The Secret Life of Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes

We Debs are going behind-the-scenes this week, and I’m rubbing my hands together in anticipation. I LOVE behind-the-scenes. I love fictional shows like The West Wing and Unreal and The Americans that imagine the goings-on in mysterious professions. I love documentaries like The War Room, Miss Americana, and the new Michael Jordan-centered series, The Last Dance that show us famous people being seemingly real and unguarded. And finally, I love reading about the making of this type of art–the research, the writing, the arguments, the tensions.

Come to think of it, maybe this fascination is why I was drawn to this very blog in the first place: The Debutante Ball is a collection of behind-the-scenes stories of how first novels get made. When you read it, you sneak into the proverbial room where it happens!

Anyway, it’s with great excitement, then, that I lift the veil of my debut novel, MINOR DRAMAS & OTHER CATASTROPHES! Here are some behind-the-scenes facts about the writing of the novel:

  • I did most of the work in the dark in my pajamas before my day job started.
  • Usually, my dog (a 56-pound Goldendoodle whose ideal weight is closer to 48) lay on my legs while I did the hemming and hawing of getting the words on the page.
  • Speaking of words on the page, first drafts are the absolute hardest for me. Once there’s something–ANYthing!–written down, I’m happy to fix it up.
  • Sometimes, I struggled with the drafting so much, that I’d just write it 100 words at a time. Just 100 words, and then I could check #5amwritersclub or pour a cup of tea.
My friend Adriana enlarged the carpool scene based on her and framed it along with my ISBN and LOC numbers. Such cool and thoughtful gift!

And here are some secrets from INSIDE the book, things I knew just a reader or two would recognize when it came out:

  • I included the names of some of my friends’ children. Eleanor, Henry, Abbott, and McGregor are examples of this. McGregor barely appears–his is the name of a Liston Heights pizza place.
  • Speaking of Liston Heights, Liston is the last name of a student (a great one!) I taught when I began the book in 2015. Finally when the novel had a publisher and a release date, I told that student’s parents that I’d named my fictional suburb after them. They were very excited and ordered multiple copies of the book.
  • The comments that the principal collects from dissatisfied parents during his investigation of Isobel are actual comments directed at me written in an anonymous survey of my students’ families in about 2010. “Marginal and inspiring” has had particular cosmic staying power.
  • Wayne Wallace, my fictional principal, leads his teachers in clapping and chanting at faculty meetings. My actual principal at the school on which I based LHHS did that, too.
  • The names of Isobel’s children are the “girl” names we had chosen for my two sons. We hadn’t used them, obviously.
  • Isobel has a “Grow and Glow” evaluation from her boss. My first boss also did these. I think the structure is unnecessarily simplistic and stupidly named. And also kind of funny.
  • Isobel goes through the carpool line, but she’s distracted and forgets to stop to pick up her son. My friend Adriana did this IRL, and I found it so funny and relatable, that I asked to use a similar scene in the book.

There are probably more! And I can’t wait to read the secrets of the other Debs this week!

 

 

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Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

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