Guest Post: Debut Novelist Kathryn Craft On Women’s Fiction And Coming-Of-Age In Life And In Fiction

ArtOfFallingSmallI love introducing debut novelists at Women’s Fiction Writers! Not only is Kathryn Craft a debut novelist, but she lives in Pennsylvania not far from where I grew up. Isn’t it always fun to find out that you have something extra in common with other writers and readers besides the love of books? Today, Kathryn shares with us her true life and fictional coming-of-age story. Both are different than you might expect, and will grab your attention!

Please welcome Kathryn Craft to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Women’s Fiction and A Coming-Of-Age Tale

by Kathryn Craft

ArtOfFallingSmallWhen I mention a “coming-of-age tale,” you might think of an aboriginal boy on a walkabout, or a teenage girl being introduced to polite society at her debut. Such events are considered rites of passage between childhood and adulthood.

My passage was longer and hazier. I’m a late bloomer—I didn’t really come into a full definition of self until I was past the hormonal frenzy that was falling in love, reproducing, and pleasing my husband. I tinkered in my professional life—home renovator, dance teacher, dance critic, desktop publisher. In life as in story, in order for me to set a new course it took extreme pressure—the suicide of my first husband, when I was 41.

Only in his sudden, violent absence did I realize how far I had stretched my own definition of self to compensate for his increasing depression and alcoholism. Already a writer, I knew story could serve not only as the path to my healing, but as the rite of passage I’d been seeking for so long. Within three years of his death I latched onto the most fiercely passionate goal of my life: becoming a published novelist. The chance to leave behind a story with a more hopeful ending than my husband’s—for my two sons, my extended family, and our community—became my calling.

Many types of forces can hold a woman back from coming into a true sense of self. With the protagonist in my debut, The Art of Falling, it’s because she grew up in the insular and demanding world of dance.

Once her mother saw Penelope Sparrow’s natural talent and great love for movement, she arranged the early, specialized training Penny would need to make her mark in this competitive world. By the time her body betrayed her at the age of fourteen, with widening hips and sprouting breasts, she was already eight years into what she anticipated would be a lifelong endeavor.

Her bodily changes mortified her. Choreographers loved the prepubescent Penelope Sparrow, but had no use for the womanly lumps and bumps that would detract from the aesthetic line they sought—and Penny’s private war with her body began.

Our full engagement with life requires that we face the fears that hold us back. In creating a twenty-eight-year-old character with the potential to self-destruct, and then watching her claw her way back onto life’s stage after miraculously surviving what should have been a deadly fall, I faced my own fears about death and defined what I wanted the rest of my life to stand for.

Penny must face the unexpressed fears that caused her food issues and imploded her most important relationships. In story, as in life, the only way to get to the light at the end of the tunnel is to tolerate its darkness, seeking what small moments of beauty and grace and hope that can sustain you along the way.

My own life is an adult coming-of age tale: this is my debut. I am 57, and my first novel releases today. Penny and I suspect we’ll find other women out there who have fallen, and failed, yet still yearn for passage into their rightful place in life’s great story.

Craft_small_photoKathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling (you can read an excerpt here) and While the Leaves Stood Still (due Spring 2015). Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she speaks often about writing, and blogs at the Blood-Red Pencil and Writers in the Storm.

Connect with her at:

KathrynCraft.com

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

28 thoughts on “Guest Post: Debut Novelist Kathryn Craft On Women’s Fiction And Coming-Of-Age In Life And In Fiction

  1. Kathryn, I know you’re an amazing writer from Writers In The Storm – I can’t wait to dig into my TBR pile and read your book! But, the RITA books have to come first….sigh. But SOON!

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    • Thanks Laura. Boy, the TBR pile—don’t I know how towering such a thing can be for a writer! The bestsellers, the best-selling in your genre, the friends’ novels…and it sounds like you’re judging a contest as well? I tend to buy the books and let them call to me when the time is ready. Hopefully my book will call to you AFTER the RITAs.

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  2. Kathryn, I admire the way you confronted the traumatic death of your husband and used it so creatively. Not at all easy, for sure! I also admire the way you expanded the definition of coming-of-age. Your book sounds terrific!

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    • Thanks for this comment, Ruth. In its most basic form, the creative act is to give birth to something that wasn’t there before. So when one needs hope, and empathy, and to extend forgiveness that has not previously existed, one needs the creative act.

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  3. Your strength and beauty shine through your words, Kathryn. I started your novel last night, and had to force myself to stop at chapter 10 so I would get some sleep. So impressed. Congratulations. You’re setting the bar high for debut authors, no matter what their age!

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  4. What a captivating and mesmerizing cover. And from the intriguing coming of age (thank you, Kathyrn for allowing it to be an older woman!) description , this is another book I MUST get my hands, mind, and eyes on!!! I know it will also affect my heart…I have often wondered what happens to dancers when those bumps etc. develop….and I appreciate your willingness to share how what happened to you helped you get to your light at the end of the tunnel. Continued success to you!

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  5. Best of luck with this book. I admire the courage you show by sharing your personal story, and the way you turned something tragic into a personal triumph. Like you, I consider myself something of a late bloomer (in terms of self-discovery). Better late than never! 😉

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    • Thanks Jamie. There’s something that starts smoldering inside when you see your family’s troubles splashed all over the newspaper, with conjecture abounding, that one day turns into a need to feel a tale of your own…

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    • Densie, one of my favorite pub moments so far: after the cover reveal an agent who rejected me tweeted my agent, saying, “If I saw that in a bookstore I’d buy it in a heartbeat.” I was so glad she had passed, because she clearly didn’t have the vision for this novel!

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  6. You are such an inspiration, Kathryn – in so many ways: your strength at overcoming your husband’s death, your determination to be published as “a late bloomer.” I’m so excited for you; the story sounds riveting.

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    • Thanks for this, Melissa. You can imagine how much sweeter this publication is for me for the fact that it was born of such pain and sorrow. I love how on the cover the character is falling into the light…

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  7. Oh Kathryn! I’m so excited for you! Today is the day! Pardon my overuse of exclamation points, but I can’t wait for UPS to bring my copy. I’m rushing through what I’m reading now so I can dig in as soon as the truck pulls away. As a fellow late bloomer, I salute you and cheer you on. Woo hoo!

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    • Teri I’m so glad I’m not the only late bloomer! Sometimes I fear I should just keep my trap shut…LOL! But then I think no, I can’t be the only one… and I think that courage, to put yourself boldly out there, is what differentiates a writer from a non-writer. I hope you like it!

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  8. A most interesting and moving blog post Kathryn. I am very much looking forward to reading your book. We have similar interests–I studied ballet for many years and my first novel, THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS, is about a ballet dancer. I hope one day our paths will cross.

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  9. Kathryn, I think you were spot on here: In order for me to set a new course it took extreme pressure— I think with most of us that’s what happens. When we finally get backed into a corner and have to do what is right for US, is usually when we make the greatest progress. YAY for you to overcome such an obstacle and to stick to your own goal! I’m looking forward to reading your book. 🙂

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  10. Kathryn,
    Another late bloomer weighing in here to say THANK YOU for the idea that a coming of age story can happen at any age and CONGRATULATIONS to you on your coming of age and the publication of this book. You said it wonderfully: “and I suspect we’ll find other women out there who have fallen, and failed, yet still yearn for passage into their rightful place in life’s great story.” Yes. Exactly.

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  11. Amy-I look forward to reading all of your interviews. Every single one has offered me inspiration as a writer.
    Kathryn-Thank you for sharing such intimate details of your life and demonstrating how adversity can lead us to growth in ways we never thought imaginable. The fiction that resonates the most with me are stories that move me emotionally. I have to add that having taken a class with you through the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, you are a kind and thoughtful teacher and it’s a pleasure to buy a book written by someone I admire. I love that you can be any age and be a writer. There are no limits, well except for word limits!

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  12. What a wonderful “story of a story.” I’m sorry for the unimaginable pain that brought it about, but I can’t wait to read this book. Like Laura said, the RITAs have to come first, but I’m adding Penny’s journey to my TBR pile–well, TBR downloads.

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