Many writers derive ideas for their novels from personal experience, but perhaps none so personal as a husband’s suicide — the tragic event that became the basis (some 17 years later) for Kathryn Craft’s stunning new novel THE FAR END OF HAPPY. Craft’s sophomore effort is the chilling story of one troubled man, the family that loves him, and the suicide standoff that will change all of them forever.
We caught up with Craft to discuss her new book, her lack of singing talent — and pie. Always, pie.
THE ART OF FALLING was released to pretty incredible reviews— because of that did you feel more pressure while writing THE FAR END OF HAPPY? Why or why not? And if so, how did you deal with the pressure?
Thanks! I have been thrilled that readers are connecting with The Art of Falling. I worried incessantly about the dreaded sophomore slump—until Sourcebooks passed over my completely conceived book two proposal and offered instead on book three, a sketchy two-page synopsis proposing the novelization of my husband’s suicide standoff. Their confidence in a project that I had not yet fully conceived helped quite a bit. Shock prevented me from any further concerns about dealing with the pressure.
For seventeen years I’d drafted memoir material, knowing that I’d one day write about the day’s events. Can you be more prepared? I sensed the story’s arc, could feel its power, and was intrigued by the notion of constraining it to the day of the standoff. The contract started the clock ticking: I had ten months, from which I’d have to subtract the six weeks needed to launch my debut, to write The Far End of Happy.
Was I equal to this calling? Could I pull this off? Anxiety rose within me. It felt familiar—I’d felt the same way at the thought of raising my boys, who were eight and ten at the time of the suicide, alone. So I kept my eyes off the horizon and on my very next step, where motivation and goal dictated the story I was writing and the story I was living, and where external pressure could find no purchase. And one step at a time, I finished.
Where do you love to be?
I have a cottage on the shore of a lake in northern New York State where I’ve spent at least some time every summer of my life. It is my constant, my heritage, my true north, the source of my constant rebirth. It shows up in my dreams: when I’m stressed the lake might be dried up and cracked like the salt flats; when I’m blocked an ocean liner might be wedged between the shore and the nearest island; when inspiration is on the way an orchestra might be set up in the shallow water. I like to travel, too, but to me this lake’s gifts are endless.
Which talent do you wish you had?
I was a dancer, an equestrienne, and am now an author for one reason: I did not have the pipes to be Barbra Streisand. Oh, to be able to move people with the sound of your voice! My older son is a lyric baritone—but I’ll have to settle for listening to him and moving people with my writing voice. Really. It’s best.
What’s your secret or not-so-secret superpower?
I bake awesome pies. Everyone in my family will tell you this. If there is a gathering, I am assigned the pies. This is why: I can read directions, and am willing to, including the section in The Joy of Cooking, “About making pie crusts.” When I tell my family that they too can do this, they insist that none of them can conjure my trademark flaky magic. Pie baking takes more time than mashing potatoes or popping a turkey in the oven; I suspect manipulation.
When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
Despite the many choirs and musicals I was in, I could see the writing on the wall about that singing career. I actually thought I’d be a doctor. In 9th grade my biology teacher, knowing this about me, took me and a couple other aspiring docs to an observation balcony at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to watch open heart surgery. My best friend fainted but I thought it was amazing. A little tough to stomach the creamed chipped beef the cafeteria was serving for lunch afterward, though…
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by Noon (EST) on Friday, May 15th to win a copy of THE FAR END OF HAPPY (US and Canada 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!
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. Check out Kathryn’s new website, where you’ll find excerpts from her novels, a range of places to purchase them, and links to memoir essays she’s written about the loss of her first husband to suicide. While you’re there check out her articles for writers! You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.