An exclusive Authorlink interview with Kate Jacobs
by Ellen Birkett Morris
Writing entails choices and one of those choices is what type of writing youll do. Will you be the next literary phenomena? Do you plan to reinvent the Western? Or will your target be commercial fiction?
I am interested in exploring different forms, but right now I am focused on writing successful commercial womens fiction, said Kate Jacobs, author of the popular novels The Friday Night Knitting Club and Comfort Food.
Her stories, that she hopes are both accessible and entertaining, have gained a huge following among book club members.
Jacobs fosters this connection by holding call-in sessions with as many as 40 book clubs a month. Those readers weigh in on characters, plot lines and even the smidgeon of profanity that made its way into The Friday Night Knitting Club.
Writing entails choices and one of those choices is what type of writing youll do.|
She also connects with readers using web sites that allow them to share stories and recipes. At http://www.comfortfoodnovel.com/ readers can peruse an excerpt of the book, meet the characters or get a recipe for the cake of the month.
While Jacobs listens to her fans, she, and her characters, have the final say on what ends up in the book. I dont believe in pandering to my audience. There were no swear words in Comfort Food, but that was because my main character, Gus, wouldnt speak that way, said Jacobs.
She notes that while writing is a serious business she tries not to take herself or her writing too seriously. An apt statement from a woman who writes in her pajamas, if only to keep her at her desk rather than out running errands, and with a pair of noise canceling headphones on.
My mother told me that all writers starve to death. Journalism was always a way to work with words and make a living. . .. |
Others may have a writing t-shirt or special music they play when writing. She believes such writing rituals help create a sacred time to write. It sends cues to your brain that this is my safe space to write, said Jacobs.
In addition to rituals, Jacobs uses her considerable writing and editorial skills, honed by working as a journalist and editor. Her jobs have included reading the fiction slush pile at Redbook, doing author interviews with writers including Jane Smiley and Alice Walker, serving as a staffer for Working Woman magazine and as a freelance editor for Lifetime Television.
My mother told me that all writers starve to death. Journalism was always a way to work with words and make a living, said Jacobs, who has a Bachelors degree in journalism and history from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and an Masters degree in publishing from New York University.
Despite a ten year career in journalism, Jacobs never lost her passion for fictional stories. She mapped out her first novel while in third grade. She developed 300 characters, devised a family tree for the characters and talked her cousin into serving as her manager.
"I love my characters and their flaws." |
When she sat down at age of 32 to write Friday Night Knitting Club she drew on her writing and editing skills and passion for delving into the nuances of female friendship.
Both of her books have featured older female protagonists. I love my characters and their flaws. Depicting women that are older than me is part of the creative challenge. Lucky for me I spent a lot of time as the youngest child listening to older people, said Jacobs.
While her books center on traditionally female pursuits such as cooking and knitting, they primarily deal with issues of family dynamics and the dimensions of friendship. Despite her readers desire for perfect people in perfect situations Jacobs incorporates conflict, tension and character growth into her stories. Her books are also full of modern cultural references and characters you feel you have met before. I think it is nice to ground books in a sense of place and time. For me, the time is now. I think these kind of touch points allow readers to find themselves in the story, said Jacobs.
She describes her work life as writing in fits and starts. She writes a few chapters and then takes a break of several weeks while ideas roll around in her head.
"Not all writing is typing. Creating, thinking and dreaming about the work are also an important part of the process." |
Not all writing is typing. Creating, thinking and dreaming about the work are also an important part of the process Jacobs noted.
While some days are more productive than others, she is a firm believer that writing something is better than writing nothing. I wrote little bits at a time when I felt stalled. Each book has its own timetable and reveals itself in its own way, she observed.
Jacobs is represented by agent Dorian Karchmar of William Morris Agency. They met when they were introduced by a mutual friend.
Find an agent who understands you, has your best interests at heart and understands how you work, advised Jacobs.
"It is easy to talk yourself out of writing. The challenge is to find a way to shut off that inner voice." |
Her advice to fellow writers is to be patient and realize that all writers go through fallow periods.
It is easy to convince yourself that the world is full of great books and great writers and doesnt need your story. It is easy to talk yourself out of writing. The challenge is to find a way to shut off that inner voice and ignore your inner critic until you are ready to revise your work, said Jacobs.
About Kate Jacobs
Kate Jacobs currently resides in Southern California with her husband and dog Baxter, an English springer spaniel. She just completed her third book, which is due out later this year.
About Regular Contributor|
Ellen Birkett Morris
Ellen Birkett Morris is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in national print and online publications including The New York Times. She also writes for a number of literary, regional, trade, and business publications, and she has contributed to six published nonfiction books in the trade press. Ellen is a regular contributor to Authorlink, assigned to interview various New York Times bestselling authors and first-time novelists.