Happy U.S. publication to my friend, Kate Hilton! The Hole In The Middle grew out of questions Kate asked herself about her own life — isn’t that so often the case with women’s fiction authors?
Today Kate shares with us what it’s like to self-publish, have the book picked up by a Canadian publisher, and then sold in the U.S! Plus, some heartfelt advice for writers.
Please welcome Kate to WFW! And share you thoughts about her covers (or anything else) in the comments!
Best-selling Author Kate Hilton Says If You Want To Write About Women’s Lives, Tell The Truth
Amy: I’m sure we’re all curious how this book launch has differed from your Canadian book launch, and how you see publishing differing in the two countries.
Kate: It’s been so different, actually, because the launches happened two years apart! When I published in Canada, I had no idea that The Hole in the Middle would do well. I had already self-published it, and the fact that a traditional publisher (HarperCollins Canada) had bought it was an absolute astonishment to me. I had a big party for all of my friends and family in Toronto. And then, against all odds, the book did really well here, and became a national bestseller, and I did a bunch of media and festival appearances and so on. So by the time my wonderful agent sold the rights in the US (to Penguin Random House), I felt like a real writer and not a complete fraud. This time, I have a network, and a more established online presence, and I feel so much more comfortable in the role. (Of course, all of these comments relate to the world inside my own head, a complicated place not known for its objective reporting.) In terms of the differences in publishing norms between the two countries, my observation so far is that they are fairly similar, at least with respect to commercial fiction.
Amy: I confess. I went to Amazon.ca to see if you had a different cover in Canada! You do! Why do you think your American publisher went a completely different route when the book was a bestseller with that cover? (I love the American cover by the way, it’s very fresh, a little British and whimsical–which might make no sense unless you’re cover-obsessed, like me!) How did you feel about the process (and the result)?
Kate: I love the American cover too. It’s my favorite (don’t tell the Canadians). Again, because the Canadian and US versions came out two years apart, I expect that fashions in cover art have shifted. Authors, as you will know, don’t get a lot of say in cover art, and that doesn’t bother me particularly. I have a strong sense of design, but I tend to trust the professionals. My sons, on the other hand, liked my self-published cover, which had a donut on it. They have been fairly underwhelmed by all of the covers since that one. My son’s recent comment on the Canadian cover: “Why does it have a coffee cup? Coffee cups don’t have holes.”
Amy: Your story is about a working mom having it all, or trying to. Do you feel like you have it all? How do you differ from your main character Sophie?
Kate: In The Hole in the Middle, Sophie, the main character, is mired in her own expectations of what it means to be a successful wife, mother, employee, daughter, friend, and woman. The book tracks her journey into a greater self-awareness about her own impossible standards for herself, and how they undermine her essential happiness.
When I was writing the book – I wrote it on Sunday afternoons while working full time – I was trying to resolve these very questions for myself: What does it mean to have it all? Have I achieved it? In hindsight, I can see that I was struggling with a nagging perfectionism that was undermining my sense of self. In the end, I think I came to the conclusion that there isn’t an objective ‘all’ to be had. There have been points in my life when I could have made a list of desirable achievements, and ticked off every box, and still known in my secret heart that I was deeply unhappy. Today, I’d be able to tick fewer boxes on that old list (I’m not married anymore, for starters), but I’m happier than I used to be.
Amy: And that being said, what sparked the idea for this novel? Do you remember the moment you had the idea. Did it start with a person, place, or thing? (Mine always start with a sentence, and I think “Oh my, I need to write that down.”)
Kate: I’d always wanted to be a writer, but until five years ago, I didn’t feel that I had a story to tell. I had worked in several other fields, including law, university administration, publishing and fundraising. Then, just before my 38th birthday, the story arrived in the form of a character, Lil Parker. I couldn’t get her out of my head. Suddenly, she was commenting on everything, and that was the starting point. Once I got Lil to quiet down a bit, the rest of the story took shape, and I began to understand that I wanted to write a book for women in my own generation (Generation X) who were juggling the demands of work and family.
Amy: Without any spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write in the book. Was it one of the hardest scenes to write? One of the easiest?
Kate: The scenes I most enjoy writing are the overtly comic ones. If these scenes don’t make me laugh while I’m writing them, they get revised until they do. Comedy is tricky, because you don’t know if the jokes work until readers begin responding. But I’ve always thought that my own sense of what is funny is the best barometer I have. So, having said that, I had a riot writing the job interview scenes. I hope it shows!
Amy: Do you struggle with the term women’s fiction? (Obviously, I do not.) What does it mean to you?
Kate: I don’t struggle with it. I know that many people do, but I’ve always had a keen interest in women’s issues and I don’t see them as secondary or unimportant – quite the opposite, in fact. I think women’s fiction is a big tent, but what all of the writers associated with the term have in common is a desire to shine light on the lives of women – their unique experiences, their interior lives, and the relationships that define them.
Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
Kate: Tell the truth. Good writing takes courage. If you want to write about women’s lives in a way that resonates with readers, you have to write your truth.
The Hole in the Middle is Kate Hilton’s first novel. Before turning to fiction, Kate worked in law, higher education, public relations and major gift fundraising. She has an English degree from McGill University and a Law degree from the University of Toronto. She is a working mother, a community volunteer, a voracious reader and a pretty decent cook. On good days, she thinks she might have it all. On bad days, she wants a nap. Kate lives with her family in Toronto.
FB: Kate Hilton Author