Saturday, August 13, 2022

Kathleen M. Willett

Kathleen M. Willett grew up in New Jersey and London. She has a B.A. in English from Holy Cross and a M.A. in English Education from Columbia University. She taught English at the Beacon School in New York City for ten years. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her husband, two young daughters, and a cat named Mr. Sparkles. She loves running, reading, and watching Office reruns.

Willett's new novel is Mother of All Secrets.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title is a little bit playful and, while there are some dark and heavy topics in the book, it's also a fun, rompy ride, so I think the title speaks to that. It also promises secrets, of which there are several! Originally, the title was Like a Mother, which I think alluded more to the revenge element of the book. My editors and I decided to change the title because there were a few other similarly titled books coming out around the same time.

What's in a name?

I tried to make the names distinct to help readers remember which woman was which, since it's a group of five women, which can be a bit much to keep straight especially in the beginning. Having Jenn have two N's in her name actually ends up being important in a conversation with police regarding Isabel's disappearance. For the baby names, I used my favorite names that were on my long lists of baby names that I didn't end up using. My fictional babies got them instead!

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

My teenage self would be very surprised and proud that I wrote a book at all! But probably not surprised by the type of book I wrote, because female-driven thrillers and mysteries have been my favorite books to read since I was a kid.

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

Definitely much harder to write endings (and middles, for that matter)! I love writing beginnings-- I've written a few manuscript drafts since writing Mother Of All Secrets, and each time, the beginning just pours out of me. I have a clear premise in my mind, and it's like digging a really fun big hole. But then at some point, I realize I have no idea how I'm going to get out of the hole, and that's when it becomes much harder!

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

This book was definitely informed by my own experience being a young mom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Of course, the plot is (very) fictional, but I can definitely relate with much of what the women in the book go through, like going down ill-advised rabbit holes on parenting facebook groups, missing your old pre-kid life despite overwhelming love for your new baby, comparing yourself to other moms and feeling like everyone's doing it better than you, and so forth. I also feel that my life has been so enriched by being able to connect with other women who are going through similar experiences.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I listened to Folklore by Taylor Swift on repeat while writing this book. Her lyrics are so rich and have given me some interesting story ideas.
Visit Kathleen M. Willett's website.

--Marshal Zeringue