Happy October, friends. The newsletter will be on the short side this month, as our life was interrupted by a family crisis a few weeks ago. We are navigating the upheaval with much prayer and support from family, friends, and the Lord’s strength and love. Although life is far from “normal” right now, there is one thing I know for sure about myself: when things are out of control, I reach for the familiar to help me get out of my head and ground me, activities like reading, listening to music, talking to friends, prayer, getting outside, moving my body, and even writing. I hope and pray that whatever is going on in your life right now, you are finding comfort in familiar activities and routines, and that the peace of God will fill your heart.
What I’m Reading...
Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoffer. This turned out to be a somewhat odd but also perfect book to read during a year when community and life with other people looks a lot differently than what we’re used to. Even though the book is specifically addressing physical community among Christians, there are so many good thoughts about how we do and should relate to each other and to God, and the importance of living a Christian life WITH other Christians-- we weren’t meant to do it alone. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Many months ago, Amazon announced it was beginning production on an adaptation of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It seemed like the perfect time to dive into a reread of the series. I decided to listen to the audiobooks, because I could then easily read other books at the same time. For months, the characters of The Wheel of Time have been my companions on runs, walks, long drives, while I do housework, grocery shopping, and watching the kids play at the park. It had been so long since I’d read most of the books in the series, that I had forgotten a lot of things that happened in them. It was the best of both worlds--the delicious anticipation of knowing how things turn out with the excitement of not quite remembering how. The Wheel of Time was my introduction to the fantasy genre, and while it’s not perfect, and certainly not going to be for everyone, it really is an amazing piece of storytelling. The worldbuilding and character development alone are truly wonderful.
What I’m listening to…
Patient Kingdom, by Sandra McCracken. I’ve been a huge fan of Sandra McCracken for years. I love her poetic, thoughtful lyrics, and her acoustic, folk style. For me, this album is like the musical equivalent of laying in a hammock with a good book.
Julie Fowlis is a new to me Scottish artist who popped up as “artists you might like” on my Amazon music account. And yes, algorithm, I do like it! She has a beautiful voice, and the fact that most of the lyrics are in Gaelic, just adds to the charm.
What I’m grateful for…
I can’t express how grateful and humbled I’ve been the past couple of weeks by the way friends and family have gathered around us, supported us, encouraged us, and carried us in these early days of our family crisis. It is a true display of God’s love, in that it is so undeserved, but so welcome and so needed. Every day I have a renewed commitment to being that person to someone else when it’s my turn, to being the friend that so many have been to me.
For this month’s Meet the Author, I want to introduce you to Katherine Reay. Katherine writes books that are full of literary references, stories that are perfect to read when you want something both light and thoughtful. I enjoy the way she explores different relationship dynamics, and the way her characters grow. Without further ado...meet Katherine Reay:
What is your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite part of the writing process?
Ah… It’s the part I am not currently working within. I’m joking a bit, but not entirely. It’s a little “the grass is always greener”…
When I first stare at that initial blank screen with only a kernel of an idea, I wish I was in edits. Yet, at the end of edits, when I can’t look at one more line of the novel I’ve been digging into for a year, I want that thrill of a new idea.
But, if forced to pick one part, it would be the moment I crack open the manuscript after my first edit letter. The time comes about three days after I’ve read the letter and my subconscious has worked out many of the issues it raised. I then get to approach the story with fresh insights. And, thankfully, that’s when some of the “magic” happens.
Where is someplace you feel most at home?
I moved around a lot growing up and my grandparents’ cottage in Northern Michigan was a haven every summer. I still love visiting there and feel very at home. That said, after moving so many times, wherever my family is becomes home very quickly.
Now, for writing, it’s my office. I am not a coffee-shop writer. I prefer to be at my own standing desk in my cork board walled office. It’s an amazing place — and I can pin anything I want on the walls.
Tell us about someone who has inspired you creatively.
Looking at a few of my book titles (Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy & Jane, The Austen Escape…), the obvious answer is Jane Austen. Yet C.S. Lewis has inspired me more. In his fiction, he always put story first and never wasted a word. He layered meanings within the action and characters while keeping the eye on the movement and arc of the fiction, rather than everything going on underneath. I have learned a lot from reading him over the years.
Visual artists also inspire my writing a great deal — studying how to express ideas and beauty across different mediums fascinates me. I think that’s why you often find artists within my stories.
What kind of books do you gravitate towards in your own reading life?
All books. I am a super eclectic reader. I love fantasy, mysteries, drama, suspense, character-driven stories, literary fiction, nonfiction… I only shy away from horror. My imagination is too vivid and some images — the entire Silence of the Lambs movie — I carry with me forever. At any given time, I have at least three books going at once. One is always a hot new title, one is always a nonfiction read, and the other is whatever captures my interest at that time — or what my book club has selected for the month.
What is your super power?
Laundry. It’s not glamorous, but it’s proven pretty valuable over the years. I can get a stain out of anything!
One of the best pieces of advice you've ever gotten.
Since you didn’t ask writing advice specifically, I’m going to give life advice. I don’t remember where I heard it, but I liked it so much I used it in The Austen Escape. Here’s Nathan describing a bit of advice his grandfather gave him:
“He said that how people treat you is only 10 percent about you and 90 percent about them, so you need to be careful how you react and how you judge. You never know someone’s story.”
I find that’s a good bit of wisdom to remember most everyday.
Katherine Reay is a national bestselling and award-winning author of several novels, including Dear Mr. Knightley and The Printed Letter Bookshop. She has enjoyed a lifelong affair with books and brings that love to her contemporary stories. Katherine holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University. She currently writes full time and lives outside Chicago, IL with her husband and three children. You can meet Katherine at www.katherinereay.com or on Facebook: KatherineReayBooks, Twitter: @katherine_reay and Instagram: @katherinereay.