When I first put up a picture on Instagram of some old Sweet Dreams books I came across in my childhood bedroom, I didn’t really expect much of a reaction or even too many likes. Sweet Dreams is a pretty old series of teen romances published in the late 80s/early 90s, way before the advent of social media and book blogs, and I didn’t think anyone would remember them now. But to my pleasant surprise, there were quite a few Instagrammers online who reached out to me to reminisce about those good old books and other 90s teen reads!
Amongst them was author Katherine Fleet who has just published her debut YA novel, The Secret to Letting Go. You guys, Katherine is one hell of an interesting lady. Not only is she a mum of three kids, she’s also an avid traveller (a girl after my heart!) who moved from Canada to the Caribbean sunshine of Curacao, a breast cancer survivor (I’m so glad you’re okay now, Katherine!), a former environment scientist and she knew how to pilot a plane before she learned to drive a car. How cool is that?
Katherine was kind enough to chat to The Salonniere’s Apartments about her writing journey and also shared some tips for aspiring authors and a short excerpt of her book. To find out more, read on!
Hi Katherine! Tell us about The Secret to Letting Go and what it’s all about!
Hi Marilyn! Thanks for having me here 🙂 My debut novel is a YA contemporary set in a fictional town on the Gulf Coast of Florida during that magical summer after high school graduation when the whole world is out there waiting for you. It’s the story of two teens – Clover, a mysterious girl who shows up in town lost in her secrets and fears, and Daniel, a boy who’s drawn into her troubled world despite his better judgment. Life keeps throwing them together, but their secrets keep them apart. Ultimately, it’s a story about living through tragedy and learning to forgive your self.
What do you love best about the YA genre?
Great question! I started out writing adult romance, but I struggled with the genre expectations. I wanted to write stories that didn’t only focus on the romance, but also on secrets and families and emotional struggles. As a writer, YA is a perfect fit for me. It suits the heat level of my writing (I tend to write on the sweeter side), it focuses on a time I loved during my own life (a time of possibilities), and the genre is very accepting of all stories. I can write in various POVs, I don’t have to focus only on the HEA or HFN, and writing outside the box is encouraged. As a reader, I love the range of YA books available. If all these books had been available when I was a teenager, my book addiction would have been so much worse!
What was the writing process like for The Secret to Letting Go?
This will probably sound cliché, but I had a dream, which was basically the first scene of the book. When I woke up, I just lay there, letting the characters take shape. I didn’t know what Clover had been through, but I knew it was something bad. From there, I started writing. Unfortunately, I’d just started when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It took over six months before I finally returned to the story. It was my fourth completed novel, and when I finished, I had a really good feeling about it!
I really enjoyed reading your guest post on the Writer’s Digest about the long, hard slog towards getting an agent – all the previous manuscripts you’ve got under your belt and the rejections over the years! I’ve had quite a few of those myself and it’s tough! A really big part of being a writer is perseverance. What helped to keep you going in spite of all the obstacles?
It really has been a long, hard slog, but fortunately, I had a great support system. My family and my kids, in particular, have really encouraged me to keep trying. They knew it was my goal in life, and they never let me give up on it. I also have great critique partners and friends in the writing community who gave me the professional advice and help I needed. I really can’t stress enough the importance of a strong and positive support network. Writing involves a lot of rejections, and no matter how tough-skinned you become, it’s always going to sting. That’s when you need the moral support. 🙂
I love reading your behind-the-scenes blog posts on the process of getting a book published. Could you describe in a nutshell what it feels like to be a first-time writer going through that process?
Thanks for checking out my posts! I just wrote the last post in the series, which was a compilation of some of my thoughts and feelings about being a debut author. I talk about the highs and the unexpected lows. In a nutshell, it was a very emotional experience. I learned a lot about publishing, but I also learned a lot about myself and what I ultimately want from being an author.
A non-author question! You’ve described yourself as an avid traveler. In all your travels so far, what are your top three favourite destinations?
Agh…so hard to pick three because I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to so many beautiful places. In North America, it’s a toss up between Northern Arizona (which I just got back from) and the Pacific Coast Highway in California. In Europe, I loved Bruges in Belgium, Normandy in France, and the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I know that’s more than three, but it’s honestly just so hard to rank some of these places. Next on our travel bucket list is Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia!
What’s a regular day like for you?
I’m so lucky to be able to work on my writing full time right now. My perfect writing day involves dropping my kids off at school and then heading to the McCafe with my laptop and earbuds. I don’t pick up kids from school until 2 pm, so I often spend the whole six hours there. The staff knows me very well – Earl Grey tea and a croissant, thank you very much!
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
Writing is a craft and a skill, and like any other skill, it gets better with practice. Your first book may not get published, but if you keep writing, you will succeed. Oh, and if you are serious about being a writer, tell people you are a writer. Saying these words out loud to family, friends and even strangers makes it real, and it makes you accountable. It will help you hang in there, even when you are feeling discouraged.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I love beautiful, emotional stories with well-developed characters, so some of my favorite authors are Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Forman and Huntley Fitzpatrick.
Finally, what’s next for the future?
More books, hopefully. I’ve just finished a YA set in South Carolina in 1962. It’s about a young New York socialite who struggles with family secrets and tragedy and falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of town. I’m hoping to go out on submission with this soon!
Book Excerpt of The Secret to Letting Go:
“So, I’ll see you tomorrow at noon?”
She nodded so hard, her teeth probably rattled. “I’d like that.”
It wasn’t like we were arranging a date, so why did her enthusiasm make me straighten up and puff out my chest? “We can meet at the beach next to the pier. My friends and I’ll be surfing. You bring the preserves, and I’ll bring the stove.”
Uncertainty flickered across her face, and her mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water.
I should have used her reluctance to back out, but instead I reassured her. “We won’t be hard to find. We’re just north of the pier, and this way we can meet on neutral territory.”
Her expression turned blank.
“You know…in case I’m secretly a serial killer. There’s always safety in numbers.”
Her lips twitched upward, and she laughed. The sound tinkled through the air like wind chimes on a breezy day. “I already know you’re not a bad person.”
She nodded. Her unwavering stare made me want to squirm in my shoes. “True evil can never be hidden. It’s always there, if you know where to look. When I look at you, I see only good things.”
I snatched my gaze away from hers and tugged at the collar of my shirt. I wanted to know how she could talk with such authority on the subject. I wanted to know what evil she’d seen, but I wanted even more to escape the narrow store aisle. Warning bells pealed in my brain. She’s crazy. Don’t get involved.