aaron, whose connection has long been the standard by which their friends measure their own relationships, feel that their lives are taking them in different directions, but worry over how a divorce might affect their two young boys. Zoe turns to her best friend Holly for guidance, but as it turns out, this year has tested her own marriage to Jake in ways neither of them ever anticipated. And meanwhile, Holly’s sister Sasha – the no-nonsense PR executive and eternally single girl of the group – must decide if joining the ranks of motherhood is the right step for her.
Captivating and immersive, Can’t Take It Back is a deeply emotional novel that celebrates the complex bond of female friendships.