MAH: With the recent release of Abroad, you now have three works of adult fiction, including Girls in Trucks and Men And Dogs, plus two young adult books. Would you say there are one or more themes that run through the body of work you’ve created
KC: I’d say I write about the torrential, dangerous nature of female adolescence and young womanhood.
MAH: That’s pretty powerful! And only part of what makes your writing so compelling. With Abroad, you take a story from the headlines and put your own inimitable spin on it, creating young female characters who are so believable, it’s chilling. Abroad has been described as a “a page-turning parable of modern girlhood, full of longing and reckless behavior.” How was writing that any different than any of your other books? Or was it?
KC: It was very different, as I started from real people in a real place. I realized later that I researched too much – I wasted a lot of time. But once the book got going it was the same cadence and rules as the other fiction I’ve written..
MAH: Do you have a method when starting a new book? Does your approach to organizing the story ever change?
KC: Every book is different. Usually a situation comes to me. Father lost in boat. Murder at a summer camp. Then I start listening to my characters and go from there.
MAH: It sounds like you start with plot, but only marginally. After that, which jumps out at you more: character or plot?
KC: Character. One they start talking, I’m on my way.
MAH: One book at a time? Or more?
KC: I always just work on one book at a time, but I’m usually writing several essays as well.
MAH: You’ve written about the South in previous books. And you grew up in Charleston, SC. Do you think something mysterious separates Southern writing (other than geographical demarcations) from other parts of the U.S.?
KC: I can’t speak for all southern women, but I think a lot of us have a very distinct sense that we are FROM somewhere special. I don’t live in the South now, but I will always be southern. I recently wrote an article for Garden and Gun about this and I’ll quote: “.. always, in times of confusion, I’ve been able to crawl back to who I am: a Southerner. Rock-solid from-ness. I drive slowly and wave at people. I curl my hair before swimming. I believe manners are more important than money. When I meet another Southerner in this strange land, we lean slightly toward each other, like lost magnets.”
MAH: There’s a saying ‘We teach what we need to know’. Do you believe that we write what we need to know? What lessons have you reinforced in your own life with your writing?
KC: Yes, I think that’s well put. We do write what we need to know. All of my books and essays start with a question that I need to answer for myself. That’s the driving force of my writing.
MAH: Our guest writers get the last word here. If you had to pick three favorite, unrelated words, what would they be?
KC: Phoebe. Sylvan. Picket.
Don’t miss the next issue: be sure to sign up for my updates in the colum to the right for Author Interviews (emerging and famous); news about Southern Fiction; and writing tips!