A Conversation with Katie O’Rourke
Katie O’Rourke is a hybrid author, which means she has both traditionally published and self-published books. Her debut novel, Monsoon Season, is being published through LittleBrown and Finding Charlie was chosen for publication by Kindle Scout. A Long Thaw was traditionally published and then re-released on her own. She launched her fourth novel, Blood & Water, in November 2017.
Katie writes family sagas with overlapping characters, so they’re all connected. The stories in these books exist on their own and can be read in any order, independently from each other. They’re not sequels, but because all of the characters live in the same world, there’s an opportunity to revisit the past. Readers of Monsoon Season will find a familiar face in Finding Charlie; if you’re still wondering about Juliet when you finish A Long Thaw, look for her in Blood & Water.
Katie grew up in New Hampshire, went to college in Massachusetts, and has settled down in Arizona. These are the environments you’ll find in her stories because she thinks having an authentic sense of place is so important when you’re reading. Her work has been called women’s fiction, contemporary fiction, and literary fiction. She tries not to get hung up on genre labels and just writes the kind of stories she likes to read.
Katie’s newest release:
Publication Date: November 21, 2017
Tucson, Arizona is a place for runaways. Everyone comes from somewhere else and has a story about what they left behind.
Delilah arrives on her brother’s doorstep with a secret. She hasn’t seen David in five years. He ran away from their family long ago for reasons no one talks about and she still doesn’t understand. The stress of raising his teenage daughter alone sometimes makes David envious of his deliberately childless friends, Tim and Sara, but they’re runaways too, harboring secrets of their own. Blood & Water tells their stories and traces the deep connections between this unlikely group of friends.
This novel is about family, in its various manifestations: the one you’re born into, the one you choose and the one you create.
Buy Blood & Water:
JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room)Tell us a little about yourself:
I grew up in New England and have settled in Tucson with my boyfriend. I’m a writer and political junkie enjoying the tale-end of my thirties.
JRR: Same here about the end of my thirties! Did you always want to become an author? What inspires you to write?
I was in my twenties before I had any aspirations to be an author, but I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. It has always been the way I made sense of the world around me, to the point that I don’t quite understand people who don’t write.
JRR: What does your writing process consist of? Do you do research, listen to music or do you need complete silence?)
I can’t write in total silence. I prefer the music cranked up. I use a lot of my own family history for character backgrounds and I’m sure my internet search history is extremely confusing to the NSA.
JRR: I’m sure every writer is being watched by the NSA just based on their search histories! Especially crime writers….
You have traditionally published and self-published books. In your experience, what are positive and negative of both? Do you recommend one over the other? What was your publication journey like?
Self-publishing gives much more control over how your work is marketed, but it means spending time doing sales work instead of writing. The traditional route is good for an ego boost, confirmation that your work can make it past the goal keepers, but signing that contract means giving over the reigns and putting your trust in strangers who may or may not know how to sell your book. This journey has taught me a lot about myself, like maybe I’m a bit of a control freak. Kindle Scout has been a good mix of things, letting me design my cover while they handle the bulk of marketing.
JRR: What kind of advice can you give to aspiring authors?
This isn’t something to pursue to get rich. There are easier ways to make money. Do it because you enjoy it and you have something to say.
JRR: Good advice. Get your words out there. There will be someone who reads it!
Who was the most influential author you read when you were growing up? Did his/her writings influence you to want to become an author?
There are not enough female authors assigned in school, so I didn’t meet my inspirations there and I never had the idea that this was something I could become. But I read on my own and I remember Judy Blume and Lois Lowery. As an adult, I have been influenced by Sue Miller, Jennifer Egan, Ann Packer, Barbara Kingsolver, Jennifer Haigh. So many others.
JRR: Who is your favorite author as an adult?
If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Julia Glass. The Whole World Over was my template for Blood & Water.
JRR: If you could have dinner with three people(living or dead) who would they be and why?
Debbie Murphy, Kim Betts and Sean Flanagan- they’re my best friends in the world and part of the family I’ve made.
JRR: Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?
JRR: That is one I have been meaning to read as well. Its a long one over 700 pages!
Your fourth novel Blood & Water just recently came out. What would you like to share about it?
First: My mom says it’s my best yet and I think she’s right.
Second: As I age, my characters do too and this book is about grown ups, struggling with real world problems like money and divorce, raising kids, caring for aging parents, learning who they can lean on. It’s the time in your life when the idea of family really cements itself, whatever it means to you; this is the time when you have to figure it out.
JRR: Mom is always right! lol. I need to read your books sometime. We are about the same age and it seems as I age, my reading has ‘matured’ as well, though I still do enjoy my YA novels! Those will always be a ‘guilty pleasure’ for me that I freely admit!
Your novels are all connected with characters crossing over to other novels. Though not sequels, they are in the ‘same world’. What makes you want to stay in this world with your characters? With the crossing over do you recommend your books to be read in a certain order? Will you keep writing like this?
I get to know the people in my books so well that they feel real to me. Sometimes a peripheral character has such a compelling story to tell, it needs its own book. Sometimes a beloved main character has more to say several years later. No one’s story is ever really contained within the pages of a single book.
I don’t think the order matters; whether seeing where the character came from or where they end up. I’ll probably keep writing this way as long as past characters keep speaking to me. I never know who is going to show up.
JRR: You received the rights to Ani DiFranco’s song ‘Overlap’ for Blood & Water. What was that experience like for you? That is quite the accomplishment to reach as an author.
I sent the request for Ani’s lyrics without any real expectation of hearing back, so getting permission was an amazing surprise. I’d always heard it was impossible to get the rights to song lyrics. I’ve been an Ani Difranco fan for decades and those words are basically the thesis statement for Blood & Water, so it’s been one of my favorite parts of this whole experience. I sent her an autographed print copy as a thank you and it blows my mind to imagine she might actually read my book.
JRR: That is so awesome. Maybe she will read your book and see what her work helped to inspire!
**Thank you so much for your time with this interview Katie!