Tell us about your latest book.
I'm Still Here is the story of one woman's struggle to find family and what being family means in the face of estrangement over a family member's mental illness. When we first meet our protagonist, Esther, she is a recent transplant to Columbus, Ohio. She has a habit of moving around to try to find a place where she fits in, since her own family has disowned her.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
The idea for the main character was born when my best friend kindly called me to tell me that my e-mail had been hacked and her husband had received a spam e-mail (of the porn variety), supposedly from me. Upon further investigation, she said, "No, it's not from you, it's from some website like e-comely-cox.net." My immediate answer was that that would be a perfect character name. As we were having this conversation, I drove by a bus stop full of people and saw a girl who reminded me strongly of an acquaintance who had recently committed suicide, and though, "How would it be to see someone who looked exactly like someone who had committed suicide?" And from those two very random thoughts, this story was born.
Who and what inspire you to write?
I love to read and have, ever since I can remember. The thought of writing a book that I would want to read is my goal each time. My grandmother took a writing class when she was in her seventies. Very few in the family knew it until we found her binder of material the day she died. I hope I take after her in many aspects, and I would like to be able to say the inspiration to write comes from her.
Each author has his or her own inspiring journey. How did you begin writing?
My journey into writing is somewhat atypical. I am a physical therapist, so I write a lot of letters of medical necessity and evaluations. Somewhere along the line, I realized that I am fairly competent at it. Additionally, I tend to worry about things and often have a lot on my mind, which leads to difficulty sleeping at different times. When this happens, I used to (and still do) make up stories in my head. I started doing that and just continued on telling myself this story. One weekend, a radio station was playing all music that reminded me of my college days and I was feeling nostalgic. I started writing down the story that I had been working on, setting it in my own college frame of reference and Good Intentions, my first novel was born.
What has been the most pleasant surprise about writing? How about an unexpected down side?
The most pleasant surprise about writing has been that people actually like what I've written. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that people who I don't even know would buy, read and like my books. And that these people would become friends (yeah internet!). The unexpected down side is the time and energy it takes to market and sell my books. It eats up a lot of time, consumes a lot of energy and takes away from my ability to write the next story.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Not really. Since this is a secondary career, I don't yet have a home office. I sit on my bed with my laptop on my lap and try to remember to maintain good posture so I don't end up with shoulder and neck problems (again).
Do you write your books in order?
Yeah, pretty much. I'm a pantser (I write by the seat of my pants, instead of plotting the whole thing out ahead of time), so if I don't write in order, I don't know how my characters get from point A to point B. Every so often, I have a brilliant thought or two, so I will write that down at the end of the document and drop it in where it fits. This is what I did when I wrote the end of my second novel, Hold Her Down. I came up with the last two lines and just had them floating there until the character could get herself to them.
What is on your writing playlist for this book?
I'm so glad you asked this! Sometimes, I don't have playlists when I write, but I'm Still Here has two! There is the playlist for the story and then there is a band within the book, and they have their own separate playlist for their set list. I keep a Word document open and write down the songs as they come on Pandora or Satellite radio. Every so often, I hear a song while driving and leave myself a voice memo to include that song on the list. On the main playlist is:
Carry On by Fun.
Paradise by the Dashboard Lights by Meatloaf
Don't Mess Around with Jim by Jim Croce
Mad World by Alex Parks
Gravity by Sara Bareilles
Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
Roar by Katy Perry
Hands by Jewel
Otherside by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Be Ok by Ingrid Michaelson
Say Something by A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera
Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
Breathe (2 am) by Anna Nalick
I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz
Heart of Glass by Blondie
Broken by Jack Johnson
Tomorrow (Annie Soundtrack)
Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit
Won't Stop by One Republic
Alright by Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Any favorite writing snacks?
I like to drink coffee if it is the morning or green tea at other times of day.
What advice would you give writers who aspire to be published?
Be prepared. Do your research. Edit, edit, edit. And pay to have someone edit. The people you think will give you their undying support will disappear into the woodwork, letting you down. However, people who you barely know, or don't even know will become your greatest champion. And no, you will not hit the NYT Bestseller's list right away.
Are you working on anything new right now?
I'm trying to get my fourth novel going. I'm about 35,000 words in and I'm not sure it is going in the direction I want. I'm changing jobs right now and have a few weeks off. I plan to use that time to give my work-in-progress a good overhaul.
Who is your favorite character in your current book?
I've got to say the main character, Esther. She's so loveable, especially with her crazy red, curly hair (which what the hair that I was supposed to have been born with, but there was some great cosmic mix-up). She's tough and determined. I like that.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I think I need to read it again.
Tell us in one sentence why we should read your book.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll think about what it really means to be family.
It started out as an ordinary day for Esther Comely-Cox, if you consider simultaneously totaling your car, smashing a Ho Ho in your face and meeting a handsome doctor ordinary. Estranged from her family over her sister's mental illness and death, Esther can't help but feel alone. And when Esther hears the voice of her twin sister who committed suicide seven years ago, she begins to question her own sanity, leading her to wonder if anything is what it seems. Searching for answers, Esther must confront her past while looking towards a new future—one in which she is finally accepted. Through humor and heartbreak, Esther learns that blood does not mean family, that absence does not make the heart grow fonder and that silence can speak volumes. Put I'm Still Here on your TBR list! Buy on Amazon /iTunes / Kobo / Smashwords
Telling stories of resilient women, Kathryn Biel hails from upstate New York and is a spouse and mother of two wonderful and energetic kids. In between being Chief Home Officer and Director of Child Development of the Biel household, she works as a school-based physical therapist. She attended Boston University and received her doctorate in Physical Therapy from The Sage Colleges. After years of writing countless letters of medical necessity for wheelchairs, finding increasingly creative ways to encourage the government and insurance companies to fund her clients' needs, and writing entertaining annual Christmas letters, she decided to take a shot at writing the kind of novel that she likes to read. Her musings and rants can be found on her personal blog, Biel Blather (kathrynbiel.blogspot.com). She is the author of Good Intentions (2013) and Hold Her Down (2014). Please feel free to follow on Twitter (@KRBiel) or on Facebook (Kathryn R. Biel: Author)
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Thanks for sharing my interview here!