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If you love mystery and suspense, then I highly recommend Katherine Fleet’s debut, The Secret to Letting Go! Daniel Hudson and Clover Scott are characters that you’re not soon to forget. I was lucky enough to get to ask Ms. Fleet some questions about her writing process and the book, her outlook on happy endings, and if this is the last we’ve seen of these characters. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.
Welcome, Katherine! We’re so glad to have you at A Leisure Moment. Before we start talking about your book, let’s talk about your writing. What inspired you to become a writer? What are some of your favorite books, and did they impact your style of writing and the genre that you chose?
Thanks so much for having me here. I’ve always been an avid reader, and I’m a romantic at heart, so I love a good love story. Growing up in the 80s, there wasn’t much in the way of YA literature, so I graduated to my mom’s Harlequins pretty quickly. When I hit my 30s, I felt like I’d read the same tropes so many times and I was looking for something different. That’s when I first started thinking, “I should write my own book.” So, I tried writing an adult contemporary romance. I also tried writing an adult paranormal, but adult books were becoming steamier and darker, which wasn’t a great fit for my voice. Then I discovered YA and everything seemed to click. Authors like Rainbow Rowell and Gayle Forman were writing these beautiful, emotional stories, and I knew I wanted to do the same.
Do you have a specific writing process? Are you pro-outline? Do you have the end in sight when you begin writing something new?
I am an anti-plotter. Before I start writing, I’ll write a one-page summary that highlights the main plot points, the main characters and the main conflict. Then I start writing. I love letting the characters and their conflict tell me where they need to go next. For me, that’s part of the fun of writing. I tried plotting a book once. I took a plotting course and spent a few weeks figuring out all the scenes. When I was done, I realized I had no interest in writing the book anymore. It was like all the magic was gone, and it just felt like work. I still haven’t written that book! Hopefully one day I can go back and pick it up again.
I’m a huge fan of your debut, The Secret to Letting Go, and have no doubt that everyone else will love it. What inspired you to write this story?
I know this sounds crazy and cliché, but I had a dream that was basically the first scene of my book. I woke up and stayed in bed for a long time, just letting the scene and the characters sink in and take hold. I knew Clover was an eccentric girl that had been through something terrible, but retained this quiet strength and positive, innocent view of the world. So, in a way, she inspired me to write the story.
I loved the setting. Why did you choose Florida?
I wanted the story set in a coastal town, because I knew the ocean would play a big role. I considered South Carolina or Georgia, but while I was writing this story, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I travelled to Tampa for treatment and spent a lot of time there. I loved the area and knew it was the right place for my book.
Daniel and Clover had such distinctive voices. Dual perspective is a favorite of mine. Instead of writing each chapter from a different point of view, parts of the story were told by David and others by Clover. Why did you choose to write it in that form?
I love the immediacy of first person POV and the ability to go deeply into a character’s perspective. I’d previously written a contemporary YA solely from the perspective of the heroine. This time, I wanted readers to have the chance to really get to know both Daniel and Clover. To do this, dual POV was the best choice. I also wanted readers to really settle into both of their worlds, so I chose to not switch POVs frequently.
Clover is one of the most unique characters that I’ve ever encountered. It’s like stepping into a different era when she’s around. She’s unforgettable and will keep readers reading. Before I realized what happened, I had finished the entire book. What was your inspiration for her?
I’m glad you felt like you were in a different era, because that’s how I felt when I was writing her story. In terms of my inspiration for her character, it was two-fold. As I mentioned, I had a dream about her and she came to me fully formed. But I suspect that at some sub-conscious level, this dream was influenced by an interview I’d watched on TV a few days earlier. Diane Sawyer interviewed Jaycee Dugard and I couldn’t get the interview out of my head. I was so struck by this young woman’s grace, dignity and positive outlook even after surviving the unimaginable. I just kept thinking about how and why some people are able to rise above hardships and tragedies, while other people are so defeated by their life. I know at some level, Clover emerged from those thoughts – a girl who’d lived through tough times, but still had a quiet strength, still possessed compassion and still cared for others.
When we meet Clover, Daniel is the narrator. Was it important for us to see her through Daniel’s eyes first before getting a glimpse into her mind?
Absolutely. I wanted there to be a sense of mystery around her and for the reader to feel as confused about her as Daniel feels. I wanted the reader to see her the way other people see her, before they found out how she views herself.
You had me on the edge of my seat until the last page, and I still want more of their story. Do you have more ideas for them, or has their story come to a close and we have to fill in the rest?
I have no plans to continue their story, so you will have to fill in the rest. I am a romantic, so I personally think that they are living out their happily-ever-after!
The characters are at a pivotal time in their lives: Daniel experiencing his last summer before college, and Clover, the enigma, searching for something that could change her life forever. I easily connected with them. Why did you choose to write for this age group, at this time in life?
For me, this is an amazing time in life. In so many ways, high school is about what other people tell you to do – your parents, your teachers, your friends. I remember feeling so free when I was finally finished, but then the doubts kick in as well. You finally have this freedom, but you’re really not sure what to do with it. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. Everything is changing. You hope it will be good changes, but you really don’t know. So as a writer, setting the story at this point in their lives complimented the struggles they were going through.
Travesty is integral to the story, the wounded helping the wounded, if you will. What inspired you to write about the art of mending a broken heart and finding the way to love when so much stands in the way?
I’ve always been drawn to real-life stories of struggles and triumphs and am truly fascinated by the way people handle adversity in their lives. I’m lucky enough to have come from a great family, but I’ve also had close friends who have grown up in less-than-ideal circumstances. They say that adversity makes you stronger, but it can also leave you bitter and angry. It’s the people who keep their positive outlook on life that really inspire me. Maybe I’ve always wondered which type of person I would be.
The ending of the novel is wonderful. What is your outtake on happily-ever-afters and realism?
That’s a great question. As a reader, I’m okay when stories don’t have the Hollywood ending. I like to be surprised and get the unexpected, but I’m also a romantic at heart, so I am a sucker for a happily-ever-after. I know that HEAs are not always reflective of real life, but for me, books are meant as escapism. Either way, if the ending makes me really feel something, I’m good.