Kathleen spoke with fellow author Stephanie Elliot about her heartbreaking/heart-fixing contemporary YA novel, just published by Delacorte Press. Kathleen’s a member of the Sweet Sixteens, an online group for young-adult and middle-grade authors debuting this year. Stephanie rolls with the Swanky Seventeens.
ABOUT THE NOVEL
For fans of Girl, Interrupted, Thirteen Reasons Why, and All the Bright Places comes a novel about a girl who has lost everything—almost even herself.
Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.
Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.
A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, yet has taken so much, and the journey she must take to put herself back together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathleen Glasgow lives in Tucson, Arizona and writes for The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. She likes Polaroid Land Cameras, Earthships!, vanilla lattes, naps, Tyrion and Shireen, and books. All kinds of books.
TALKING ABOUT ‘A GIRL IN PIECES’
Stephanie: Kathleen, first of all, I absolutely love your book GIRL IN PIECES. When I read it, I got feelings inside that I have never felt while reading a novel – it sparked emotions all over the place, from fear for your character, to sadness, to stress, to worry. Just congratulations for writing a gorgeous book.
I love the sparse, short passionate way you write the pages of your story–they’re not really chapters. Why did you decide to tell Charlie Davis’ story this way? Some sections may only have four sentences, while others may be four pages long. Was there a plan to writing in these burst-like vignettes, which I absolutely loved. Was it intentional? It just seems to bring out so much more of the emotional in the scenes and characters.
Kathleen: It never really felt like a “chapter” book to me. It felt like Charlie’s story needed to have room to breathe, whether that was short breaths or long exhalations, and a three-part structure seemed best. I wanted vignettes, especially short ones, in the first part because I wanted readers to follow Charlie step by step as she gradually comes out of her fog and back into the world.
Stephanie: GIRL IN PIECES is a hard novel to read – but beautifully so. There are passages that I wanted to highlight in order to remember – but also sections that made me hold my breath in fear. I know some of it was written from your personal experience with self-harming. Can you talk about your desire to share your story?
Kathleen: I chose to give Charlie my scars because I wanted to tell a story about what it’s like to be a girl in the world with scars. But Charlie’s story is hers, not mine. Ultimately, while some sections might be difficult to read, I don’t think it’s because of the self-harm aspect. I think it’s because the things that Charlie goes through—wanting someone to love her, and being rebuffed; trying to make friends when she’s shy; feeling lonely; being betrayed or hurt by people, these are things that everybody goes through, and when I wrote them, I went for broke, because those things suck, and they hurt, and I wanted to be completely honest about how much it hurts and sucks. Because those things really, really hurt and really, really suck.
Stephanie: There is a love interest, another damaged person, named Riley, who is so wrong for Charlie but I couldn’t help but love them together, which I also know was wrong. It’s like I was screaming, “Don’t be together! … Be together!” Do you think either of them gained anything from the relationship? If so, what?
Kathleen: Charlie and Riley are both lonely and damaged people. Sometimes lonely and damaged people are drawn to each other because no one else quite understands what to do with them, or how to be with them. I do think that each of them gained something, but I won’t say what—I want readers to explore that for themselves.
Stephanie: What do you hope readers will discover through meeting your very courageous and strong Charlie Davis, who will stay with me, in my heart, for a very long time.
Kathleen: I hope that readers find in Charlie a sense of hope, a knowledge that no matter how alone you think you might be, how far down the hole you might fall, there are people who will pick you up, dust you off, and tell you that you matter. This isn’t a book about cutting; it’s a book about figuring out how to live in the world.
Stephanie: How long did it take you to write GIRL IN PIECES and then find your agent and sell your book? What was the process?
Kathleen: It took me eight years to write the book, piecemeal, through late nights, early mornings, and time off my full-time job through the generosity of arts fellowships. Then I went to the Taos Writers Conference and signed with an agent. Ultimately, that partnership didn’t work out. Three years later, I bit the bullet and sent out queries to agents who seemed like they might be able to champion the book. I found my agent, Julie Stevenson of Waxman Leavell, right away. She just got the book. She did an expert job of giving me notes over a few months and then bam, sent the book out on sub. In five days, we had multiple offers and eventually the book sold in a pre-empt to Delacorte. The book has sold to nine countries so far.
Stephanie: What are you working on next? Do you have another book coming out?
Kathleen: I signed a two-book deal, so yes, I am pecking away at Book Two.
Best song in the world. Tangled Up in Blue by Bob Dylan.
Favorite morning drink. A vanilla latte with two shots of espresso.
Favorite evening drink. Iced coffee, because my children are night owls and scoff at sleep.
Best weekend activity. Binge-watching Game of Thrones, at the moment. Or watching my son play baseball.
One item you need to have with you every day that’s non-electronic. Do non-electronic things exist???!! Underwear, probably. Or a vanilla latte with two shots of espresso.
Last great book you read. I’ve read tons of great books this year courtesy of The Sweet Sixteens, but the very last, last book I finished that left me feeling reader-bliss was Jeff Giles’s The Edge of Everything, which comes out next year. I read parts of it at my son’s baseball practice and a couple of times I actually gasped out loud because Giles had done something so awesome and completely unexpected.
Favorite word. I pretty much like all of them.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Stephanie Elliot hates crafting interesting bios. She obviously loves to read and write, and napping is her next all-time favorite activity in the world. She’s been married for a long time and has three children who cannot be the ages they are already. She’s lived in Florida, Illinois (twice!), Pennsylvania, and now Arizona, but to her, “home” is family and a page-turner. Her debut young adult novel, Sad Perfect (FSG/Winter 2017) is based on a unique eating disorder her teenage daughter has – ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). Visit stephanieelliot.com for more info.