Saturday, November 7, 2020

Kristin Bair

Kristin Bair is the author of the novel Agatha Arch Is Afraid of Everything. Under the name Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, she has published two novels, The Art of Floating and Thirsty, as well as numerous essays about China, bears, adoption, off-the-plot expats, and more. Her work has appeared in The Gettysburg ReviewThe Baltimore ReviewThe Manifest-StationFlying: Journal of Writing and EnvironmentThe Christian Science MonitorPoets & Writers MagazineWriter’s Digest, and other publications. 

Bair has an MFA from Columbia College Chicago and a BA in English and journalism from Indiana University, Bloomington. 

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The original title of this book was Agatha Arch’s Fothermucking Heart. Throughout the story, Agatha uses the made-up word “fothermucking” when she’s really mad or upset (instead of the alternative). I loved and still love the original, but my editorial team at Alcove Press was understandably worried that it might put off some readers. Not everyone appreciates a good potty-mouth like I do. After some back and forth, we agreed that Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything was an equally powerful title. It introduces the reader to the fact that Agatha is on a journey and hints at the question, “Will she find her courage?”

What's in a name?

The name Agatha means good or honorable. Despite the fact that Agatha doesn’t seem to possess either of these qualities at the beginning of the story, I wanted her name to reflect the true Agatha—the one hidden behind all the fears. Arch, as a verb, is quite physical. You arch your eyebrows. You arch your back. As a noun, an arch is a structure that forms a passageway. Both definitions serve Agatha’s journey quite well.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My tender teenage reader self would be so excited that I’ve stayed true to my quirky storytelling instincts and been published. (She’d also be like, “Oh, my god! So much sex! So many penises! You’re embarrassing me!”)

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I’m tortured by endings. I always write well beyond the natural stopping place in a story and have to be reined in by my agent or another early reader. The last 50 to 100 pages of first drafts always get chopped off.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Place is always a big one for me. Animals, too. In this book, I was particularly inspired by group dynamics. I’m fascinated by how group dynamics govern every damn thing in some communities (like Agatha Arch’s Facebook mom group): friendships, alliances, parenting strategies, car purchases, holiday projects, etc. Who is included and who is excluded changes by the day (sometimes the hour). It’s bewildering, but powerful. I tend to steer clear myself, but I study it all from a safe distance.
Visit Kristin Bair's website.

My Book, The Movie: Agatha Arch is Afraid of Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue