If you’ve had the opportunity to hang around helluo librorum at all, you’ve heard of Kathryn Magendie. Last year, Kathryn wrote a lovely guest-post for us here at helluo librorum about submitting your work to an e-zine.
A storyteller of many talents, Kathryn is also the co-editor/publisher of the Rose and Thorn Journal, a literary e-zine. She manages multiple blogs and websites with her exuberant charm, and is currently putting the finishing touches on her third novel Sweetie, which is slated for publication in the of Fall 2010.
You can visit Kathryn at her blog, her website, or you can follow her on Twitter or FaceBook. Whatever you do, drop by and say hello! She loves visitors and is a gracious lady and a writer that I’m proud to know.
Without further ado, Kathryn Magendie:
Since both of your novels follow one family’s life through the daughter’s eyes, I’m going to break form here and ask you to tell us about your first novel, Tender Graces, before we talk about your most recent release.
Virginia Kate is the storyteller—she returns to the West Virginia “holler” to recover her mother’s ashes, and urged by her Grandma Faith (who died in a suspicious house fire years before), and a few spirits/ghosts lingering, she goes through boxes from the attic, diaries, photos, etc., and thus begins the story of her life, of her family. It’s a journey to Home and love and belonging; and forgiveness, redemption, reunion. It’s about a woman who is at an age where she wants to understand her mother so she can forgive her, accept her, even if she doesn’t recognize that desire.
There is a strong Mother-Daughter theme to these books. That connection and disconnection between mothers and daughters we all struggle with, no matter who we are, where we come from, where we go.
Virginia Kate’s story continues with your latest novel, Secret Graces. Tell us about Secret Graces.
In Secret Graces, Virginia Kate remains in the hollow (holler) to continue her search/journey—she’ll have a decision to make, too; in fact, more than one. The past chapters begin with her in college at 19, where she meets The Guy. In Secret Graces, there are more “adult” themes, of course, since Virginia Kate is growing up: first loves, first—well—first sex (although my “sex scenes” seem more like a walk in the woods than sex—very nature oriented, our Virginia Kate is), marriage, loss of a baby, and of course the alcoholism and struggles.
There are still the mother/daughter issues, but I expand the Man/Woman issues—something just as complicated but in a different way, of course. Our Virginia Kate remains innocent and naïve, despite the things that happen to her and around her. And, just as with Tender Graces, there is Hope, reunion—I love a good reunion *laugh* – I had them in Tender Graces and I have them in Secret Graces. Got to have some kind of reunion scene(s)!
You said earlier that Virginia Kate is the storyteller, the woman who chronicles her family’s lives with special emphasis on the daughter/mother/grandmother relationships. Do you find this genealogical chronicling, or storytelling, to be a unique to southern literature or were you even thinking along those lines when you wrote Tender Graces and Secret Graces?
I was not thinking of that at all. It just happened as it happens. And I suppose since I have lived in the deep south or the mountains most of my life, I “write what I know.” But, when people began saying, “Southern Fiction/Storytelling of the South,” I thought, “I guess I did that—” An English teacher (Robin Becker) once told me when I said, “I guess I did that by accident because I didn’t know what I was doing . . .” and she said, “There really aren’t ‘accidents’ in creating; it all comes out of that head of yours.” Huhn. Guess so (see below *ha!*).
Yes, I believe there is a special unique quality to Southern Fiction, but all fiction is storytelling, whether they’re Yankees or otherwise (teehee).
You recently mentioned in a blog post that there might be a third novel with Virginia Kate. When you first started writing Tender Graces, did you envision it as a trilogy or series?
Not at first, no. The first Virginia Kate story was meant to be a short story until Angie Ledbetter (a friend and member the writer’s group I was in at the time) kept after me to write the novel. Bellebooks/Bell Bridge Books saw the potential for more when they read Tender Graces and said “trilogy.” But when I sent them Secret Graces, they said, “I think we have to consider more than three, at least one more . . . because of the layers and potential for more with this family.” Get busy writing, Kat! *laughing*
Recently, you described yourself as a “seat of the pants” writer and in my mind’s eye, I always envision you throwing words on the screen and rearranging them until they suit your free spirit. Your novels are a form of poetic prose. How you do go about seeking the rhythm of the words and rooting out the story as you write?
I’ve told people before, and I don’t know if they believe me but it’s true, that all the characters, images, sights, sounds comes from a black hole in my head—you know, like those black holes in space that pull Stuff into themselves, so they aren’t “empty” black holes even if when you look at a black hole, it seems the absence of Stuff; however, it isn’t, since it’s sucking up Stuff, so it must be filled with Stuff that’s unseen but there, swirling around madly and chaotically . . . um, if all that makes sense! Which is why I can’t write from plot; my brain simply doesn’t work that way and if I try to force it, I become physically agitated, and my brain “shuts down the creative process.” The scary thing about black holes, though, is a black hole can eventually suck up everything in its path and I’ll be left . . .eek, I don’t want to go there *laugh*
But, that black hole in my brain provides everything and then when I “wake up” from the writing, I see I’ve written all these words and people and places, and then I begin the edits/re-writes and then try to fill it out, plump it up, connect the dots and hope that everything gels when I finish—still, I wish my brain worked like many other writers, with that ability to write plots and be organized . . . hmmm, then again, this is how I am and I should just embrace it, right? But it makes it difficult because I can’t organize my thoughts or write from outlines or “see” the work as an organized document. For example, I can’t envision places or characters in what I read or write, so the Black Hole has to provide them, I guess, in the way that it does. I’m able to read and understand completely what I’ve read and enjoy the experience of places and people, despite not being able to envision things in some concrete way.
I have to hope that the black hole provides something readers will love, because there’s no other way I can write it, much as I try. It’s a vulnerable feeling, being a writer sending out your words, especially if your brain works as mine does.
You’re also one of the Rose and Thorn’s co-editors. Tell us about your work with the Rose and Thorn Journal.
Angie Ledbetter and I took over from founder Barbara Quinn as co-editors/publishers last year. Rose and Thorn is a quarterly online journal. We love the eclectic mix of writing and writers and poetry and poets we choose, and, we really do encourage as yet unpublished writers/poets to submit to us. We hate the rejection process; however, we are friendly, so don’t be afraid to take a chance you writers/poets out there! We publish poetry and prose, but Angie and I have been selecting artists for our cover art, and we have some other ideas in the area of art we are planning to add. Go to www.roseandthornjournal.com and take a look around. We also have a blog and love for people to subscribe and leave comments.
You’ve got two books published and a third slated for publication in the fall. Tell us about Sweetie.
During a summer in a small mountain community in Haywood County, North Carolina, Melissa befriends a mysterious mountain girl, Sweetie. Sweetie begins to show Melissa her “secret,” her unique “ability,” her “affliction.” Sweetie believes she has a special power given to her at birth by the Mountain Spirit (proclaimed by a granny woman when she saw the moon in the newborn’s eyes). But Sweetie’s mother thinks Sweetie is cursed by God because of the mother’s shame. This “affliction” Sweetie has is based on something real but rare, but I don’t want to get into that and ruin the mood *laugh.* Melissa, like many young girls (and like many people, period), doesn’t understand the gift she is given in this friendship—not until it is too late (or seemingly too late? The reader will have to decide).
Beyond themes of friendship and loyalty, this book also has strong mother/daughter themes. And daughter/father themes as well.
I also have to tell you that I wonder sometimes about Sweetie. I was walking in our mountain cove, in the woods, and this girl in a cotton dress and bare feet and wild blonde hair “came to me” and said, “You got to write my story . . .” It was really weird and surreal and I’m probably a bit insane. Oh well. Now her story is written and she can rest, whoever she is.
From your beautiful cove, if you could leave us with some parting words, what would they be?
I looked up to think about what I’d write here, and the mountain cove where I live in these ancient wild and beautiful Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina captured my attention and my imagination and my admiration, so that for quite some time I couldn’t take my gaze from what I wish you all could see: trees leafing out, a wild dogwood bursting bloom, grosbeak at the feeder, hummingbird hovering at the tulip poplar, red squirrel chattering, distant blue/gray shadowed Smokies with mist curling, tree tops swaying, creek singing, rocking chair rocking from some old ghost . . .
. . . and she ghosts back to her mountain where our Kathryn spins the stories of her characters’ lives. I hope you enjoyed our interview with Kathryn Magendie.
If you would like to keep up with Kathryn, you can find her most often at her blog: “The Graces” Sagas: Virginia Kate’s Story Continues . . . or at her website where you can find news about her latest releases at Kathryn Magendie. She’s always on the go, but if you check in at her FaceBook page or on Twitter (@katmagendie), you can keep up just fine.
I’ll leave you with Kathryn’s book trailer for her latest release, Secret Graces: