Good morning, peeps! Today, we have a first here on this space, and I am thrilled about today’s fun. Not only did I have an opportunity to review Dear Mr. Knightly but I have also been able to chat with its author with a little Q & A with Katherine Reay (who is a lovely lady!) online and as a result of that, I asked if she’d be willing to do a Q&A and she said, yes! Hooray!
Without further ado, please welcome Katherine Reay!
Q & A WITH KATHERINE REAY
QUESTION: Hello, Katherine! First off, thank you so much for agreeing to stop by to celebrate your debut novel – I’m delighted to welcome you! Could you please share a bit about yourself and your debut novel?
Katherine Reay: First of all, thank you so much for inviting me. I’m completely delighted and honored to be here… What to share? Hmmm… I run lots of half marathons and have endured one full marathon and have another on the books for next spring. Like a character in Dear Mr. Knightley, I earned my black belt in tae kwon do and I do believe it’s my favorite accessory. I have three fantastic kids who keep me on my toes and a most spectacular husband who thinks everything I do is brilliant. (Okay, that last
bit made me chuckle too.:)) I think of myself as a Midwesterner, but I’ve lived all over the country from Atlanta to Seattle, and even called both England and Ireland home for several years.
Now, I’ll move on to the book… I wrote Dear Mr. Knightley while recovering from an injury – a time when many of the above activities were taken out of my life. I am pleased to say they’re all back in, but to differing degrees. Now I write. Lots. And I love
it! I love exploring our pasts and finding the ways they define our futures. You see it in history, literature and our own lives. Dear Mr. Knightley let me bring this passion to the page with Sam and all the wonderful people, literary and real, surrounding her.
Q: Your debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley was, obviously inspired by Jane Austen – aspects of her influence are most noticeable when readers begin to realize Sam feels safest when she’s lost in her books and is with those she considers “friends,” but
what was the writing process like to use Austen inspiration and interpret a part of Austen into a contemporary? And more specifically how did the idea of telling the story entirely through letters come about…
KR: The idea originally came from Jean Webster’s Daddy Long Legs. It’s an epistolary novel as well – and keeping Dear Mr.
Knightley in this format was a tough, hard fought choice. A few critiques strongly suggested I change that. But it was right for the story and I’m so grateful Thomas Nelson/ HarperCollins felt the same. Letters are unique – the reader almost feels like it presents a first person view, but it does not. There’s a delicious layer the reader can see that the letter writer (Sam, in this case) can’t – there is what she is willing to tell Mr. Knightley, what she tries to withhold and how she interprets events – any or all of which can look
to different to us than to her. I loved the format and what I could reveal within it.
As for bringing Austen into it, that was so natural and seamless, partly because our favorite movies and books play such an important role in our lives. It was also tremendous fun as I wasn’t putting Austen into “today” so much as I was letting Sam step back into the safety of Austen. Some days I’d like to live within that fiction as well.
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Q: Taking away the inspiration that you drew from Jane Austen, what did you use as emotional inspiration for Sam’s character? She was a girl that many of us could relate to – if not in her home life, then her difficulty “fitting in” or keeping relationships intact.
KR: I’m thrilled you felt that way. I purposely made Sam’s life bigger, tougher, and more challenging than many of us face so that we could more easily sneak into her emotional world and realize her struggles are universal. I think we all strive to define ourselves, face insecurity and fear, seek a place to stand and belong, and search for a family to love.
So I guess I’d say a lot of that came from my own life and taking my emotions larger. Sam and I share no common history, but
– as you say – all the feelings translate.
Q: Who was your favorite character to write and who the most challenging?
KR: I love them all – and that is not a dodge to the question. I loved plotting Josh’s subtle selfishness, Ashley’s debutant aura, and Professor Muir’s feistiness… But Kyle was one of my favorites. I love everything about him and I’m so glad he found Coach Ridley, another favorite. Mrs. Muir was the most challenging. She is goodness. She is patience and serenity. And I wanted to bring all that to the page without making her “milk toast,” because she has an amazing strength that shouldn’t be diminished. However, I possess more of Professor Muir’s feistiness or Sam’s determination or even young Isabella’s naiveté – Mrs. Muir is my aspiration, but not my reality.
KR: So tough… Can I have Lily Collins for Sam? She is about the right age and has the eyebrows. Eyebrows are a defining feature for Sam and Miss Collins has gorgeous ones. Jaden Smith is about to age-out of Kyle so let’s start filming soon! And Alex… James Marsden. Please!
Q: Having read your novel, Dear Mr. Knightley and thoroughly enjoyed everything about it, I have to say that I’m tickled to know there is a second book from you coming, is there anything you can share about it?
KR: I’m so excited about Lizzy and Jane. I loved writing it and I adore the characters within it. And it’s got all the big guns: sisters, conflict, food, Jane Austen, Hemingway (threw you there, didn’t I?), love, and breast cancer. I know that last one is a bummer, but it’s a reality that so many of us experience either personally or walking the journey with family and friends. Basically Lizzy and Jane is the story of a young woman, Lizzy, who has excised love from her life and, as she helps her sister through chemotherapy,
she starts to put it back in – in all its wonderful and varied forms. I love these sisters and the men in their lives…
Katherine, again, thank you SO much for agreeing to this! I am impressed by that black belt, your inspiration for DMK, what you say about Sam’s emotional psyche and love who you’d cast in the leading roles (excellent choices). Plus, oh my! Your followup novel sounds like an emotional roller-coaster – one I cannot wait to uncover.
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